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The year in awards: India’s creative prowess transcends mediums and categories

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The year in awards: India’s creative prowess transcends mediums and categories

2017 was a watershed year for the Indian advertising fraternity. The Indian contingent broke its 2013 record haul of 33 metals winning an impressive 40 metals including the Grand Prix for ‘Good for the Afghan Immunity Charm’ campaign by McCann Health New Delhi. Not only Cannes, Indian campaigns also won D&AD awards, Clio awards and Spikes Asia. India won 10 pencils at the D&AD awards, seven Clio awards and a whopping 49 metals at Spikes Asia.

At award shows, India’s performance in the categories like Health & Pharma and Product Design is becoming stronger every year. In 2017 alone, McCann Health picked up 13 metals for the Afghan Immunity Charm campaign, Ogilvy and Mather Mumbai bagged seven metals for the Savlon Healthy Chalk Sticks campaign while Roads That Honk campaign by Leo Burnett won in the Innovation category.

The Winning Formula

What made 2017 special was not just the number of metals that India won, but also the kind of work and the categories in which India won. “This has been a great year of India at the award shows, including every performance at Cannes. This year’s big winners were brands like Adidas Odds, Bajaj V and Share the Load and that too in categories where you just can’t game the system, like integrated and effectiveness. So, I think the regular work from India, that’s helping build brands here, is now winning big internationally and that’s a great sign,” said Amit Akali, Chief Creative Officer, medulla-communications_941.html">Medulla Communications.

India has been consistently dominating award shows in the health category for the past two years. In 2016, Medulla Healthcare won the Healthcare Agency of the Year in the 2016 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and bagged two Gold Lions for the Last Words campaign for the Indian Association of Palliative Care. “That is a good sign. Health was a category that saw very little involvement earlier in terms of pushing the bar. Now the rest of the world is looking at India to lead the way and show how great creativity can make a difference anywhere,” said Harshad Rajadhyaksha, Chief Creative Officer (West) - ‎Ogilvy & Mather.

It is also of significance that India is breaking through in categories where we do not have a strong legacy. “In particular, we won in categories where Indian campaigns have not won big in the past like product design. The Savlon Healthy Hand Chalk Sticks campaign won even in the Design category this year which is typically the forte of Japanese agencies. Additionally, the Afghan Immunity Charm campaign made a serious impact in the health category,” noted Kainaz Karmakar, ‎Group Creative Director - ‎Ogilvy & Mather. “The Savlon campaign that has reached nearly a million school children could soon become a retail product. ITC is working on feasibility studies to enable mass production of the chalk sticks,” said Sameer Sathpathy Chief Executive - Personal Care - ITC Limited.

The health category which was launched five years back has been witnessing some path-breaking work from India. “I’ve been lucky to be on most of the healthcare juries this year and it felt nice that most of the big winners were from India. In fact, as Jury President at Spikes, I was also part of the ‘Integrated’ Jury and the ‘Grand Prix for good jury’ and both the Grand Prix’s were won by Indian Campaigns and more importantly, were won by campaigns that were primarily ‘health’ campaigns like Adidas Odds and Immunity Charm. It isn’t a coincidence that the Number 2 and Number 3 Healthcare agencies in the world were Indian agencies, Medulla and McCann Health respectively. Or that India’s only Agency of the year award at Cannes has come in the health category for Medulla in 2016,” said Akali.

2017 was the year of simple but big ideas that used materials and mediums beyond the traditional formats of advertising. Leo Burnett’s Roads That Honk campaign for HP Lubricants is a technology solution and an installation which is neither a TVC nor a print ad. Similarly, the Immunity Charm is a talisman while Last Words (2016) and Laugh at Death from Medulla Health, are both social experiments. “We are finally churning out ideas beyond the quintessential 60 seconds TVC and that’s what putting us on the world map,” said Dheeraj Sinha, Chief Strategy Officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia.

Awards: To be or not to be

2017 will be remembered globally for being the year Cannes revamped its structure in response to severe criticism from holding company majors Publicis Groupe and WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell. Although Cannes has undergone an overhaul, Publicis Groupe will not be participating in the award festival in 2018 and will be redirecting funds to developing its AI platform - Marcel. Additionally, leading agencies continued to boycott India’s top creativity festival Goafest in 2017.

These developments continued to spark conversations about award shows, their judging criteria and the associated cost. The general feeling in the industry is that while awards are indeed crucial to the industry, a compromise on quality must not be tolerated. “I do believe awards are an important part of the creative process. No debate there. But awards should always be looked at as an outcome and not an objective. You make brilliant, brave, bold ideas and craft the hell out of them, not because you need to win an award, but because your client is paying you to do just that and the audience wants to engage with more entertaining, memorable and beautifully crafted stories. When you manage to make work like that, you also sometimes win an award,” felt Akali.

Young talent in agencies voiced concerns about the impact of non-participation in Cannes. Awards are widely seen as a source of international recognition and validation, especially by the younger team members on a campaign. Missing out on a year at award shows may not be as bad as it seems according to agency heads. “If your agency culture is honestly built around principles, you won’t have much of an issue with your best talent. They are still going to create, craft and curate brilliant ideas. They will still get rewarded for the fame they generate and the success their work achieves in the market. It is after all just one year that you are skipping the awards. But we’re going to be back again next year and honestly speaking, as long as all other markers of success are still in place, you can still have a brilliant year creatively,” said Russell Barrett, CCO & Managing Partner, BBH India.

It is worth noting that both HPCL and the Ammada Trust backed entries for the Roads that Honk (Leo Burnett) and #GiveHerFive campaign (Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi) at Spikes Asia and the D&AD Impact Awards after Publicis Groupe announced that it would not be taking part in award shows. Clients and agency heads indicated that given a promising campaign, the brand may be willing to pay to nominate campaigns. “There is no embargo on sending our work to award shows. I know that clients who understand the value of the campaign understand that quality work needs to be entered,” said Anil Nair, CEO and Managing Partner, Law & Kenneth Saatchi and Saatchi. In fact, many clients are willing to take the initiative as awards help brands too, he added.

2018 will be a litmus test for the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. The real-world benefits of the overhaul can be assessed only in June 2018 during the festival. With Publicis Groupe staying out of the festival for a year and WPP threatening to give it a miss, 2018 will be a year to watch out for.

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