CANNES, France—"I did it because I wanted to have fun."
Caine Monroy, the 9-year-old creator of Caine's Arcade, had the simplest explanation on Monday for how to be a successful entrepreneur and marketer, when he became the youngest speaker ever in the history of the Cannes Lions festival.
As part of a JWT seminar, Caine held a packed Debussy Theatre rapt with his story of how he built a cardboard arcade in his father's East L.A. used-auto-parts shop. He had no customers for months, but he loved what he had created, and then he put a video on YouTube. Now, there are five-hour waits to get in. (The line to get into the Debussy was impressive as well—it seems Caine has become something of a rock star among advertising creatives.)
The theme of the talk was "What Can 3 Kids Teach You About Creativity?" The answer, which you might have anticipated, is that you must open your mind and recapture some of the purity and range of imagination of youth. (Sorry, dressing like a kid doesn't count.) You should allow what excites you, what you're passionate about, to motivate you. Trying to anticipate the effect of a piece of marketing just muddles the thinking and complicates the process. (This is easier said than done, of course, particularly when you're trying to solve grownup problems involving millions of dollars in budgets. But as an inspirational ideal, stories like Caine's are understandably fascinating.)
Another young speaker at the JWT seminar, Jordan Casey, just 12 years old, is one of the world's youngest app developers. (Check out Alien Ball vs. Humans for a taste.) Jordan demonstrated his formidable powers—the seamlessness of putting inspiration into action—before the festival had even started this week. On Sunday, he noticed that Microsoft Advertising had created a Twitter game for Cannes called Tweets in Space, where you get points for posting messages with the #MSACannes hashtag—and exponentially more bonus points for getting the hashtag retweeted. Jordan posted hundreds of tweets, and had his brother back in Ireland retweet them. Jordan's brother is 4. Jordan won a new Nokia phone.
As childlike as these kids are, you can expect them to be ruthless business people before long. Asked what he wants to do in life, Jordan replied: "I want to make my own game company. And be the CEO of it."