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LIA Is Nurturing The Industry’s Next Generation, And You Should Know How

Trends and Insight 301 Add to collection

Why the London International Awards flies 75 young creatives to Las Vegas for ‘Creative LIAisons’ and what industry leaders think of the concept

LIA Is Nurturing The Industry’s Next Generation, And You Should Know How

“When you’re new in the business, being exposed to talented people is invaluable. Usually, you have to be lucky enough to find yourself in an energetic, successful environment, surrounded by fellow creatives who are both good at what they do and generous with their time. Or, as I discovered, you can be a young creative invited to LIA judging where you get to watch, listen and learn as the industry’s best break down and evaluate thousands of ideas.”

Steve Chavez, Lead Creative Officer, Leo Burnett Detroit


Las Vegas: home of world-renowned casinos, world-famous super-clubs and a world-first initiative – Creative LIAisons.

Unique to the London International Awards (LIA), the ‘Creative LIAisons’ programme is a way in which the LIA in a fully funded programme, gives something back to the world of advertising. Lucky young creatives are hand-picked and presented with the opportunity of a lifetime – to sneak behind the scenes and immerse themselves in the judging process for one of the industry’s most anticipated awards. 

“I think LIA is leading the way in bringing on the young creatives. The industry on the whole is letting down the young guys. We expect them to not only know about all the new technology, but also culture, arts and everything else. Yet we don’t give them the means and it’s a big problem. So, I thought it was really great for them to sit with us on judging and hear why we awarded certain things, for them to be able to discuss this with us. Whoever came up with this concept is a genius.”

The genius that Rob Reilly, Global Creative Chairman of McCann Worldgroup, is talking about is LIA President Barbara Levy. 

“Awards shows are about creativity. We want to put our money where our mouth is by actually taking positive and pragmatic steps to inspire and support creatives”, says Levy. “There’s no better way than nurturing the next generation of creatives.”

Barbara has torn up the rulebook when it comes to running an award show. There are no more alcohol-fuelled nights of debauchery – the one-night, big-budget awards show has been scrapped. She decided that, in terms of value, when you weigh up a single indulgent evening against a week-long schedule crammed with insightful seminars, speeches and discussions, the educational initiative trumps the night of winners celebrating their win. 

And it seems that the industry agrees. 

2015 will be the fourth year in which LIA will host Creative LIAisons (formerly known as ‘Creative Conversations’), a week of educational and enriching seminars, lunches and dinners, all shared with the jury presidents and their juries. The days are filled with stimulating discussions centred on the experiences and ideas of the speakers in their respective fields, and it all takes place in Las Vegas to coincide with the weeklong LIA Judging Sessions.

Seventy-five young creatives from around the globe were selected to attend last year’s event. A highly limited number of places are given out to network agencies, while certain press and organisations (such as Art Directors Clubs) hold competitions and the winners – dubbed ‘Young Masters’ – are selected to attend. 

Mark Tutssel, Global Chief Creative Officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide, recognises the importance of the initiative for, not only the young creatives and the experienced judges, but the future of the industry, saying: “The Creative LIAisons speak for themselves. It is a remarkable contribution to the industry. To invest in the next generation in such an immersive, educational and inspirational way is invaluable. For the young creatives assembled in Las Vegas it is a breeding ground for new ways of thinking. Having access to some of the finest creative minds in our industry is a once in a lifetime opportunity. To be given the privilege of sitting in the jury rooms and the chance to absorb the intelligent conversations around the best ideas of the calendar year is worth its weight in gold. LIA has set a new benchmark for education. It is visionary in its approach. And one that speaks volumes of the LIA brand.”

Arguably, the most striking element of the Creative LIAisons is that they come at absolutely no cost to the young creative or their employer. The entire initiative – including travel, meals and hotel expenses – is fully funded by LIA. It really is a win-win situation for the lucky seventy-five.

As long as the creative is between the ages of 21 and 30 they’re available for selection by creative directors, producers, designers, associations and media outlets from around the world. 

“Gathering Young Creatives together to attend inspirational seminars will obviously educate and make the ‘young’ more powerful, but I believe its fundamental benefit is that it has created a community that will remain connected whilst their careers grow,” says Andy Gulliman, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Worldwide Director of Film & Content. “I wish I’d had that on offer when I was young.”

Not only are the Young Masters being given the opportunity to listen to some of the industry’s biggest names, but they’re invited to sit in with the juries on the statue discussions. This represents a unique opportunity for the creatives to learn the judging process at a relatively tender age.

Jim Capp, Creative Director of VCCP, comments: “The event allows them not only to be inspired by some world class speakers and network with some of the world’s leading creative directors, but also take a peek behind the iron curtain of the judging process, allowing them to gain real insight into what really flicks a judge’s button and what makes award-winning work.”

Whilst the final judging decisions are reserved for the established names, the youngsters can observe the process and, therefore, begin to understand what the components of award-winning entries are. Eardrum’s Ralph van Dijk describes it “like a backstage pass to your favourite gig” where “in one judging session, you’ll learn how to appraise your own ideas more effectively, understanding what judges and clients want.” 

