MICHAEL DISALVO: "I once heard Ogilvy Worldwide Chairman & CEO, John Seifert, describe his 37-year career as a series of chapters in the same book, eras of time separated by notable milestones that marked a transition from one period to the next. For me, my career can be separated into life before and after the 2016 Cannes Young Lions.
A year ago, my reputation in the office had as much to do with small talk and happy hours as career accomplishments. That changed when my partner (or dare I say, friend) and I took home Gold at the 2016 Cannes Young Lions PR Competition.
(Left to Right: Michael DiSalvo, 2016 Cannes Young Lions PR Gold Winner; Stuart Smith, Ogilvy Public Relations CEO, and Ben King, 2016 Cannes Young Lions PR Gold Winner)
While Ogilvy has never been shy about affording me opportunities, none have changed my career like the Young Lions competition. If you’re wondering what the Young Lions means to the industry or to those who compete, here are five ways my life has changed since taking the Gold back to the U.S last year.
"The Young Lions competition forces you to break out of your routine and flex muscles you might not use every day."
#1: Awards bring rewards
Working for an agency that holds the Cannes Festival of Creativity in high esteem pays off (literally). Within two months of returning from Cannes, both I and my partner took on new positions within Ogilvy and its parent company, WPP respectively, with greater responsibilities and shiny new titles for our LinkedIn profiles. Along with the upward mobility and résumé-building accolade, new opportunities arose, like participating in the unprecedented Common Ground initiative in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals or helping to shape the future of Ogilvy in its ‘Next Chapter’ initiatives. We were fortunate that Ogilvy made sure to celebrate our success, plastering the office with streamers, offering champagne toasts from senior leaders, and printing our photos on cakes. Lesson learned: if you want someone to remember your face, paint it in frosting.
#2: Sharpened my skill set
The Young Lions competition forces you to break out of your routine and flex muscles you might not use every day. The intensive two-day experience helped me fine tune skills that had fallen into disrepair (and also strengthened my appreciation for Rosé). The final Young Lions presentation is a master class in brevity, creativity and salesmanship. If you can sell 10 slides in five minutes, an hour-long client presentation becomes no problem.
#3: Made me an 'industry adult'
Having taken an Ogilvy internship out of college, it is quite literally the only job and home I’ve ever known. After seven years, I still find myself feeling like the bright-eyed newbie who could not figure out the printers. The experience at Cannes filled me with confidence in my talents, and reassured me that I was following the right path. It helped me approach my day job with a surprising maturity and a sense I belonged in the industry, allowing me to shed the unnecessary pressure that comes with proving yourself.
#4: Renewed my passion
The experience at Cannes reinvigorated my spirit and faith in the Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing industries. The Global competition was intense. However, when you are literally surrounded by the most creative work in our industry, you can’t help but be inspired. Competing alongside teams from 20+ countries helped us recognize the diverse and innovative work being done around the world and reassured us the industry was moving in the right direction. In short, Cannes reminded me to be excited about the work we do.
#5: Taught me a surprising lesson
In some subconscious way, I entered the Young Lions competition to validate my career or inflate my ego or some combination of the two. After winning, I was surprised the experience had the opposite effect: it showed me how much I have left to learn! This competition exposes you to cultures, campaigns and ideas from different countries, agencies and marketing disciplines all united around the central ideology of “Creativity with a Purpose” to prove how powerful our industry can be.
Sure, the win stroked my ego. But above all else, it reminded me how fortunate I was to receive these opportunities: to travel to France; to sit in the audience listening to speakers like Will Smith, Usher and Iggy Pop; and to work for Ogilvy, the “teaching hospital of the advertising world” – a company that took a chance on an unemployed, inexperienced kid from the Bronx, taught him he could make something of himself, and sent him halfway around the world to prove it.
The Young Lions Competitions are just one way in which young creatives can engage with the Festival. Learn more about the Young Lions competitions and other training programmes in Training and Learning.
Young Lions enjoys special discounted pass rates starting at 40% off classic passes. Visit the Pass Picker for more details.
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