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Cannes Lions: An Enjoyable Yet Thoroughly Ridiculous Spectacle

17/06/2014 09:59 BST | Updated 16/08/2014 10:59 BST

The Cannes Lions, International Festival of Creativity, is a week of veiled contradiction.

In my seventh year of attending, I think I've finally cracked how to be on the right side of that contradiction!

It's a mixed bag of beautiful and not so beautiful people, deals, schmoozing, ego inflating, celebrity spotting and awards, with one of the chicest backdrops in the world.

A global telecoms client of mine recently laughed as he found the fact there was a multi million pound festival built around people congratulating themselves for being brilliant, was quite absurd!

There is endless debate about who should or shouldn't win. Were the judge's decisions the right ones? Having been a winner, judge and loser - I've lived it from all angles.

The other continuous 'Cannes' debate which always generates 'lively' conversation is which marketing discipline has the right (if one even exists) to lay claim to "creativity". Who truly owns it?

All in all the festival really is an enjoyable yet thoroughly ridiculous spectacle.

This year, however I was honoured to be asked to be Young PR Lions judge. In its inaugural year (what took them so long I cry), the competition saw 16 teams from 16 countries, travel to Cannes and pit their creative prowess against each other.

At 8:30am on Monday, my two fellow judges and I had the privilege of being wowed by young, energetic, gifted teams. Having only received the brief 24 hours before from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for their Blue Heart human trafficking campaign, the nervous pairs gave it their all.

This was a tough brief - a very serious global problem, which needs real mass awareness to get on the influencer agendas. The Japanese team put it neatly - it is an economic problem driven by the demands of the developed world for things like sex-tourism, low cost goods manufactured in sweat shops and even organ transplants and adoption.

One by one, each surprised us with their different insights and creative solutions - 14 out of the 16 teams had completely different POVs and creative solutions, demonstrating the amazing brainpower in the competition.

When judging we considered three things: The creative impact; 'Doability' and scale; Clear narrative. I personally accompanied this with David Ogilvy's words ringing in my ears, "If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative". All three winners delivered on all of these criteria, as did many of the other candidates.

The bronze Lion went to the Austrian team, Pepita Adelmann and Doris Christina Steiner. The simplicity of their idea of using the symbol of two hands forming a heart activating through supermarkets, commoditising "hope" as the thing slaves have none of, was highly compelling. By jumping on to selfie zeitgeist we're seeing it would drive mass sharing and a highly accessible call to action.

The silver Lion was awarded to the UK team, Leila Mountford and Kate Sloan. Their invigorating and passionate presentation was brilliantly insightful demonstrating a real understanding of the millennial audience. This led them to tapping into the audience's passion of music, reviving the blues and playing on its heritage as a genre born out of slavery. They reached back into the past to create a positive mobilising campaign that was meaningful and purposeful.

Finally the gold Lion was awarded to Yuichiro Okada and Tetsuya Umeda from Japan. Their creative idea was simply outstanding! The emotional resonance of the campaign reverberated around the room as they presented. They took the most precious thing in the world - a new born baby - and used it as the basis of the campaign. The starting point was to replace "baby name tags" in hospitals with "shopping price tags" - putting a $90 price tag (the average cost of a trafficked person) on each baby, demonstrating the commonality of the problem and creating huge opportunities for global amplification.

The dynamism of all the teams also reminded me how crucial "performance" is when selling an idea. The enthusiasm and chemistry between each pair made a huge difference. It helped their ideas come to life within the confines of a basement conference room in Palais Des Festivals and their passion and conviction made us want to believe their ideas would deliver.

Now it's done and dusted, while I spend the rest of the Festival mixing with the jaded and drunk, I have a confident, fresh perspective knowing there is a new genius generation of talent who understand not only how to inspire but also know how to create change through their creative endeavours.

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