Cannes Jury Spotlight: Debbi Vandeven

At Cannes Lions, the world’s premier festival recognizing creative excellence, thousands of entries pour in from countries worldwide. Behind the scenes, a carefully selected panel of judges reviews the work that will ultimately take home a coveted Cannes Lion.

Joining the ranks of the industry’s most recognized and respected creative professionals, Debbi Vandeven, Global CCO at VMLY&R, is serving as jury President for Social and Influencer Lions.

Debbi is the global CCO at VMLY&R. Under her leadership, VMLY&R has earned recognition from every top international award show, including the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, where the agency received 31 Lions, including two coveted Grand Prix in the Glass and Social & Influencer categories, 69 shortlists, and Agency of the Year in the Reach and Good tracks in 2019. 

Debbi helped lead VMLY&R to Ad Age Agency A-List honors over several years and was named 2020’s Ad Age CCO of the Year. She has also been recognized in Adweek’s Creative 100, Ad Age’s “Women to Watch,” Business Insider’s “30 Most Creative People in Advertising” and 2021 Campaign's U.S. Female Frontier Awards.

How do you spot Cannes-winning work? 

Cannes-winning work is work with a clear idea, usually something that is clever and that makes you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. It’s also important that the work fits the brand so well that no other brand could have done quite the same thing. Finally, if you wish you had created the work, that’s another good indicator of work that likely deserves to win.

Describe creativity during the pandemic in one sentence. 

Creativity during the pandemic was both good and bad — bad in that we had work in progress that had to change, but good in that the creative industry had to rethink ways of working and help clients pivot to find new ways of reaching their audiences.

What makes you passionate about the category you were nominated to judge?  

I’m passionate about the Social & Influencer category because it changes and innovates so quickly. It’s a great category when it comes to discovering how brands are evolving in their relationships with their audiences.

What do you hope to take away from judging at Cannes?  

Whenever I judge at Cannes, I’m always inspired by the work I see from all over the world. Our jury found that the new cultural insight and context subcategory in this year’s Lions really helped drive more conversation and understanding of the work.

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