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AFTER TAKING TWO AIRPLANES AND A BUS, THE SOUTH AFRICAN TEAM from AM-C in Sandton, South Africa, mistakenly stumbled upon the room housing the Young Creatives Competition in the Palais des Festivals, and, with less than six hours till quitting time, whipped up an ad for client Plant-It 2000, an environmental group based in Colorado. And like a Kentucky Derby longshot, their ad coolly swept into second place.

That was just a slice of the histrionics that went on at the Festival's first ever creative shootout; open to teams whose members are 30 years old and under, it was an event aimed at boosting young creative participation at Cannes.

Co-sponsored by Apple, The Image Bank, The Wall Street Journal, Ad Age's Creativity and Radius, the event kicked off Sunday night when art director Susan Westre of BBDO/CLM/Paris, issued the brief: to come up with a spread ad for Plant-It 2000 that would encourage children to plant or adopt a tree.

Copywriter Aris Theophilakis and art director Thorbjorn Naug of Norway's Bates Backer & Spielvogel in Oslo won, defeating 16 teams in the 24-hour race to come up with a winning print idea. They took home Apple Powerbooks and expense-paid trips to next year's Festival; two creatives from Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe in London finished third.

While Naug and Theophilakis said they had their idea of cutting-and-pasting a tree over a smokestack when they arrived at the computer work stations Monday morning, it took them all day to actually execute it. "We had a hard time figuring out Page- maker," concedes Theophilakis. The visual solution was a natural,they say, given that the ad had to run globally, and that the both of them have art direction backgrounds.

Judged by the print jury, the spec work won surprising high marks from president Frank Lowe, who'd just stepped out of a press conference where he defended the decision not to award a Grand Prix or Golds in the press and poster category because the work was inferior. "All the winners were outstanding," Lowe said. And if the winning ad were entered in the show, he said, assuredly, "I'm sure it would have won a Lion."

Copywriter Richard Beesening and art director Andrew Blood of RKCR in London, who were chosen by creative director John Hegarty on the merits of their portfolio, represented the U.K. in typical wry style. During the event they requested an illustrator, and seemed surprised that the festival was inconsiderate enough not to have thought of providing them with one. After the briefing, when the competition organizers had explained they would help anyone with English translations, Beesening remarked with a smirk: "We'd be happy to help any of the teams with their English." The cocky Brits also said they were "banking on" the fact that other teams might be jet-lagged.

The U.S. team suffered from more than just sleep deprivation. On his way to the airport, copywriter Adam Chasnow from DDB Needham/New York, who teamed with art director Billy Faraut, dropped his Powerbook down a flight of stairs. The agency-owned computer limped by with a cracked keyboard covering, making a strange whirring noise.

And while the competitors had PowerMacs had their disposal, their technical prowess varied vastly. Anyone with Mac knowledge who wandered into the room during the competition was liable to get pressed into service, mistaken for the support offered by Apple. But according to Tim Cox, business development manager for Power Macintosh, who helped run the event, there were several computer savvy players in the pack who requested additional memory to scan larger files. Says Cox, "they were rapidly pushing the limits of the equipment."

There was also the question of whether the under-30 age requirement was strictly adhered to, which may have depended on each country's selection process. In Canada and Australia, for instance, hundreds of portfolios competed for Cannes glory, while in the U.S., consideration was available only to those registered as young delegates at the Festival.

Patrick Billey, VP-marketing at the Festival, admits this year had its problems, but he explains that the selection process will have to remain in the hands of

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