2019 Attendees

Sebastian Covino

, Australia


What a wonderful week. There’s so many reasons why.  
Firstly, the diverse range of speakers, topics and exercises throughout. Having the highest-level people in our industry generously donate their time and impart their wisdom on us was incredibly inspiring. Secondly, walking away with practical skills about everything from being better at creating short content to negotiating a new contract gave us tangible skills to take home. Finally, learning and partying with fellow LIAisons, creatives from all over the world, was networking on another level. And also, it’s a week in Vegas.  
I’d really like to thank the generosity of LIA, Barbara and Laurissa in particular. To set up such a spectacular program and sacrifice the standard award show celebrations to nurture the next group of young creatives is an amazing thing to do for the industry. It’s a program that no other award show or industry body does. I hope that the program continues to run for years to come, because every creative is better for attending it.  
Sebastian Covino’s Very Belated Vegas Wrap-Up:
Creative LIAisons was filled with a huge range of learning, a massive amount of networking, and the occasional spout of drinking. In short, it was the opportunity of a lifetime, and this is my recap.
1. To kick things off, Ralph Van Dijk (Founder of Eardrum, father of Ruel) and Diederik Van Middelkoop (Founder of Amp.Amsterdam) gave talks on the importance of establishing an audio rapport. To be honest, it was something I didn’t even really think about until they showed us the different existing and potential applications. Special shout out/thanks to Ralph – he was the MC for the rest of the program and is just a general legend. After this, we had GreatGuns #StoriesInSix – where we had to create 6 second ads. The brief was all for CloseUp REDHOT toothpaste. We had to make an Indie film with the theme of Envy that conveyed ‘Love Conquers All’ (for REDHOT toothpaste). We came up with an idea, and got the win – where we got to our names forever enshrined on the golden pin~ata. After the day wrapped up, a few of us graced the glowing establishment of Treasure Island with our presence, and had a few beers/shots at the lovely Senor Frogs (if you’ve never been, I highly recommend it).
2. Waking up in Treasure Island wearing some of the props from GreatGuns, I was ill-equipped to tackle the day’s proceedings. First of the day’s highlights included Pum Lefebure, Founder of Design Army. I think the thing that struck me most, however, was when she said ‘the best client is the one you have right now’. Too often do we search for the next ground-breaking brief rather than make something ground-breaking out of the one that’s on our desk. Following Pum was Piyush Pandey (Global CCO & Chairman, Ogilvy). Piyush is arguably the wisest person I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around. His gigantic moustache and angelic presence gave us priceless pieces of advice that transcended work. ‘In adversity, lies opportunity’, he whispered, referencing the amount of times his work had died – and him taking every failure as an opportunity to do something better. Emad Tahtouh (Co Founder, Nakatomi) then talked about tech in the 21st century. The way he spoke the importance of consistently considering the consumer when crafting an idea was spot on. Are they going to want to interact with what you make? If they don’t, is there any point in it at all? Finally, Matt McDonald (EVP & Group ECD, BBDO New York) spoke about presenting. Unsurprisingly, this was a great presentation. After the day’s proceedings, a large group of us ventured into the romantic Gondolas of the Venetian, which manage to sit in artificial daylight 24/7.
3. Things started with Lara Logan, an incredible investigative journalist. Her stories were unparalleled, she’d been everywhere and done everything, and still displayed complete unsatisfaction. I personally liked how she differentiated what she does from what we do, ‘a journalist is a problem identifier, a creative is a problem solver’. Then we had the Rare Masterclass headed by Stef Gianvincenzo. In terms of core learning (as opposed to absorbing advice and knowledge on your own) this was the most productive part of the five days. We learnt about the importance of diversity in the workplace and how non-existent it is for a lot of us today, along with skills in negotiation, and how to hold a higher sense of self-worth – a thing I think a lot of people appreciated.
4. The big one, judging. I sat in the Non-Traditional room, where Mark Tutssel led a monster jury of industry heavyweights. Personally, the statue discussions were the most worthwhile experience of the trip for more reasons than I can write down. The lesson I took most out of it was the importance of having diversity within every jury – which followed on well from the Rare workshop that took place the day before. Not only because diversity provides a vast array of opinions and attitudes towards work, but moreover, simply because it takes it for some ideas to get up. There was an idea being judged that came from Spain, and a lot of the jurors were quick to dismiss it. One of the judges, however, was from Madrid, and knew the true impact the idea had had on Spanish culture. Without her, it wouldn’t have even won a finalist. With her there to explain, it won a lot more. Another shout out to Mark Tutssel, who gives Piyush a run for his money on the wisdom front.
