Showcasing the Next Generation of creativity with the Young Lions competitions sponsored by Adobe

Young Lions competition.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2023, is an annual celebration spotlighting award-winning creative work from around the world and highlighting new innovations taking creativity to new heights, such as using artificial intelligence to support creative models and business growth.

One of the things that makes Cannes Lions unique is its support for developing talent at every stage of their career. The Young Lions Competitions, sponsored by Adobe, push creators and communicators under the age of 30 to showcase their talent through a fast-paced competitive showdown. Teams of two competing in seven different categories — design, digital, film, marketing, media, public relations (PR), and print — are given just 24 hours to respond to creative briefs and present their projects to a jury of industry veterans.

This year, 444 competitors representing 70 countries and 242 companies were asked to create work for three socially conscious brands: Rocket Learning, EcoTree, and New World Zero. While teams could use any tools that they wanted to create their briefs, many worked with Adobe Creative Cloud. And some of the top teams discovered that using Adobe Express and Adobe Firefly allowed them to create, iterate, and collaborate at speed to deliver polished concepts faster — an essential part of succeeding in this intense competition.

With the right tools, this year’s competitors found exciting and creative ways of raising the profiles of brands innovating for good — which means great things for the future of advertising and communications.

Winning gold with Adobe Express

EcoTree is a company taking a unique approach to climate change. It invites individuals to reduce their carbon footprint by buying a tree and then following the tree’s growth through its lifetime. Judy Bakieh, Integrated Comms manager, and Sarah Alsalem, Account manager, from Gambit Communications won Gold in the PR Category for their unique twist on how to encourage audiences to learn more about EcoTree and carbon credits for themselves.

Bakieh and Alsalem decided to take a humorous approach, playing on the idea that audiences are tired of hearing about companies and influencers encouraging them to invest for financial gain. Instead, the duo proposed a social media campaign based around the hashtag #BestBadInvestment. A tree will not reach its full value for decades, making it objectively a poor financial investment. But when the real benefit is saving the environment, suddenly it becomes the best “bad investment” ever.


Neither Bakieh or Alsalem typically handle content creation as part of their jobs, so they weren’t very familiar with apps such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign. That’s why the two decided to make their pitch slide using Adobe Express.

“Adobe Express makes it easy to do complex things like remove backgrounds and add text right where you want it,” says Alsalem. “It was a game-changer for us.”

The two created eye-catching visuals quickly, without needing extensive design training. This gave them more time to focus on refining their ideas.

“We’re in PR, not design. We thought we would struggle with the creative side,” says Bakieh. “But it was so simple. Adobe Express transformed what we could do and won us Gold.”

Iterating faster with Firefly

Other Young Lions teams found the speed to succeed with Adobe Firefly, Adobe’s family of generative AI models. Bhavya Shah, deputy manager at retailer Titan Company, typically works with analytic tools to create media plans and campaigns at her job. For the Marketers Category of the Young Lions Competition, she and partner Roshni Rajendra Nambiar, deputy manager, created a campaign for New Zero World that would get audiences excited about climate-friendly packaging through tie-ins with the Tata Neu shopping app. For the #GetInWithTheNEU campaign, Nambiar used Firefly to create visuals of what the app, billboards, and eco-friendly packaging might look like.

“We really benefitted from Firefly during the competition, as it was very user-friendly even for people like me who had not worked with AI tools before,” says Shah. “Working at a retail company, I believe that generative AI could save us up to a month per project by allowing us to quickly create mockups that show our product in different contexts. I’m excited to see how it transforms our approach to ideating on marketing campaigns and crafting better communications that resonate with consumers.”

Another team — Adcom Leo Burnett’s Ezza Syed, creative manager, and Raaj Hussain Ali Kheraj, senior manager of Digital & User Experience — won Silver in the Digital Category using Adobe Firefly to create custom visuals in a fraction of the time. Teams in the Digital Category were challenged to create an educational app for children. The duo came up with MaAI, an AI companion that helps mothers feed their children’s bodies and minds with food-based educational exercises.

The brief includes pictures that demonstrate using fruit to show sizes, as well as alphabet soup. Because the app is aimed at Indian mothers, Ezza Syed wanted the soup to show Sanskrit letters. Using generative AI, she quickly adopted the stock image to fit her Indian audience.


“It’s really hard to find stock images in different languages, so you normally need to create it from scratch,” says Ezza Syed. “Firefly helped me make exactly what I needed in minutes while on a tight deadline.”

Ezza Syed is excited to see how generative AI will help her save time and align teams at work by dramatically streamlining storyboard processes. Rather than pulling art directors away from their jobs creating key visuals for clients, Ezza Syed will be able to use Firefly features such as Text to Image and Generative Fill to adjust stock images or create scenes from scratch that capture the mood and feel of her campaign ideas. This will help colleagues and clients better understand her proposals, while allowing her to spend less time and iterate faster during these initial phases.

With technologies such as Adobe Express and Firefly, Young Lions teams are working faster and creating more polished briefs, raising the bar for award winners and helping to encourage more creative advertising and communications around the world.

See the winners and entries for the 2023 Young Lions Competitions here.

Learn more about working with Adobe Express and Adobe Firefly.

Adobe will again be a sponsor for the Young Lions Competition in 2024.