One Young Lion’s Story

The Australian Cannes Young Lions competition is about supporting, fostering and challenging young creative, media and marketing professionals with the aim of identifying the hottest young talent to represent Australia on the world stage. Getting into the mix of this was an opportunity I could not resist!

On first perusal of the round one “Diet Coke” brief, I was excited by the prospect of working on an iconic brand. However having never crafted a response in this way before, I experienced moments (and sometimes days) of intense trepidation towards entering.

Like many of my peers, I felt daunted by my current lack of experience and apprehensive about whether I could genuinely produce something good. Eventually, I was won over by the clichéd and overused phrase; “What’s the worst that could happen?”

The deadline for the judges to select Victorian finalists was 1st May. I prepared a presentation the night before, and was feeling nervous at the prospect of presenting my idea in front of a panel of senior industry professionals, in anticipation of a judgement that could go either way. I calmed myself by affirming the importance of backing your own idea; if you genuinely have faith in it, then the subsequent “sell”, is ultimately what will elicit success.

I was one of the lucky few to receive a call, and was told that I had one hour to arrive at the Newscorp building to present my idea. While I waited with a number of the other entrants, it became increasingly obvious that we were all feeling the same way. While I took no pleasure in other people’s nerves, it was comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one whose stomach was in knots!

Following the presentations, we endured two long weeks before finding out whether or not we would be selected to represent OMD in Sydney at the national finals. I received the call. I was not going to Sydney. It was disappointing, but I was pleased with the feedback I received. I was told that my idea was incredibly polarising – some people in the room loved it, while it didn’t resonate with others. Alas, the latter were more adamant than the former, and I didn’t make the top six.

My colleague Jeremy received the more desired result and learned that he would be going to Sydney to compete in the national finals. It was great to have someone from OMD representing us all.

Two weeks later, while Jeremy was preparing his hand-over notes for a week out of the office, the entire experience was just a fond memory for me. I was sitting at my desk when our Head of Strategy informed me that following a last minute withdrawal from another entrant, the judges had chosen me to represent OMD at the Sydney finals. My idea had stuck in their minds! It was a bizarre turn of events, but testament to the fact that a controversial or bold idea, while sometimes divisive, is memorable and well-regarded.

The finals in Sydney were brilliant. On Tuesday, we launched into a presentation work-shop, which helped us to hone our presentation skills; we learnt about how to engage an audience using granular detail during our storytelling, repetition of key terms and our body language. Jeremy and I were given the opportunity to pair together and jumped at the chance.

We received the brief on Wednesday. The client was the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and they wanted donations, and to achieve greater awareness nationally. It was stipulated that we must use Newscorp’s suite of media brands and products to form a campaignable idea.

The 36 hours that followed were intense. Jeremy and I had discussed our process prior to receiving the brief; we would discuss and define the challenge to begin with, then brainstorm audience and product insights. From this, we hoped that our strategy and idea would be born. We set ourselves a timeline and surprisingly, we almost stuck to it. By 5pm on Wednesday, after food breaks, coffee breaks, and inspiration breaks, we had wholeheartedly committed to our idea. We spent the rest of the afternoon and the evening forming our script and making sure that our insights, strategy and idea tied together seamlessly. We discussed our points for repetition and put together the structure for the PowerPoint presentation.

Come Thursday, we were relatively un-rested but fuelled by adrenaline. We practised our presentation and our “sell” from 8am. We presented to others and took their feedback on board throughout the morning. By 1:30pm, we returned to the Newscorp building to present to the judges.

We were the second last pair to present, and we were finally called into the theatre at 3pm. After presenting, we got just one question, and it was something we’d prepared for. We walked out feeling really happy with our efforts. Although we knew we’d taken a bit of a risk, having challenged the brief and reframed the task, we felt that it was received well by the judges.

On Friday, we attended the announcement ceremony at the MCA in Sydney. While we had our heart set on winning, we felt that each and all of our competitors were worthy of the honour. While a trip to Cannes to represent OMD would have been amazing, we weren’t shattered by the news. Jeremy and I were both extremely proud of what we delivered in such a short amount of time, and the way we presented our idea on the day.

I encourage everyone at OMD who qualifies to compete in the Cannes Young Lions to enter next year. I learned a great deal throughout the process, including how to craft a tight response as well as invaluable lessons about presenting which I can and will apply to my work on a daily basis. The experience allowed me to meet and work with people, both within and outside of OMD, who were able to impart knowledge to me that I otherwise would never have benefited from.

So I urge you, when the opportunity comes around next year, to ask yourself… “What’s the worst that could happen?”

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