Leading up to the 2020 Young Lions Competitions, we’re spotlighting conversations with past Canadian gold winners. We ask them to share their unique competition experiences and shed light on the strategies and tactics that allowed them to make a big impression and ultimately take on the task of representing Canada at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Jessica Burnie and Elizabeth McPhedran, winners of the 2017 Media Competition, reflect on their unconventional approach to working during competition day, and how their work today continues to be influenced by their Young Lions experience.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Jess and Beth here. We’re members of the IPG Mediabrands Marketing team who handle design and communications, respectively. More simply put, our jobs are to help elevate and amplify the craft, talent, culture, and so much more from the Mediabrands family of brands (i.e. Media Experts, UM, Initiative, Reprise, Cadreon, Orion, and MAGNA). Back in 2017 when we won, we held similar functions at Media Experts and were competing under their banner.
Q: What was your Young Lions experience?
When it came to competition time, we had an unconventional way of working. With Jess in Toronto and Beth in Montreal, we worked this brief long distance. Though some might find this tough, we found it ultimately worked to our advantage. Typing our ideas via Skype gave us a literal transcript of thoughts – both the good ones to expand on and the bad ones to mock years later. That and you didn’t have the pressure of someone staring expectantly back at you when you have brainstorm block.
We were also lucky to have a full network of support behind us. Media Experts and Mediabrands roll out a red carpet of mentors, trainings, and support to help participants from our network feel ready for Game Day.
Looking back, yes – the experience can at times feel challenging in the moment. But the good type of challenging. The one that makes you feel glad you dove in headfirst and proud you let your imagination run wild.
Q: What was the most rewarding or memorable moment about competing?
The most memorable moment has to be when our names were called out as Gold winners. That’s when the sudden realisation hit that on the international stage, the Canadian flag belonged to us. We were representing our country in a way we’d never imagined before (look, neither of us ever saw flashes of Olympic glory in our future). Knowing that you’re surrounded by the best-of-the-best and competing at an international level brings a degree of excitement (and pressure) we couldn’t have conceived of before-hand.
From our experience (and what we’ve seen in past winners), the most successful Young Lions submissions are the ones who tackled the challenge through a lens of creative thinking and outside-the-box approaches.
Q: How did winning the Canadian competition change, if at all, your perspective or approach to work?
Winning the Canadian competition helped us realize the strategic importance of injecting creativity into your work, no matter what your work entails. From our experience (and what we’ve seen in past winners), the most successful Young Lions submissions are the ones who tackled the challenge through a lens of creative thinking and outside-the-box approaches.
For some in this industry, the day-to-day may not always feel particularly creative, but there’s always room for innovation – it’s how change is made, after all. For us in our design and communications roles, it’s been a reminder to think bigger, push harder, and never stop pitching bold ideas (even if some don’t land). That, and a well-designed deck that tells a good story goes far.