Becoming a Lion: Creative success stories that started at the AKQA Future Lions Competition

In 2020, we celebrate 15 years of the Future Lions Competition at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. For those 15 years, the global competition has brought teams made up of the creative community’s most ambitious students to the Festival to pitch ideas, compete against other new talent and build their profiles in the creative industry. With entries from over 440 schools across 71 countries in 2019, the competition continues to reflect the vision and collective brilliance of the next generation of creative talent worldwide.
A group of Future Lions outside the Palais des Festivals

Students taking part in the Future Lions Competition are asked to answer a brief: to produce an innovative idea for a product or service for any audience, with the power to create the future. Each year, the five teams that stand out are invited to the Festival to come and pitch their ideas to industry leaders for the chance to win. The competition has gained a reputation for kick-starting the careers of many of today’s creative leaders. Over the past decade, almost 99% of Future Lions winners have gone on to land jobs at some of the world’s most prestigious global agencies and brands.

Beginning with Future Lions alumni and AKQA’s own Peter Lund, these are just some of the ‘where are they now?’ stories from Future Lions winners who went on to do great work towards creating the future of the industry.

“Awards have been important for so many reasons. I aspire to do the best work in our industry and for that you need to set a goal.”
Peter Lund, European Executive Creative Director, AKQA

Peter Lund

Now European Executive Creative Director at AKQA, Peter won a Future Lion for A Penguin’s Tale, a Twitter-style book designed to propel Penguin Books into the digital age back in 2010.

With wins in both the Young Lions Media Competition and the AKQA Future Lions Competition to his name before he’d graduated, Peter’s continued success at the Festival has been a defining part of his early career. He’s worked with Nike, Google, Chanel, Hérmes, Airbnb, Disney, Red Bull and Oakley and, in 2011, spearheaded the opening of the 10th AKQA office in Paris where he leads the creative department. Peter reached new heights back in 2019 when he took home a Silver Lion in Film Craft for It’s OK, an intimate yet grand piece of work for sports performance and lifestyle brand, Oakley.

"At Cannes Lions last year, we won an award for an Oakley project – a storytelling piece that really transformed the way that Oakley has communicated for many years, really broadening their audience.”
Peter Lund, European Executive Creative Director, AKQA
'It's OK won a Silver Film Craft Lion for Peter and the team in 2019 

Gian Carlo Lanfranco

Co-founder and CCO of creative agency, Lanfranco Cordova, Gian Carlo and his partner Rolando Cordova were the first ever Future Lions winners.

Rei Inamoto shares his story of Gian Carol

Originally from Lima, Peru, Gian Carlo and his partner have spent the decade and a half since their Future Lions win leading creative departments across the world for global agencies like McCann New York, Havas New York, Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore. His journey inspired Rei Inamoto’s (Founding Partner of I&CO and previously Chief Creative Officer, AKQA) “Great Stories” film for Cannes Lions 2012, where Rei highlights Gian Carlo’s work as some of the best he’d seen in six years of the competition. Today, Lanfranco Cordova creates effective and award-winning ideas with outstanding production value for global brands like Mini, Chevrolet and American Express.

Katy Hornaday

Currently Chief Creative Officer at independent creative ideas and innovation company, Barkley, Katy won in 2008 for her team’s work on Starbucks Signature.

Katy’s story started with a win in the Future Lions Competition for a project that turned Starbucks fans into brand ambassadors. Less than two years into her time at Barkley, she was promoted to Creative Director and has since worked across brands including Hershey, WingStop, Vanity Fair Lingerie and Cargill. Today, Katy leads integrated teams across Creative, Content, Production and Barkley Films as CCO. Her wins at Cannes Lions include Bronzes in the 2018 PR Lions for The Most Well Reviewed City On Amazon: a piece of work for Kansas City Economic Development that saw the city’s mayor hack a product review system to win Amazon’s attention in a pitch for Kansas to become the home of their new North American HQ.

The work won a Bronze PR Lion in 2018

Karen Goodman

VP, Creative Director at MullenLowe U.S. and Founder & Director of SheSays Boston Karen collaborated with Katy on 2008 Future Lions win, Starbucks Signature.

Previously Group Creative Director for Havas and Content Director for sports apparel Under Armour before that, Karen now leads creative for Mullenlowe. As the story goes, she funded her trip to the Festival to take part in the Future Lions Competition back in 2008 by holding the world’s most expensive bake sale - selling cookies for $500 a pop. Since then, Karen has become an award-winning creative who works tirelessly to champion female creative talent and leadership in the industry.

Gustav Johansson

Co-founder of production company New Land, Gustav, won the fourth Future Lions Competition for his team’s work on Fortum Active for clean energy company Fortnum.


Gustav’s team won in the early years of the Future Lions Competition, for an innovative idea that encouraged people to engage with their own energy consumption. Since then, Gustav has established himself as one of Scandinavia’s new generation of directors, working with brands like H&M, HBO, Levis, Volvo, Vogue, Lexus, IKEA and Nike. In 2015, he founded Stockholm and Copenhagen-based production company, New Land, together with producer Erik Torell. New Land saw huge success at Cannes Lions with a Gold-winning piece of work for the UN World Food Programme back in 2015, with Gustav credited as director of the moving film featuring footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Another Lion winning piece from a past Future Lion winner

More about the Future Lions

Future Lions is AKQA’s global student creative competition that challenges students to produce innovative ideas that will create the future.

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