Although this year’s edition of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity over, the experiences and the Cannes feeling are still empowering those that attended the event and are likely to influence their future evolution.
Teodora Migdalovici, ambassador of Lions Festivals in Romania and founder of The Alternative School for Creative Thinking, gave us some insight on Romania’s participation and results at this year’s edition of Cannes Lions and also spoke of the results achieved by the Alternative students in Young Lions competitions and what makes them winners.
AdHugger: How many people represented Romania at Cannes this year?
Teodora Migdalovici: It was a large number – around 100, from the entire spectrum of the industry. What counted more than the number was the diversity in terms of the delegates’ professional backgrounds – from professionals that sought inspiration or confirmation, to producers, creatives, junior-seniors, members of the press and smart clients.
AdH: What was their first feedback after the festival?
Teodora Migdalovici: This festival is so full of energy, has so many validation points for every one of us in a very personal way that simply develops addiction. Major players on the Romanian market and leaders of the most influential communication groups keep coming year after year, regardless of their busy schedules back home. It’s a sign that Cannes has become a reference point not only for Brazilian, Argentinian and Japanese creatives, but for Romanian ones as well.
During the festival I have received not only confirmation from the School’s partners that they will continue to support The Alternative School’s educational program in Cannes, but many other great projects and partnerships were established here. Those are indirect references of how much they valued the content and the whole experience.
AdH: During the Lions week there were more than 200 sessions, 300 speakers and 150 hours of consistent content. What were, in your opinion, the top 5 moments at this year’s festival?
T.M.: Before giving details, I will share a thought that repetitively came to my mind during the festival: humanity has a chance with this kind of thinkers and doers present on the Cannes stage.
Don’t get me wrong – I can make a difference between a smooth talk and a genuine, overwhelming one; between a nice, well put-together presentation and one that is likely to be remembered years after. After all, I have been attending Cannes for more than 14 years. I still recall that time when advertising was not about how to change people’s life for the better, but about who is the smartest ass in the room. Being cynical, sarcastic and egocentric where really fashionable attitudes and networking among those people could have been a slightly unpleasant experience, due to the amount of ego displayed on the Croisette.
From that perspective, Cannes has come a long way. I just love its openness towards everything human. I love the interest in other fields that could be an inspiration – see for instance astrophysics or nanotechnology. So, despite popular opinion, my personal top was not David Droga (he is definitely better in an individual talk, than in a panel and he used to be a more consistent speaker in 2009 than he is now). Neither was Sarah Jessica Parker (“the shoes soft spot” of her character in “The Sex and The City” was chasing her like a ghost, so on stage she wore some uncomfortable, far too demonstrative shoes, indirectly paying a huge compliment to the style teams that might have worked for the Series, but definitely not now).
Two of my personal favorites were the cyborg artist and inventor Neil Harbisson and the interesting anthropological analysis of the money imagery related to science, adorably delivered by Neil deGrasse Tyson in his effort to build some reputation for hard sciences like math, physics and astrophysics. I loved Jonathan Ive, and his speech about inevitable design ideas that just had to happen for the world to evolve and I appreciated the way he knew how to play the secondary part while Bono was grasping all the attention. And, of course, I appreciated the statement behind “Nice is the new black”. Definitely, the festival became a place that feels like home not only because of the frequency I’ve attended it, but because of the alignment between my personal values and the general vibe. Cannes became more spiritual, deep and consistent, to a level just 7 years ago was difficult to imagine.
AdH: The Alternative School for Creative Thinking had its students achieving (again) top results in Cannes training programs and competitions. Can you please resume for us The Alternative School’s participation and the achieved results?
T.M.: Bianca Dumitrascu and Razvan Ghilencea, a.k.a. FlipSters Play, won gold in the 24 hours Cyber competition, making everybody really proud. What a joy for Laura Nedelschi, their Creative Director, what a reward for Bogdan Herea, the founder of ACADEMY+PLUS and the one that financed the Cyber competition back in the country, what a confirmation for all the teachers and evaluators of The Alternative School and what a deep feeling of gratitude took me by surprise when finding out the results!
It is emotional and overwhelming at personal level, but strategically speaking, is big in terms of results for this Creative MBA Program I founded 9 years ago. As the second gold in a row, after the gold won by another alternative team in 2013 within the Design competition and completing the long list of other relevant results, the Cyber medal is an implicit indicator of what is going on within this alternative educational platform.
And the good news kept coming throughout the week. The Romanian participants at the Storytelling Academy won Gold together with their colleagues from two other Eastern European countries.
We had a total of 14 alumni that attended Cannes – some in competitions (PR, Design, Cyber), some as delegates, some within the Academies (Roger Hatchuel, Storytelling). And that’s consistent. I am happy that, in a way or another, 14 people from this Creative MBA managed to explore, learn and get inspired in such a context. We all agree, for every individual willing to make a career within the communication industry, the Lions Festivals are the best place to find a reference point.
