My most memorable Cannes experience

Guest Column: Paul Josy, Chairman at BBDO India, writes that winning a Grand Prix for Whisper #TouchThePickle was not a dream but a force of divinity

e4m by Josy Paul
Updated: Apr 26, 2021 9:29 AM  | 4 min read
Josy Paul

It was 2.00 am when I received the news from Cannes that we had won the Grand Prix (for our work on Whisper #TouchThePickle.) I was staying with Ajai Jhala (our CEO and founding partner) at our office apartment in Gurgaon at that time.

The WhatsApp message came from Tista Sen followed immediately from Marcello Serpa. Both were jury members of the inaugural Glass Lion in 2015! Their messages hit me like thunderbolt and lightning! I was transfixed! When I unfroze, I rushed out of my room like a madman, and began to bang on Ajai’s bedroom door! I tried to explain, but finally flashed the messages with my ever-trembling hands! Ajai, who is 100% a calm guy, let out a wild yell! Neither of us were expecting this, not in our wildest dreams. 

You can dream of a metal at Cannes, or a gold. But a Grand Prix! That’s not a dream, that’s a force of divinity! The feeling we shared at that moment was incredible and inexplicable! We both felt a sense of becoming, like we had crossed some cosmic threshold! We’d worked hard with our amazing team for over 6 years to create an exciting new space for BBDO in India. One based on our philosophy that India needs more ‘acts not ads’, and finally, the world had noticed! Not once, but twice! Along with the Grand Prix, we’d also won the gold for Ariel #ShareTheLoad. We had made a complete sweep.

Ajai and I felt an immense sense of peace. Like a weight had lifted from our shoulders. This was it! We were too excited to sleep as we kept getting calls asking us to fly to Cannes immediately. Unfortunately, my Schengen visa had expired the day before. So when dawn broke, Ajai and I left for the airport and returned to Mumbai, to our office Ashram. Cannes Lions asked us to keep the news a secret, no one was supposed to know until the official press release later that day. Ravi Balakrishnan from the Economic Times was the first to call for an interview. I remember that call vividly, I had to hide in the toilet and take it quietly.

By early evening, we could not hold the news any longer! We called the entire team into our community room and made the announcement. There was total pandemonium. Everybody was dancing on tables and music was blaring from every computer, right through the evening and late into the night. Together we watched the award ceremony that was streaming live from Cannes. We saw our friend and founding chief of BBDO India, Chris Thomas, go up on stage on our behalf, wearing a mask of my face (see pic) to receive our award! What an amazing gesture! We were all so moved by this generous action. The crazy thing about all this is that one of my most memorable Cannes moments was not at Cannes, but in our humble ashram at Lower Parel. Mumbai. 

What followed was yet another miracle. The next morning, my Schengen visa was approved in under an hour thanks to the big news flash. That’s how Ajai and I reached Cannes a day after the awards ceremony. The echo of our victory was still in the air, there were media interviews and people wanting to hold the Lions and take photos with us. The Lions were so heavy that Ajai and I had to ‘share the load’ as we lugged them in a bag across town. Interesting encounters followed, but that’s another story.

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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