Cannes Lions: Digital Young Creatives Jillian Librodo and Paul Gilbert Castro on their first time at the Olympics of advertising

CANNES, FRANCE — Our Cannes Lion journey introduced us to a lot of firsts. Back in 2021, Wunderman Thompson gave us the chance to compete in our first Digital Young Creatives competition. It was also our first time working with each after being partnered randomly by our agency. And with a little bit of luck and a lot of creative bravery, we achieved our first career win. A year later, we got to experience our first Cannes.

Here lies a snippet of our conversations, recorded and transcribed, as we remember all the things that we’re grateful for in this whirlwind of a ride.

Expectations before the competition


Castro: Being in the advertising industry for five years, I think I had an idea of how big it was to be part of this competition. In the competition, there was also a lot of pressure because of this sense of unpredictability, especially in the digital category. The digital space is such a rapidly changing landscape. New tech comes out all at once and in different places, so what I came in assuming — and what I found out was true — is that each country tackled digital way differently, which built really different ideas.

Librodo: As this is my first year in advertising, most of my knowledge in the digital world came from my four-year stint in the TV industry as a producer and a scriptwriter. What I lack in industry knowledge, I make up with my skill in creating engaging stories and experiences. As a rookie in the competition, I knew that all my ideas and expertise come from this lens, and it was only a matter of applying them in the digital space.

The brief

Castro: Our brief was combatting stereotypes within the digital space, specifically gender stereotyping. Honestly, I had a tough time narrowing down what I wanted to do with such a wide brief. I remember one of the issues we had was coming up with something original. I would be playing with an idea that I thought was pretty cool, but a few minutes of Googling later—oh, that’s why it’s so cool—it’s because it’s already been done!

Librodo: Being isolated from other competitors also proved to be a challenge. Philippine representatives from the previous years were at least able to get cues on other countries’ thought processes by being in the same room. But this year, the competition was all done via Zoom. So, every concept we had was purely from our brainstorming bubble. We had no clue about everyone’s top-of-mind ideas.

Castro: One of the takeaways I got from this competition is that the idea of creative bravery, or thinking outside the box, isn’t just a good idea; it’s become a necessity. Because on the global stage, one side’s “pushing the envelope” could so easily be someone else’s “square one.”

Librodo: Do you think we could’ve done better?

Castro: Of course, hindsight is 20/20. The second you submit something, you immediately think of a better way to do it.

Librodo: But for what it’s worth, I’m proud of what we’ve done. If we weren’t as happy as we were with the work, I think we wouldn’t enjoy the Cannes experience as much as we did.

The Cannes experience

Castro: I remember there was a good chunk of our workshops that were to help prepare us — not for the competition — but the festival itself. But on the day of, I was messaging Javey, “No matter how many talks we had about what to expect, I would’ve still been blown away with Cannes.” Coming in, I didn’t expect all the scale of it. I knew people took it seriously, but I didn’t expect the craft to be venerated so much. It was like the Olympics of advertising.

Librodo: I was surprised that whenever they play a well-crafted ad or case video on the big screen, the audiences clap and cheer as if they just finished a full-length film from that other Cannes festival. It was such a unique experience because this was rarely the reaction outside of the Palais.

Castro: It was an exciting atmosphere to be in. You can feel that there’s this thriving, hungry, global community eager to share and learn from each other.

Librodo: And for me, that’s the best part of this whole Cannes experience. We get to connect and drink with these people without knowing their agencies, job titles, or years of experience. In this shared space, we’re all just getting as much as we can with the limited time that we had.

Takeaway from talks

Castro: One talk that I was most excited about — and I’m glad that it didn’t disappoint — is Ryan Renolds as the Chief Creative at MNTN and Maximum Effort. For one, I’m a big Ryan Renolds fan. But also, I was expecting him to be a figurehead sort of person – someone to look good and speak fluff for the company. Turns out he’s hands-on creatively and very insightful. His background is mainly in film and TV, and he carried it with him while running his own production company. He came from the outside, so he knows what the tricks look like from the other side. I think learning how your audience thinks and not underestimating them is crucial for telling good stories.

Librodo: Another interesting talk was the one about Web3 and the metaverse — specifically, the concept of multiple identities in these new digital spaces. While we are already presenting different versions of ourselves depending on our social media platforms, the metaverse promises a more hyperreal and fluid experience. One of the insights that they’ve discussed was that these advancements in VR technology allowed humans to achieve their “truest selves” through their avatars in the metaverse. I’m excited to see how we can further develop these and how we can integrate them into future campaigns.

Castro: It does feel like it’s going to be the next big thing, the metaverse. I feel lucky that we got a glimpse of how brand leaders saw the platform, which I don’t think we would be able to get this insight if we just read it online.

Librodo: Agree.

Castro: Another one that registered with me on a much deeper level was Change The Ref with Manuel Oliver, the father of a Parkland shooting victim back in 2017. He was the one behind the Lost Class that won a bunch of metals this year, which even without knowing the background of his personal story, was a really powerful campaign. It didn’t feel like a brand or company talking about how to use technology or advocacy to make good advertising. It was someone with an advocacy and used our industry as his platform.

Final thoughts

Castro: I think if you want to instill in someone the inspiration to make it in advertising, you have to show them Cannes. Here, you’re not just a spectator, watching case films from a laptop. You feel that you’re a part of that global community of creatives. And you feel like you have a real chance of getting your name, and your work up on the wall with them.

Librodo: To tell you the truth, I felt that I didn’t deserve to be there. Compared to all the work I’ve done in my short career, the veterans that I met have put in the time and work to get into this festival. And I wanted to experience that too, that five-years-in-the-making kind of career win, to better appreciate Cannes. And so, if I were given the chance to go back, I hope it will be for the awesome work that I’ve done.

Jillian Librodo is a copywriter for Wunderman Thompson Philippines and a freelance scriptwriter. She started her career as a brainstormer for a TV network, she now ventures into writing films, TV series, and breakthrough ads.

Paul Gilbert Castro is a Senior Art Director at Wunderman Thompson Philippines. He started his career at TBWA\Santiago Mangada Puno where he spent five years, he graduated Magna Cum Laude in the bachelor’s degree program for Visual Communications at the University of the Philippines.

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