30 Jun 2017 13:05 IST

At the Cannes Lions, the week that was

Indian advertising did splendidly at The International Festival of Creativity

India brought home 40 shiny metals from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year following an impressive shortlist, a feat unmatched by our country hitherto. Even more thrilling was seeing India’s work at the centre of most discussions at the event’s many forums, reflecting the increasing influence of our country’s work at an international level. While Indian campaigns scored largely in the film, design, outdoor, radio, PR and media categories, there is greater scope to better the chances for more recognition for the digital and mobile work being created. The Cannes festival had a varying spectrum of numerous marquee campaigns which broke stereotypes. They were simple, yet powerful – be it the Fearless Girl or The Refugee Nation.

Diversity in focus

The underlying themes at Cannes this year, in my opinion, were diversity, not just in gender but in all aspects, and women empowerment, be it in the form of the women speakers or the campaigns. Sheryl Sandberg, Halle Berry or Karlie Kloss, which one session are you realistically going to skip? None! This also reminds me of one of the mottoes to be followed throughout such a large-scale event – ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’.

There are a lot of learnings in the way campaigns coming from around the world are strategised and executed. Campaigns from India focusing on social causes have been known to become popular for the creativity or message delivered; however, they don’t always tie back to the brand. This is done exquisitely globally. A case in point is the Fearless Girl campaign which won the Grand Prix for Good. It not only sends a social message about workplace gender diversity and encourages companies to recruit women to their boards, but also generates immense brand value for the investing company, State Street Global Advisors. This thought process, though, is like a good habit that takes time to inculcate.

More Indian participation

To begin with, Indian representatives need to start attending the Cannes festival more, which is when you realise first-hand what it takes to create award-winning and quality submissions backed by larger-than-life, collaborative thinking rather than individualistic pursuits.

From the approximate 15,000 marketing and media executives attending, every person has something different to learn and take away from the sessions. For example, Sheryl Sandberg’s session taught me that most people avoid discussion on hard topics – such as when someone gets cancer or someone close dies, we think that it is better we don’t remind them of it since these are not things people will forget in the first place. So don’t ask what you can do for them, instead do something for them!

Many newer consulting companies have competed and participated along with the large networks. This is only indicative of the creativity and quality of work that will grow exponentially next year, the multiplying ad workforce and the freshness of innovation in campaigns next year. We can expect concepts such as data, AI and machine learning to come to the fore. Definitions of creativity will be redefined as we will see more campaigns based on marketing insights than just creative ads

An important recommendation: Cannes Lions is like an enormous creative playground. If you attempt attending all the sessions, awards and parties, you won’t last the entire week. Space it well and don’t worry if you miss a few things. The exposure, conversations, and the overall grandeur of the event are sure to make it one of the better weeks of your life. Although this was just my first time there, I am determined to make it my yearly pilgrimage.

(Vivek Bhargava is CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network Performance Group. The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)

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