Cover Contest Winners: What We Learned During Our First Time To Cannes

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Credit: Patrick Denton

Ever since we started out in art and copy at our agency in the Philippines, we've both dreamed of going to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. We've tried many times to get there through contests before winning the Advertising Age cover competition. (It was our third time entering the contest -- so don't give up!) Neither of us expected that getting a free ride to the biggest ad show in the world would only be the tip of the iceberg.

The festival was a star-studded event, with ad legends such as Lee Clow and David Droga to pop icons like P. Diddy, Jack Black and Conan O'Brien in attendance. Here's a rundown of some of our most memorable moments and favorite lessons from our trip:

Kat meets Arianna Huffington at an AOL/Ad Age brunch.
Kat meets Arianna Huffington at an AOL/Ad Age brunch.

Coca-Cola explores "Work That Matters"

Coke is this year's Advertiser of the Year mainly because of its consistent support of creative work. In this presentation, we saw the brand's history of crafting stories that promote positive values in different regions and media. Whether it's a print ad with a subtle but powerful commentary on racial discrimination, a security camera that captures the good instead of the bad or a vending machine that unites two nations in conflict, Coke has always been about one thing: making the world a happier place. It was reassuring to hear clients sincerely supporting the festival, seeing it not as something that's just about feeding egos, but as a vehicle to business success. Jonathan Mildenhall of Coca-Cola noted that eight of the last 10 winners of Advertiser of the Year enjoyed an all-time high share price at the time they were recognized.

Exploring the sharing economy with Christopher Lukezic, director of Communications for AirBnB
We are writing this article post-Cannes in a typical Parisian flat near Centre Pompidou, after a brief chat with Remi, our charming host, who welcomed us with maps, notes on favorite restaurants and a taxi booking for our departure. This is the kind of personal travel experience that AirBnB has made possible for travelers. Onstage at the festival, Christopher Lukezic described how sharing can solve problems, not just for travelers but also for the hosts, the environment and local economy. Aside from a priceless one-to-one encounter with a local, travelers are able to enjoy a city for an average of five days vs. just staying for three and hosts renting out their homes on the platform can receive up to 31% more income. The platform is also sustainable, helping a city increase its tourism capacity without having to build any more rooms. If there are people who dream that the world can be filled with sharing, trust and kindness, this idea is a testament to that.

With our Gold Lion, won for work on Unilever.
With our Gold Lion, won for work on Unilever.

Our golden moment
Apart from the talks and all the brilliant work we've seen here, what made this experience truly memorable were the award shows, where our very own work for Unilever Sunlight was awarded a Bronze and two Gold Lions. Which means we actually went onstage to receive our award! What are the odds of finally winning a free trip to the festival and winning Gold at the same time? Lightning, it seems, does strike twice.

The Philippines (our home country) has its best performance in Cannes.
The Philippines (our home country) has its best performance in Cannes.

In addition, we saw our home country (the Philippines) have its best performance in Cannes this year, winning a total of four Bronzes, two Silvers, three Golds and the country's first Grand Prix. It was a proud moment for the country, and to have witnessed that was truly an amazing honor.

Mauricio J. Vianna on design thinking
Using his own agency's work as a case study, Mauricio J. Vianna of MJV in Brazil showed us how design thinking helps business move closer to user needs. It's a long and meticulous process that begins with empathy. We must step into the market's shoes; identify patterns; create a persona that represents the specific demographic in need; get different perspectives; craft an innovative solution from diverse points of view; and create a prototype to learn by doing. The subject may sound complex, but Vianna made it easy to digest.

'Creativity at Scale' panel
'Creativity at Scale' panel

Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's director of engineering; David Droga, founder of Droga5; and Mark D'Arcy, Facebook's director of global creative solutions discuss "creativity at scale"
The festival has always been criticized as showcasing mind-blowing campaigns that no one outside of advertising will see. In this discussion, two Facebook geniuses -- Mark D'Arcy and Andrew Bosworth -- and one of our heroes, David Droga of Droga5, talk about what kinds of ideas travel far. Droga said that the advertising world has long neglected to consider scale before creating a campaign, because for so many years the audience has been captive -- you know exactly where they are. Now the work needs to go beyond the product and extend its reach with an idea that's participatory, socially relevant and sincere.

Anderson and Conan
Anderson and Conan

Most entertaining session of the week: Anderson Cooper and Conan O'Brien discussing what connects in comedy
For an entire year, the tallest, whitest and funniest man in TV was able to hold onto his fame without TV, as fans rallied behind him after he lost the "Tonight Show" time slot. This was, hands down, the most entertaining talk in the weeklong festival as Conan shared with Anderson Cooper his struggles and social-media success during the time he wasn't allowed to have a broadcasted show.

David Rowen and Chacho Puebla explore the future of creativity.

Chacho Puebla, partner and creative managing director of Lola, and David Rowan, editor of Wired Magazine, debate the future of creativity and whether the machine is the message
Camera phones were out for the first panelist for this talk: a robot dancing to the tune of "I'm Sexy and I Know It." Chacho and David then came in to debate when algorithms and sensors vs. human creatives. "We are competing against the time when the machine will think for itself," Chacho said, between powering flying devices by brain nerves and taking photos with Google Glass. "We need to understand how to evolve in that world. A story has to be a good story." Artificial intelligence and 3-D printing may take away a portion of our creative tasks, but human creativity will always be needed to curate, tell the story and touch hearts in ways that even a dancing robot can never do.

EJ Galang and Katrina Encanto are Bangkok-based regional associate creative directors at Lowe and Partners Worldwide in Thailand, and the winners of the fourth annual contest to design Ad Age's cover (previous winners were from JWT India, Grey Vietnam and Grey New York).
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