"It's not a matter of if, but when." That common refrain ricochets through Dany Alberto Sosa Gálvez's head. He's heard it on the news. He's seen it in YouTube videos about gun violence and elsewhere on social media. His neighbors in the Dominican Republic say it all the time. But he's had it. "It's such an awful way to describe the problem because it already accepts defeat," he says.
Sosa, 25, has declined defeat's invitation. He took the despair of that sentiment and put it to work. The young art director at Capital DBG in Santo Domingo is this year's annual Ad Age Cannes cover contest winner. The image he produced depicts a clock: On the minute hand, a student with a backpack trudges along; on the hour hand, an automatic weapon ticks ineluctably closer. It's a matter of when—until we reset the clock.
For the ninth consecutive year, Ad Age invited creatives age 30 and younger from all over the world to design the cover for our Creativity issue (if you're reading this in Cannes, come find me for an awkward hello!). For the second year, we asked art directors at various agencies to handle the design elements of our feature well. The pages of this issue have been gussied up by creatives from Deutsch, Wieden & Kennedy, TBWA and 72andSunny.
Still, when it came to the cover, this is not any other year. In a 2017-18 when Black Lives Matter and women are stepping up to say "me too"—where walls physical and metaphysical are being built, where tiki torches have become sinister and our kids are being routinely gunned down in school—we believed the cover contest called for parameters a little narrower than "be creative." This year, we asked the industry's brightest and youngest minds how they might put their creativity toward good, whatever "good" means to them.
We received 600 submissions from 60 countries in all. The daunting task of sifting through the first round fell to Creativity Editor Ann-Christine Diaz and Creative Director Erik Spooner. A range of topics were addressed: institutional racism, plastic in the ocean, social media addiction, the quiet scourge of depression. But the most recurring motifs were gun violence and gender issues.
In the end, it came down to two specific submissions. One was an image of a stiletto, its high heel projecting a spotlight on a malevolent male, by Juarez Rodrigues, a senior art director at RPA. The other was Sosa's clock.
There was no shortage of debate in the Ad Age newsroom. The endemic harassment and institutional obstacles facing women in every sector have been picked apart since the Harvey Weinstein bomb went off in October. That story isn't over and surely, with the advent of Time's Up/Advertising and Diet Madison Avenue (problematic for its own reasons), the evocative submission calling out advertising's original sin seemed a potential shoo-in.
But in the end, the clock took top honors. Our country has a sickness. To quote Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, who compares our addiction to firearms to our previous addiction to slavery: "The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. The second is Yemen, and it's only half our rate (Yemen, by the way, abolished slavery in ... 1962. But they're not as gun crazy.) We have among the laxest gun-control laws in the civilized world. Our murder rate, by firearm, is staggering compared with other democracies that strictly regulate gun ownership."
I could go on but I won't. I don't have to. Two days after we selected Sosa's cover as the winner, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, armed with a shotgun and a .38 revolver, opened fire at Santa Fe High School, killing 10 people, including many fellow students. Shortly after the massacre, Paige Curry, a survivor of the shooting, was asked on local TV if she was surprised this had happened at her school. Her answer: "No. It's been happening everywhere. I've always felt it would eventually happen here too."
in their own words: The cover contest runners-up
Senior art director, RPA (U.S.)
Brave people and powerful ideas can change the world. And there has never been a better example of this than the Time's Up movement, which has exposed countless abusers hiding in the shadows.
Pierce Thomson and Amanda Alegre
Copywriter and art director, The Monkeys (Australia)
"Liberté, égalité, fraternité." "¡Hasta la victoria siempre!" "Yes we can." Every great revolution started with a few powerful words, the power of the pencil.
Priscilla Karamzadeh and Laurel Lunsford
Art director and junior art director, RPA (U.S.)
Progress starts with seeing the problem, drawing attention to it, giving it exposure and helping others to see it. From there, the tools are at our disposal.