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‘A healthy sense of frustration’: Team PH’s Paul Castro and Amiel Lumbang on this year’s Young Lotus competition

PATTAYA, THAILAND — Each year, regional creative festival and awards show ADFEST holds a dedicated program for young creatives from across the Asia Pacific. A duo from each country within the region, who have bested other pairs in their local industries, fly to Pattaya a few days earlier than the festival to take part in exclusive workshops by the hosting agency and compete in a 24-hour brief by a client brand. This year, the Young Lotus program was hosted by Ogilvy, with a real brief from Vaseline.

The representatives from the Philippines were two creatives from VML Philippines, Senior Art Director Paul Castro and Copywriter Amiel Lumbang. They joined teams from Bangkok, Colombo, Dhaka, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo and for the first time ever, Almaty and Riyadh, at the three-day workshop ahead of ADFEST 2024. 

In this exclusive story, the duo caught up with adobo Magazine after their hectic 24-hour brief, and shared their learnings, observations, and some “creative frustrations” from this year’s Young Lotus competition.


The brief this year, they shared, was to pitch a campaign that succeeds Vaseline’s “Skins for Skin” project, encouraging more people to register as skin donors to the Thai Red Cross Skin Bank. The brief tasked them to use unlikely devices to garner instant attention and talkability, the same way the original campaign tapped influencers to donate their video game skins to raise awareness on the issue. For this, Team Manila pitched “Queen of Skin.” 

“Our idea [is to] sensually empower the older ladies in Thailand through a burlesque show, so they can be confident with their skin and share it as a donor,” Amiel shared. 

Paul added, “In our research, we found that skin donations have a much higher age cap for donors compared to other organs. That fact coupled with Thailand’s aging population made the elderly Thai community a fitting target for our campaign.” The burlesque show aims to encourage older Thai citizens to view their skin as a “hot commodity,” as the duo put it — an object of desire in performance and as donations. 

Although the idea didn’t make it to this year’s shortlist, Paul and Amiel shared that just to take part in the Young Lotus program was an incredible learning opportunity in itself, with dedicated time with some of advertising’s most prominent creative leaders, and a chance to learn from them and their peers. “Being part of the Young Lotus workshop has been a mind-blowing opportunity. To start, it’s a tremendous honor to represent the Philippines on the international stage. DMAP spared no expense in preparing us for the challenge, either,” Paul said.

He added, “We got the rare opportunity to be mentored by some of the industry’s greats, asking them questions directly and picking their brains one-on-one. We also got to become friends with young creatives from all across the Asia Pacific and match our wits against them in friendly competition.”

“Asians are really fun to talk with. You can feel their genuine support in competitions like this. [You also need to remember] to just have fun and loosen up because this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for most young creatives!” Amiel enthused. 

Speaking on the other delegates they met, and the campaigns they saw, they both recalled how impressive the region’s creativity is, especially coming from up-and-coming talents like themselves. “Honestly, everyone blew me away,” Paul opened up. “We tried sizing up the competition beforehand, and every single team exceeded our expectations. Each attack on the brief was so wild and clever – from SEO, to Buddhist devotion slips, to beach umbrellas that turn your skin into ads. Some stuff that made me go ‘Why didn’t I think of that!?’ while others made me admit ‘Never in a million years would I’ve thought of that.’”

Team PH YOUNG LOTUS Paul Castro and Amiel Lumang ADFEST 2024 insert 7

He continued, “It was interesting to see how everyone’s working style was affected by their respective backgrounds, what media they’re exposed to, and their personal interests. It shows that APAC really is a melting pot of culture, and interactions like the Young Lotus competition only help to raise the entire region’s creatives, by letting us learn from each other.”

“I honestly liked the entry from Hong Kong and Bangkok. These are my favorite entries so far. Hong Kong’s idea is very culturally relevant, involving their Buddhist temples to also create skin donations. Bangkok, on the other hand, is clever and fun! They literally remove 15% of Vaseline’s logo as a sign of awareness,” Amiel recalled.

Paul also emphasized the importance of programs like this one in flexing one’s creative muscles and cultivating new ideas: “I believe the Young Lotus program can turn a promising creative into a striving one. There are lessons gained by being exposed to the larger scope of APAC advertising that’s impossible to replicate sitting at home,” he explained. 

The senior art director added, “You’re not just staring in awe at a case video on Youtube or scrolling through concept boards. You’re getting a firsthand look at the output, talking to the people who made them, and seeing how these great works were created. And more importantly, you learn how to make something that might be just as great.” 

Furthermore, he noted that the competition gives one a better understanding of creativity outside of the Philippines, and what it takes to succeed in a global scale: “It gives you a taste of what’s great, and a hunger for greatness. If there was even an ember of passion in a young creative, an experience like the Young Lotus program would without a doubt stoke that ember into a roaring flame.”

Finally, when asked about their main takeaway from the whole Young Lotus experience, both creatives emphasized the inspiration to come up with crazier, more innovative, but clearer ideas. Amiel commented, “It’s my first time joining this competition, and it inspired me to push for greater work here in the Philippines. The talks help me to be crazier while still being clear with my ideas.” 

Paul mirrored these sentiments, but added a layer of frustration that fuels him to not just create more inspired work, but better work at that: “I’d say the most important thing I gained from being a Young Lotus is a healthy sense of frustration. For a long time, the idea of competing in an international stage felt like a ‘happy to be here’ kind of experience. That to be considered part of the crop of talent meant that we’re already winners.”

“But to see our competitors’ work, their thinking, and pitting our skills against theirs – at some point it convinces you that maybe it’s not just luck. That with a few tweaks or a better day, maybe your idea could come out on top,” he elaborated. “There’s a frustration that comes with being bested in a contest. But it’s a frustration that’s motivating, invigorating even. The ‘maybe next time’ in your head, gets a little bit closer to ‘definitely next time.’”

adobo Magazine is an official media partner of ADFEST 2024. 

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