GPY&R Brisbane's Tristan Viney and Carl Robertson's Post Cannes Young Lions Report

IMG_3620.jpgTristan Viney (right) and Carl Robertson (left), a young creative team from GPY&R Brisbane, competed in the Film category of the Cannes Young Lions competition. Here is part one and part two of their time at Cannes Lions.

And the Young Lions film competition gold goes to Australia... Psych!

Cannes 2014. What a ride. 
 
It was the final destination of the Young Lions competition. Which, for us, began in February by writing a Foxtel commercial with Judge Judy pillow fighting Playboy models, Jeremy Clarkson hitting Raj from Big Bang Theory with his Lamborghini, and David Attenborough pummelling Gordon Ramsey as his camera crew captured the action.
We arrived in Cannes the night before the festival started, on Saturday around 10pm, after a 43-hour journey from Brisbane. Our 48-hour FILM competition briefing was on Wednesday afternoon, so we almost had 4 full days to soak in everything Cannes had to offer before we locked ourselves away for 2 days.
 
As soon as you leave the front door of the festival, Cannes can be best described as Schoolies for adults. But, while there was a lot of temptation to spend our days in hammocks at Google Beach ordering cocktails with code, we got our nerd on another way and spent our time in back-to-back seminars, workshops, and screenings.
 
Totally worth it. Because when our briefing rolled around we were fresh, ready and inspired.
 
After a run through on the full Adobe suite we had available to cut our film and a presentation on how to take part in the complex task of searching for stock images on Getty, the moment we'd all been waiting for arrived - the 48-hour brief.
 
Which was for Barnardos Australia.
 
When this was announced, eyes began darting around the room searching for the Australian team. We slowly slid down in our chairs, as to not enrage the mob of young creatives any further. But alas, it was no use. Team UK, who we'd met waiting outside the briefing room moments earlier, betrayed our trust and remarked, "That's pretty lucky for you, Australia!" The jig was up, our cover was blown, and we could feel the daggers being shot in our direction. After tense couple of seconds, the other Young Lions decided they were too hung over to attack, and the briefing resumed. Our task was to create a film to break the misconception that child abuse doesn't happen in first world countries, like Australia.
 
After 12 solid hours of concepting, we were feeling pretty happy with the floor we'd covered in ideas and decided to catch a well earned two hours sleep. When we woke up around 7am, we went through our ideas and immediately hated them all. It was back to square one, but with a new approach.
 
Our thinking was now pinpointed on coming up with the simplest solution to demonstrate that what you think is a third world country is actually Australia. After a couple of terrible puns like 'Austrafrica', we started playing with the shapes of the continents and realised that Africa on its side kind of looks like Australia. "That's pretty cool," we thought. And because the idea of rotating a drawing of Africa so it looks like Australia was so simple, we decided to shoot it then and there. But we quickly encountered a problem - we didn't have a tripod, or any kind of camera support for that matter.
 
IMG_7121.jpgIt was time to put all those episodes of MacGyver to good use.
 
To get the shot we wanted, we taped our GoPro to a lamppost by removing the luggage stickers on our baggage. And it actually worked! After about an hour of filming, we got stuck back into concepting to see if we could come up with anything better. It took us about another 14 hours to realise we couldn't. So it was time for another two hours sleep.
 
When the festival opened again on Friday morning, we raced into the the Young Lions zone and through the door labelled 'RESTRICTED AREA' in big, bold, red type guarded by security. Inside, we found rows and rows of iMacs in little booths - one for each country competing. We found our booth, labelled 'BOOTH 02 - Australia' with a small Australian flag and got to work cutting our film.IMG_3612.jpg Our deadline was to finish in time to see the David Droga & Sir John Hegarty talk, three hours before the actual deadline competition deadline.
 
While we were working, a few Young Lions walked past and I distinctly remember seeing a 'what the fuck?' expression spread across their faces at the crayon drawing we were calling an idea.
 
Fast-forward though copious amounts of drinking and it's now Saturday morning and we're waiting for the Cannes Film Jury to exit the judging room and announce the winners. We were told to arrive at 11:15. But the judges, lead by DDB Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, Amir Kassaei, didn't emerge for another 90 or so minutes. But when they did, the butterflies quadrupled and I felt like throwing up over Team Canada.
 
