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Nisha Idicula and Suzanne Kanianthra are senior account managers at GolinMENA and won the PRCA Young Lions PR Competition for the MENA region to represent MENA in Cannes. Here’s what the two first-time attendees took back from the festival

Nisha Idicula and Suzanne Kanianthra are senior account managers at GolinMENA and won the PRCA Young Lions PR Competition for the MENA region to represent MENA in Cannes. Here’s what the two first-time attendees took back from the festival

When we got the news that we had won the MENA edition of the Young Lions PR competition, we brought the roof down with our excited screams. Our enthusiasm was fueled by the multiple stories we had heard about the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity experience. Initially it was hard to believe that we now had the opportunity to take part in a host of inspirational talks, workshops and events, in addition to the global edition of the competition. The experience was a whirlwind, intense and equally inspiring. The best way we found to explain the festival to our mothers was: “It is the Oscars of the communication industry.”

The Young Lions Competition

The Young Lions PR competition took place at the start of the festival. We were tasked to produce a creative PR campaign for WWF, to increase awareness about the deforestation crisis, within 24 hours. It would be false to say that the brief didn’t intimidate us, but a piece of advice given to us by our managing director stuck with us. He told us to embrace the Cannes spirit and absorb as much information as possible and our idea would grow from its root.

We submitted our campaign on Tuesday evening. We presented on Wednesday afternoon and by the same evening we had already found out who the winning teams were. Working with a 24-hour  deadline was extremely challenging, but nevertheless one of the best learning experiences we have had.

Sessions and speeches

With so much happening at the event, we knew we had to plan our daily schedule and we tried
to squeeze in as many sessions as possible.

The themes that stuck out the most to us were those addressing the communication challenges of diversity, prejudices and stereotypes. Hearing stories of brands creating global movements to bring about change in how women are represented in advertising or exposing racial biases had us inspired to think bigger and bolder. A session that really stood out was ‘Rise Up’ by Madonna Badger, chief creative officer of Badger & Winters. The awe-inspiring session left the audience with the challenge of harnessing creativity that seeks to positively impact the world.

The ‘Advice I’d Give My 20-Something Self’ session with Facebook’s vice-president of global business marketing and chief creative officer Mark D’Arcy, and Publicis Groupe’s chief creative officer Nick Law, was delivered to a room of eager under-30 attendees, keen to know more about the speakers’ journeys and the advice they were about to share. They didn’t disappoint and talked about what it means to continually learn in every situation and how now is the best time for ideas.

It was also amazing to see the way technology has affected the field in creating exceptional consumer experiences, producing innovative and winning campaigns and inspiring creative opportunities with artificial intelligence, for instance. Sessions around future-proofing creativity that discussed the latest innovations in storytelling, as well as a dedicated CLX (connect, learn, experience) programme that allowed visitors to interact with new technologies, opened our eyes to the power of collaborations in delivering engaging experiences in an era of short attention spans (did you make it to the end of this sentence?).

The experience

The festival programme allowed for as much play as it did learning. The installations and networking opportunities at the beaches – hosted by companies such as YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Google and more – had different themes and events every day. For two people who did not know the other attendees well, these provided for the perfect opportunity to meet new amazing people and strike up conversations about creativity back home. We also had the opportunity to meet with our colleagues visiting from around the world, putting faces to emails exchanged.

The Takeaway

We come back from Cannes with a wealth of knowledge and unforgettable memories. Watching hundreds of creative ideas and listening to thousands of brilliant minds from the industry, it is really difficult to choose one lesson. Knowing that we work in a competitive market, it is fundamental that we think outside the box to be creative. But one thought that stuck at the end of the festival was that there is simplicity in creativity. One simple but strong insight can lead to numerous and effective creative ideas.