Every year, thousands of advertising and marketing leaders come together to celebrate creativity at the annual Cannes Lions festival. Although most participants include senior management executives representing the best of advertising around the world, Gen Z industry members have their own opportunity to shine via the Young Lions competition. Ben Nottonson and Teresa James from Havas Media represented Team USA as one of the youngest duos to ever participate at this level.
Prior to flying overseas to compete on the global stage, the Havas Media Boston twosome faced off against 400 other young professionals working all across the media industry in the USA. Their submission was based on the challenge to develop a creative campaign for the non-profit organization End Allergies Together (E.A.T.) that would strengthen the brand and increase donations among Millennials. Once they won the U.S. competition, they received a brand-new brief for the Cannes international level and were given only 24 hours to create, develop and present their idea to a panel of world-renowned judges.
Havas Media's investment in young talent and employee development was crucial to Ben and Teresa’s success. Both started as interns just two years ago, were mentored and encouraged and said they really felt the support from all levels, especially senior leadership. I spoke with them to learn more about their journey at Havas Media and hear about their experiences at Cannes as two rising Gen Z stars. For the complete conversation, please watch my video interview (also above).Here’s the topline:
Since the Cannes Young Lions competition allows entrants up to 30 years of age, Ben and Teresa were initially nervous about their ages. “We were a little scared to tell people at Havas Media that we were competing because, when you think about the age difference, someone who is 23 can be entry-level and someone who is 30 can be the director of an account, so we had a significantly different level of experience,” Teresa explained.
Fortunately, Havas Media’s focus on developing young talent enabled employees across the organization to lend a hand in support of their young team members throughout the entire process. When I asked Teresa how they approached their journey, she said, “We reached out to a fellow Havas Media colleague who competed in the New York competition a few years ago, and just asked a couple of questions about our ideas. From there, once we made it to New York, we were able to practice our presentation with senior management, which was crucial to our U.S. win. People taking time out of their day to critique us and give us feedback was truly invaluable.”
Ben agreed. “We were really excited to give it all we had and people around the office could really feel that,” he said. “Even before we made it to New York, just in the preliminary stages of the competition, it didn’t matter that we were entry level. People across the Havas Media organization were so willing to help and take valuable time out of their day to give us their thoughts and insights. That was a huge part of our success throughout the entire process.”
Unless you’re an athlete, it’s rare that you get the chance to compete on behalf of one’s country in relation to an industry of practice, but Havas Media got a taste of that wonderful feeling. “It really sunk in when we got that e-mail that said, ‘Team USA,’” Ben recalled. “At that moment, it brought our mindset to a whole new level. It was crazy being able to represent the country for that media category. It was so cool being with all these amazing minds from across the world and we were a part of it.”
After they represented Team USA on a global stage, their main focus was continuing their pursuits towards becoming industry leaders and media experts. “When we finished the competition, we were able to be complete sponges and soak up all the greatness around us and talk to as many people as possible,'' Ben said.
“It was really amazing how only one year out of college we had this experience where we could see early on what we aspire to get out of our careers,” Teresa added.
Ben and Teresa are two Gen Z pioneers who have already made major waves in the industry, but they are just getting started. When I asked them about the advice they have for their peers, Ben replied, “Push your limits. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and amazing things will happen.”
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