Meet PJ Pereira–a creative chairman and founder at Pereira & O’Dell and a jury president, Social and Influencer Lions at Cannes Lions 2019.

Pereira brings over six years of experience judging at Cannes to the table and he offered AList a great chance to learn more about his career as a creative director, the process of judging young festival categories and his book A Cannes Lions Jury Presents: The Art of Branded Entertainment.

Can you take me through your experience on Cannes Lions juries and as a jury president?

This is my sixth time judging at Cannes and third time as a president. My first time judging was Cyber, a long time ago. Then, I was [jury] president of Entertainment two years ago, I judged Titanium last year, and I’m the president of Social & Influencer Lions this year.

When you were president of Entertainment in 2017, you actually published a book of essays from that experience.

Yes. What happened there is that Entertainment is such a young category. It’s reminiscent of Cyber and other things that Cannes Lions have been doing. When we finished, we looked at the work that we picked and felt like it was the best work and a great representation of the state of the world.

But, there was a lot of the discussion and [we felt] the richness of those discussions would be lost [if we didn’t write them down]. We said, let’s try to put it together in a book, I organized chapters with the jury. I put it together for like six or seven months and came up with that. It was another first, right, the first book written by a jury. It was pretty successful, for a couple of months, it was the number one best selling book on Amazon in the media category.

How does your professional experience inform the judging process?

I think the life of a creative director, in a certain way, is similar. What I have to do here at the agency a lot of times is come and talk to people about ideas and if I liked them or not. You creatively direct mostly with your taste and your impression of the world. And you bring that to the jury.

One thing is to go in there to be a judge. When you go there as the president, there’s an extra responsibility of helping people figure out exactly what they are feeling. Not just have your opinion about things. But help the group get to the best conclusion that they can because the winners are going to be seen as a reference point for the next seven months to the following year. There’s something very unique about Cannes Lions and how the discussions happen. The recommendation that I always give to the jury is that “we need to leave our opinions behind because that’s the one festival where we are not there to teach the world what we think that category should be. We are here to learn on behalf of the world what it’s becoming.

As jury president, how do you deal with the debate and decision-making?

Half of the jury will be social media people who have never put a foot in an agency, the other half will be advertising people that have never worked in the social media world. When put together, we can either go to war with each other and try to prove a point, to try to define that our point of view is better than the other. Or, join forces and say “Okay, we have two very different perspectives and let’s see what really stands out for both [of us]” and be open to being checked to really pick the best work of the year. My recommendation is going to be to keep their hearts and minds open, and it all starts with leaving our opinions at the door.

I think that if you have to handle a debate that’s already a problem. Ideally, it all comes to setting up the mood in the beginning, so everyone is there with a positive mindset. If we focus this discussion on the reason why people should love something and not the reason why you should hate something, then the selection becomes the highest note.