In a sense, it was yet another Cannes Lions that I am glad I did not miss. The Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival has operated like Madonna, reinventing itself every year for the last 57 years. And it had a surprise for everyone in store too, when for the 58th year, the organisers are changing the name of the festival.
Cannes Lions organisers had the announcement tucked in the delegate handbook, where, apart from giving the dates for 2011 and 2012, they had also called the festival Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. When you are a journalist at Cannes, you are not interested in anything more than the Cannes Lions press kit, which is a bible to reporters covering the festival, and one could see that Festival Chairman Terry Savage took some pleasure in pointing out to my colleague and me that we too missed that announcement.
Speaking to us some more on this, he said that the Festival was a reflection of ground realities of the advertising business and this was the reality today, the business is no longer about creative agencies – Media, PR, Design, all played an important role, and today Cannes Lions too was honouring all of these functions.
As an Indian, India’s performance did leave me disappointed too… Every year that I have been at Cannes, India’s tally has been better than the previous year, but this year, India was eight Lions behind last year with no Grand Prix and only one Gold. Aman ki Asha not making it through to even shortlists had severely disappointed many in the Indian contingent.
Terry Savage, however, advised not to see the festival from year on year view, but a five-year view, and in that, India’s graph has lowered this year from the last two years, but is better than 2007 and 2006 – should that keep one happy? I don’t really think so.
The best part of the Festival still had to be about meeting people, and I loved meeting some of the industry heads this year – whether it was P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard with whom we had one of the most fantastic interview sessions, or Ian Maskell, Global Marketing Director, Heartbrands, Unilever, who was fun to have spent time with. Meeting Babs Rangaiah, Global Communications Planning Director, Unilever, was a pleasure – his views on business have always been ‘different’ and in our conversation this time, he again had some of the most interesting things to speak about.
Meeting advertisers is always fun, and couple that with meeting people like IPG’s Michael Roth and it is a perfect Cannes Lions…
And then there are conversations where the likes of WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell and Publicis Groupe’s Maurice Levy don the interviewer’s hat – yes, it is fun to see that and notice the way in which they have prepared for their sessions.
Sir Martin Sorrell and Maurice Levy may not agree on much, but in their respective sessions at Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, the word ‘developing markets’ was re-termed as ‘faster growing markets’. Sorrell, in fact, said that it was insulting for these markets to be called developing markets. The other points that came out from these sessions were that procurement could come in the way of hiring good talent and the road forward had to be about collaboration.
Everyone has something to say about the festival every year, and as we get busy filing 10-plus reports every evening, sometimes even I wonder what all this is about. But as I look back, I am glad I did not miss this Cannes Lions, the year when marketers come in the picture full force and more important discussions made their way on the Cannes stage.