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The Cannes Young Lions PR Competition 2023 takes place alongside the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, advertising’s most prestigious awards. This year, Cognito’s Elizabeth Yeong and Vera Lau are representing Singapore in the competition. To be selected for this prestigious opportunity, Liz and Vera participated in and won the Singapore Cannes Young Lions competition earlier this year. They discuss their experience putting together a brief that lands in 24 hours – read on for their advice on how you can tank up your arsenal when handling a brief under pressure.

The Competition Outlined

Following a brief from a charity or NGO, participants have 24 hours to highlight how PR can effectively engage audiences in a brave and bold way. The deliverable? A full campaign proposal that shows how PR strategies connect with the organization’s core values, increase awareness and boost relations with relevant stakeholders. The judges were industry experts that assessed our proposals and the quality of our presentations before picking a winning team to represent Singapore at the global festival.

Your 24 Hours Starts Now:

At the start of the competition, we received an email outlining the details and expectations of our submission alongside the brief from the NGO. For this year’s competition, the brief came from Willing Hearts, Singapore’s largest soup kitchen. The adrenaline kicked in immediately and we dove in headfirst. We knew that the most important part was understanding the brief to conceptualize what would be not just effective but also realistic. Our pitch training came in handy - we knew to stay focused and had a structure to follow and fall back on, giving us a sense of calm amidst the busyness.

1. Dissect the Brief:

The first crucial step was to thoroughly dissect the brief provided for the competition. We carefully analyzed the client's objectives, target audience, and the core message they wanted to convey. We identified potential pitfalls and decided where exactly we wanted our campaign to focus.

2. Throw Out Ideas:

In the initial brainstorming phase, we let our creativity flow freely. In brainstorming, no idea is a bad idea. We took that very literally and came up with the wackiest of ideas! We had a goal in mind and insisted on coming up with at least 30 different ideas. We didn't give up until we hit our goal.

3. Culling:

With our ideas (both good and terrible) out in the open, we started the great purge. We looked through each and every idea and brutally axed those that didn’t hit the mark. What we were left with were the more promising ideas.

4. Grouping:

Next, we grouped similar ideas together to identify common themes and potential campaign directions. This step allowed us to visualize the broader concept and select the most promising avenues to pursue.

5. Refining:

With a narrowed-down selection of ideas, we focused on refining our concepts. We explored various creative executions, delving into the intricacies of copywriting, design, and strategic placement. Iteration played a significant role as we constantly refined and improved our ideas to maximize their potential impact.

6. Pivoting:

In the fast-paced environment of the competition, flexibility was key. We learned that it was essential to be open to pivoting our ideas when necessary. As we delved deeper into the campaign development, we encountered challenges and realized that some concepts needed adjustments or even complete overhauls. Adapting to change was vital to ensure a strong and cohesive campaign.

7. Hustle:

The clock kept ticking on and 24 hours is not a lot of time to refine and chisel an idea. The hardest part was distilling it into 10 slides.

8. And Now We Wait:

It was a mad rush all the way to the finish line but the adrenaline kept us going. When all was said and done, all we could do was wait.

Lessons Learned and Reflections:

Participating in the Singapore Cannes Young Lions competition taught us invaluable lessons about working under pressure and creating impactful campaigns. When testing your creativity, cookie cutter ideas won’t work. We really needed to push the boundaries of what we’d normally be comfortable with.

At the end of the day, we relied on our gut and stayed firm in our approach. We went forth with confidence to take ownership and pride in our idea and were incredibly happy that these ideas resonated with the judges.

As part of our journey, we’ll be at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity from Monday 19 to Friday 23 June 2023 - wish us luck and check back here to see how we get on!

This blogpost is written by both Vera Lau and Elizabeth Yeong. Vera Lau is an account manager in Cognito’s Singapore office. Elizabeth Yeong is an associate director in Cognito's Singapore office.