Part 1: On the Ground: The Young Lions Experience at ForwardPMX

April 8, 2020

For many young professionals in marketing and creative industries, the Young Lions Competitions reflects an incredible opportunity to showcase their creativity on a global stage.

Started over two decades ago, the competition takes place in Cannes, France each June and allows young marketers to put their talents to the test in seven divisions: design, digital, film, marketers, media, PR, and print. Participants work in pairs and participate in an initial regional competition on a brief set by amazing NGOs. Previous NGOs have included, United Nations, Save The Children, Greenpeace, Global Citizen, WWF, Amnesty International, UNHCR and UN Women. The participants have two weeks to submit their brief, and winners of these attend the final round of the competitions at Cannes Lions.

Two colleagues at FP who are passionate about the competition, Matt Wing, Director of Paid Media, and Danielle Michaelson, Director of Account Management, started and spearheaded the Young Lions competition at the agency. ForwardPMX’s leadership team carved out time to support our talented participants in the competition, which the agency was participating in for the first time. In all, there were nine teams that came together to collaborate for the challenge, with each group paired with a member of the senior leadership team who was able to provide mentorship, guidance and expertise to them. To get a feel for what it’s like to participate on a global scale, the teams presented their briefs to our Global CEO and other internal leaders, which gave them the opportunity to receive feedback directly.

While official results of the competition are still pending, with the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s competition, along with the Cannes Festival in France, has been cancelled. However, judging on the briefs will continue this month and the six winning teams from the 2020 competition will form Team USA for the 2021 Cannes Lion Festival. 

With such a positive response from our teams on the experience of working on the Young Lions Competition, we interviewed individuals to get a sense of the high notes, challenges, and surprises they experienced over the course of the competition. If you’re thinking about participating in the future, their words of wisdom can help you make that decision!

Read what they had to say below:

Victoria Cassano, Associate Director, Digital Paid Media & 
Marisa Braca, Associate Director, Paid Media

What made you want to participate in the Cannes Young Lions competition?

“It was a great opportunity to work on an interesting project with people we don’t usually get to work with – both the partner for the project and the senior mentor.”

What was the most challenging aspect of the competition?

“We found the most challenging aspect to be coming up with a starting idea. The prompt was focused around increasing corporate sponsorship and it was difficult to figure out how to effectively tackle the issue. Once we had a plan, putting the plan together was more seamless.”

What was your favorite part of the process?

It was great to see how people you don’t usually get to work with approach problems differently and learn to cohesively come up with a strategy that supports everyone’s ideas.

Did you learn anything new through the process – i.e. a new skill or piece of knowledge?

“We don’t usually make presentations like this and one of the biggest things we learned was how to present our idea in a short, concise, and impactful way.”

Would you recommend other young marketers compete in Cannes Young Lions?


What was the most rewarding part of the process?

“The most rewarding part of this process was seeing the finished product and reviewing how far we had come over the few weeks. It was an incredible growth opportunity to be taken out of our day to day and be able to think at a more strategic level across media outlets.”

What advice would you give to future participants?

“Don’t be afraid to tweak your idea as you go. The more familiar you get with your presentation, the more you will realize that maybe your initial plans do not match the flow… and that’s okay. The purpose of this is to consider out of the box ideas and that type of strategic thinking does not come from your first or even second idea, it comes from building off your plans and being flexible enough to start over if you have to.”

Talk about the mentorship part of the process – i.e. working with a senior leader, and presenting to our global CEO?

“The ability to talk through our ideas with senior leadership was an extremely beneficial part of the process. It allowed for deeper consideration and encouragement in times of uncertainty.”

Peter Vasilakos, Director, Digital Marketplaces

What made you want to participate in the Cannes Young Lions competition?

“I have always been interested in Cannes and every year’s winners. This was a way for me, personally, to participate and compete for such a prestigious award.”

What was the most challenging aspect of the competition?

“The fact that this year’s brief was focused on a nonprofit. I have limited experience in the space and had to learn as much as possible very quickly.”

What was your favorite part of the process?

“Ideation. Every campaign needs a big idea that is both creative and strategic. Formulating that was truly a pleasure and an exciting process.”

What was the most rewarding part of the process?

“Completion and submission was such a weight lifted off our shoulders. Finalizing a plan that brought our big idea to life was a true feeling of accomplishment.”

What advice would you give to future participants?

“Don’t take this lightly. It is stressful, competitive, and a lot of work crunched into a short window of time. BUT, if you really want it, the reward of completing and submitting your efforts outweighs the plight.”

Megan Maurer, Coordinator, Paid Search

What made you want to participate in the Cannes Young Lions competition?

“I have always enjoyed research and having the ability to learn something new or branch out of my comfort zone. This competition allowed me to not only think outside the box but to also expand my knowledge within my field. I was also able to work with people on different teams, allowing me to create more bonds with coworkers!”

What was your favorite part of the process?

“My favorite part was also the most challenging part in that it was something to work on outside of work. I loved being able to do something outside of work that was mentally beneficial even though it challenged me to balance my time so that I had enough to put towards the brief!”

Why would you recommend other young marketers compete in Cannes Young Lions?

“It’s an opportunity to learn and a break from the normal day-to-day that we tend to get lost in. We should always look to being challenged and Cannes Young Lions is the perfect opportunity for that.”

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