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Jun 28 2012

How Magazine - Competing At Cannes: A Report For HOW From SapientNitro


By Alice Shin, senior copywriter, SapientNitro and Justin Berg, senior experience designer, SapientNitro

It was 6:30 a.m. Cans of Redbull and sheets of paper were strewn around the room. Our idea was still not there. And we had to execute the next day. Welcome to our second day at the 2012 Cannes International Festival of Creativity, competing in the Young Lions competition, otherwise known as the Olympics of advertising.

As members of Team USA Cyber, we earned our way to the celebrated festival by beating out a slew of our countrymen in a blindly judged competition. During our actual briefing at Cannes, we sat with 38 of the world’s best creative teams, all under the age of 28. You could cut the tension with a knife. Everyone was there to win. We were given 24 hours to create a banner ad on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the objective of promoting awareness of the need for vaccine access in developing countries.

After two hours of sleep and attempting to create the world’s best banner, we entered our submission with fingers crossed and hopes high. In the end, Poland won. After the initial disappointment subsided, however, we looked around. The sun was literally shining on the French Riviera. We were in line to see Bill Clinton speak, we’d partied with other creatives from around the world, and were all geeking out over Lion winners from the night before. The opportunity to compete at Cannes on the Young Lions team was, in itself, a significant accomplishment, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

After the actual competition, we spent most of our time in the basement of the Palais, combing over the best work in the world. There were times when we’d stop and mutter “I wish I thought of that,” and conversely, “I HAVE thought of that.” The sheer amount and quality of work was both humbling and inspiring.

One thing we learned is that Cannes can be a dangerous place. Exposure to such a heavy concentration of successful, bright creatives could easily spin one into an existential advertising crisis. It’s the things like the Grand Prix-winning Coke poster made by a 20-year-old student that makes you question your ability to craft a simple, elegant idea. Or seeing the kids you partied with the night before go on stage to accept their third Lion. These are the moments that make you want to roll up your sleeves and work harder than ever. All so that you can come back next year and take home a coveted Lion.

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