Young creatives get to see the masters at work – and not just that, they get to see the masters judge the work that they (or their agency) have entered. The judges are on hand to justify their decisions, giving the rookies on-the-spot feedback as to why their work may or may not win big. INNOCEAN’s new Global Creative Director and DDB Global Creative Director for Volkswagen, Jeremy Craigen, is a fan of this concept, saying: “The most unique element of the LIA judging is having the young creatives in the jury room during statue discussions. There they get to see how hard it is to win a gold here – in fact how hard it is to win a bronze! – and if they can learn to cross examine their own work in the way they saw a jury do it here, then their work can only get better.”

This is all knowledge that the creatives can take with them and share with their companies when they jet back from Vegas. LIA’s all-inclusive nature ensures that these insights can be spread internationally, strengthening the knowledge of a truly global community. As well as the insider information picked up at the judging sessions, a host of big names from both inside and out of the ad industry deliver inspirational and insightful speeches and seminars to the lucky seventy-five.

Speakers at last year’s event included Daymond John, founder of FUBU and star of Shark Tank, Amir Kassaei, Mark Tutssel, Rob Reilly, John Merrifield, Ralph van Dijk, Lizie Gower, Jimmy Smith, Jesse Coulter, Jonathon Ker, Mel Clements, Raphael Aflalo, Kelle Jacob of Estee Lauder and Scott Elias. 

On the bill for 2015 are John Mescall, Matt Eastwood, Ted Royer, John Merrifield, Doerte Spengler-Ahrens, Emad Tahtouh, Chris Smith, Taras Wayner, Faith Wall and Pum Lefebure, as well as the returning Mark Tutssel, Amir Kassaei, Ralph van Dijk and Keynote Speaker Daymond John.  

“Our aim is to broaden the learning and experience of the young creatives,” says Levy. “While we do have the industry’s heavy hitters giving talks, we also make a point to bring in speakers from outside the ad world. These speakers bring something more to the table as they help open the minds of young creatives to other solutions that can help solve a client’s problem.”

David Guerrero, Chairman and CCO of BBDO Guerrero, says: “Having young creatives observing the judging is a fantastic idea which shows worldwide should adopt. It’s about time we went beyond the darkened room idea and took the mystery out of the debate. Creative directors tend to be pretty articulate. So there are always interesting discussions at metal stage. Knowing we are ‘on the record’ might just make us more accountable and lead to better results.”

The benefits are reciprocal; the judges mentor the young creatives whilst the young creatives are observing the judge’s decision making. The young creatives have no say in the final results. Once the juries finalise their statue decisions the jury and the young creatives have a chance to discuss the results.

When the results are released there can be no doubt that those who deserve recognition will be awarded it. The young creatives soak up the judges’ comments and can engage in a dialogue about the winners, either amongst themselves whilst still in Las Vegas or by bringing the knowledge back to their colleagues. 

Åkestam Holst Executive Creative Director, Andreas Ullenius, acted as Jury President for the Digital category. He comments: “I believe the Creative LIAisons’ greatness is found in the name. It’s not a presentation, lecture of speech, it’s a unique opportunity to get a face-to-face dialogue with really great industry figures. I think it benefits them by showing them how thorough and thought through the awards are.”

The creatives can immediately give something back; they can aid the judges in their process. For example, Noel Cottrell, Chief Creative Officer of Fitzgerald+CO, Integration juror, explains: “As the young creatives came into the room we asked them their definition of our category and they played back the exact issue we’d been battling with and had some great opinions that helped how we judged the statues. In discussions about work that felt small, but had great social implications, we asked the young creatives’ opinions and they reminded us of our responsibility as jurors to promote ideas that could change the world for the good, no matter how big or small. I think back of myself as a young creative and think how invaluable sitting in that jury room would have been. Kudos to LIA for helping grow the next generation of creative superstars.” 

It’s an initiative that you can see an instant return from. Creative LIAisons has a positive, worthwhile impact on the Young Masters, the juries, the judging process and the awards’ legitimacy, so surely that can only be a good thing for the industry.

LIA are offering something that no other awards body does; a nurturing process which the industry can continue to evolve from. Alastair Green, ECD of Team One USA, said: “I really like the way the LIA flips conventional awards shows upside down and doesn’t actually feature an awards gala. Their commitment towards highlighting and inviting young creatives to attend the judging week is inspiring because nurturing the next wave of talent in our industry is something we should all have a vested interest in.”

The value of a one-night awards show pales significantly in comparison to the manifold benefits the industry can reap when we invest time and money into growing the younger generation. As it stands, the Creative LIAisons are limited to around 75 non-paying attendees but there could be plans to offer the opportunity to a wider number of talented youngsters, potentially including a capped number of paying attendees if the industry supports this.

MassiveMusic’s Scott Cymbala, was Jury President for Music & Sound. “In an era when most award events have become schmooze fests for agencies and clients to meet outside the office, there’s something real, powerful and important happening in the Nevada desert where ‘hitting it big’ just may mean a trip to the LIA Awards Festival as a judge, jury president or, if you’re really fortunate, and very talented, you may just snag a place as a ‘Young Master’,” he believes.

It’s an investment, which nurtures the next generation of creatives, offering something that nobody else does and there’s a good chance that the Young Creatives of 2015 may well be the Old Masters of 2024…


The 2015 Creative LIAisons program will take place simultaneously with judging from 6th to 11th October.

LIA is still accepting entries through the end of August. Details on how to enter can be found here.

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London International Awards - LIA, Wed, 05 Aug 2015 15:44:56 GMT