Cannes Jury Spotlight: Mel Routhier

Mel Routhier's Headshot

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, Mel Routhier, CCO for WPP VMLY&R Walgreens Team, is serving as a juror for Outdoor Shortlist this year. 

A 23-year veteran of the advertising industry, Mel currently serves as VMLY&R’s chief creative officer for the WPP Walgreens Team, a cross-WPP group consisting of 25 creatives and multidisciplinary talent including specialists in brand, content, social, and more.

Prior to joining WPP, Mel served as SVP, executive creative director, at DDB Chicago, where she oversaw creative for State Farm, one of the agency’s largest clients. She played an integral role in developing State Farm’s first new tagline in 40 years, “Here to Help Life Go Right,” and the Cannes Lions award-winning “Following” campaign.

Mel has called Chicago her home for the entirety of her advertising career, having previously worked at both small and large shops across the city, including Leo Burnett Worldwide, where, for over a decade, she worked on some of the world’s most recognizable brands, including Kellogg, Procter & Gamble, Hallmark, Disney, and the U.S. Army.

A leader who tirelessly works to transform brands and make them famous, Mel and her work have received top honors at major industry shows, including awards from Cannes, the London International Awards, the Clios, the Effies, Lürzer’s Archive, Communication Arts, the ADDYs, the REGGIEs, and the Chicago Advertising Federation.

What do you think will be the big talking points at this year’s festival?  

COVID, COVID, COVID. I judged Outdoor, and while I imagine it was the prevalent theme across the entire festival, it was especially present in the Outdoor category — a channel that’s dependent on people physically being around the actual work, oftentimes interacting with it, really wrestling (and getting creative!) with how to use the space when the world was in a literal lockdown. I imagine a big question related to this will be around whether the shared challenges we faced globally due to the pandemic led to better or worse work. Additionally, what impact did the restrictions on production — being physically present in the making of the work — have on the output, and what kind of hangover will this past year of remote productions have on our future way of making things?

How do you spot Cannes-winning work?   

For me, spotting Cannes-winning work is equal parts intellectualizing it — understanding its intent, its strategic smarts, its business or cultural impact — and feeling it — getting that instant feeling of healthy envy and jealousy, wishing you’d thought of something so brilliant and simple. 

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

All roads lead back to COVID. It was fascinating to judge the Outdoor space and see how an entire category that’s so reliant on humans physically needing to be within proximity of the work or interacting with it found a way to pivot, reinvent, and get creative as hell when literally the entire world was locked inside their homes. It was pretty spectacular to see how far so many brands — and the brains that create for them — stretched the possibilities of the category. 

Describe creativity during the pandemic in one sentence.  

The year when creativity got creative. 

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