AdH: What are the ingredients that make almost every year school’s students come home with accolades?
It’s quite simple: I do not train them to win gold, but to love what they do and to think & feel more than others. Creative thinking is a mind – soul territory, as is time – space in astrophysics. As soon as you understand this – that you need to operate with your brains as well as with your heart in the sharpest, yet most compelling way, you are on the right track.
They are trained to feel and think emphatically with people they address their ideas to. I encourage them to find their voice, to forget cliches or twist them and to stand out of the crowd, to be as concise, simple and brilliant as possible (we have concision exercises so they are confined to express their campaign idea in just one sentence). I train them to act like a winner with heart. I encourage them to just love the communication disciplines in their diversity and in their own right, to go out of the comfort zone and to explore disciplines they only heard about, but never quite practiced.
It’s my belief in synaesthesia of the communication disciplines that allows people from PR to think visually or designers to have a strategists’ reaction. It’s difficult at the beginning, but the outcome is great. Many of the students come at School with the preconceived idea that PR is not for them since they are Designers. Or visual communication is not for them because they are Strategists. Or that they do not have a talent for drawing, so they should just leave. And I always give this example with a voluptuous lady going to the gym. She is tired after the first 20 minutes, but the results are coming after a few weeks of constant exercise and her body shape evolves from there for another few long months, until the shadow of the perfect silhouette is there. Athletes are not born. They simply become the best version of themselves through long hours of guided and individual training. This is why, at The Alternative School, we also have a culture of practice. Practice makes it perfect. They can improve their solutions to the briefs, so they are given the chance to develop an idea and refine it until it becomes remarkable and they love it themselves from the bottom of their heart. And boy, do they work hard!
They have access to the best case studies in the world and the best teachers I can find. The Alternative School is all about passion for sharing, it’s about content from the Lions festivals digested and dissected in a memorable manner by such a diverse crowd. It’s about difficult briefs in the search of simple and compelling solutions.
AdH: How is this influencing the educational program?
T.M.: By nature, I have a certain disregard for stereotype. And this taste for experiment and finding new ways to reaching results could be seen in the way I designed the learning program. I like to believe there is creativity in the teaching as well as in the learning process.
The Alternative School is about the good mood within classes: somehow, we manage to create a friendly atmosphere that remains so even throughout the final competitions – and this is great, because out of go od mood and love for beautiful ideas, people can grow in a healthy way.
The program wasn’t there as it is now; it just became better and better every single year, by improving in a Kaizen pace. I started it out of love for creative thinking and also because I believed in the local industry. The potential was huge, yet badly nurtured. And because I had access to amazing experiences through the Lions festivals and I couldn’t simply keep them to myself. I improvised a lot. I experimented. I learned from my mistakes and from others’. I didn’t give up when resources were scarce. It’s called evolution. And also, let’s face it: students nowadays are more prepared for the learning and competition process than they were a few years ago.
AdH: What are the next steps?
T.M.: Next steps imply the need to improvise some more. But also to be more disciplined. To maybe expand at regional level. To mix and match disciplines following a personal vision, because this instinct that I have about the future of the industry proved to be right every time.
And also the future is about not to have expectations. Because you can do your best, but without the right students with great human and professional material or without the financial support, the trophies could easily become memories. I see it every time – people receive trophies, they become attached to this idea of being famous, on the top of the world. But when they stop winning, there is a drama. I don’t want to go in this territory, when the trophy is a must and in the absence of it there’s a great depression. I just want to follow a fantastic advice Corina Bernschutz, our first Lion winner, gave me once. She said: “Do your best and don’t worry”. It worked perfectly fine so far.
AdH: Cannes Lions is the top of creativity dedicated festivals. During the last years, Romania had representatives in the juries, but that didn’t happen this year. Why?
T.M.: We received a place in the Direct category. But we didn’t match the other criteria – a woman in a leading position with a recent gold in this discipline. The ones that I thought of came from agencies belonging to networks that already had representatives in the jury, with more gold trophies than Romania. So they had priority. For the sake of neutrality, a network can’t have more than two representatives in a jury – which would have been the case with my proposals.
I suggested several names with performances in PR or Media, but each time I was asked to present the Direct credentials as well. Due to the fact that Romania didn’t win gold in a few years now, besides the Young Lions competitions, won by students in Design and Cyber, it will be harder and harder to have a juror in the years to come.
AdH: Romania had around 150 entries this year at the festival and came home with 2 Bronze Lions via McCann. How do you comment this year’s results?
Cannes had more than 34.000 entries this year. McCann had a bunch of shortlists, 2 Bronze Lions, Publicis – one shortlist and Ogilvy – two shortlists? Well, it’s a modest result by comparison with previous years, but a very decent one if we look at the competition in 2014. This is why we should appreciate the value of the awards they won a few years back.