The judges began talking about the quality of this year's entrants, but all I could hear after that was, "don't throw up, don't throw up, don't throw up". They could have been recruiting us into a cult for all I know.
 
Then they got down to business and started announcing the winners.
 
Bronze... goes to Norway.
 
Silver... goes to Bulgaria.
 
Then Matty Burton stepped forward. Well, this is a good sign we thought...
 
And gold... goes to Australia!!!
 
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
 
IMG_7167.jpgWe hugged, jumped around like assholes, and waded through the other contestants - who seemed almost as happy as we did. Or maybe that's how I choose to remember it? We shook Matty's hand, along with the other judges, and were loaded up with prizes and applauded. The press interviewed us and we had multiple photos taken. One photographer even asked us to roar like a lion. It felt stupid, but we didn't really care, as we were feeling pretty good about the whole situation at this point in time.
 
Then the winning Young Lions were called into the judging room. We were just thinking of more free things, but the reality was pretty much the exact opposite of that.
 
We were told in a very calm voice, not dissimilar to a lost tourist trying to bargain with a hungry wolverine, that there was a mistake - the gold and silver lions had been wrongly announced. Silver should have gone to Australia, making Bulgaria the winner.
 
Talk about a fall from grace.
 
We were stunned. And waiting for the nah-I'm-just-fucking-with-you punch line. But it never came. So we slowly handed over our prizes, which included a pair of Google Glass and a briefcase from Adobe filled with what I can only assume was amazing stuff. But the biggest thing we had to forgo was knowing we didn't get gold and wouldn't get to get up on stage to collect it.
 
The Young Lions organisers were treading very carefully with the news, and explained how sorry they were and how this is the first time this has ever happened in the 9 years the competition has been running.
 
I think they expected us to throw a chair across the room or perhaps lash out at the cleaning lady in the corner for making an awful racket and asking if we were finished with the 700 half-drunk bottles of water around the room leftover from the judging, moments earlier. But we didn't. We just shook Team Bulgaria's hand (who were as shocked as we were), congratulated them on their win, and chalked the whole situation up to 'these things happen'. 
 
Hey, at least we got a great story out of it. And free all-access passes to next year's festival!

Now what did we learn from the whole experience?
 
A lot.
 
It was our first time in the fabled town, and Cannes lived up to its reputation. 
 
On top of competing, we were on a mission to find out what makes the best work in the world, well, the best work in the world.
 
We quickly learnt that there is no formula for creating great ideas. No real surprises there. But what was surprising, was that not only is there no formula, but those out there creating the work we admire have differing opinions on ideas, the industry, creativity, and pretty much everything else.
 
It was incredible. And a little frightening.
 
Now, being of sound mind and full of the arrogance that comes from being junior creatives, we can only assume that instead of a formula, good ideas come from a delicious brew of hard work, experiences, attitudes, insights, knowledge and a little bit of luck.
 
It's the only explanation.
 
But, having said that, we did observe some definite trends, which if you haven't already tuned out by now, we'd love to share with you.
 
Now, we were only asked to share 4 key themes from our experience in Cannes. But we learnt so much, that there was no way of narrowing it down - that and we're lazy - so we've given you 10.
 
You're welcome.
 
It's cool to be nice
Both in the tone of ads - many of which were void of cynicism, sarcasm and "meanness" - and the real-world problems a lot of the work solved. Whether it was creating pure drinking water for villages with a book, raising donations for Red Cross by changing the size of the donation container slot, or simply using a beer carton to keep malaria-ridden mosquitos away while you enjoy a cold one around a fire, it was so inspiring to see what was actually winning was improving people's lives.
 
Don't write an ad, tell a story
Technology changes, but people don't. And people want to be told a story. Storytelling spans every language and culture. And even the simplest ideas can be laced with layers and layers of storytelling to make them more engaging. One example was as simple as using a real house painter vs an actor in a 30-second paint commercial. Why? Well, a real painter's appearance is hard and weathered from the sun, his clothes are splattered with years and years of paint, and his skills dictate he moves a certain way. This cannot be faked. And adding elements like this can add another 30 years of story to the spot.
 
