Going digital at Cannes with Ashadi Hopper

Colliding technology, social, and mobile spheres have helped create a dynamic digital space for advertising over the years. The Cannes Cyber Lions category which now spans websites, mobile, interactive, viral and more has come a long way from simple banners and sites. This year, JWT Sydney’s National Creative Director of Digital, Ashadi Hopper, will return to Cannes to judge the best work in the Cyber category.

With over ten years of experience, Ashadi Hopper has guided many of the world’s most iconic brands into digital. His forward-thinking approach has also helped shape the digital vision of JWT. As a highly awarded creative, he first judged Cyber in 2003 when interactive banners, websites and online advertising dominated the category. We met with him to talk about the evolving digital space and his experience returning to Cannes.

How many years have you attended Cannes? How does this year’s Festival compare with your very first?

I’ve been to Cannes seven times as a delegate and this is my second stint on the Cannes Cyber Jury. 2003 was the first time I’d ever been to Cannes and it was also my first time judging. It was a complete shock to the system; I was 24 and hadn’t fully appreciated the scale of the Festival or the amount of incredible work that the world was doing. Cyber was still a relatively young category then. In 2012, the influence of digital media & technology across all categories is quite phenomenal. Digital has become omnipresent and it raises questions about whether Cyber still needs to be a standalone category. Work-wise, today Cyber is dominated by social media campaigns, with an emphasis on real time and personalization. In comparison to 2003, when banner advertising and websites largely dominated the category.

How does being a judge compare with being a regular attendee at Cannes?

As a judge you get a privileged view of the thinking behind much of the work beyond just the shortlist and winners. It’s an intense few days, but you’re focused and there aren’t any distractions (i.e. sun, beach, etc!). Secondly, when you’re sitting on a jury with twenty of your industry peers, the discussion about detailed aspects of the work and the variety of opinions is an invaluable source of inspiration. As much as I appreciate seeing great work as a delegate, the passionate debate that happens amongst jurors is why I prefer being a judge.

You’re judging the Cyber category ­ – what makes that category unique?

When judging Cyber, you’re looking for the perfect mix of idea, technology, media and execution. It’s the influence of technology and media on the idea that makes Cyber a unique category. You’re also analyzing a huge amount of detail – choice of media and platform, whether it was paid, earned or owned, the technologies that were used (i.e. Flash vs HTML5), etc. These types of details can make or break a winner.

What regional works and JWT Australia contenders are you most excited to see and discuss?

I’m always excited about the prospect of our work winning and we’ve got some solid contenders (Wi-Fiction for example) this year. However it’s the black swan – work completely unexpected – that is a source of frustration and inspiration. Just when you think you’ve got a winner on your hands, a piece of unexpected work might tip the room in a different direction and take your win away. I’ve learned to taper my expectations and just enjoy all the work. Ultimately, the work that makes you jealous is the work that inspires you to continue!

JWT Melbourne’s “Wi-Fiction” exploits unique media spaces. Do you think this sort of experimentation is becoming essential to the industry?

Without a doubt, experimentation with technology and media is inherent to our industry’s success. Much of the innovation that has changed our industry over the past 10 years hasn’t come from established players, but start-ups with an entrepreneurial approach. As an industry we’re still somewhat reluctant to embrace change and, instead, flirt around the edges. We need to embrace the experimental mentality of a start-up so we can uncover and ensure that we’re compensated for ideas as an industry. However, we need to strike a balance between novelty and lasting usefulness and commercial appeal.

Honesty time: what do you really look forward to at Cannes?

You’re probably expecting me to say parties, but frankly there are far better places to eat, drink and enjoy the sun. I’m here for the work and the networking and having done it with my coin a few times, it’s far from being a junket!

— Ashadi Hopper is the National Creative Director at JWT Sydney.

— Don’t forget to check out JWT’s Cannes Contender Roundups.  During this week, June 17-24, we will be covering the stories unfolding here at the festival, so be sure to check back for the latest updates.

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