Winners’ stories: How winning a Lion changed my life (and my creativity)

LIONS Live was the perfect chance for us to find out if award-winning work translated into recognition within the industry – and see what other benefits came with picking up a Lion. Hint: business growth, confidence and influence could all be yours if your name’s read out in Cannes.

Here, we hear from several 2019 Lion-winners (agency and brand side) on what great creativity (the kind that wins Lions) has meant for them personally and professionally:

From Essity’s global marketing team:

TANJA GRUBNER

Global Marketing & Communications Director, Essity

Being one of the few brands worldwide to win a rare Titanium and Glass Lion back to back has changed the perception of me and my team for the taboo-breaking work of our brands Libresse (Bodyform, Nana, Nosotras, Nuvenia or Saba). We’ve gone from being recognised as the crazy, potentially even insane rebels from the FemCare category to marketers the entire marketing industry is looking at for inspiration. Together with the impact it had on the business and brand health, this recognition helped us to build trust with our marketers around the globe to take the risk to launch our brave work – because it pays off.

I hope it is an inspiration for anybody out there that all you need is a purpose that is worth fighting for, a creative agency partner to help you bring your vision to life and courage to launch it - not the biggest advertising budgets - in order to make a difference in culture and for consumers around the globe. Creativity helps you punch above your (media) weight, lead conversations and engagement.

MARTINA POULOPATI

Global Marketing & Communications Director, Essity

Our brands have collected several Cannes Lions by now – I never expected I’d say that five years ago! After decades of stereotypical feminine care advertising blue liquid, young, pretty white girls in tight white pants dancing happily whilst on their periods, a small Essity/AMV BBDO team embraced a big idea that drastically changed the path of this brand. An idea that few liked, many criticized and some even hated. We faced months of doubts, fights and despair, trying to convince an entire organisation to stand behind this ad and lead the change. People got nervous. I got nervous. When I heard we had won our first gold Lion for our film “Blood”, I felt relief – and immense pride watching it played on that gigantic screen, knowing some of the industry’s most brilliant minds were right there with us. That recognition attracted talent and grew our circle of influence. Within our organisation, it turned doubts to trust, criticism to support, fear into courage. That’s the power of the Lion.

From AMV BBDO:

TOM ALLEN

Deputy Executive Creative Director, AMVBBDO

Winning a Lion of any colour (or material) is a deeply satisfying reward for the huge effort it takes to create great work. It all becomes worth it. As a creative, it gives you confidence to strive for more, and of course it gets you noticed. Winning a Cannes Grand Prix or a Titanium Lion takes that to another level – you are creating work that is recognised as the best in the world, making culture and shaping the industry.

That kind of thought-leadership position is so rare, it’s like an energy source that feeds and inspires everyone around you – your clients, the whole agency team, and others in the company.

MARGAUX REVOL

Strategy Director, AMVBBDO

Winning the Glass Grand Prix was a transformational moment for me and for us as a team. The Cannes Lions Awards are known globally for being the most coveted awards, but our eyes were on the Glass Lion, because of the nature of what we were trying to achieve around periods and intimate health for women. Winning Glass has made the team, the agency, our client and the entire Essity company beyond proud. Not just of the campaigns we created, but of the path we’ve chosen to take in the last few years, which has since then inspired many others in the category and the industry to emulate. When you see the results and reactions in the real world, among women and men, you’ve already got your reward. But when you get awarded the coveted Lion, it’s adding a few sparkles. In our day to day job, aiming for the best of the best isn’t so much for the metal (or the glass) as much as it helps focus your energy, standards and ambition. Is the idea, the work, the quality good enough? Game-changing enough? Wonderful and fresh enough? And for us, fundamentally, is it brave enough? As we like to remind ourselves every time: if it’s not scary, it’s not actually breaking toxic taboos. And it’s probably not that good.

From VMLY&R Poland:

DAWID SZCZEPANIAK

Chief Creative Officer, Partner, VMLY&R Poland

When my friend and myself launched our own advertising agency back in January 2009, winning a Lion became one of our professional lifetime goals. At this time Poland had just a handful of Lions, so from the perspective of a small, independent digital shop not even located in the capital city, it seemed like an unreachable dream of some overambitious lunatics.

Many things have happened since we started, including a rapid growth of our agency and acquisition by a company formerly known as VML. Year after year, we had been entering pieces to Cannes Lions and none of them got shortlisted. Ten years passed by and finally “The Last Ever Issue” won our first bronze Lion. The next day came our second Lion. And the third one. And then, on the very last day of Cannes Lions 2019, we entered the stage to collect the Titanium and the Grand Prix and were named Cannes Lions Agency of the Year for the Good Track. Yes, I’ve had some moments of doubt over the years. But what I’ve learnt firsthand and what I would pass on to younger colleagues in the creative industry is: whatever you do, be an overambitious lunatic, maintain a humble learning attitude and be persistent. It will not only get you a Lion, it will develop you as a person. Will winning a Lion gain you a professional reputation? Yes, maybe. Will it give you more clients? Yes, perhaps. Will it teach you to be braver, more attentive to details, more committed and self-driven? Absolutely!

From McCann Tel Aviv:

ELDAR YUSUPOV

Copywriter, McCann Tel Aviv

Since I can remember, I have had a lot of confidence in myself: I finished a BA degree, I got married, I have been working for years. I’ve always believed that anything and everything was possible. Winning a Lion just further proves that anything is possible – even the wildest and most improbable dreams. I’m now an analyst in the strategic department of McCann Tel Aviv, but I have to say that working on this project has opened up a whole new way of thinking about briefs for me. I’ve always been attracted to social diversity cases. I feel that actually making one happen – from my first pitch to a global phenomenon - has taught me a lot and gave me tools to approach the next brief with the same confidence I had during this project. Winning the Lions for this project brought a new fresh wind to the office, to the creative energy, to the sense of accomplishment and fighting spirit. We’ve expanded, we’ve recruited new clients and our current clients and brands count on us much more. It’s truly been a great experience for our agency and for me as well.

THE TAKEAWAY:

Always aspire to produce outstanding creative work because it will drive business impact, change behaviour and make the world a better place. Of course, the individual payoff is a very happy by-product... if you enter that work into the global creative benchmark, the Lions, which then goes on to receive a coveted award, it can be personally life-changing.

A final tip from Essity’s Brand and Marketing Communications Director, Tanja Grubner to keep you on track:

"Turn anger into action."

If that's inspired you, then read on to hear from Susie Walker Lions Head of Awards with a few thoughts on where tomorrow’s best work is likely to gain its edge...