Always be relevant. Always be relevant. Always be relevant.
This has always been true. But now, more than ever, being relevant is more relevant than ever. Technology has changed how we consume media, but it hasn't changed the fundamental fact that people like to laugh, to cry, and to share cool shit with their friends. This is what we should be creating. David Droga, one of my all-time idols, said it best with, "You're stealing people's time, it better be fucking worth it." He might not have sworn, but it sounds cooler in my head that way.
 
Perfection is insincere. And nobody trusts it.
It's no secret that people aren't perfect. It's the striving to be perfect which makes us human. Adding elements of this imperfection into our work connects with the audience. Use a voice over that stutters in your radio ad. Cast someone who has never acted before. Write a story that shows how 'real people' use the product, even if it's a little negative - or 'real'. It'll only make the work stronger and more believable.
 
Fail more
Cliched? Yes. But in order to create great memorable work, you need to be prepared to fall flat on your face. Then show up to work and your in-law's house with a whopping-great black eye. And for creatives to be prepared to fail, we need to work in an environment that encourages, and even applauds, failure.
 
Great work is uncompromising
Easier said than done. But when asked about their most famous and awarded work, all the superstar creatives responded the same way. That they had to fight for their idea every step of the way. There are so many things that can ruin an idea - agency changes, client changes, director changes, editor changes. The list goes on. But if you don't stay true and pure to the original concept, the one that made you high-five your partner, cat, or imaginary friend, then you're not going to be left with something that'll make you high-five again on the other side.
 
Brave work requires brave clients
I know the word 'client' is taboo in some creative departments. But at the core of all the amazing work we saw, was an amazing client who had the faith in the agency to not fuck up their brand. And this comes from earning their trust and knowing when to say 'no'. (So we've been told).
 
Create ads that don't look like ads
People have always done things like go to the bathroom during commercials. But now it's easier than ever to avoid advertising. So these days, it seems, the most effective work is work that people actually want to engage with. Work that actually entertains. Work that actually makes the audience feel good about being a human being. Why does an ad have to look, sound, or act in a certain way? The best work we saw was redefining what an ad actually is. It took all shapes and sizes, but pretty much anything that communicates the brand's message is now an ad. How fucking cool is that.
 
The way you try and solve a problem creates the answer
A little abstract, but let me explain. Trying to solve a problem one way will give you a handful of solutions. Trying to solve it another way will give you another handful of solutions. So, to come up with the largest number of ideas you can, you need to exhaust every possible route to the solution. Essentially, try new things and you'll get new ideas.
 
How to write a case study video
There's a definite and very important skill required to win an award these days - presenting your idea. We sat in on the 'Insights with the promo and activation jury' who judged over 3,200 pieces of work. It was very interesting to hear what ideas cut though and how they did it:
 
  • Simple ideas with real results, no matter what the media or level of technology, win every time.
  • Tell the problem and the idea in the first 30 seconds.
  • Judges hate buzzwords - don't oversell an idea with buzzwords like "world's first".
  • All the judges begged the audience to stop saying "And it worked!" in their videos. "Of course it fucking worked, you entered it into Cannes!" I remember one judge saying.
 
We absorbed so much more knowledge and inspiration from our Cannes Young Lions experience. But in the interest of reader sanity, perhaps we should stop there.
 
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank News Corp for running the Young Lions program for another successful year. It's such a great opportunity for young Australian creatives and if you're under 28 and reading this, I urge you to take a crack next year.
 
We'd also like to thank our agency, GPY&R Brisbane, for their support through our journey.
 
We've had a blast.
 
Tristan Viney & Carl Robertson

6 Comments

Rich said:

As always well told.
Nice one boys.

Bill not board said:

Congratulations blokes. Awesome article. You seem like humble dudes. Bloody cracker of an idea. As you say/learned, simple always wins. All the best for your future, it sure looks like it's a, er... bright one (lamp pole reference there). Nice.

Kieran said:

Nice Work guys!

kathleen viney said:

Awesome, job well done, totally gobsmacked. Congratulations to both of you. You know how to make your mums proud.

Michael said:

Congrats fellas!

Kirsten Read said:

I feel like I've been on an emotional rollercoaster after reading this. Amazing job boys.
I also feel if Matty Burton and Sarah Murdoch had a child, it would most certainly contract foot in mouth.

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