Meet the Romanian Young Lions: The Cyber team

Advertising, Cannes Lions, Festivals, People

SmoothieDuo is the team that represented Romania in the Young Lions Cyber competition, at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2015, empowered by the long-standing supporter of young creatives, Renania. The team is comprised of Filip Gonzacenco and Silvia Gradinaru. The pair graduated The Alternative School for Creative Thinking, finishing off the classes on First Place, after 6 weekly semester briefs and one final 24h Cyber brief.

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  • Here’s a little about their experience in the competition, and throughout the festival:

It’s not that often you get the chance to be in Cannes and feel the most notorious festival of creativity directly in your guts. Also, it’s not that often you’re rewarded with being a country representative at Cannes Lions. In my case, the lucky charm was being able to compete in the Young Lions Cyber Competition on behalf of Romania. All of this happened because of The Alternative School for Creative Thinking, a “not your average kind of school”, which proved to be one of the best decisions I have taken in my life – pretty sure all my colleagues would say this.

  • The competition brief was about: education.

Gather 5 million people to sign for a petition that would then be forwarded to the UN. The goal: offer access to education to those who can’t have it. The brief’s tone was urgent and the real quest was to make all of this happen via social media.

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  • So we delivered:

by transforming the X symbol (also the signature of illiterate people) from a refusal / denial / everything bad into a cause, we created a sabotage-like-stunt campaign with a teaser and a reveal (yeah, you may smile thinking of that Droga5 grand-prix awarded few days later). One would first see a seemingly racist image and comment that would make the public opinion scream of terror and disgust. A pure stunt whose real purpose is to gather all the people you need in a matter of seconds because that’s what we had to do. The reveal stage would transform the once “racist image” into an “emotional one”: from “this kids must go!” to “this kids must go to school!”

I regret doing this. Firstly, because we didn’t win. Secondly, because I am usually not that serious when it comes to giving solutions. I misjudged my steps and delivered something too nerdy (you might call it too efficient). Here’s what I should have done: read only the first paragraph of the brief. That’s it. Also, not reading the competition rules might have helped… surely. Never read those rules again!

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Once the competition was over, we were back on the Cannes beach. Ok, not really the beach but the Palais. I was spending half of my days in the Palais, listening to boring, good or fantastic seminars. Do check out the Goodby and Silverstein talk – I loved this because it gets back to the roots of advertising. I usually love roots. That’s why I would eat carrots daily. The talk was awesome because you got to see “those kind of ads” complemented with funny comments from Jeff or Rich.

The town gets bonkers during the festival (at least the axis Martinez – Palais). Everybody is there and it gets really confusing sometimes. I had my moments when I felt tiny. Only after you get there do you realize what a huge institution Cannes Lions is. It is gigantic and you may have moments believing that one week of Cannes is the equivalent to Romania’s budget for a year. Opulence? Yes.

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  • Let’s talk about the awards:

… or let’s not.

  • Let’s talk about what I’ll do from now on:

I know it’s not all about the prizes, but I wouldn’t mind getting on that stage. Next year. And the year after. And so on.

My mind received a vaccine, the Cannes vaccine. I know what I’ll have to do. It’s not a secret: it’s just daily work and sweat. Always do more.

  1. What was your brief about?

We were lucky to come across a beautiful brief: create an integrated social media campaign for the #UpForSchool petition.

Our purpose was to create the sense of urgency that would determine 25 million people to sign and remind the UN that children were promised equal education by the end of 2015. 

  1. How many other teams were there in the competition and how did the 24 hours pass?

There must have been more than 50 other creatives gathered in the briefing room that day. There it was: the key moment, when everything we had been working for in the previous months was actually unfolding in front of us.

The short interval turned the overwhelming pressure of the context into a simple time pressure, which made us focus entirely on the creative puzzle that lay ahead of us. In the 24h rush, there was nothing else left to process and think about – it was all about the idea.

  1. How many creative routes did you come up with? Which was the one you went for in the end?

Throughout the night following the briefing, we came up with several solutions, of course – all spread in tiny handwriting on the back of the brief sheets (and they were a few!).

In the morning, we filtered them according to mind and gut, and went forward with the “X mark movement” – the signing of those who don’t know how to write.

As the X mark is the legally approved signature of illiterate people and also a sign of exclusion, our campaign aimed to make people experience the alienation that comes with lacking education and transform the resulting strong feelings into action.

We proposed a two stage execution: first, the launch in social media of X marked images of disfavoured categories to create controversy, followed by the reveal that those are actual signatures and invite people to sign the petition in order for these people to not be excluded in the future.

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  1. Which were the most interesting seminars / topics you came across and why? Which are the new ideas that have changed the way you think / how you believed the communication industry works?

It’s been mostly about data and creativity, about programmatic and neuroscience, about finding confidence and inspiration. Among these were the talks delivered by Amir Kassaei and Goodby & Silverstein (first time together on the Cannes Lions stage!), which were truly the highlights. Even though the other talks had the underlining idea of needing a vision to move further, these were the two that offered the industry a well-deserved and necessary cold shower.

They were the ones to passionately show and tell through their work the fact that, as advertising people, we need to create the kind of work that is known by all people, not just members of the jury. That awards are gold, but people are golden, so we need to be humane and offer something real along with our taglines and special executions.

These were talks combining the need for vision, creativity and a glimpse of hope. A hope for that advertising to find its lost way and that we are the ones that can make it happen.

  1. If you were to summarise the experience at The Alternative School from the beginning to Cannes in under 140 characters, how would it sound?

Smarter every day.