What international creative gurus think of Indian advertising

04 May,2015


When we met her over a drink on Saturday evening, Vicki Maguire, Deputy Executive Creative Director, Grey Advertising, London, seemed ecstatic about what she saw in the four days as Foreman (chairperson) of the Kyoorius Advertising Awards jury. In fact, she said in jest, some of the ideas she saw were very replicate-able internationally. The jury sessions saw Ms Maguire and her team of jurors having a long day at work. Little wonder we could get the responses to our questions only on Friday, the second-last day of the jury meet. The responses were received via mail to questions from Pradyuman Maheshwari



How does Indian advertising compare with that abroad? What can we do to improve our awards tally at international fests Cannes Lions and the D&AD? As the jury for the Kyoorius awards concluded their work on Saturday, Dyanne Coelho asked the international jury members gathered for the advertising and digital categories to weign in on the scenario in our country.


Melanie Clancy – Creative Director, BBDO Proximity, Singapore

There’s been a lot of really interesting work across a lot of different digital touch points. There have been some great social concepts in particular, which I am quite excited to come across. Advertising is such a diverse space, it would be difficult to compare. Based on what I’ve seen, I would advise India to focus more on case study videos, keep the ideas very telescopic, and come up with concepts that you can share in a second. Not ideas that take too long to explain.


Tim Doherty – Chief Creative Officer, Isobar, China

In China, because of the political situation, there was a long time when there was no advertising. That’s a market that still is catching up. India, on the other hand, has had a long history of advertising. There’s amazing film and print work coming out of the country. China is still sort of coming of age; it’s just the first 15 years of advertising there. It’s my first time looking at so much Indian work, but I think that digital creative isn’t yet as ambitious as traditional creative in terms of craft, production quality, and I think a lot of that has to do with budgets. But the work I’m seeing here is definitely on par with that in China. Great work is always something that connects with your emotions. There’s no faking it. But simplicity takes a lot of effort. You’ve got to push the work and refine it over and over. That’s my advice.


Andy Greenaway – Executive Creative Director, Sapient Nitro APAC

I think India is very good at storytelling, and that shows. It has found its own voice, and that voice is a part of the things India is known for. That’s the strength of Indian advertising. I think it’s very different. Indian campaigns are bigger and more brand-oriented. Singapore is small, much more retail-focused. Singapore, where I work, is a smaller, but has invested heavily in technology, unlike India. If you look at TV advertising, India is far ahead of Singapore, whereas in digital, Singapore is ahead. D&AD is a very British show, and the Brits are well-known for their innovation and design, animation and graphics. I don’t think India’s known for that. India’s DNA is in words, storytelling and narrative. So it’s just two very different markets. The fact that India has won 19 awards at D&AD is good. But it’s not a numbers game. If you get in, you’re actually doing a good job.


Joji Jacob – Group Executive Creative Director, DDB Group, Singapore

The process of judging was really refreshing. The organisers at Kyoorius seem determined to set a benchmark with the quality of the work. I think the tie-up with D&AD makes it even better. The awards are big in stature. I was a bit disappointed with the quality of work. I’ve seen a lot of great work come out of India in the last couple of years, but I haven’t seen that this time. The quality of work at Cannes, where also I’ve been a judge, is much better. Here, there is a lot of work that has not been entered, and some work here has been entered just for the sake of entering. A bit of advice would be to provide a proper explanations for your entry. A lot of the entries that were in Hindi, were not properly subtitled. I think it’s important to spend a little more time in preparing the entry.


Juhi Kalia – Executive Creative Director, JWT Singapore

The work I’ve seen till now is very good, very emotional. Personally, I was happy to see a lot of work that is very positive for women. There was some funny and some well-written work, in Hindi too. I’ve come back to India after a long time, and I enjoyed watching the Hindi pieces. At the same time, like most shows, there were some work that made us say, ‘really, why?’. Indian advertising is at a great level. We’ve done really well internationally, and it’s getting better and better. It’s interesting to see that there is a digital session now as well. India is quite at par with its international counterparts in most categories. As for the D&AD, I think you have bad years and good years. If your work is genuine and authentic, and it comes from a place of honesty, then it will get recognised.


Farrokh Madon – Creative Director, Independent, Singapore

I started my career in India, but I’ve been out for 22 years. A lot of the advertising in the country has local insights and local backdrops, which is good because there is enough confidence in one’s own culture to do work that’s relevant to the people, and not blindly ape the West. Within that format, it would always be nice to experiment a bit. Things like music, to me, seem very formulaic – like I’ve heard it many times before. So even when one focusses on one’s culture, one cannot lose sight of innovation. One has to try and experiment and do things differently. Also, don’t worry too much about awards; focus on doing work that is fresh and original, and awards will come naturally. Originality should be the Holy Grail, and not the award.


