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Strategy

Young Marketers at Cannes

5 min read

Shane Doyle, Group Strategic Director

by Shane Doyle, Group Strategic Director

Core Strategy

This article was originally published on Marketing.ie.

Having sat on the adjudication panel for the young marketer category of IAPI’s Cannes Young Lions competition for three years in a row, it has become clear to me that the judges learn as much as those who enter. Core sponsors the category for a very good reason. It is the only Irish competition that supports creativity for young marketers.

There is a myriad of awards and initiatives for young people in adland, which is right and proper. But the lack of an equivalent for young marketers perpetuates the idea that creativity in marketing has only one home. Agencies can be guilty of bemoaning the fact that some clients are not creatively brave enough, or ambitious enough and that briefs lack scope.

The best way to solve this problem – if indeed it is a problem – is to support and celebrate creativity in young marketers. What has been most enjoyable about being a judge has been witnessing the appetite of young marketers to be creative. Entries have shown ambition and hunger to be creative, but most evident is the improvement curve across the three years.

The Cannes Young Lions 2019 saw 105 teams compete compared with 72 entries made last year. This year’s Young Marketers category was sponsored by Core for a third time with a creative brief centred on the European Network Against Racism, aka ENAR. The winners were Ciara O’Shaughnessy and Orla McKinney from Vhi.


This year’s entries showed great clarity, razor-sharp thinking, boundless enthusiasm, highly professional presentation skills and, above all, real creative endeavour. Young marketer is open to people under 30, working on brands using the services of marketing agencies. They must enter in teams of two, with both members work for the same brand.

What makes it different to the other categories is that the young marketers must answer the competition brief from the perspective of their brand, unlike the other Young Lions’ categories. It means the young marketer must show real skill in judging the crossover in relevance between their brand and the subject matter of the brief.

This year, IAPI enlisted the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) as the client organisation. Young marketing entrants had to generate an idea that used their brand to help further the cause of fighting racism in Ireland. It is the aspect that I believe makes the young marketer the competition’s toughest category of all.

The teams had just 48 hours to answer the brief, but the depth of thinking and the clarity of ideas presented were highly impressive. The entries really got under the skin of the issue and the shortlisted teams all understood that racism in Ireland is often disguised as banter and allowed to linger because bystanders let the small things slide.

So why was all this such a learning experience? The first emotion I felt as I watched the shortlisted teams present was discomfort, as I wondered if I could have been able to do as good a job if given 48 hours to answer a brief. My sense of wonder was soon kicked to touch. The shortlisted teams had done their research and presented their idea to the judges.

That is, they produced a key piece of previously unknown data or an insight that brought their approach into sharp focus. They taught us more about the issue. The entries also informed us about the art of restraint. Many brands have huge platforms available to them, from large social media bases to significant sponsorship properties or extensive CRM databases.

The young marketer competition does not limit brands to any specific channel or asset, so there is an understandable temptation to use them all – regardless of their relevance. The successful shortlisted teams avoided this trap, using only those assets that fit the brief and their own creative ideas, rather than cluttering the idea with every touchpoint within reach.

The third eye-opener was the breadth of role that entrants held in their marketing teams. We had teams made up of community managers, media managers, digital specialists, the list goes on. It reinforced the whole point of the competition: a celebration of the idea that creativity is not siloed but is shared for connection and engagement.

The last big reminder I experienced from watching the shortlisted teams present was the power of enthusiasm and energy. Each team displayed a real passion and belief for their work. They owned it, they were proud of it and, as a result, they presented it in the best possible light. It was a great reminder of the effect that people have when presenting work.

They see it as their own and have put their heart into it. This level of commitment can turn a good idea into a great one. Based on the young marketers who took part, the future looks bright for marketing. Furthermore, the improvement curve evident during the competition has enormous value. If you want to learn something new, look to the next generation.

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