Meet the Cannes Young Lions Storytelling Academy


For the first time in history, the Cannes Academy included the Young Lions Academy of Storytelling. Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB along with Mary Lee Copeland, famously known as the next level storyteller were brought on board to lead the ship. When asked why storytelling Keith said, “Even if storytelling has become a buzzword and you can’t go to a single panel discussion without hearing it, we rarely talk about crafting the right story.”

25 of us storytellers were in for a special treat. You know you’ve had a great experience when the experience surpasses already high expectations.

The best part of the experience? The education and exposure.

It’s difficult to “teach” the art of storytelling. It’s a process that is emotionally driven. What works for some, may or may not work for some others. But great stories are crafted with inspiration - and we would be consistently inspired for the next 7 days.

Keith and Mary Lee had dedicated the entire week to teach us. Even better? They got their smartest friends to tell us their favorite stories.

We’d dissect stories we loved while understanding how brand stories engaged people.

We learned about the essentials of a good story – story spine, an emotional midpoint and a finale. With a good story in hand, you have the power to engage audiences and move them to believe in brands.

One of my favorite examples was the one Mary Lee told us about - of James Brown’s storytelling. In the music video of Please Please Please, James is essentially using each and every part of his body to tell a story. His lyrics are no longer than 1-2 sentences but his entire being and presence tells the real story.

While Mary Lee taught us how to inject emotion and personality in our stories, Keith, a fan of passion, taught us the importance of “making people care”. With over 60 years of experience, he’s as passionate as a 25 year old about great brand stories and embodies what being passionate for the business really means.

When asked what their goal was with the Storytelling academy, Keith said, “I wanted my students to understand why brands need a story and having understood that, how are some ways you can tell the story through the entire brand ecosystem.” Mary Lee added, “I think moving forward, being able to tell and construct good stories is a skill set you need in every aspect of life and work. As a storyteller, you need to have and feel these emotions. The message you’re trying to get across has an emotion and there’s a way to make the audience feel that emotion too.”

Steve Latham, Head of Talent and Training, at Cannes, said, “When our Young Lions get here they look bright eyed and bushy tailed and by the end of the week, they all have dark circles but sport happy faces. And that’s a good thing because everyone seems to put their heart and soul into it.”

When asked if the Storytelling Academy would have a comeback next year at Cannes, Steve added “I would love that! We would have to talk to Keith and Mary Lee but I know they’ve had a great time”

Keith nodded in agreement, “This week has been incredible. I’ve attended this festival for several years and this has been my best Cannes yet."

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