During its seventh-annual Future Lions awards at this year's Cannes International Festival of Creativity , AKQA introduced a brilliant collection of category-defying ideas from the next generation of creatives .
The awards, which AKQA founded in 2006, focus on the best ideas for brands without constraints placed on technology or medium used. AKQA also recognized Miami Ad School Europe in Hamburg as School of the Year for having the greatest number of shortlisted finalists.
AKQA Co-founder and Chairman Ajaz Ahmed and Chief Creative Officer Rei Inamoto took the stage to present the year's five winning teams, chosen from 1,077 ideas submitted by students from 40 different countries -- a big leap from the opening year's 34 entries. Yet despite the contest's growing size, the brief, "to advertise a product in a way that wouldn't have been possible five years ago," with no technological requirements, hasn't changed in the show's seven years, Mr. Inamoto said.
Among the winners was "Made by Waves," by Patrik Beskow and David Lunde of the Berghs School of Communication. The idea, for surf brand Quiksilver, would install waverollers at the bottom of the ocean in Huntington Beach, Calif., so the brand could produce all of its products with wave power. The idea was to take Quiksilver from just a brand made for waves into one made by them, one that actively helps to eliminate the ecological threats that could wipe out surfing entirely.
Another winner was "Penguin Soundtracks," created by Lisa Zeitlhuber and Nicholas Partyka of Miami Ad School Hamburg. Because people are reading less, the project, for Penguin Books, devised a way to give e-books a "soundtrack," using Spotify. Mr. Inamoto said the project "creates a new form of consuming stories."
"Wasted German youth" were the focus of another winning entry, "Blackout Recorder," created by Florian Weitzel and Yvonne Truun of Miami Ad School Berlin. The app, which would actually have been a brilliant tool for this past week's festivities, records your whole night of drunken revelry so you can see where you went and track your other activities the following day. It also helps you preserve your dignity by blocking you from calling or texting ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends or parents.
The only U.S. winner was "Bing Automatic," created by VCU Brandcenter's Chris Sheldon (one of the masterminds behind popular Tumblr 'Depressed Copywriter') and Marybeth Ledesma. The search engine worked with Microsoft Word, Powerpoint or Outlook to predict what a person needed to find before he even had to search for it. Mr. Inamoto revealed that the creators were given "five minutes" to present the idea to Microsoft's CMO, but those five minutes turned into a 35-minute sitdown in Cannes.
The final winner was "Post from Japan," by Kristofer Salsborn and Rickard Beskow of Berghs. A social idea meant to reignite tourist interest in Japan in the wake of the tsunami and earthquake, "Post" is an app that lets tourists upload photos of their holiday and in return, gain minutes of online access for every "like" they receive on their posts. The idea was to replace the internet images of Japan as a devastated country with a more up-to-date, positive image. Mr. Inamoto said that it turns what many brands have made a "barrier to content," the like button, into a useful tool for users and their friends.
Mr. Inamoto closed the event on an inspirational note with a couple of stories about his father. After graduating from high school, his dad wanted to become a writer, and sought advice about starting his career from his uncle, a professional author. Uncle Inamoto had told Rei's father to go home and write five pages every day for an entire year. He took the advice and after that year was up, his uncle read his first written pages and then the final ones. He said, "You know what, you didn't improve much, so you should probably give up." But, it turns out, Papa Inamoto didn't, and years later, he's now a published author of about 10 books. "The point is that if you love something, you just have to keep at it, and it will pay off," Mr. Inamoto said.
He then shared a story about how he was late in telling his dad "Happy Father's Day" because he was caught up judging at the festival. Later, his father returned the greeting with a post on his Facebook timeline: "Thanks I hope everything is well in Cannes."
"It just broke me down in tears," he said. "We live in a time of such amazing technology that even with a simple click, a like, a plus one, a 140-character tweet, status update, you can touch people's hearts. It affected me so much that I had to just cry for 45 minutes, and I don't really cry that much. "
Contributing: Shareen Pathak