An Inside Look at the Cannes Lions

Ever wonder what it would be like to hang out at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity? Alex Martineau, art director at SapientNitro and part of Cannes Young Lions Team USA Print, talks about his experience in this year’s print challenge. Here’s what he had to say:


The basement floor of the Palais des Festival is where all of the shortlisted work is exhibited. It’s built like a maze, with row after row of incredible print ads, digital concepts and consumer outreach efforts. Each entry has the agency name next to it but no individual name. Maybe I’ve met the guy who made that ad; maybe I haven’t. Maybe he bought me a beer last night. Maybe I spilled it all over the sand when a dancing Dutchman in a Mario costume bumped into me. Is that Dutch Mario a Grand Prix-winning art director? Maybe. That’s the beauty of Cannes.


I was selected to represent Team USA in the Young Lions print competition. It’s an amazing sight, as every talented member of the competing teams is under 30 years old. And while getting there was no easy feat, the actual competition during the festival was even harder. There were 40 teams from all over the world hungry for the same recognition and prestige. Ultimately, we were all hoping to get our hands on a highly coveted Young Lions award.


We had 24 hours to craft our work. The brief was for Macmillan Cancer Support, a U.K.-based charity focused on providing specialist health care, information and financial support to people affected by cancer. Our challenge was to drive cancer patients to Macmillans’ online community, where they could receive support from a vast, global community. Once receiving the brief, we spent all day and night frantically trying to make the best work we could. And we did. We were proud of it. Typographic and a strong idea based on initial reactions of a diagnosis, the concept connected seamlessly with the help of the community to guide patients through treatment.  It was up to the judges, who unfortunately, did not pick our work. But with all of the teams being exceptionally talented, it was easy enough to swallow our pride.


Through this experience, I learned that living in different parts of the world gives you a truly different perspective on thinking creatively. At the end of the day, simplicity is still king. Words of wisdom to future Young Lions: Win or lose, this is an experience to be treasured and remembered with pride. And after all, you’re still in Cannes with plenty of ballyhoo to be had.


The Macmillan Online Community project was one example of design as activism. Get your feet wet in this socially conscious creative specialty by picking up “The Design Activist’s Handbook” ebook at My Design Shop.

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