Each year, Ad Age challenges young creatives around the world to conceive the cover of our Cannes issue. For the contest’s 10th anniversary in 2019, we partnered with Dove, Getty Images and Girlgaze and asked them to address a special brief: “Create an Ad Age cover image that communicates the power of truthful representation in advertising, creativity or the broader cultural world.”
This year’s winner was Arnel Villanueva, a 29-year-old associate creative director at BBDO Guerrero, Manila. He decided to relay a message about a more “truthful” representation of beauty and created a striking digital painting called “The Imperfect Stunner.” It depicts the Willendorf Venus walking down the steps of what appears to be the Palais des Festivals at Cannes.
His idea delivered on the brief in spades--it was exquisitely crafted and had a universal and timeless message: while society’s notion of physical beauty changes with the times, all women are beautiful—and should stand proud in their own skin.
“Our time calls for no more idealistic and ‘perfect’ representations of the body,” he told Ad Age. “Even if you’re the opposite of what the ideal of the day is, you stand out. ... People have become mature enough to know what to sympathize on. Nowadays they’re latching on to messages that are authentic and speak for themselves.” Read the full story behind his execution here.
We selected Villanueva’s image out of more than 700 entries from around the world. He was joined by nine finalists hailing from his native Philippines, U.S., Georgia, Ecuador, England, the Dominican Republic and India.
Kaitlyn Keyes and Brooke Strozdas from Grey in the U.S. also had an art theme in their work. Their simple but powerful image featured a sculpture of a woman’s lean torso, while a door opening at its waist opens to set a real body free.
A number of finalists tapped the Dove, Getty and Girlgaze Project #ShowUs inclusive photo collection to create their works. Helen Ratner of Rauxa U.S.A. conceived a powerful piece that overlays the face of a model with vitiligo onto that of another representing a more “traditional” notion of beauty. “Historically, advertising has skewed toward a narrow view of beauty,” she explains. “Recently, the lens had widened tremendously. I'm celebrating this growth by juxtaposing our past fragility with our modern reality.”
American students Johanna Granlund and Amanda Wennberg challenged stereotypes with their image of a handsome woman, surrounded by handwritten “misconceptions” about older females--along with a playful subversion of the Ad Age logo. Another student duo, Melina Filippidou and Philippa Baines, based in London, imagined a world in which a young girl’s role models don’t fit into the Barbie mold.
There were some compelling illustrations too: Giorgi Maghradze and Lasha Milorava of JWT Metro in Georgia created a microphone, the holes of which actually turn out to be the heads of diverse individuals. “There are millions of diverse stories about beauty,” they explain. “And we can make them all be heard. That’s the power of truthful representation.”
Jimmy Cobos and Dani Zaldumbide of Maruri Grey, Ecuador, conceived a colorful world showing an “everyday” woman applying lipstick in a mirror— in the background that reflection appears in billboards all over the city. Juan Vargas of Pagesbbdo in the Dominican Republic showed how more truthful communication can easily achieved by diversifying a simple, everyday tool—emoji. Finally, Yani Gabriel and Brian Lumanog of the Philippines depicted how damaging “cookie-cutter’ concepts of beauty can be, while Anuseree R. Nair of Wunderman Thompson India took a similar approach in an illustration of the restricted framework women of all shapes and sizes are forced to confront.