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Final Impressions: Inside the Young Marketers Competition from Team Canada

When they called our names as we entered the Young Lions briefing zone to kick off the beginning of our 36 hour competition in the Young Marketers category, we had mixed feelings of being hopeful, inspired and yet, anxious and nervous – all at the same time.  You know, its that  feeling of butterflies in your stomach mixed with nervous anticipation and that sudden feeling of needing to pee, or vomit (not sure which…). Ok – maybe that’s an exaggeration, but we definitely felt something.  That’s because as they called our names, next to the words  “Team Canada”, we felt the instant reality of the scope of this type of competition.  One by one, they listed off the countries that we would be competing against from A to Z, similar to an attendance checklist – from Argentina  all the way to Turkey and Spain – we had that sudden moment of realization that this was real, and that we were surrounded by the very best from around the world.


The field of competitors made up a very talented, yet diverse group across multiple industries.   There was a strong assortment of industries represented – from Team Japan who came from Yahoo, Team Germany from Paypal, all the way to Team Bangladesh who came from a local telecom provider and Team Costa Rica who came from a local gaming and lottery corporation – each of these teams, similar to us,  were comprised of two marketers under 30 who had won a local competition for the right to be compete in the Young Marketers competition   In addition to these industries, the core of the marketers actually came from the traditional top tier CPG companies  – Team Sri Lanka, India and Finland all from Unilever, while Argentina represented PepsiCo and both Turkey and Canada representing Procter & Gamble.


The challenge they provided to us was simple – we were tasked with developing a product and campaign idea that would create a link between a brand within our company portfolio and a not-for-profit cause – which they later revealed as the World Food Programme (WFP).  After an inspiring brief from someone from the WFP, we were off to brainstorm, ideate, be inspired and hopefully, come up with a campaign idea that would stand out amongst our competitive field.


After several hours of research and scratching our heads, we finally settled on an idea –  what if we could make Canadians realize that their donation to end world hunger was being offset by their over-contribution to food waste?  We built on the insight that the average size of our dinner plates in North America had grown 36% since the 1960s – creating the foundation for our campaign, titled Small Plates, Big Difference.  The campaign focused on re-introducing smaller sized plates to Canadians, supported by our new product which was a compact and highly concentrated dishwashing liquid, where sales proceeds would go to directly support the WFP in their campaign to end hunger.


Unfortunately,  despite our best efforts, we did not place top three in the competition.  The top three teams in the Young Marketers competition were:

GOLD: Team Argentina –  PepsiCo

SILVER: Team India – Unilever

BRONZE: Team Finland –  Unilever

After the initial disappointment of not placing, we were reminded of the fact that we were supported by the best and brightest within Canada and that just being here – to experience and be surrounded by the best in our industry – is what mattered most.

We were fortunate enough to have had the support of many Canadians along the way – peers, friends, and mentors-  that truly represented all of  “Team Canada” and something we took to heart as they called our country to the final stage to make our presentation.   In particular, Barbara Smith and Mark Childs who worked tirelessly with us beforehand on presentation training, Joanne Visconti, Brian Sheppard and Paul Lavoie who provided encouragement and confidence in our thinking during the competition and the rest of our Young Marketers crew from Canada who helped encourage us to get some sleep during the 36 hour competition 🙂

After this incredible experience, I am still left speechless over this past week.  Cannes Lions was inspiring, life-changing and career-altering all at once.  There are no words that can express what we experienced this past week  – all I am left with is an intense feeling of renewed energy, inspiration and hopefulness as I head back to Canada and continue on in my own career within marketing and continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with creativity.  I truly believe now that there is no greater stage than that of Cannes Lions – and that every marketer should aspire to attend one day to experience this unique, special week in the South of France that will most certainly change your life.



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