Musings of an Indian Media Mind

By June 6, 2017 October 4th, 2018 Global News

As the Indian summer hits, so does the Cannes rush among the Indian ad fraternity. Come May Cannes fever seems to be everywhere, from last minute travel plans to finishing touches on (hopefully winning) entries. While the festival continues to evolve, there are also a few things that seem to remain constant – at least from an Indian perspective.

Veterans Have the Right of Way
Amidst the euphoria, where senior ad folks treat the festival as an annual pilgrimage, there is the reality check that the proportion of senior marketers who travel to Cannes, is not in sync. And, the vast majority of mid-belly talent in the Indian ad industry still see the Cannes Lions Festival as a distant dream, somewhere at the far-end of their radar – they can see, but can’t quite touch. Similar to the story of many Cannes hopefuls around the world, seniority often comes with the right of passage to the French festival.

India is Picking-Up Steam
The India/Cannes love story is full of contradictions, as are most love stories. With wins in 12 major categories (out of 24) in 2016, India is definitely beginning to exhibit maturity at the Lions. Mumbai ranks 20th on the Global Creativity showcase and Indian director, Atul Kattukarn, ranks among the top 10 creatives. However, we are way behind much smaller markets like Sao Paulo (3rd) and Bangkok (17th), which means we definitely have some catching up to do.

Everyone Wants a Lion…
Having a Cannes Lions on your resume (or is the LinkedIn profile more relevant today?) is the pinnacle of having arrived in the world of advertising. The fervour to enter grows every year – the number of Indian entries continues to increase and the number of medals generally grow year on year, but sometimes dip (i.e. the 2015 tally was half of 2014, but 2016 showed an increase over 2014). If the size of an ad industry in a given market were any indicator of the metal tally at Cannes, then India certainly punches well beyond its weight (it’s no easy feat winning 2 Grand Prix awards and Healthcare Agency of the year – for any agency, let alone an Indian one).

…But, Not Everyone Gets a Lion
The usual suspects with the big budgets, we all know who they are, tend to be the winners more often than not, which can be discouraging. But then there are the focused, relatively smaller players who also know how to bring home the medals – which often has to do with the packaging of the entry or stellar results with a scrappy budget. . To no one’s surprise, creative agencies seem to have the packaging of their story down to a science while many media agencies definitely have some work to do in that department.

Category Performance Indicators
In 2014, PHD was the one and only media agency to be on stage for the Innovation Lions alongside the innovation and tech start-ups. But India’s performance at the Mobile Lions continues to be less than impressive, belying the size of our mobile population and the fact that it is currently the highest consumption platform – which means advertisers should be taking serious note. At the risk of sounding controversial, I would say it indicates a lack of interest among creative agencies to move beyond comfort zones and a lack of bravery among marketers to really cross the line. On the other hand, Indian agencies have exceled at cause related marketing which continues to resonate strongly with international jurors –what else could explain 3 Glass Lions in the last 2 years?

An interesting shift we are now seeing is that many Indian clients are using Lions as an ambition and KPI for their agencies. Whether Indian clients are brave enough to consistently create work that would win at Cannes is a topic of much debate, what is clear, though, is that once you taste the Cannes Lions blood, you’re hooked for life and nothing else, in terms of accolades, comes even close to the heady feeling of being on the Cannes main stage.

What to Look Forward to in 2017?
More wins and more glory (we all hope for that) and fewer Indians on the Jury (reality check).
While 2016 was all about VR, 2017 promises to take the INNOVATION lens steps ahead. The Innovation Lions would be my big bet for the star of the show this year –as they promise to cover voice tech, bots, mixed reality, AI and more – this is where the ideas that really shape the future of our industry will happen. Marketers and agencies will have much to learn on getting themselves, and their businesses, future-ready by watching out for what happens at this Cannes Stage. Cheers to a good year for India at Cannes, hoping it wins as much for work building the business of brands, as for work building the goodwill of brands.

Photo Credit:  Elizabeth Abrams

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