KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, SapientNitro India who is on the Press Jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, 2015, says most Print advertising has become the passion of art directors and is hence good craft, but good copy is not to be seen.
What are you looking forward to at Cannes this year?
As usual, to really see some great work! There is nothing like going through some 5,000 odd pieces of work and getting extremely frustrated looking at bad work, and then finally finding some 100 pieces of great work which is rewarding. That’s the thrill of doing any jury duty: to unearth and to find those nuggets. Though the process of finding that is frustrating, you will always wait for light at the end of the tunnel.
Your comment on the level of work you have seen in general this year in the Press category which you are judging?
From whatever little I have seen, the ideas are becoming fewer and far between. The work that we used to see in Print 15-20 years back was far more insightful, the ideas were far more powerful than the kind of work that has been winning for the past 4-5 years.
The majority of the work that gets entered looks very nice. The craft is extremely good. But what it lacks is ideas. Now, without having a strong idea or insight, it will never make it to the next round. So the study has always been to find those insights. Insights are missing and ideas are missing.
Earlier, Britain used to do great Print advertising, but today a lot of great advertising work comes out of India and also from Latin America, especially Brazil and Argentina. In India, most of the work we are doing is on international brands. For instance, one of the nicest pieces of work that I have seen this year in our country is for Volkswagen. It’s a beautiful piece of work but there is nothing Indian in it. It could have come from anywhere in the world. Indian work is improving quite a lot, but I would say that ideas are going down. Probably, the most beautiful idea which is being taken through Las Vegas and which is being winning is Jurassic. It is a simple idea and they have been executing it surprisingly well year after year. But overall, not just in India, but across the world, the ideas are falling down.
What about the copy part – is that area satisfactory or lacking?
There is hardly any copy. Most Print ads are like posters… visual story-telling. But great Print advertising is more than words and pictures working together. The brand story and the brand argument need to convince you. At times it happens with pictures and at times it happens with words, or a combination of the two.
What will you look for in the entries you judge?
There is no debate on great work. There is a lot of debate on good work because good is always subjective. Great is never subjective. So when you see it, there is a feeling that comes naturally, - it is so simple, so relevant and engaging. But all that is post rationalization; the fresh idea which actually catches your attention hits somewhere in your heart you get the feeling that you will think of it. That is the biggest parameter for people to really appreciate the work. At times, you rationalize and then you cross-check, you see whether everything is simple, relevant, fresh or engaging. All other things you try to tick mark after taking a call.
What can be the takeaways for the Print advertising industry from Cannes?
Most Print advertising has become the passion of art directors. Copy-writers certainly seem to be missing from the scene. More copy-writers are running after TV and lot of other things.
Therefore the Print craft is mostly hard craft and not copy craft, marked insights and not argumentative writing or putting forth an argument. Those are things where copywriters make a huge difference to Print advertising. That part is missing. Even the Indian work that I have seen so far is all craft-driven. You can make out that the art director is a young lad, who thinks of simple product benefit and really dramatizes that. When you see the Volkswagen ad, it is a beautiful craft of graphic design. But if you are to see product benefit and behavioural change in the people, nothing is there. It is lacking in imagination and the ability to articulate a point of view or an insight which makes people say, ‘Wow, I have never seen this before.’
It is far more surprising than something that touches your heart and says that I never thought of you like this before. That is what great insights actually do. I am not criticizing the Indian work alone, but the global work in Print is suffering from the same issues.