Young Lions 2012: Our experience
By Emma Hawkins, Communications Planner and Laura Garratt, Buying Manager
Each year Guardian News and Media hold a national competition giving the UK’s up-and-coming creative and media professionals the opportunity to compete in the prestigious Young Lions competition, which coincides with the Cannes Lions Festival in June.
We entered the Media category having learned of the competition through Twitter. Not really knowing what we were letting ourselves in for, we signed up and awaited the arrival of the brief…
On Friday 23rd March, Britain saw the beginning of what was to be one of the sunniest weekends this year. So as people everywhere revelled in the sunshine, we received the brief at 5pm on the dot.
We had just over 48 hours to compile our response, and it really was a toughie. Our challenge was to create a media recommendation and template campaign for humanitarian medical aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières MSF (Doctors Without Borders), who provide medical aid where it is most needed, and first – before anyone else is at the scene.
After two days in the empty office, copious cups of coffee, several expensive shop-bought meals and some very wise words from some of OMD’s finest past and present, at midday on the Monday 26th March we submitted our 34-slide written response to brief (6 minutes late – thank you Simon Taylor for your excellent countdown as we frantically filled in our submission form)!
At the end of a suspense-filled week, on Thursday 29th we were shortlisted from 23 entries, along with four other agency pairs. We were thrilled, but realised that we now had to somehow condense a huge amount of data into a succinct 5-minute presentation…now, that was by far the hardest part!
The presentation took place at the Guardian offices on Tuesday 3rd April, in front of a judging panel which included Marcus Dunk, publications manager of Médecins Sans Frontières, Stewart Easterbrook, CEO of Starcom Mediavest group, Ita Murphy, MD of Mindshare, OMD’s very own Steve Williams, and several directors from The Guardian. It was daunting to say the least, and after several practise runs that had gone way over our allocated time by at least double, we really didn’t know how we were going to squeeze all of the information into such a short time (and they were timing us – with a stopwatch)!
We managed it, even if it did feel like we’d just ridden a high-speed rollercoaster. The feedback from the judges in the 10-or-so minutes following our presentation was brilliant. We were subjected to a few challenging questions of course, but by that point we knew the recommendations so well that we had no trouble answering them, and left the room feeling rather proud of ourselves.
Despite the fact that we didn’t end up winning the first prize trip to represent the UK in Cannes (we were pipped to the post by someone else’s brilliant idea), the fact that we were even shortlisted made it all worthwhile. We learnt so much from some brilliant OMD minds, and learnt even more about the way that we work, and what we are capable of. It’s an especially good job that we work so well together as a team – both day-to-day in our account roles (Coty: E plans, L buys), and socially! Otherwise the experience could have been completely different.
So, what did we learn from the experience?
- When time is tight, you have to trust your instincts. Starting at the ‘big idea’ and working backwards also ensures that you don’t waste time going round in circles
- One really great insight is far more powerful than three good insights
- It IS possible to squeeze a vast amount of information into a very short time. With only 5 minutes to present our idea back to the judges, we really had to be ruthless, and in the process learned just how succinct you can be when getting a point across
- Knowing the pitch content inside out really was essential, as even the simplest of questions from the judging panel could have undone all of our hard work if we hadn’t been clued up enough
- Finding the right teammate is essential if you want to get through it with your sanity intact. At the eleventh hour, when sense of humour failure and delirium has set in, you need to be able to determinedly carry on regardless (getting the infectious giggles is also not conducive to good pitch preparation)
- Starbucks do a fantastic Cheese & Ham Croissant, and Café Fresco next to Goodge St station can cure even the most dire morning blues with its bacon sandwiches
Finally, to all of you who we pestered, whose time we borrowed and whose knowledge was imparted:
Thank you. So much.
Everyone’s input and support was invaluable and helped make the experience a thoroughly enjoyable challenge. Well worth being in the office for a weekend and missing out on ALL the sun…and the very late nights/early mornings…