The Cannes Young Lions national competition only hit Ireland two years ago. Honestly, I didn't even know what it was. My first thought, "why didn't they call it The Cubs'?” I was in my final year of college, knee deep into writing my dissertation, playing gigs and recording with my band 'Princess', all while proving myself as an intern at Ogilvy Dublin. This competition was just another thing I didn’t have time for.
Nevertheless, my creative partner (Mickey Chan) and I dove in head first. No idea was good enough. We were incredibly hard on ourselves. However, we turned a piece of coal into a diamond idea. A week later, we were shortlisted and soon enough, we were pitching to a room of respected judges from an industry we were just starting in. We had no idea what we were doing there.
A few days later, I was in a student bar taking advantage of cheap cocktails when I received a phone call from an unknown number. As I exited the bar onto a busy street, I thought it might be the library ringing about an overdue book that had been resting in my bag for the last 3 months. "Listen, I don't have it!", “Robert?", here we go, cough up the money for the book or else, I know the drill, "I’m phoning to let you know that you’ve won this years Young Lions competition". My arms rushed into the air, my mojito splashed into a crowd of smokers and I let out an all mighty roar.
At Cannes, we finished our Young Lions briefing session and the clock started ticking. 24 hours to go and one 5 minute pitch, that’s all you get. I’m pretty sure we choked in those 24 hours because we presented one of our worst ideas to date. It was the kind of idea you’d never say out loud, yet we did, for 5 whole minutes, to a panel of highly regarded, Cannes winning, international judges. I recall one of those judges saying “is there anything interesting about this idea?”. There wasn’t. We failed, hard.
Ever since that moment, we’ve been gunning to get back into the Young Lions competition. There’s a chip on our shoulder. We were shortlisted again the following year but never made it sunny side. This year, we were shortlisted for a third time. Our idea was strong, our script was brave, this was it. We pitched our hearts out and yet again, we failed to make the cut. This one left a bruise. I loved our idea. So, as I lock away the script, I recall an old mantra. Fail hard, work harder.