Creative Cannes: Junior Shoot-Out




YOUNG GUNS: Youth is served in a creative free-for-all.
With coffee mugs in hand, 25 art director/copywriter teams from around the world have gathered to test their creative stamina and ability. The intimidating assignment in the Young Creatives Competition at Cannes? Develop an award-winning, pro bono print ad in a mere 24 hours.
The race begins just moments after the 20-somethings arrive, two days before the official festival begins, when they are briefed on the specifics of the daunting project. While the competition provides an Apple PowerMac, stock photography and a bottomless pot of coffee, the teams supply the creative muse.
Joan Shealy, 29, and Bobby Appleby, 28, of Fallon McElligott in Minneapolis are representing the U.S. and hope to be the first Team USA to win the annual competition. Sponsored by Screenvision and New York-based creative search firm Judy Wald Partners, the duo won a stateside competition in which 55 agency teams created an ad promoting the post-Cannes screening events held in different cities. Fallon’s winning ad targeting clients featured the headline, “Hey, I killed an ad like that.”
At Cannes, the finished ads are judged by the Press & Poster jury, and winners are announced at the Tuesday-night print awards ceremony. The victors receive a Macintosh computer and a free trip to the festival in 1998. Last year’s winning ad for Save the Children was created by Maximiliano Anselmo of Agulla & Baccetti and Damian Kepel of Young & Rubicam, both from Buenos Aires.
Jury president Jean-Marie Dru, president and CEO international of TBWA Worldwide, sees value in the young creatives’ participation. “There’s no better training than to watch films, not just the great ones, but the bad ones, too,” he says.
The under-30 experience is not limited to the competition, as the contestants represent a fraction of the total junior turnout. This year, Roger Hatchuel, executive chairman of the festival, predicts 400-500 young art directors and copywriters will be attending, about 8 percent of the total delegate count.
Today, the Young Creatives Competition, now in its fourth year, is a sought-after contest. Six years ago, it was a radical notion. “Two ad guys from the Netherlands pitched the idea of having young Dutch creatives come to Cannes,” explains Hatchuel. “The ‘young dogs,’ as they were called, arrived by bus and lived in a tent. There was no contest; juniors watched ads and lolled on the beach.”
Times have changed. The festival and local countries subsidize their teams. Regular Cannes delegates, by comparison, pay a registration fee of $1,300, plus hotel, food and other incidentals.
While the competition does not garner the attention lavished on its Cannes elders in the film and print contests, the organizers and jury members believe the young creatives reap invaluable experience. “The festival has a duty to the ad community to develop new talent,” Hatchuel says.
Ant-nio Silva Gomes, chairman of McCann-Erickson in Portugal and a juror in this year’s Press & Poster competition, agrees. “It’s useful. Creatives face the kind of pressure in competition they’ll face in real-life situations,” he says.
Just ask Andy Blood, art director at London’s Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe. He and partner Richard Beesening took third place for their plant-a-tree ad in 1995. “It was worthwhile, a high-pressure experience with a learning angle.” Blood and Beesening learned their lesson well, winning a Gold Lion in 1997 for a Virgin Atlantic spot titled “Grim Reaper.”
Blood’s boss, Robert Campbell, a creative partner at Rainey and a print juror this year, believes Cannes provides one of the few remaining instruction grounds. “There is a lamentable lack of training,” he complains. Still, he downplays the importance of award shows, including Cannes. “Ad festivals need to overhaul themselves. They don’t always recognize innovation.”
But Hatchuel views the competition as a win-win proposition. “You have to offer and, eventually, you’ll get something in return.”