How a Cannes Young Lions Submission Evolved Into a Charitable Mother’s Day Campaign

Effort supports safe childbirth worldwide

Headshot of Christine Birkner

When Samantha Salzano, senior art director at DigitasLBi, entered last year's Cannes Young Lions competition and lost, she didn't realize the opportunity would turn into something bigger.

"We thought it would be a great way to put our heads together and come up with an idea outside of our day-to-day client work," she said. "It ended up in a totally different place, and we're really happy."

Salzano and DigitasLBi copywriter Jose Ripol's submission was one of 392 entries in the cyber category for Young Lions, a competition that gives the next generation of industry superstars the chance to prove themselves during Cannes. Their idea was to create a socially driven campaign around Mother's Day featuring an orange rose as a symbol of the cause. Although it didn't win at Young Lions, the idea caught the attention of Every Mother Counts (EMC), a nonprofit organization founded by model Christy Turlington Burns that's dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for mothers around the world.

EMC invited the Digitas team to participate in a live pitch day in New York where EMC ultimately chose to partner with the agency, bringing the orange rose campaign to life and making the orange rose a universal symbol of safe motherhood.

The final campaign idea didn't differ much from original Young Lions submission, Salzano said. "We evolved it slightly and added a few pieces."

EMC's campaign launches today, in time for Mother's Day, with a video that is designed to spark a national dialogue on maternal mortality. The video, which will appear on EMC's social channels, shows moms disappearing from family photos, noting that every two minutes, a mother dies while giving birth. For each share of the video on Facebook and Twitter, or tagging a friend on Instagram, an EMC sponsor will donate $1 to providing education, transportation and supplies to help prevent maternal deaths. 

In April, EMC launched a curated collection of products bearing the orange rose logo, including a Toms tote bag, Marc Jacobs T-shirt and Dear Liza's cookies. Proceeds from the products support EMC's efforts. The orange rose logo also appears on EMC's website, social channels and other promotional efforts.

"The symbol of the orange rose and the mission of EMC is one and the same," Salzano said. "We're hoping it raises a ton of awareness around Mother's Day. It's the only day of the year dedicated solely to mothers, so this is when the idea has the most power."

The Young Lions experience evolved into an impactful campaign, said Doris Chung, svp and group creative director at DigitasLBi. "One of the nicest notes that came back from [EMC] was, 'You may not have won the Young Cannes Lion, but you've won our hearts.' They were very appreciative, and thought the campaign idea truly embodied the spirit of what they were trying to do with their branding and mission."

@ChristineBirkne Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.