Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Relief & the three things we learnt

This post is somewhat belated but was a piece that I wrote on behalf of Tristan & myself for News Limited. It recounts our experience competing in the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

Sitting waiting to be presented with the award that made years of ticking confirmations worth it and all we could think was “PLEASE, don’t let us trip over whilst walking on stage....”

Retrospect is a funny thing. As we look back to competing in the Cannes Young Media Lions competition we can’t remember all that much. It was such an overwhelming experience that the months of preparation, events in Cannes and whirlwind of emotions have blurred into one very messy memory.

When we were announced the winners of the international competition, for a split second in time we became minor celebrities. And during this time we were repeatedly asked how we felt about winning. As mundane as it sounds, the answer was relieved.

Relief for many reasons.

We had been given the opportunity to represent our company, our youthful peers and above all, the Australian media industry. A big responsibility and one that if performed well, would have positive ramifications for all involved. Whilst our trusted advisors assured us that having won the Australian leg of the race was an achievement in itself, for us, it wasn’t enough. We had been presented with this rare opportunity and we weren’t going to let it pass without giving winning our best shot.
35 hours of travelling, seven hours in a hotel room, a dodgy pizza and three hours sleep down, we sat at breakfast barely speaking. In fact, from the outside we must have looked like a couple amidst a lover’s tiff characterised by silence, poor appetite and enormous dark circles under the eyes. Far from a lovers tiff, we simply hadn’t cracked our idea in response to the passionate brief the World Food Program had delivered us the night before. We were clutching at straws trying to turn some mediocre ideas into something we’d be proud to present to the internationally esteemed judging panel, 24hours later.

Little did we know but we were about to learn one of our most important lessons from the Cannes experience - a BIG idea can come from anywhere.

Sitting in the foyer of our hotel we discussed our frustrations with our very patient other halves. Lauren’s boyfriend was ranting about the uselessness of one cent coins and light bulbs went off. We had our idea.

In the current economic climate people don’t have money to spare, but everyone has spare change. Spare change that they can’t even use. We would propose to abolish the penny and give the lowest unit of currency in each developed nation a real value, by redirecting the funds from jars and dishes on top of people’s fridges to those who need it most via the World Food Program.

Armed with an idea big enough to do the brief justice, we split up. Lauren to concentrate on what she was good at - constructing the argument, and Tristan to produce the presentation that would aid us to cut through the other 24 big ideas in the competition. This method of working was something we learnt during the previous round of competition in Australia – play to your strengths and trust your partner.

Having put our best thinking on the table, roaming Cannes for nine hours waiting for a decision to be made, then following the announcement, hurriedly making calls back home, at 7pm sharp on Tuesday 23rd June we found ourselves seated close to the front of the famous Debussy Theatre in the Palais des Festival amid advertising celebrity. It was here, as we sat with a sense of relief that we learned our third most important lesson from Cannes. Good advertising is brave advertising. It is about challenging the norms and putting out-of-the box ideas in front of the client, even if it means the less easy road to success.

So, what did we feel when we won the 56th International Advertising Festival Media Gold Young Lion? A sense of comfort that we’d done a good job. A sense of happiness that the long hours and hard work in our short careers had begun to pay off. A sense of excitement that our futures would be underpinned by this early success.


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