Guest Column: Vivek Bhargava on his key takeaways from Cannes Lions 2017

The CEO of DAN Performance Group talks about his most memorable moments at the recently concluded Cannes Lions 2017

e4m by Vivek Bhargava
Updated: Jul 1, 2017 8:02 AM

The learnings, exposure, conversations, view, food, rosé and the overall grandeur of the event made it among the better weeks of my life. Although this was my first time at the Cannes Festival of Creativity, I am determined to make it my yearly pilgrimage. Here are some of my favourite speaker session and campaigns from the eight extremely enriching days of immersing myself into the international festival of creativity, absorbing knowledge and insights from every corner.

Speaker sessions:

Karlie Kloss, supermodel and entrepreneur

She got discovered as a model at the age of 14. As a 24-year-old now she has been part of every campaign and cover. It was phenomenal to listen to her words of wisdom at such a young age. She has met, spent time and spoken to thousands of people older to her, which reflects in the person she is today. It makes you think that if younger people are exposed to more accomplished people in their lives early on, they themselves are more likely to become accomplished. Kids are told to go and play with other kids – maybe at times kids should be told to go and play with adults!

Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP, in conversation with Robert Kraft, American businessman and owner of New England Patriots and Ron Howard, American actor and filmmaker

The session for me was a good lesson in sports marketing. It also made me realize how sports and leagues are set to become big in India. School, college and leagues have always been a popular triumvirate in the West. With IPL, India too got a flavour of it. Being involved with Ultimate Table Tennis as owner of iProspect Challengers also is a step towards this direction for me and will add to the future of leagues in India.

Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In author and Chief Operating Officer, Facebook

This session was an experience in itself. It taught me that most people avoid discussion on hard topics – such as when someone gets cancer or someone close dies, we think that it is better we don't remind them of it since these are not things that people are going to forget in the first place. So don't ask what you can do for them, instead do something for them! 

Campaigns that stood out:

The Refugee Nation

The concept of the campaign was primarily based on bringing the world together to support refugees. I was personally quite moved by this campaign. In my view, it represents giving an identity to a community or group of people who don’t have it at this point in time – the refugees. What I liked the most about it was the choice of their own flag – an orange and black flag inspired by the life vests worn by the refugees to cross the sea to look for safer shores. Moreover, the coloured flag is a symbol of hope and solidarity. These are revolutionary ideas that are true flagbearers of change in order to make the world a better place to live in. It also brings to light a fact that the refugees have almost united to make a separate nation for themselves. Amnesty International has introduced a thought-provoking matter and it was great to see the campaign win the gold and silver in most categories at the festival – extremely deserving. What this campaign taught me is that sometimes from an advertising perspective, you have to think larger than life. It’s not just about a client giving you brief and getting to work. You have to think of things and people who no one is doing anything about or for and create something special for them. You have to think of how you can move the needle for the world and then no idea is too big. There is no limit to the size of an idea!

Meet Graham

Another gold award-winner at Cannes Lions, this campaign was helmed by the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria. It introduces us to Graham who shows us what it what we may look like if we were built to survive on our roads. A catalyst for conversion and ultimately an education tool, he’s a reminder of how vulnerable our bodies really are when we speed and impact forces are at play. This campaign has used data quite effectively. They collected car crash information from the last 15 years of every car crash that has happened. And then they came up with a question – what kind of a human being would survive a car crash? The head would have to be three times larger, the chest would have to balloon, the knee would have to bend at a certain angle, the ribs would have to be placed in a certain way, etc. Basis this they created an image of a human being which went on to became the face of driving safety. I love the interesting use of data in this campaign. The work that has gone behind collecting data of every car crash from so many years put together is no easy feat. This data avalanche enabled the team to come up with something so exceptional.

Fearless Girl

I’m sure this campaign won a lot of hearts along with winning all the metals. And plus it won a Grand Prix for good reason. Hoisted a day before International Women’s Day, Fearless Girl is a bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, depicting a girl looking at the well-known Charging Bull (or "Wall Street bull") statue. It was a form of an advertisement for an index fund which comprises gender-diverse companies that have a higher percentage of women among their senior leadership. The plaque below the statue states, "Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference," with "SHE" being both a descriptive pronoun and the fund's NASDAQ ticker symbol. I really liked the manner in which issues like gender equality and feminism were tackled through this campaign that too at such a large platform. It not only sends a social message about workplace gender diversity and encourages companies to recruit women to their boards, but also generates immense brand value for the investing company, State Street Global Advisors. In fact the one of the dominant underlying themes of Cannes Lions 2017 in my opinion was women empowerment, be it in the form of the women speakers or the campaigns based on women.

(The author is CEO of DAN Performance Group)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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