Thank God, It is still about the Idea!

28 Jun,2017


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Three decades back, I was a young postgraduate from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad with stars in my eyes and passion for communication. I joined an Idea called Mudra. At this time, I have seen many changes. Agencies have recalibrated their specialisation. New media emerged in the world of rapidly changing technology. New theories were given fresh lease of life with redefined interpretations. Revenue models were challenged and redrafted. Business associates turned into vendors. The hotshops at creative boutique services opened direct channels with clients. Measurement currencies failed, and some were replaced. However, the industry kept its sanity and remained true to its core. The business of Idea remained the Business of Idea.

The filters to evaluate the IDEA have morphed with changing needs. Newer matrices have crept in. Creative Awards became the wrong measurement of success and power. Effectiveness awards suffered believability threat and non-transparent data presentations. In this crossfire, Cannes stood up as an award where balance seems to reign.

One may debate the number of lions uncaged every June. Nevertheless, Cannes has not failed in celebrating ideas. Here are some ideas that stood up in the reports I have access to. And my belief in the power of ideas and the untapped potential in every category got affirmed.


A deeper insight and what a simple idea can do. Do watch it. It’s a game should the shape of the field influence you?



The real VAN GOUGH ‘THE BEDROOM’ was on the way to North America, Chicago when Leo Burnett listed on Airbnb, a room that looked like the famous painting. It is reported to have created $2 mn additional revenue and incremental attendance of over 133K visitors for ‘The Art Institute of Chicago’. The Idea is creatively excellent and impacts brand audience and business.


Created by McCann Worldgroup’s for Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan, the Immunity Charm takes in the local tradition of talismanic bracelets (meant to keep evil spirits away from children) and weave it in the vaccination story of the child. The colours and types of beads signified specific immunisation. It even allowed mothers to compare beads on the lucky charm their kids were wearing on their arm.



Ever innovative brand Ikea presented a Kitchen poster series featuring food products you get get at Ikea. The poster allowed you to be creative with recipes and measure the ingredients by the sizes shown on poster. And then COOK THE PAGE



A special mention for a simple powerful Idea. Adidas launched a unique product- ODDS– a pair of shoes, where both were for the same feet. It symbolises courage and is dedicated to all the people who chose to run against odds. Creative was done by Taproot.



Fearless Girl

McCann’s Fearless Girl for State Street Global Advisers is an Idea seeking ‘more women in leadership position and draw attention to the organization ‘SHE’ fund, which invest in companies that they believe are doing a good job of putting women in top positions.

When it was exposed to the world on March 7, 2017, I completely missed the point. Personally, I failed to appreciate its power and potential to represent Female Empowerment. This non-traditional outdoor earned media for the brand. It not only became the point of engagement in the city but also caught global attention.



Twitter, the digital platform in-house campaign with just ‘#’, logo and visual from news and pop culture is a brilliant use of traditional billboard. It allowed the brand to present a vignette of situations. Twitter CMO Leslie Berland summarises the approach with a simple explanation, “Twitter is where you go to see what’s happening everywhere in the world right now.” It is so completely brand. I also appreciated ‘SHOT ON iPHONE’ campaign.



Transport Accident Commission ( TAC) presented an odd-looking representation of how the Human Body needs to be constructed to survive a car crash. The idea shows forces that act in an accident, and it forces the audience to realise the vulnerability of the human body in its current form. Hopefully, it will instigate few debates and discussions among the audience.

This odd interactive sculpture immediately caught global attention. Using ‘Google Tango’ augmented reality technology, the visitors are able to look under the skin of Graham. With such an Idea, tsunami in social media and news media was easy part of the business. The site recorded more than 10.4 MN hits in just a week.



The Martin Agency presents a case for ‘Donate Life’. The idea shows life of Coleman F. Sweeney the biggest asshole.. He is treated like one. However, he did one good thing in his life, donating organs. This makes him, the enormous asshole, a hero post death. Speaking to the millennial it uses their language and imagery. The idea also provides clues to how one life can impact as many as 50 lives by organ donation.



Some other Ideas that caught attention for their simplicity and action based in-category envirounment and insight were ROADS THAT HONK, Burger King 15 sec ad that voice activated Google answer  and Innovative saving Super Bowl commercial !


BONUS : A perfect promotion activation ‘SLO-MO-MARTATHON’ for the movie BAYWATCH using its slow motion run to its advantage. Do not miss that this is the period when NIKE was trying the ‘Breaking2’ to run under 2 hour marathon.


IN THE PASSING. It is not the first time that Martin Sorrell questions the importance and time-effort-cost equation of the awards. He wants to move Cannes to New York. It’s an Idea that must be considered.

Someone calculated that each Cannes Lion is worth around Rs10,00,000. You should participate and be part of Cannes if you can unlock equivalent business gain or PR. An Idea that will make people re-think.

The Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun announced at Cannes, that the agency would stay away from awards for 365 days and will invest the saving in their internal tool ‘Marcel’. This made it sound like a purely commercial decision. It started many debates and helped him corner global attention.

However, many of us in India will not agree with his statement “I believe great work is work that arrives in Cannes being already famous. If you have to wait for Cannes to be famous, you have a problem.” We most likely will also not align with his polarised view “The number of work that arrives to the festival that is not known and needs the festival to be known, this I don’t like.”

Come on we all know better than that.


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