Bullish on India @ Cannes Lions

20 Jun,2016


The 29th annual Cannes Predictions were published by Leo Burnett Worldwide recently, projecting some of the major contenders for wins just ahead of the 63rd Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which will be held in the French city from June 18 to June 25. And, for the first time in the history of the predictions report, an Indian agency has been shortlisted: Leo Burnett’s own ad for the Bajaj V, ‘The Nation’s Bike’. Pradyuman Maheshwari had a quick chat with Saurabh Varma, CEO, South Asia – Leo Burnett, before he left for the biggest advertising event of 2016.


All set for Cannes? It seems like Bajaj V is going to win.

Honestly, it is a big deal for us. We are back on the awards scene after a long time, and we are going straight to Cannes. We are very excited about what we have on the table, but Cannes is Cannes. We are going to be competing against the best pieces of work in the world. While we have given our best, we have to see whether it is good enough at the moment. And in a few days, we will have the answers.



The bar is set pretty high for India at Cannes this year


The festivities at Cannes Lions 2016 have begun and although India put up a fairly forgettable showing in terms of number of metals one last year there is confidence that our agencies will fare better in 2016. Here’s what a cross-section of industrypersons told Anuka Roy:


Agnello Dias, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Taproot Dentsu: We always hope that India does well. It was only some eight or nine years ago, India started showing significant hope at Cannes; before that it was not so. That’s why the expectations go up every year. I hope we really do well, particularly in the non-traditional medium categories like digital and activation. Ariel’s ‘Share the load’ campaign has a strong chance of winning.


Josy Paul, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, BBDO India: I think India is going to do better than last year. I have seen some fabulous work from other agencies and there are a lot of probables this year. So I think we are on a good wicket. There is also a lot of contributive work. I think everyone will do well. Every agency will have something, and a lot more is happening in the country, so there is new energy and things that are fresh, for the jury.


Shubhajit Sen, Chief Marketing Officer, Micromax Informatics: We have set pretty high standards over the last few years, and we have got to beat that. I think the industry is moving to a place where we are creating communication that obviously works in India, but we are articulating why that is a global property, that is one of the reasons we have been winning in the past. So I am looking forward to some interesting stuff. As for the winner – we’ll have to wait. Never make a prediction or speculate. That is the golden rule.


Dhunji S Wadia, President, Rediffusion Dentsu Young and Rubicam: I think there has been terrific work. And I think India is really poised to have a great run at Cannes this year. Regarding the winners, it is for the juries to decide. I just feel that there is so much work, that collectively India would be among the strong contenders this year.


Nandini Dias, CEO, Lodestar UM: Hopefully, we will do well. I think since we have done well in the last couple of years, the expectations have grown. Hopefully we will fulfill them this year. I have no clue about the winners, but I think there are campaigns across the creative end which I thought were worth looking at and I hope they win.


Even at the Ad Club ad review there was talking of how the Bajaj V commercial is something dramatically different from what we’ve seen so far, and sort of raises the bar for nationalistic advertising. From your experience, how do you rate the Bajaj V work versus the various things that Leo Burnett has done over the years?

I am truly grateful that the whole industry has praised an idea like the Bajaj V. Grateful to Josy (Paul), (R) Balki and many other industry leaders for speaking positively about an idea like this. We think this may be the best piece of work we have ever done in India. I think we love it because it is really about business. An idea which leads to the production of bikes — which essentially translates into a sale of half a billion dollars. So we are very positive about the idea. I think the challenge lies is whether the judges at Cannes will understand what INS Vikrant meant for the country. Will they get the narrative and the story? That is going to be the challenge, we feel.


You have been to Cannes over the years. What do you think works very well with the jury there?

I think what works at Cannes is one of the toughest questions faced by all of us. First, I believe it is really about work which is purposeful. There has to be purpose in whatever we do. Second, it has to be surprising. It has to be an idea which makes you go ‘Ahh!’. And third, it has to be scalable. So in our minds, it has to be purposeful, surprising and delightful. It has to be something which uses technology, media and creativity to have an impact on business. Those are the things which we would like to look at, at Cannes.


You have been taking a large team to Cannes every year. Apart from the awards, the Cannes Lions are also about consuming a lot of knowledge, interacting with a lot of people internationally and such. What, according to you, do the Cannes Lions mean for the advertising fraternity in India?

Every year we have people going to Cannes. It is a big investment for us and it is not just spent on the senior leadership team. We take young planners and account management people, and they all experience Cannes. For us, it is actually the best learning ground. This is an opportunity where 25 people are exposed to the Cannes experience and to the best from around the world. It is about understanding differences, [generating the] best ideas and it is also about understanding where the industry is moving, and then working together with this team to share what we want to build here as Leo Burnett India. I think that is the opportunity and possibility that Cannes offers. And for us, it is one of the most critical things we do in the year, in terms of exposing our young teams to the best works. So their benchmarks and world view changes, and ultimately they start giving shape to the work that we believe is needed for us to evolve as an industry.


Would you like to make any predictions about the Lions?

My prediction is that we have some great work coming out of India. We have the Khali ad, which is from Publicis, and we have ‘Share the load’, and these are real, honest and big pieces of work for brands. I think we, as a country, will do really well this year. That is my prediction.


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