Are we making too much of our dismal showing at Cannes?

06 Jul,2015


India’s performance at the Cannes Lions this year left much to be desired. Being dubbed the worst ever – with just 13 metals in our kitty – the dismal showing has sparked debates about whether the advertising industry really has quality talent, or should we not make too much of deal of events like the Lions? Three creative gurus weigh in what might have gone wrong and whether we should care at all.


Bobby Pawar

Director and Chief Creative Officer – South Asia, Publicis Worldwide


Frankly Cannes doesn’t matter. Not to our creativity. Certainly not to our business. Why? Our clients don’t care much about it. Our consumers, not at all. So the question is why we should we give a rat’s derriere? Why are we acting like our momma died and beating our chests in loud mourning? Cannes is a pissing contest and we pissed shorter. Today’s India doesn’t like that. And we shouldn’t. Many have argued that our limp performance was because our work isn’t creative enough. Maybe. But I venture we stepped onto the field pads, gloves and carrying a bat, when the world was playing soccer. The game has changed. If you take a look at our entries, I’ll smack my face with a cold pomfret if most of them weren’t in print, outdoor, design and craft. Old world categories, where the old world still plays a stronger game. (Don’t think so? How many Grand Prix’s has India won in them? There.)


Now, should we change because we want to win awards? That’d be stupid. But the reality is we must, before clients and consumers force us to. If that means we win big at Cannes, great. If not, so be it.


Prathap Suthan

Managing Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Bang In The Middle


There are a couple of reasons why I think we fell short. And I don’t think it an upsetting issue. There are things that we need to consider. The winning countries and the entries operate in spaces that are perhaps very difficult for us to match. The markets require a whole new wedge to drive noticeability, and at least for regular mainstream work, we operate below par. Those are media media-saturated markets, and more importantly creative saturated audiences. It’s a norm for them to do work and expect work that breaks a whole lot of glass ceilings. Our markets and audiences are still tottering around the mofussil of average communication. We don’t need to be creative for the sake of creative. No one has the extra moolah to ply and try to see if completely lateral ideas deliver market efficiency. We are still dealing with entertaining narratives and well crafted advertising pieces. Besides, the tech quotient at play is very far ahead in those competitive markets. There are specialised shops that drive tech ideas and integrate them backwards into communication and creative ideas. It’s a whole new dynamic and our industry infrastructure is not equipped to think or even deliver those solutions or ideas. This gulch is only going to widen. I would rather we focus on what we know best, and work in areas that we can hone to surpass existing levels. And thankfully, there are a lot of categories where we can truly dominate. We need to look our strengths and desist from getting into waters that we can’t cross. It is also important to calibrate the calibre of creative buyers. Truly how of our clients at the senior senior-most levels will push agencies to break every mould. And honestly how many them really know how to evaluate ideas and open up budgets for the greater glory of creative at global festivals?


Abhijit Avasthi

Founder, Sideways (ex-NCD, Ogilvy)


I believe India’s showing at Cannes this year is a temporary blip in a long good run. It is also a reflection and a consequence of a few issues, which can be debated. In certain categories like print/design/promo/digital etc our work is not as cutting edge as the rest of the world. On the one hand, we can try and push that, but then it cannot be at the expense of compromising on its relevance to our markets. That’s a double-edged sword. When it comes to categories like film and radio, where I believe our best work is done, we do have an unfortunate handicap – a lack of awareness and appreciation of our culture, language, social structures and such. No matter how well somebody translates these, the magic of the nuances is lost on the international jurors. As a parallel example, imagine somebody trying to explain the impact of ‘Kitney aadmi they?’ to a film jury? On paper it sounds like the most pedestrian dialogue ever written. There is no way on earth any jury will consider that dialogue a masterpiece. C’est la vie. Our celebrities are not known, our relationships are different…just too many such gaps.


So the way I look at it…if a piece of work wins at Cannes it is surely world class but if it doesn’t…that does not mean it is not. So we should not get overly dejected by this year’s show.


Let’s all just focus on doing exceptional, original work for the man on the street in India.


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