Going to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is an expensive affair. Entering work in a particular category could cost an agency anything between 475 euros to 1615 euros, which conveniently rules out the work done by smaller agencies in India, which may not have that kind of money to spend. It is not exactly a cake-walk for the big network agencies either, especially with demonetization wreaking havoc last year along with a global cost-cutting exercise.
According to a forecast by Magna Global, the ad buying agency owned by Interpublic, global ad spending is expected to grow by 3.6% in 2017, compared with 5.7% in 2016. Even WPP, the largest global ad holding company, in March, reported its slowest quarter of revenue growth since 2012, which may lead one to believe that entering awards may be a logical cost-cutting target. In India, the Pitch Madison Advertising Outlook 2017 estimated the loss in the months of November-December 2016 due to demonetization at a whopping Rs 1,650 crore; and put out a lower growth projection than last year for Adex at 13.5%, while the PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2017-2021 estimated India’s annual growth rate (CAGR) at 10.5% between 2017 and 2021.
How will this scenario affect India’s show of strength at Cannes? It is a fact that some agencies are sending fewer delegates this year. As for the work entered, some agencies like Scarecrow, which actively participated in the Cannes Lions last year, have decided to give the festival a miss, while there are others like DDB Mudra, which refrained from entering the Goafest Abbys this year, but is headed all guns blazing to the South of France.
Amit Akali, whose Medulla Communications won the ‘Health Agency of the Year’ at Cannes last year, says, “Cannes is the recognition of the work an agency has done through the year and I’m sure agencies and networks won’t compromise on the number of entries sent. So India’s show of strength won’t be affected if we talk with regard to the number of entries as a benchmark. But yes, the number of delegates attending Cannes, from what I’ve heard, has been affected by cost-cutting and will reduce.” Akali is on the jury for Pharma Lions this year.
Echoing the same sentiment, Pratap Bose, Co- Founder, The Social Street, who is on the panel for Promo and Activation Lions, says, “I don’t see demonetization affecting the number of entries from India. Agencies adopt a more focused approach by submitting their most impactful and competitive work to the festival jury. But the biggest challenge that agencies face for the award entries is to be able to narrate your campaign story concisely and comprehensively in a two-minute lm and limited word format.”
Indian entries need to surprise
More than 60 years ago, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity started with just one category – TV Commercial. Today, there are 24 different categories under which advertising work across the globe can be entered. Experts say Indian entries are largely in the traditional categories like Print, Television, Outdoor, etc, where there is a lot of competition as compared to newer categories like Mobile and Cyber. But we have come a long way from not having a single shortlist in both the categories in 2015 to 10 shortlists in Cyber, with one Bronze Lion and one shortlist in Mobile, last year.
Rahul Nangia, Jt. NCD, L&K Saatchi and Saatchi, who is on the Radio Jury, says, “We are trying enough in terms of ideas that go beyond the traditional medium. But when it comes to the perspective, vision and efforts put in execution, we just don’t do enough yet. We try to get into an execution style which is more international assuming it will appeal to the jury more, but I feel what stands out more than often is 15 local entries. Jurors are looking to be surprised and are open to culturally different insights, different executions. So instead of focussing on being visually slick, which is not our strength yet, we should try to bring in more of an Indian texture to our entries. It always stands out.”
A slightly different view comes from Akali who says, “A big challenge Indian entries face is ‘context’. Most Indian entries are popular in their country because of the cultural context within which it is created. These contexts might escape international juries. That, according to me, is the most important job of a jury member from India; explaining the cultural context of Indian work. But overall, the challenges differ from category to category. For example, India as a country is a lot weaker in digital and technology related categories. The other challenge is scale.
Most international work is on a larger scale, usually released in many countries and therefore has been consumed by the jury even before they judge. That said, if the idea and execution is great, it’ll win big, irrespective of scale.”
Fewer jurors this year
Talking about jurors at Cannes, 390 experts from 50 countries have been selected as jurors this year, out of which 43% are women, a record for the Festival. Clearly, a huge step towards gender diversity in advertising, considering that the number of women on
the panel has more than doubled in the last five years from 21% in 2012. Three out of 11 jurors selected from India are women, i.e., Ritu Sharda from BBDO India (Cyber jury), Anita Nayyar of Havas Media (Media panel) and Amrit Ahuja of MSLGroup India (Innovation jury).
Overall, there has been a decision to dramatically reduce the number of jurors at Cannes this year – cutting down by 92 members across the board - to ensure that the highest standard of meaningful debate can take place. “There may be a fairly large screening/shortlisting panel, but there will be only 10 jurors on the nal day for any jury, and therefore much higher quality people,” says Nandan Srinath, Director Response at Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd. (of cial India representative of the Cannes Lions Festival). “As a result, there has been a ripple effect in terms of the total number of jurors across the world, and the India numbers also become smaller. Three jurors from India are on the shortlisting panels and won’t need to judge at Cannes.”
Justifying the reduction, Viral Pandya, Co- founder & CCO, Out of the Box, India who is on the panel for Design Lions, says, “Of course, a jury with fewer people with proven credentials is better than a large jury. Further, in a smaller jury, the jurors can interact with each other better and have quality discussions. The decision to prune the size of the jury is right.”
The conversion conundrum
Talking about a single entry being shortlisted from India in the Innovation Lions category which she is judging at Cannes, Amrit Ahuja, Managing Director, 20:20 MSL says, “It is a chicken and egg story for India to improve its conversion rate. Marketers need to have a long term vision when it comes to investing in impactful campaigns. Agencies and creative professionals also need to utilize budgets to acquire best industry talent and work on solutions and campaigns that need investment.”
Meanwhile, Agnello Dias, Co-founder, Taproot Dentsu, who is judging the Outdoor Lions, says, “I feel our conversion rate is satisfactory since they have been going up year on year ever since we broke through the big winners about 10 years ago. More than our conversion rate, we could perhaps cut down on some of the entries that are not constructed to catch an award jury’s fancy.”
Talking about how Indian entries are faring, Pandya says, “As I am through with ve online rounds of judging (for over a month-and-a half), I have seen a good body of work from India. If anything, I felt there is a surfeit of entries from India. Perhaps agencies must have cut down the number of entries to other festivals, and focused on Cannes.”
A Glass Grand Prix hat-trick?
While the year 2016 saw various campaigns like ManBoobs, The Next Rembrandt and McWhopper taking the world by storm, India stood out with its domination in the Glass Lions category, winning a Grand Prix with Mindshare’s ‘6 Pack Band’, apart from two Glass Lions – #DadsShareTheLoad from BBDO India and Beauty Tips by Reshma from Ogilvy & Mather India.
In the inaugural year of the Glass Lions in 2015 too, India had won the Glass Grand Prix for the ‘Whisper-Touch the Pickle’ campaign by BBDO India. The agency also bagged a Glass Lion for ‘Share the Load’ for Ariel Matic.
That makes India the only country to ever win the Glass Grand Prix, ever since its inception.
Therefore, the question is not just whether we can improve our metal tally from last year’s 27, but whether we can win the Glass Grand Prix this time too and score a hat-trick.