The girl that got to go to Cannes, Google Marketing Manager Grace Sobey, describes how The Young Lions Academy was like winning gold.
"For me it’s bigger than big – it’s possibly the greatest opportunity there is for young creatives."
CANNES LIONS: What’s the big idea?
GRACE SOBEY: “For me it’s bigger than big – it’s possibly the greatest opportunity there is for young creatives to learn and network through a collection of curated programmes called Young Lions Academies. Part of the Talent and Training initiative thought out by Cannes Lions [the International Festival of Creativity], there are lots of courses on offer and if you’re lucky enough to be shortlisted you’ll jet off to Cannes in June to be taught by some of the biggest names in the creative industry. It’s a dream come true.”
CL: Which one did you attend?
GS: “I attended the Young Marketers Academy in 2014 when I worked at Unilever; they have around 10,000 marketers globally, all of whom want to go to Cannes Lions. I was only 27 when I got picked to attend.”
CL: Were there many ‘pinch me’ moments?
GS: “Loads. Where else can you go from seeing Kanye West talking about what he thinks his brand is, to watching Sir John Hegarty – the godfather of advertising – talking about hot topics? Spending a week with Jim Stengel – who led the Academy and is the former Chief Marketing Officer at P&G – was unreal. Talking to him as though he were your best friend was incredible. Another real ‘pinch me’ moment was seeing Sir John Hegarty and Richard Curtis on stage; they came together to talk about the United Nations’ Global Goals and how we’re not just an industry that’s out to sell products; we have the power to change the world and impact people for the better. I definitely came out of the experience with a shifted mind-set on how I could use marketing to change the culture of the world.”
CL: What effect has the Academy had on your career?
GS: “I’m 110% more confident and passionate. I came back and very quickly realised that there was an opportunity for me to share my experience. I created a deck of the best work at the Festival, and shared it with 200 people from Unilever, which I think immediately step-marked me as a leader and someone who has a real eye for creativity. Moments like that really elevated me – I got to work on all sorts of projects on the back of that, including working directly with my Vice President. And while I absolutely love Unilever, I moved to Google in 2015 as I wanted to increase my digital skills.”
"Every year I think, ‘How can you top that year?’, and every year I go back and it completely changes my perception."
CL: What’s the best thing you’ve done since?
GS: “After seeing the Young Marketers Competition winners on stage at the final Cannes Lions Awards Show, I went home and did some research to find out how you get into it, then teamed up with my colleague to enter the competition. We had 48 hours to work on a pitch for a WaterAid campaign that would connect with millennials and then present it. And we won! I actually have a Lion at home sitting on the mantelpiece; it’s the oddest but best feeling in the world.
"The combination of the competition and the academy has validated my creativity, helped me have confidence in decisions around my campaigns and forced me to make sure I always try to do the very best work. It changes your perception of the industry and your role within it."
CL: And you choose the Academy over Glastonbury every June?
GS: “Every year I think I’ll have a break from Cannes but I just can’t do it. Just like some people have to go on yoga retreats, it’s my week-long checkpoint where I re-evaluate; firstly, what does good work look like? And secondly, where is the industry going? Every year I think, ‘How can you top that year?’, and every year I go back and it completely changes my perception. It’s something that I take back and put into the business in one way or another, so I feel like I couldn’t miss it – it’s so valuable.”
If Grace's story has inspired you, find out more about the Young Lions Academies here.