After taking the top prize in film in the U.S. Young Lions competition, Publicis New York’s Kimberly Ronan and Patrick Merritt were invited to compete against Young Lions winners from around the world at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. Now that the competition is over, we caught up with them to hear about their experience and how the competition challenged them as young creatives.
What was the competition schedule like?
Patrick: We arrived on Saturday and didn’t get briefed until Wednesday afternoon. So, we had some free time for the first few days, which we took advantage of. We saw some of the work on display in the Palais and got to enjoy some of the amenities, like Google Beach. But once we were briefed, it was non-stop—late nights, and long days. It was jam-packed and a little hectic.
Kimberly: The competition schedule was pretty tight. We were briefed on Wednesday at 4:00 PM and had to submit a final video by Friday at 6:00 PM.
What was the challenge set out in the creative brief?
Patrick: The World Wildlife Federation asked us to bring to life their new tag line: Together Possible. The thinking behind the tag is that it’s going to take all of us, the whole planet coming together to stop the destruction of our environment and reverse course and make our world healthy again.
Kimberly: They didn’t want us to focus on WWF as the solution but rather then how individuals can come together to make a difference.
What was the judging process like?
Kimberly: The panel that judged the actual film portion of the Cannes festival judged our work. We had to meet in the Palais at noon, which is where they were going to announce the winners. Unfortunately, we ended up having to wait around for an hour or more, which was super nerve wracking.
Patrick: When announcing the winners, they said it was important that the videos stayed on brief. In the end, they were looking films that were simple and had a complete thought.
How did you feel about the final outcome?
Kimberly: We were both extremely proud of the work we did in the short amount of time and really happy with our final film. We were a little nervous at first because we were so close to it, but after showing a few people our final project we started to feel more confident about our work. Unfortunately, we did not win the competition, so we were bummed with the final outcome of the competition, of course, but we could not have been happier to be given the opportunity to go to Cannes and compete against some of the best.
Patrick: Though we were disappointed about not winning, we’re proud of the film we made. We thought it answered the brief, had a great idea behind it, and was solidly executed. The winning film, however, was funny—something that judges appreciated after a long week of sitting in a dark room watching commercials in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Overall, we liked what we made and wished it had won, but we’re just proud to have been given the chance to represent the United States and go up against the best young creatives in the world.
What festival events were you able to attend?
Patrick: We were able to attend the award show on the final night, which was a great experience because I’ve never been able to do anything like that before. Sitting in a massive theater with thousands of people, watching the best ads in the world alongside the people who made them, was a little surreal.
Kimberly: We also made our way to the Palais a few times to see the work posted and attended the Young Lions opening party.
Were you able to get to know any of your fellow competitors or attendees?
Patrick: We never got a chance to really meet any of our fellow competitors, but because Cannes Lions is also a social event, I was able to meet dozens of other attendees at various outings, which was extremely interesting. Getting to commiserate and talk shop with other professionals is always fascinating.
Has your experience impacted the way you work on other projects?
Patrick: Absolutely. Being around the best creatives in the world and seeing what it takes to win the top prize at Cannes has definitely inspired me. It’s reinforced that simple, smart ideas win the day, but to get there you’ve got to try harder than everyone else.
Kimberly: This experience is something I will never forget, but working on this project and client work is something you can’t really compare. I can say that this experience has definitely helped me become more confident in my work and speak up more on projects I am on though.
What advice would you give to future Young Lions competitors?
Kimberly: My advice to future young lions competitors is to just stay positive and have as much fun as you can. This is supposed to be a life experience and it shouldn’t be something you look back on and think of how miserable you were or how stressed you were. This is a competition that is suppose to push your limits and make you pump out work you didn’t even know you could do in a crazy timeline. Have fun, work hard, and be proud of the work you accomplished because everyone else there and the people you work with, your family and friends are beyond proud of you for getting there in the first place.
Patrick: When you’re not competing, make sure to enjoy the experience. But after you’ve been briefed, dedicate yourself to making the best thing you can. And the timing is tight, so just go with your gut. After you’ve got an idea you like, run with it.
Read more about Kimberly and Patrick’s U.S. Young Lions win here.