CannesLions2014 Cannes Lions Special: Confessions of a Cannes Virgin

Cannes Lions Special: Confessions of a Cannes Virgin

Author | Sukrit Singh | Monday, Jun 16,2014 8:08 AM

Cannes Lions Special: Confessions of a Cannes Virgin

So what’s all this hype all about?  This passionate obsession that has captivated our industry. A Cat has become a symbol of creative man / woman hood.  These and a hundred other questions and expectations flooded my mind on the flight out to Cannes. 

I am the quintessential Cannes Virgin!  Never been here before, never passed out at the Gutter Bar, never held a lion or even its poor cousin the cat.  It doesn’t help that one is judging the “newbie” category - Promo and Activation!  A category looked down upon by the puritan dinosaurs of advertising.  Yet – Promo, Direct, Design, Cyber - the writing is on the wall – we are the future!  This is a festival of creativity and not creativity in 30 seconds?

My hotel is at Rue d’Antibes – I guess this is what Pharganj would have looked like if our British invaders would have stayed on. A room that’s the size of my suitcase - but this is no ordinary room - It’s called “chambre supérieure”.

Cannes - a word within a world – the sea the sun and the high priests and priestesses staring down at us from their balconies at the Carlton.  While the shops are out of bounds for us third-worlders, thankfully many bars and cafes are not. Flowing in abundance is the nectar of Cannes – Rose`!

It’s been four hot days since the touchdown at Nice airport.   Cannes is gearing up for the industry invasion. A veteran tells me every road and every beach will be packed with party folks – cheers to that in anticipation; for now we are holed up far from the sunshine and the beaches in the judging chambers of the Palais.  Four days in a judging room running through 3000 entries in the Promo and Activation category, and we have just made the shortlist yet.  A mind numbing and yet enriching experience at the same time.

A jury that would put the FIFA to shame. This was the world cup of Promo and Activation. The underwhelmed English, cool Germans, the Scandinavians, Spanish, Americans, a Russian and a passionate contingent from South America.  The energy in the judging room rivals that of a football match stadium, the talent- the best in the world and hopefully the joy of playing together as a team will last well beyond the 10 days we are spending together.

The Promo and Activation category has over a 3000 entries – even before we see the creative impact, one cannot help but think of the commercial investment.  The money spent on the Promo and Activation category alone would rival the revenue of a mid-sized agency in India! That’s a staggering statistic – and makes me ponder the price of creative vanity. For an industry that’s struggling perhaps one should weigh the financial impact of award entries. Weigh it against appraisals for junior staff perhaps?

In the first three days we see over 600 case videos each.  Ironic as it may sound but this is the true test of “30 seconds” - if your case video can captivate the jury in 30 seconds you stand a chance else you are banished. The usual chorus is “Get it!” or “Next!” The final shortlist is the outcome of a 15 hour marathon judging session going through over 350 entries. Our judging tablets run out of juice – and we get a new set: but we carry on.

So you ask me after one thousand entries – How is India doing? Seems like our industry has the weight of social consciousness on its shoulders.  It seems like Indian agencies have no brands they work for, only NGOs. Yes I do agree that we have social issues in India – child labour, health and sanitation, women’s education – but we are a vibrant, emerging economy where brands are thriving. Majority of entries from India are a sad reflection of creative vanity trying to exploit the underbelly of our country.

As communicators we do have a responsibility to make social impact but we also have responsibility to the brands we serve (our client’s pay the bills remember).

But then is a larger argument at award shows – what really is “real” work.  On one of our jury nights out - over many glasses of Rose` the argument comes up.  A fellow juror sums it up beautifully –“This is the haute couture of creativity.”  This isn’t everyday utilitarian fashion – this is Cannes. Where we dream our dreams, a jungle where a big cat decides our reputation.

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