Cannes Lions 2013 – The Day We Broke Into An Ad Agency

I was just a clown. I knew nothing about Cannes Lions

I was just a clown. I knew nothing about Cannes Lions

So, one of the most important weeks in the creative industry is behind us. And I’d be lying if I said I knew much about Cannes only 365 days ago. I went to art school where I studied about Rembrandt, Dali, Picasso and African Contemporary Art. Infact, I remember about 9 months ago, being at work – when I had a 9 to 5 job of course – and my boss scolded me since I could not even pronounce the word “Cannes” clearly.

I was always just a rural kid who wanted to know everything about advertising though, that I cannot be debated.

Oh well, enough about that. One year later, I have become a self proclaimed expert on the art of advertising. After a single year’s experience working at a Brand Intelligence Research Agency as a Jnr Creative Strategist, I feel maybe as my right to always share my brash, and ill-informed opinions on anything to do with advertising and the creative industry. And in my own little way, I always feel it my responsibility to keep “my people” (a term used to describe the voices in my head) informed about what is happening in the mysterious world of advertising.


Salvidor Dali, Pablo Picasso & Vincent Van Gogh – these were my homies

But I was also 5 minutes away from giving yet another review of the famed festival of creativity we call Cannes. Bizcommunity, MarkLives, Advantage Magazine, Maggs on Media TV show, Ididthatad and basically, every other certified “expert” on the advertising industry are all there for a specific reason though. They will all give expert reviews written by people who observed thousands of more advertising material than I did and of course, people who were probably at the actual festival. So after consulting with my unemployed room-mate who advised me “mjita, just don’t make it another review”, I rather decided to focus on my own personal story related to my first Cannes Lions experience.

The Dream

The Dream. The Initial Goal

My Story & Our Brief

I currently belong to a small group of young individual creative’s who call ourselves “Creative Conversations”. We meet regularly at nice little artsy venues in Braamfontein to discuss development in our careers, share our latest work, share innovative ideas and so on. Earlier this year in South Africa, LeadSA and Cinemax ran a competition where a team of young creative’s had to shoot and conceptualize an innovative advertising campaign that dealt with attacking the issues of rape in South Africa. The main purpose was to drive conversation about rape to a youth market that bombards their days with social media interaction on platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Youtube. All this was to be done in a 48 hour period. The winner, would get a fully paid ticket to the Cannes Lions and official entry into the “Young Lions” category. And hence began my first human interaction with Cannes and my first entry.

Our Approach

So, as a group of six young, creative and hungry individuals, we met after work in the dark nights of Johannesburg. We created an imaginary company we would say was the one we all owned and it was all systems go. We received our emailed brief and the 48 hours had begun (We had already lost about 7 hours due to our day jobs). We plotted concepts and ideas well into the night. Bad ideas were shared with great ideas; egos were smashed and trampled on, people needed good sleep. But plates of chips and cheap wine were the order of the day as everything was centered around coming up with the best original idea.All we had was a Samsung S3 camera, ambitious heart and enough ideas to fill a Gupta bank account.


Eventually, one can always learn from the old guy

The Day We Walked & Captured the fear

After much brainstorming, we all decided on a very basic and simple concept.

When I look back at it today, it actually seems like we threw the brief out the window and just brought this whole rape issue to reality TV. We didn’t care! We had a message to bring

Our idea was simple and it involved creatively disturbing the peace and disrupting the status quo. One brave person amongst us would walk through the hostile streets of Joburg in a black suite and a cardboard written “I Rape”. Parkstation, Joburg CBD, restaurants such as NewsCafé, the iconic Mandela Bridge, the Gautrain Station and so on. We recorded the entire experience and reactions of the public on camera and devised our messaging from the direct results. We didn’t want to speak for the people of our country; we wanted them to speak/act for themselves. And as an artist, holding the camera that day for my partner in crime – the one who chose to walk named Mzo Ntuli – was one of the most terrifying and elevating experiences of my entire life. To put it in a nutshell, I felt like a Young Lion. And creating and making whilst the judgemental eyes of the public were upon us was the icing on the cake

The “Break In”

Without access to video editing software, recording studios and all that other important stuff. We did what anyone in our situation would do.

We spoke to a guy, who knew a guy, who knew another guy, who was friends with a guy who could help us. And that guy worked at a very famous ad agency.

Exhausted after a long day of shooting, we all met up that evening to wrap up our idea and proceeded enroute to the ad agency. With no fuss or stress, we were met with a warm welcome by our buddy at the ad agency. And we were ready for an entire night of using high quality resources we did not pay for, own or maintain. Everything we needed was there. Armed with some good KFC chicken, we worked well until 5am that morning when we had to sneak out accordingly. We continued to work from my apartment until submission time that day and sleep was only just a theoretical concept at that time

My Lessons from Cannes

We submitted our work just on deadline and needless to say, our work wasn’t nominated. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this post as I would be sipping pina colada’s in Cannes and trying to find my way to some French models hotel room.

Forget you people! I wouldn't be here

Forget you people! I wouldn’t be here

And the work that was selected to win from Havas Worldwide South Africa, was damn near ingenious (Click this link and see for yourself). But from my first interaction with Cannes, the continued aspiration to be one of the best in the world was a sentiment I shared with my entire team. And in the creative industry of advertising, Cannes allowed us to share that human emotion of aspiring to be relevant with the best because that it the purpose it serves and creates for all aspiring creative’s worldwide.

Looking through some the award winning work from Cannes 2013, I was really inspired by the growth of the advertising industry. No longer just a platform to sell, sell and sell, it is also becoming the ultimate platform for providing creative solutions to the world’s problems through embracing multimedia platforms, technology and 360 degree integrated advertising. No one can afford to be lazy!

I love the fact that despite popular belief, the lines between design, art and science continued to be blurred all in the name of creativity.

Grand Prix’s were awarded to phenomenal social awareness campaigns like McCann Melbourne’s Dumb Ways to Die, the Philippines “TXTBKS” campaign by DDB DM9 JaymeSyfu and Ogilvy Brazils Immortal Sport Fans.

I was also happy to see innovative social campaigns from South Africa being awarded like Draft FCB Cape Town’s Engen Fire Blanket Calender, the Hope Soap campaign from Y & R and Oglivy South Africa’s KFC Journey of Hope. As much as I am a huge patron and ambassador of chaos theory, I am a big fan of art and design for creative solutions to world problems. As time goes on, I feel I will be way better qualified in future to provide insightful perspective on which campaigns were the most breath-taking. I understand innovation but I currently have a deep appreciation for video and print executions and thus my judgment would be based on this very limited perspective.

But for my first real experience and engagement of Cannes, I still feel my entire network of friends and colleagues are on the right path and industry, it’s only a matter of time, hard work and experience before we start being the key industry decision makers and influencers on a larger scale.

That’s our piece and tell them you heard it from Simphiwe Xulu aka @Mr_MediaX on Twitter. Below is a collection of our favourite winners here at Starving Creatives from Cannes 2013

Follow us on Twitter at Starving Creative or follow @Mr_MediaX

Our Favourite International Winners at Cannes 2013

Our Favourite South African Winners at Cannes 2013


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