Meet the Next Generation of Advertising Lions

From left to right: Ben King & Michael DiSalvo (Gold in PR), Paula Cunha & Hugo Miguel Sousa (Silver in Cyber), Nagore Mieres Redondo & Paola Castiel (Silver in Media).
From left to right: Ben King & Michael DiSalvo (Gold in PR), Paula Cunha & Hugo Miguel Sousa (Silver in Cyber), Nagore Mieres Redondo & Paola Castiel (Silver in Media).
by Karim Marier

Who are the rising stars in advertising? At the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, the Young Lions competition aims to identify the best of the next generation of industry talent and celebrate their early career achievements. With over 400 talented millenials from all over the world participating, you can imagine how fierce the competition is, as contestants are put through a sort of 24 hour advertising boot camp to see who can come up with the best and most innovative ad campaigns.

After the Lions are divvied up into teams, they’re given a brief and just one short day to impress the judges under intense conditions. With the United Nations as this year’s client, teams had to develop campaigns focusing on subjects such as the sustainable development goals, sexual violence against women and education.

We were lucky enough to chat with some of the award winning Lions in the PR, Media, and Cyber categories to learn more about their experiences living the Cannes dream.

Ben and Michael – Gold in PR
Name: Ben King
Age: 26
City: New York, USA
Agency: Ogilvy
Dream personality to work with: Influencial world leaders
Dream brand to work on: The iconic Obama campaign in 2008
Music or not while working?: Yes, jazz! Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis.
Name: Michael DiSalvo
Age: 28
City: New York, USA
Agency: Ogilvy
Dream personality to work with: Elvis Presley
Dream brand to work on: Kellogg’s
Music or not while working?: Yes, but my music choices are embarrassing haha! It can go from Against Me! to country patriotic music.
Hugo and Paula – Silver in Cyber
Name: Hugo Miguel Sousa
Age: 28
City: London, UK
Agency: VML
Dream personality to work with: Björk
Dream brand to work on: Google
Music or not while working?: Always. From FKA Twigs to Nine Inch Nails throughout the day.
Name: Paula Cunha
Age: 28
City: London, UK
Agency: SapientNitro
Dream personality to work with: Ryoji Ikeda
Dream brand to work on: Gareth Pugh Studios
Music or not while working?: Always! Mostly electronic with minimal lyrics like Burial.
Nagore and Paola – Silver in Media
Name: Nagore Mieres Redondo
Age: 25
City: Bilbao, Spain
Agency: IPG Mediabrands
Dream personality to work with: Barack Obama
Dream brand to work on: Apple
Music or not while working?: Definitely music. Always from Spotify, mainly “good vibes” playlists.
Name: Paola Castiel
Age: 28
City: Madrid, Spain
Agency: UM
Dream personality to work with: David Droga / Beyoncé & Jay-Z
Dream brand to work on: The only important thing for me it’s that the brand has a strong believe in the power of creativity.
Music or not while working?: Yes, depending on what I have to do! In Common by Alicia keys is playing right now.


1- How difficult was the brief at Cannes compared to real life briefs?

Michael (PR) : In a way, it was easier because there was no budget and no timing associated with it, and there wasn’t a client involved who had certain objectives they wanted to achieve on a personal level. But, on the other hand, it was more difficult because it was such a large issue. The brief they had given us from the UN was in relation with their Sustainable development goals, and the particular goal they wanted us to attack was to eliminate food waste from a consumer and retailer perspective. That was difficult because it was such a large problem to tackle, but more importantly, because it was at Cannes, which is the festival for creativity, the idea had to be big, creative, and had to be approached to solving the problem.

Paula (Cyber) : Being a developer, I don’t get creative briefs very often, so this was definitely more challenging than what I experience in real life. I always try to be part of the creative process, but it’s hard to reconcile that with building large-scale websites for other clients. Cannes gives me a chance to prove to myself and others that I can do it. And I have to admit that I felt a little bit scared when I received the brief. Our topic was Sexual violence against women which is a very sensible and serious reality that still happens too often. The approach behind our campaign was in the aim of starting a conversation on sexual assault, so we were looking for ways to target everyone with our message.

Nagore (Media) : The fact of having the United Nations as a client made things more challenging from the beginning. The work they do is so important for humanity that our level of commitment necessarily elevated to very high standards. The issue of Education around the world was a really tough one. The organization required us to make people not only become aware of the problem, but also take action, a much more difficult objective than selling any kind of product or service.


2- Can you briefly describe the process of the competition?

