One brief. 30+ teams. 48 hours.

Representing “Team USA” at the Cannes Young Lion competition was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that taught us how to push our creative limits and fearlessly believe in our ideas. We left Cannes truly inspired and ready to bring a whole new mentality to our work at home.

Here are our top takeaways for tackling a creative challenge:


Know Your Subject Matter (But Not Too Well):

Unusual but target-right research can lead to unique conclusions. It can be hard to get an honest response from a potential audience, so we fielded anonymous surveys and started a Reddit thread to uncover unfiltered fodder. We also interviewed experts to learn about industry trends and best practices for marketing to our target audience. After exploring a few different sources, it was critical to know when we had enough research to inform our idea and just jump in.

Push Beyond the Expected

To set ourselves apart, our first step was writing down the obvious approach. The obvious insight, obvious strategy and obvious ideas. Once we saw all of the “obvious” together on paper, we outlined how we could stand out by addressing key elements of the brief, while also looking beyond it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Kill an Idea

With four hours left in the competition, we realized that our idea just wasn’t right. Ignoring the pressure and our race against the clock, we scrapped it. Our plan? Get inspired by our surroundings. We silently walked the halls of the Palais, reading rows and rows of Cannes case studies and frantically writing notes in our iPhones. After our quick field trip, we outlined the criteria that our new idea had to meet and started brainstorming again. We turned our campaign in with only a few seconds to spare, but left feeling proud of our final product. The experience taught us a valuable lesson: there is always time to start over. A tight deadline shouldn’t be an excuse for settling on an idea. Be brave and kill it.

Keep It Simple

Ever spend several minutes attempting to explain an idea, only for the listener to walk away confused? Throughout our Cannes Young Lions experience we focused on sharpening our ideas to focus on the human truth at the core of each challenge. While campaigns typically have many tactics and layers once it’s time to execute, at Cannes it’s clear that a winning idea is simple. Execution elements exist to further that idea and bring it to life for the audience, not to complicate or steal the show.

Create an Experience

A good pitch is just as important as a good idea. You need to create an experience to make the client (or in our case, judges) feel heard and invested. As a team, we identified several strategies to encourage the judges to be active listeners throughout our presentation – from our introduction to our parting line. To illustrate our idea in a digestible format, we assembled a ‘Plan on a Page,’ which summarized our insight, strategy and idea. From there, we demonstrated our passion for the cause and our idea by sharing personal stories relating to the cause and displaying powerful visuals.