One of the worst things about stepping out for a few days is that you are subjected to the most inane questions from friends, family and colleagues. Quite like those that some television newswallahs ask after an accident... aap ko kaisa lag raha hai?. And since my week-long sojourn was to none other than the most happening spots for ad professionals: the Cannes Lions international advertising festival, I am expecting some horribly boring chatter: “So, how was it?” “Had fun?” “Wine and women, (h)eh?” Guess not responding to these would seem impolite, so I need to contend with all of it for a few days.
If Kerala’s is billed as ‘God’s Own Country’, the South of France would be ‘Heaven on Earth’. Okay, an exaggeration, but nature has truly blessed this part of the world. Several beaches, salubrious climate, great food and beautiful people. Save a few months in the year when it touches sub-10 deg C and or in summer when it gets Delhi-like by going 40+, the gentle Mediterranean breeze ensures that even the warm sunny days are exceedingly pleasant.
Save the need to stay connected with the office for few hours every day and a few quickie getaways, the bulk of my time was either at the various sessions, checking out the exhibition of shortlists and of course meeting with people, especially those from countries of which I new nothing. I now regret not having shopped, spent time on the beaches or checked out the various restaurants, but guess all of that’s reserved for the next trip.
At the awards, there may have been some disappointment with the high profile Vodafone Zoozoo campaign not netting any metal, but the overall tally of 25 Golds, Silvers and Bronzes is a wee bit better than last year’s 23. However, given the size of our advertising and marketing industry and (hence) the potential that exists, we need to win a lot, lot more.
My greater disappointment is that only one of the 25-odd entries sent for the Cyber Lions made it to the shortlist and even that didn’t bring home any honours. Does this mean that we aren’t hot enough as far as the cyberspace is concerned? Or is that the kind of work we do is effective but not award-winning?
Of the various lectures that were organised as part of the seminars section of the fest, at least three of the big ’uns were dominated by people from the cyberworld – Biz Stone of Twitter, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft and Eric Schmidt of Google and the digital and social media clearly dominated the proceedings of virtually every major session. For instance, in the Great Cannes Debate, WPP supremo Sir Martin Sorrell where quizzed a galaxy of marketing chiefs where again the social and cyber media were quite the focus of the discussion. At one point, a member of the audience even asked Sorrell to ask everyone how much time they personally devote to the social media like Facebook and Twitter.
What was clear that whatever be the media space one may be in – print, PR or even outdoor – integration with the digital platform was very critical and it was vital to connect to consumers via the likes of Twitter.
Does India score well on this? I don’t see very many people embracing social media as they ought to. It’s possible that they don’t see the need to do that, or just don’t have the time for it. However, it’s clear that if they want to engage the interests of consumers in their products, it’s imperative that corporations – including the really big ones – get down to basics with interacting with the world. For me, this was one of the main take-outs from Cannes.
There was another – very well-illustrated by Fernando Vega Olmos, JWT’s creative chair for continental Europe and Latin America – which was that it’s important to get down to the drawing board, spend monies on R&D and not get overawed by crises like the recession.
Times are tough, they really are, but the industry isn’t dead. Only the smartest will thrive.
The views here are my own. Now, you can also tweet me your views and catch my random jottings at #MixedMedia at http://www.twitter.com/pmahesh.