Michael (PR) : Once you’re in France, it’s super intense, it’s almost like a movie! You show up on the first day, they give you the brief and then they say “Tomorrow at 8AM, the room will open and you’ll have access to a computer for twelve and a half hours.” And then within that twelve and a half hour period, you have to put together a 10 slides presentation with all these criteria, as well as a one-page Word document overview and a summary slide of everything. In addition to that, you need to prep for the next morning where you end up in front of three fairly intimidating judges who you have five mins to present to. For me, presenting anything in five minutes is difficult! I can’t even introduce myself in five minutes…

Hugo (Cyber) : We got the brief from the client on Monday afternoon. After that, we definitely went to the “the darkest place of creativity”, a.k.a “being afraid of not getting the right idea on time”. But then, before going to bed, we conceived a concept we were proud to work on. The next morning we started to design the creative boards and all the rationale behind it, so that we could present it in a proper way.

Paola (Media) : The Media competition starts on Sunday morning when you get the brief. From that moment to Monday at 8AM, we were locked in the hotel to think and rethink. It was such a long day because we wanted to get the idea before going to the competition area the next morning so that we only had to decide how to tell the story from there. We didn’t have it clear until 3AM when we went to bed. On Monday, 8AM we were already at the basement in front of the computer: 10 slides maximum to convince the jury. We used every minute of the available time and at 8PM we sent and printed our work. Tuesday was presentation day. Luckily we had to follow an alphabetical order to present so we did it at 4:15PM. 5 minutes of presentation and 5 minutes of Q&A. And finally at 6PM they told us the results!


“The biggest surprise from Cannes was how much French people like Lenny Kravitz” – Ben King (PR)

3- Most pleasant surprise from your experience in the competition? Or in Cannes in general?

Ben (PR) : The biggest surprise from Cannes was how much the French people like Lenny Kravitz (laughs). There were three Lenny Kravitz songs playing in every bar we went to and I couldn’t figure out why, Americans don’t even like Lenny Kravitz that much! In terms of the festival, I think the involvement of the tech companies, Google and Facebook, showing how codependent our industry is with theirs right now, was a big surprise too. If you went there five years back, it would have looked very different.

Paula (Cyber) : Probably the judges’ comments after announcing the winners. They showed that they really believed in our idea and even encouraged us to pitch it to YouTube and make it happen in real life!

Nagore (Media) : The most pleasant surprise was probably receiving the Silver Prize. We did our absolute best but the quality level was so high at Cannes that we never expected to win. It was wonderful receiving recognition from the jury and all the colleagues that congratulated us for our idea.


“They really believed in our idea and even encouraged us to pitch it to YouTube and make it happen” – Paula Cunha (Cyber)


4- Do you have any advice for those attending Cannes for the first time?

Ben (PR) : Plan it. The festival does a very good job of getting the information out beforehand. There’s the app with all the speakers and events ahead of time. I’m really interested in political communications and there was a fantastic panel thrown by this former staff list for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and a political journalist that covers the American elections and the rise of Trump. Look out for those niche ones that are just for you.

Hugo (Cyber) : Plan every conferences and events that you want to see, as well as the parties you want to attend. Otherwise you won’t have much things left to do, even if you’re in a place where you feel that everything’s happening.

Paola (Media) : DO arrive with enough time if there’s a talk that you don’t want to miss because the line can be long, but DON’T get stressed if the room is full because you are going to have access to all of them on the website for months. DO swim in the sea at least once but DON’T spend the entire week on the beach. DO talk to everyone. People are willing to meet you so DON’T forget your cards!

5- What are you most proud of in your work during the competition?

Michael (PR) : It’s the ability to recognize our shortcomings and figure out where our weaknesses are and how to get around them. Ben and I have very complementary skill sets. We’re both good at different things and throughout the competition, be able to recognize what I wasn’t particularly good at and relying on Ben to fill in those gaps, I think it’s what really helped us in the end. To be able to find out the benefits of having a team approach versus doing things yourself was a big takeaway for me.

Paula (Cyber) : I’m proud to have represented the UK in this competition while being Portuguese. I moved to London last year and everyone made me feel so incredibly welcome. Some might see it differently but, for me, this was also a chance to give something back.

Nagore (Media) : I feel very proud for the chance I had to work for the United Nations, I had never imagined that I could be so fortunate. The only thing that would make me even more happier than receiving the Silver Prize would be seeing how the organization takes our idea and runs it as part of its communication and world-changing project.


Best of luck to this year’s competitors. We anticipate all participants will make their friends and coworkers at home proud.