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Guest Column: Takeaways from the Lions Entertainment Jury: Shailja Varghese, Brand New Media

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Guest Column: Takeaways from the Lions Entertainment Jury: Shailja Varghese, Brand New Media

I have spent the last week judging the Lions Entertainment category at Cannes Lions 2016. I was one of the 4 Entertainment jury from the Asia Pacific region, so I took my task very seriously. Least to mention it has been one of the most creatively invigorating experiences of my career. Our jury president Jae Goodman opened with the statement “entertainment should become culture”, which I agree with.

Branded content has gone through a paradigm shift and it’s about finding the spot, which intercedes between brand purpose and consumer needs, to create contextual storytelling, which will lead to conversations and a behavioural change. We selected our Lions Entertainment Grand Prix with this in mind. It was ‘Displaced' for The New York Times.

This virtual reality experience, was honoured by the jury for its experiential power, placing viewers directly inside the global refugee crisis and signalling VR's arrival into the mainstream.

The overall selection process was not easy, with a month’s pre judging prior to landing at Cannes and then narrowing down from 1,843 entries to 61 winners all in 1 week.

Through the week I did notice interesting trends. For example there were lot of entries from U.S. on gun culture and rugby, a few on basketball from Philippines, many social change campaigns from Brazil, exceptional fiction films from France, sports entertainment from Australia and emotional stories from SEA especially India, Japan and China which were strong on insight leading to a behavioral change and transformation in the society. 

In my opinion the Asian market is leading creativity, especially India, China, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and a few emerging markets like Indonesia and Philippines but it starts from the heart talking to heart which is rendered in emotional storytelling. This is supported by fusion of data, tech and creative campaigns. However, this is not understood so well when it comes to global creative forums like Cannes Lions where primarily UK and US are heavily awarded and the low representation from Asia markets is perceived to be sparks of brilliance rather than the norm. So perception superseded the reality. This is quite contrary to the Asia being the most populous continent, with its 4.3 billion inhabitants accounting for 60% of the world population. 

I am sure marketers cannot ignore these markets in the coming times and will try hard for Asia to take the center stage at the global festivals like Cannes lions.

In the coming years I can foresee marketers in SEA especially India and China will think bigger around mobile, virtual reality, and social campaigns, more so to track the consumer journey and ROI. Coming back to judging at Cannes I was happy to see 4 judges from Asia Pacific including myself. The share of voice of Asians in jury rooms is key to get the cultural context and passion in the debates and discussion lest work gets lost in translation. However in the top ten entrant countries from Asia only India, China, Japan and Australia featured. This clearly indicates economic might of the region doesn't match its metal performance at Cannes. Possibly because of the lesser content budgets in Asia and high entry and travel costs most of the independent creative houses shirk from participating in Cannes Lions. However, Asia entries were the ones, which created interesting conversations in the jury room due to the uniqueness of formats, emotional storytelling or quirkiness that simply could not be ignored. 

Below are the few Asian entries this year with strong emotional storytelling that is universal, and like these I am sure there’s lots of universal work from Asia, which will reach Cannes in the years to come

'House Of Little Moments’ by Uni-Noodle from Taiwan won a Gold in cross channel Brand experience.

This was a genuine piece of gem, the craft of storytelling was exceptional with all stories staged in a fictional noodle shop named the “House of Little Moments”. The owner of the noodle shop makes fusion Uni-Noodle recipes that are inspired by protagonists’ moods. The theme of each micro movie comes from common sentiments and feelings such as the unforgettable memory of ex, a romantic encounter. The recipes of the dishes were available online, and interest in the films and recipes led the ADK team to actually open a real noodle shop. This is a perfect case of reel life meets real life and cross channel brand experience. Awesome.

“Dad#ShareTheLoad” for P&G India won a Bronze in Online Fiction. 

The above video is a heart wrenching short story of a father who apologises to his daughter for having been the wrong role model. It's a film about gender inequality at home and I am sure it will resonate with the audiences as it was shared widely on social media and crossed 50 million views in less than 50 days. This is a perfect case of how a brand can create a deeper social change by breaking the pattern of passing down the prejudice from one generation to the next. 

'OrangeAid Last day of school' by NTUC Income from Singapore: Silver (TV & Broadcast Fiction Film). 

I loved the film because of its script, direction and great casting. It was made to raise the issue of inequality in Singapore, and increase the brand awareness of NTUC Income as a cooperative that was doing good. 

Matsuko-Roid, Narural Eight, Japan was shortlisted. This was one of the most quirky and bizzare entry of this year – an android of popular presenter transvestite Matsuko becomes the first in world to host its own TV show, do brand endorsements, TV ads and lots more. 

All in all, seeing so much great work and discussing and learning what makes Cannes judging work great is a genuinely inspiring experience in more ways than one.

(The author is Head-Content Solutions, Brand New Media, SE Asia and was a jury for Lions Entertainment at Cannes Lions 2016)


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