5. Today was InnerVation day. Champ Nicholls and Daymond John – ‘The People’s Shark’ – spoke about the things you need to make it as an entrepreneur, and why it’s so important to work on them young rather than wait until it’s too late to develop yourself as one. Finally, our last speaker for the program, Malcolm Poynton (Global CCO, Cheil Worldwide). This takes the cake for my personal favourite talk. He spoke on the importance of brands and the true influence they carry today. Why aren’t we leveraging them to do better things? We’re full of ideas, and the people we work for are full of power, why aren’t we spending more time and resources combining the two? He encouraged everyone to be more proactive and find ways to utilize their clients’ influence to do something great for the world.
Acknowledgements: Obviously if you put 120 young creatives in the middle of Vegas, a fair bit of mischief is going to happen outside of working hours. I’m not going to go into details, but the experiences you’ve read about above were only half of the fun had on the trip. I want to shout out to everyone that made the experience so special. Firstly, SDWM for nominating me, I hope I made you guys proud. Laurissa and Barbara Levy for their relentless effort in making the program as amazing as it is. The LIA team for the copious amount of hungover creatives and organisational struggles they had to deal with every day. The speakers for being so generous with their time and so willing to impart so much wisdom on the attendees. The judges for understanding the importance of nurturing young talent and creating such an inclusive environment. And to the countless creatives from all over the world, the friends I made along the way – the trip wouldn’t have been what it was without you. If anyone anonymously wants a few pointers on where to go, what to do and who to do it with in Vegas, shoot me an e-mail on sebcovino@gmail.com titled ‘Pointers’ and I’ll sort you out.
Before Creative LIAisons:
1.    Prior to being chosen to participate in this program, what did you know or hear about the LIA Creative LIAisons program?
I knew that it was an amazing experience, but I didn’t really know what it entailed apart from going to Las Vegas. Both of my Creative Directors went early in their careers and spoke incredibly highly of it. Another colleague said that the talks are of such a high level that he goes and watches them, while he’s there to judge.
2.    What do you expect to get out of Creative LIAisons? What do you want to get out of Creative LIAisons?
- I expect to get advice from and rub shoulders with the best of the best on a global scale.
-Meet and learn about different people from around the world. How does their culture affect their creative product? Does it at all?
- Witness what it’s like to judge, not just enter an award show. - Also, a week in the city of lights sounds pretty unreal.
3.     If you were to choose what the speakers present, what topics would you choose?
I would like to hear about their process in regards to their own work. I think when you watch/read/experience all great pieces of work, it seems they all have that aha moment that is so obvious and immediately makes sense of an idea. To consumers, it seems simple, but as creatives we know how far away it is, and the distance between brief and end product. It’s always interesting to hear brilliant creative minds talking about that. i.e. How do you go from Nike’s brief to celebrating 30 years of ‘Just Do It’, to using Colin Kaepernick as the center of the campaign? How was the script written? What did you present it as and how did that differ from the final cut? It would be interesting to just hear one brilliant creative talk about his/her or their agency’s most famous piece of work, and what it took to get there.  
4.    If you could choose any juror to interview for two minutes, who would it be and why?
I’d choose John McKelvey. I know a few people who have gone out and done their own thing in Australia, but very few that have managed to make it that far in New York. John x Hannes is polling as a global heavy hitter. He feels like the next David Droga, and his agency’s work is phenomenal. I’d predominately ask him how it was starting up in a big city, why he decided to go there and not keep it local in his home of Sydney, the trials and tribulations of the process, and how he wanted his agency to differ from the traditional big ones he worked at throughout his career. Also, is growing so fast always a good thing?
My second choice would be Mark Tutssel, for almost the complete opposite reason. There would have been a point in his career where going out and starting an independent of his own was on the cards. Why did he stay with the large networks? What’s the biggest difference between being a mid-weight creative and being the global CCO? Does he still come up with ideas and put them forward? What does he do outside of work to fuel his creativity? I probably wouldn’t be able to ask this much in two minutes, but I’d do my best. It would also be nice to just have a chat with an established legend of the game.