Cannes 2016: There is no other thing at play in Cannes than the idea: Ramesh Iyengar, SDMC

Ramesh Iyengar, CMD, Select Direct Marketing Communications talks about the factors Indian agencies must consider before sending their entries to Cannes

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Jun 16, 2016 8:12 AM
Cannes 2016: There is no other thing at play in Cannes than the idea: Ramesh Iyengar, SDMC

He has had three previous Cannes outings as a juror and has seen the Indian entries evolve over time. Judging Direct Marketing- a category which he claims is still not perfectly understood by most agencies here, Ramesh Iyengar, CMD, Select Direct Marketing Communications talks about the factors Indian agencies must consider before sending their entries to Cannes.


What kind of changes have you seen in the Direct Category that you are judging this year?

Till 2010 Direct was pretty much restricted to Direct Mailers, the standard stuff, but post that we started seeing the emergence of social media and how it was making inroads in Direct internationally. However it had not really arrived in India by then. I could give you a corporate example of a brand like Stella Artois, the beer brand which was trashed in the 2010 judging session at Cannes, it didn’t even make it to the shortlist. I was stunned and took it over to the chairperson, explaining to him how we missed the point. I am talking about 2010, when they used Facebook integration, had a video site going and made use of QR codes for the bottles. All this is very common place today, but was pretty path-breaking then. So, the chairman listened to my appeal and the 50 jurors from across the world took a second look at it. They agreed with me and wanted to not just bring it in but bump it up. But at Cannes once something is out, it can’t be given a metal so we gave the campaign a special citation even as it went on to win some big awards elsewhere. Years later now, there is a sufficient amount of social media and digital experience but is there loyalty and are we really cultivating customers, those will be the big things to look for in the direct marketing space.

What are the exceptional pieces of work you have seen in Direct this year?

I wouldn’t be in a position to comment on it right now but if I were to give an example of an exceptional Direct campaign it would be of McDonalds in France. Paris was freezing with temperatures going as low as -1 degrees. So they worked with a company which specialized in outdoor - billboards, and illuminated sites. They made a hoarding at a bus stand and with some innovation made it into a heater. This was a campaign for McDonald’s American Winter Burger Collection. The people could lean against this hoarding and feel warm, which is how the burger and their service were to make them feel.  They gave the people a taste of that experience through the warmth in the billboards and people have actually been hugging the boards and things like that. So, it’s a great piece of work which helped McDonalds sell 2% more burgers.

Where do the Indian entries stand as far as Direct Marketing is concerned?

In India the basic understanding of Direct only exists with a few specialized agencies. Mostly Direct is treated as a URL in your ad and is considered a success if a lot of people visit your website. Let’s say there is a Vivo phone ad and it says visit You want to know more about a phone, so you are going to click on it. But that’s not a response, that’s just called showing interest. Genuine response is where people get motivated to go into the next step of interaction. So, I think people are not using the traditional direct marketing techniques to enter pieces in the Direct category. The general digital entries which have done very well are all coming here. And therefore they don’t get voted and as a results we get less metals.

What do you think of the quality of the videos that we send to Cannes from India?

If you don’t have a great video to support your idea you will probably get left behind. Imagine an entry with Hollywood style production, camera work, helicopter shots, great music and VO. In three minutes your competition is telling you why that piece of work is fantastic. And then you have a board with 100 words on what is the objective, 100 words on the strategy and 100 words on the creative with some visuals. What will create more impact? In India, we have tremendous film production capabilities so I don’t see any reason why our entries can’t be sparkling. Technically they are perfect, almost. But usually, we don’t go the full distance, even if our work is edgy, our entry may not be as sparkling. Some agencies know that, big boys like Ogilvy and BBDO know that to stand out on the world stage they will have to make a video with good quality production. But these agencies don’t contribute to 80% of those 1000 entries sent each year.

Has Cannes become more of a big agency festival because of the kind of money involved in it?

This would be true if we it was an exception for small agencies to win at Cannes. But there are 50 jurors at Cannes who are genuinely there to see exceptional work, which is a great leveler. So, if you have a fantastic idea, you don’t have be a big network agency to lobby and cultivate your idea. Yes, three months before Cannes, the big agencies and their work get a sort of up swell in the media with several positive comments, which you may think can motivate the jurors to get influenced. But I believe the jury members are pretty savvy and can remove the wheat from the chaff and say if it is just a whole lot of dressing on the idea. If the idea is meritorious and has got great mention, no harm then. But it essentially comes back to the idea. So, if you are a small country or agency, it doesn’t matter. Get your entry through with the Rs 30,000 or whatever is the fee and have a great video made for it. On the table, if the idea stands out, it goes through. I have seen so many small agencies from Singapore, not network agencies, independent ones, win, in the past 15 years that I have been going to Cannes.  There is no other thing at play in Cannes than the idea.

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