Ajay Kakar on 10 reasons why the ‘new-look’ Cannes Lions was a success (despite it being a forgettable year for India)

29 Jun,2015

By Ajay Kakar


As the week-long Cannes Lions festival came to an end, here are some observations on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly at this year’s edition of the festival of creativity.


1. ‎There is a magic about the Cannes Lions festival that you cannot deny. With the Palais as its epicentre, the entire city comes alive with the over 12,000 delegates who make Cannes their home for the entire week. Every corner of the city seems to exude excitement and inspiration.


2. The Festival keeps evolving, and this year was no different. New awards, new categories and an entirely new focus. The introduction of the Glass Lion (to promote gender equality) and Innovation categories brought in newer and richer learnings. This year, the festival‎ dedicated itself to Innovation and Data x Tech x Ideas. So you were surrounded by young people and simple, new and innovative ideas that went beyond mere advertising or communications, and into the realm of product development.


3. More clients and more about clients. The Unilevers and P&Gs have historically been associated with, and committed to, the festival.‎ But this year, you saw and heard many more clients. On one side you had names like Airbnb, Spotify‎ and Snapchat, while at the other end were the likes of Mars, Nestle, Pepsico, Heineken and Mondelez. And a window to hear three leading CMOs, every day, in a freewheeling discussion.


4. The opportunity to hear industry giants and thought leaders like James Murdoch, Al Gore‎, Sir Martin Sorrell and Unilever CMO Keith Weed. And wonder how they manage to stay with their purpose and messaging, despite attempts to distract or provoke them.


5. Monica Lewinsky was clearly the star speaker of the week. Not for reasons one would expect, though. She did share her story, honestly and sincerely. But contextualised it with a passionate plea about the ills of online shaming and cyber-bullying that have become a fact of life in our social discourse.


6. Amir Kassaei, Chief Creative Officer, DDB Worldwide‎ made a strong case for embracing all that was new. But more importantly, to remember what must never be forgotten – ie, the purpose of our being is to build brands and businesses.‎


7. The realisation that ideas can come from anyone and anywhere. Ad agencies that won PR awards. Communications partners that drove product innovation. Big countries that won small, and small countries that won big. It was inspiring to see the work and wins from unexpected countries like Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Ecuador, Belgium, Colombia, UAE, Tunisia, Czech Republic, Turkey and Poland. And Egypt won its first Titanium Lion, the most coveted among the coveted.


8. The power of simple ideas. And their ability to create a powerful impact. It is well worth the effort to view some of the campaigns that lived this thought, whether it was the ‘Lucky Iron Fish’ project; the Volvo ‘Life paint’ idea; Procter and Gamble’s ‘Like a Girl’ campaign or Vodafone’s ‘Red Light Application/Between Us’ initiative. Also on the list were the ‘Unskippable’ message by an insurance company and the ‘SOS SMS’ by the Mexican Red Cross and the icebucket challenge initiated as a global campaign to create awareness about ALS. Not surprisingly, all these were winners of one or more Lions.


9. A ‎key gratification for the marketing and communications industry at the Cannes Lions festival is the tally of Lions won by agencies, networks and countries. Countries like Brazil take pride in the tally of Lions won by them, irrespective of which agency wins it. Their national pride shows, with the announcement of every win.


10. While the good news is that India won a Grand Prix in the Glass Lion category in its maiden year, we do not have much to celebrate or be proud of, so far. Our tally of wins this year is far below what is expected from a country that is proud of its talent and work. This year is not one that India will celebrate or care to remember. Our focus has always been on the obvious categories, like Direct, Media, Cyber, Mobile and PR. While it’s curtains down Cannes 2015, let’s set our eyes and hearts on the festival next year, and hope to win some pride for our work and our country.


Ajay Kakar is CMO – Financial Services at the Aditya Birla Group


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