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Ashok Venkatramani’s Blog@Cannes Lions: Missing India in the conversations and on the plate

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Ashok Venkatramani’s Blog@Cannes Lions: Missing India in the conversations and on the plate

On the back of the good news of India opening the account yesterday in PR (silver) and Promo & Activation (bronze), along with 12 shortlists in Outdoor, one started the day with a lot of hope and positive energy. The very first session by DraftFCB shared some interesting data on the statistics of the Cannes award winners over the years. The only noteworthy thing out of it was that India had the highest ‘probability’ of winning an award going forward (not clear how the conclusion was made, but then, who cares!).

However, the analysis revealed the complete domination of the lead countries – USA/ UK/ Spain/ Brazil, with Asia, Africa completely missing. In fact, this is one global meet where India and China are not dominating the discussions. While India still features once in a while, on the fringes, China is most notably absent. If we were to treat the world as a global market, China, India, and Africa would probably be more than 70 per cent of the market. So, from a communication view point, this is target audience, apart from being markets for the products being sold through the communication.

It is quite stark that these countries don’t even feature or get discussed in the greatest advertising and communication event. It is unlikely that these markets don’t produce good communicators, given the way business is dominated by these markets. The only deduction one can draw is, maybe, they end up making advertising which sells products rather than win awards. Definition of what constitutes great advertising has always been debated and clients and agencies are not always in agreement over this.

Speaking of India and China, or rather their absence here, food is the other area where Cannes seems to have been completely untouched by them. It was a struggle to find a restaurant serving Indian or even Chinese cuisine, and for a diehard vegetarian like me, that’s tough. Rather strange, given that the French fancy themselves as gourmet experts and yet, have not taken to these cuisines. Having travelled quite a bit, I can say for sure that these are most easily found in most parts of the world.

So, a good part of Day One was also spent hunting for these spots, but without success. Did find a few families from Gujarat on the beach. With fond hopes, I befriended them to find out how they have been managing, but was left disappointed – they have brought along their own ‘maharaj’, who cooks Indian food for them! Am sure that’s one innovation most Indian travel package operators would have replicated. Maybe, I should suggest that to Bhaskar Das of TOI, who manages this event for India, to also get a ‘maharaj’ for the gastronomically challenged.

Day Two was a travelers’ delight with the quality of the speakers and sessions sinking as the day progressed and gave me a chance to explore the Riveira further. A train to the medieval town of Eze and the happening city of Monte Carlo was just what the doctor ordered. Eze is a sleepy little town on a hillock, inside a fort with some history and the breathtaking view of the blue sea – well maintained, but surprisingly commercialised. Monte Carlo is an ugly engineering marvel, with the smell of money in the air. Walking along the race track, one could see the fanciful private yachts of the rich and famous lined up on the small bay, the casinos, models of cars, which one otherwise never gets to see, the town square with the magnificent Object d’Art planted at the centre – designer stuff by Anish Kapoor!

The gala dinner was a washout – with some 1,500 people cramming a small stage. However, quite a few Indians surfaced and it was good to see more familiar faces at the Gutter Bar (that’s supposed to be the most happening hangout joint here for the visiting advertising fraternity – a small roadside bar). Wonder how the name ‘gutter bar’ came about – sounds quite ominous. Yahoo, quite smartly, have got the whole place branded for the event.

Tomorrow is an important day with some big names slotted for speaking. More of that later…


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