Tim Malbon – Co-founder, Made by Many

We’ve looked at a number of entries and some of them really stand out. A lot of them are, however, the same. Some of the entries that we didn’t quite like have been talking about what advertising could do for you rather than the original idea and concept. But on the whole, we’ve seen some really strong work. If I had to compare India from a few years ago to the US and UK, I might have said that the US and UK are much farther ahead. But today, I feel that the gap is closing, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t completely disappear over the next few years. One bit of advice is that from what I see, a lot of the entries today seem to be made for the wrong awards. Try and think about entering your ad for the right award, and the right category, so that it gains the right recognition.


Andy Sandoz – Creative Partner, Havas Work Club/ Deputy President of D&AD

There is an interesting social commentary in Indian advertising, about the role of women in society or how women are perceived or even how men or women should act. Advertising should be a good social product. In digital there isn’t quite the same level of execution in India as it is in the UK. There is some strategic thinking and some good ideas, but not quite the same polish of execution that you might see elsewhere. That simply means they haven’t yet reached their potential. My advice to India from a digital perspective would be to continue to use digital to make the world better. Use digital to create tools of utility and engagement for people to empower themselves, improve their lives and their work. That’s the kind of work that is winning. That’s the kind of future we all want to see. Embrace the craft. Embrace the beautiful ability that digital has, to surprise people.


There’s much anticipation for the second D&AD-Kyoorius Awards. Were there any broad rules – Do’s and Don’ts that you are set out for your jury?

I’ve just come from judging D&AD in London, I got straight on a plane, so the experience is fresh in my mind. If D&AD and Kyoorius share any rules it’s:  “Good isn’t good enough”


That sentiment holds true here as it does around the world. We’re not just here to celebrate work from the region , we are here to protect standards and champion brave work, talent and clients. To that point there is no room for scam work or for tactical voting. It’s all about the work. the idea. the execution and the relevance.


How familiar are you with advertising in India? Your views on our advertising?

I’ve worked on global accounts for years so I have a fair idea what’s happening across the world. I’m  also familiar with the Indian  work that has made its way out of advertising and into wider culture. That’s the beauty of the internet and the generosity of the creative community to share ideas that excite them. I’m looking forward to seeing local work that I’m not aware of from the local independent shops.


While India has a rich past of storytelling and our advertising industry has attracted top draw talent, we don’t do very well at the international awards. In fact at the 2015 D&AD Awards, India has bagged only 19 Pencils, down from 25 last year. What would you attribute as the reason for this?

Yeah, interesting question. I don’t believe it’s down to talent, or the lack of it. My guess  is it isn’t the work, D&AD was tough this year. A lot of work I rated didn’t pick up. I think work that is strong locally has to do itself justice when it’s presented.  If we have no cultural reference it’s hard to judge. So make sure your case studies  do your idea justice and explain  its relevance in your market. I’m seeing work already that I expect to do very well internationally but I’d tweak the case study or take a little more time on the  background set up. I think Tim Lindsey did a talk here last year… could your bronze be a gold. He’s spot on.


I asked this question also to the Foreman last year: what are the values that D&AD brings to an ad award? And what would you say should the winner at the Kyoorius Awards be proud of (given the standards)?

D&AD and Kyoorius share the same values. they come from the same place. They have the good and the future of the industry at their heart.


A Pencil or Elephant brings a standard and an integrity. Creatives globally strive to reach these standards and  perhaps even more important clients can trust that creativity can be a driving force for their business and not just an agency vanity piece. All my fellow jurors have won at D&AD and want to give picking up an Elephant that same sense of achievement.  But we shouldn’t just see Kyoorius as a D&AD me-too. In many ways it’s faster and more directional than  D&AD. Three out of Eight of my fellow jurors are women. More than any jury I have ever sat on, including Cannes and D&AD.  That says  a lot. If you  win an Elephant, congratulate yourself. They can’t be bought and they are not given lightly.


As the jury foreman of an Indian awards, did you prepare yourself in any way or would you say creativity has no language?

When you are part of a global network you are used to looking at and interpreting ideas from many countries and many languages. Yes, creativity is universal. The crucial thing is to judge every piece in its context. Our local juries are invaluable. And vocal. Which is good.


One of your jury members is Arun Iyer, who represents Lowe Lintas. The agency doesn’t participate in creative awards. What would be your message to agencies who do not participate in awards like D&AD-Kyoorius?

A D&AD-Kyoorious award is no vanity piece. They can’t be bought.  The set the standard. They are also recognised by clients locally and globally. Creativity does have a value, great creativity adds value. It can have a dramatic effect on a business’s bottomline.  Of course it’s an agency’s choice, but it’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.


One last question: In India, we don’t have multiple national awards. This is only the second year we are having Kyoorius. Does the existence of multiple awards impact the participation of some agencies because of limited budgets for spends on entries?

I’d urge any agency to look at quality, not quantity when it comes to carving up their awards budget. I’m a champion of Kyoorius because it is good for the industry. From championing brave work to education. I see a need for another award that does this, but I’ve also found an appetite amongst younger creative and agency folk here. I gave a talk  to some younger members of India’s creative community at Kyoorius, and at the end of the talk I told any member of the audience  they could take my email and keep in touch. I expected a couple to email me in a couple of week’s time. No. I’ve been inundated. How cool is that!


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