A photo of Emily Alek accepting the Cannes Future Lion Award

Newhouse advertising students win prestigious international creative advertising award

June 29, 2018

Emily Alek ’18 and Jingpo Li ’18 become first undergraduate university advertising students to win a Cannes Future Lion

Pictured above: Newhouse advertising student Emily Alek accepting the Cannes Future Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France from Group Creative Director Michelle Lassman and Head of Technology Jo Hickson from AKQA—the global digital ad agency that sponsors the Cannes Future Lions awards.

Two Newhouse creative advertising students, Emily Alek ’18 and Jingpo Li ’18, won the Cannes Future Lion award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (June 18-22) in Cannes, France for a recycling app named TrashScan. They created the app for Newhouse advertising professor of practice Mel White’s ADV 431 Portfolio III course.

Only five Future Lions are awarded worldwide each year. In 2018, there were over 2,000 competition participants from 386 schools across 55 countries—bringing international recognition to students Alek and Li and to Newhouse’s advertising program.

Considered by the international advertising industry to be the most prestigious creative advertising award that a student, school and creative advertising program can win—this is the first time in the history of the award that the Cannes Future Lions has been awarded to undergraduate university creative advertising program students. Before Alek took the stage to accept the award, Alek and Li’s winning digital entry was shown to an audience representing many of advertising’s most influential creative professionals.

“This award, the events we participate in and the connections we make will make Newhouse even better known for its ability to create powerful and impactful advertising,” says Alek.

Of the 65 winning entries from the 13 years since the award’s inception, only five U.S. programs have won a Cannes Future Lions, with the remaining U.S. winners being from a graduate advertising program and specialized portfolio or art schools.

A photo of professor Mel White with Emily Alek
Professor Mel White with Emily Alek

“Winning the prestigious award represents a critical milestone of our department's curriculum,” says advertising department chair James Tsao. “It has set up an excellent benchmark for more students to challenge themselves and hopefully to earn high caliber awards in the near future.”

The Cannes Future Lions competition is run by the digital advertising agency AKQA in conjunction with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The Cannes Future Lions’ brief for the past few years has been: “Connect an audience of your choosing to a product or service from a global brand in a way that wasn’t possible three years ago.”

Alek & Li’s winning digital idea tackled the brief by using new technology for TrashScan. The app would use Google Lens’ new AI-powered technology to scan peoples’ trash and then, using geolocation, would indicate if and how to recycle that trash item in that area. The goal from the app’s broad use would be to reduce landfill use, which, according to the TrashScan video, currently contain 60% material that could have been recycled.

“Recycling is very important,” says Li. “People know they need to recycle but they just don’t know how. Germany did the greatest job with a recycling rate of 65 percent. The U.S. is only around 35 percent.”

In Alek and Li’s case study video for TrashScan, they posit that the barrier to proper recycling isn’t a lack of awareness, but rather easy-to-understand instructions on exactly how to recycle these items; the TrashScan app would provide that information.

“I chose the Cannes Future Lions brief,” says White, “because it provides students with an opportunity to envision how new technologies can be used to solve real-world problems. Furthermore, engaging the challenge of the Cannes brief often results in exponential creative growth in students from this one assignment which really helps them get prepared for working in the industry. And often students’ answers to the Cannes brief result in several excellent portfolio pieces that rival the kind of work seen in top-tier portfolio school portfolios.”

AKQA and Cannes provide Future Lions winners with lodging for and full-access passes to the week-long Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Winners also have the opportunity to attend presentations given by top industry professionals and have their winning work presented to the students of the Roger Hatchuel Academy at Cannes Lions.

TrashScan and the other four Future Lions award-winning entries are currently featured in the advertising industry’s two top publications, Ad Age and Adweek.

A photo of advertising department chair James Tsao, professor Mel White, Jingpo Li and dean Lorraine Branham
Advertising department chair James Tsao, professor Mel White, Jingpo Li and dean Lorraine Branham