2013 Guardian Cannes Young Lions Competition

May 16, 2013

Last month I and a fellow colleague / school friend / mate decided to enter the Guardian Young Lions competition. It was probably the best experience of my career to date and I urge all of you to take part for both the highs and lows.

So here is my experience and I hope it inspires you to enter in 2014.

Client: Save the Children.

Media Brief: Make the case for aid.

Create a news and PR media plan that we can use as part of a wider campaign to convince the tabloids and right wing press that aid works, and that they need to support our campaign to enshrine the 0.7% aid budget in legislation”.

Oh. And do it in 24 hours.

Stressful? Yes, but also exhilarating!

In reality, we are very rarely expected to turn around briefs in such a small timescale but sometimes it does happen, especially if you are working on pitches which can inevitably become highly pressurised situations so having the skill to remain calm and think with clarity is incredibly valuable.

So where did we start?

Firstly we did a lot of desk research, both of us will admit that we were not 100% knowledgeable about the topic of aid spend. Once we had swotted up and started to feel like aid gurus we began brainstorming using some of the techniques my team mate, Helen had learnt on her Google Squared training course. This part actually reduced us into fits of laughter at points with some of the associations we made with certain words and it helps us to categorise our thoughts.

At this point I will admit we were stumped. It was the word ‘PR’ in the brief that kept throwing us. Neither of us have any prior experience of answering PR briefs and we decided to call it a night and to come back bright and early the next morning hopefully feeling slightly refreshed.

When I was home, I did some more browsing online and came across David Cameron’s ‘Golden Thread of Development’ theory. I researched further, but couldn’t quite gain clarity on what his theory exactly was; to me it was just a jumble of political jargon and waffle (and I did politics for A Level!). And that’s when it clicked. If the electorate, the voting public don’t have a clue what he’s on about, how are they going to rally together to lobby Cameron to legislate the aid budget? I knew we had to somehow humanise Cameron’s Golden Thread of Development Theory and going back to the office at 7am on Saturday I was feeling a lot more confident that we may actually be able to produce a response to this brief!

Our strategy was to ‘unleash a transparency revolution’ due to our insight that in today’s digital world transparency is an inherent and expected reality. From the words of Mahatma Ghandi, “truth never damages a cause that is just”.

transparency revolution

We wanted to create a visual representation of how overseas aid is spent and the positive results it achieves allowing the voting public to see that it is cost effective; it does and has done good so we must maintain our commitment, to ensure that we leave a legacy of UK aid for generations to come.

Our Idea:

Create an interactive map which uses real time data to visualise overseas aid investment donated from the UK.

Send thread

By clicking the golden button users will follow the real journey of £1 spent on foreign aid through a dynamic video with Google Maps, Street View and composite motion graphics depicted by a single golden thread. When the golden thread reaches the aid beneficiary, users will be presented with real life success stories through videos, images and live feeds. After interacting with this content, users can show their support by clicking the pledge counter, thus joining Save the Children’s online social movement. In order to ensure mass reach we needed to extend the online social movement offline therefore we allowed users to order their golden thread bracelet for a donation of £1 demonstrating a physical visible manifestation of their support.


We would then use these donations to cover the cost of our integrated media plan. We submitted our final response with 3 minutes to go and a sigh of relief followed!

Click the link below to see our final submission:

Young Lions 2013 Entry_Lexi Brown & Helen Barber

We then had a month to wait for the result. And then we received this email:

Thank you for entering this year’s UK Young Lions competition – media category. The standard of entries was extremely high and is clear the amount of effort that went in to each presentation. However, I am delighted to let you know that your entry has been shortlisted for the final judging day. There were a total of 60 entries received in this category and 5 have been shortlisted so congratulations!

We were in shock. But at least this time we had approximately 2 weeks to write and prepare our presentation. We had 5 minutes allocated for presentation time and 5 minutes for Q&A and our panel of judges consisted of:

  • Mark Finney, sales director, The Guardian
  • Mia Barnes, client services director, The Guardian
  • Helena Wiltshire, head of PR, Save the Children
  • Rachael Forde, managing director, P&G, Starcom
  • Hamid Habib, managing partner, Havas
  • Stuart Sullivan Martin, Strategy director, MEC

We were pretty nervous to say the least, but we rehearsed and rehearsed, practicing in front of different people in our agency including our MD. Feeling prepared gave me the confidence I needed on the day and we both left the room feeling proud about what we had delivered.

That evening we got the phone call to say that we had narrowly missed out after an intense deliberation between the judges and we were awarded second place. Obviously we were both disappointed not to win and go on to represent the UK in Cannes this June but I wish the winners, from Maxus the best of luck and I hope they come back with a gold, silver or bronze lion!


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