Beside the sea, and towered by hills, lies the small town of Cannes. The setting seems to be straight from Coleridge’s imagery, be it Kubla Khan or the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Except that the setting is modern. It’s my first time reporting for the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. In fact, a first trip abroad. Two days into Cannes and traffic is still scaring me. But thanks to the rule – pedestrian come first, I haven't been run over by anyone as yet. Habitually, as in India, anyone would do at a zebra-crossing, I am looking for and expecting the traffic to come from my right. But the traffic is coming from my left!
And were some of these cars being driven by ghosts? The right seat, when empty, has given me that illusion. Back in India, we have right-hand driving; however, here it’s just the opposite.
Being in such a beautiful place with beautiful beaches and great people around, I have to remind myself now and again, ‘Boss, you are not on a holiday. You are here at work and let’s get to it’. The first day was more or less about digital gyaan. The Tribal DDB session, in spite of it a being a Sunday, was a complete sell-out. Agencies like Tribal DDB and LBi and networks like Facebook had umpteen success stories to tell of brands on the social media platform. I’m not sure about the world, but in India, most of the brands like General Motors and Reebok are spending about 10 per cent of their marketing revenues on digital. However, there are brands which are not there at all. Overall, digital just forms 3 per cent of the advertising pie. So, no wonder that everyone wants to sell digital.
Somehow, there’s this pessimism creeping in me about the perception of India in the minds of these firangs. While all this gyaan was being given on digital, I happened to ask a few people if they could give me examples of any great work from India. They either said that they were not aware or said that they weren’t following India. I may be generalising, but are these ‘global heads’ just mugging up about India only before their visits.
Met a lot of familiar faces from the advertising, media and marketing world. And I am also wondering why foreign shores bond birds of the same feather. Hope to learn by the end of the festival. Indian faces can be recognised from far off and you just get attracted naturally towards them. A simple ‘Hi!’ and an introduction. In India, it would have been difficult to get them, particularly when you are not a chatter-box (like one of my colleagues).
And Indians will be Indians everywhere. A session is going on. And in the very front row there’s a three-member team from a company in India. A phone rings and the Indian member talks about his happiness without realising where he is sitting.
I have tried to live like the Romans. Oops! Like the French. I mean, have tried to follow the guidelines so far. Let’s catch up later, if I am not run over by somebody in this opposite world.