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Pratap Bose @ Cannes: The greatest creative festival in the world

27-June-2011
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Pratap Bose @ Cannes: The greatest creative festival in the world

The final metal was given out at Cannes 2011 tonight, and with that ended another chapter in the annals of the Cannes Lions Festival.

Everything about Cannes this year was bigger on scale. The queues for the seminars were longer. A record number of entries were entered this time including the ones from India… 1,177 to be precise, the seminars were packed to the rafters and even the parties were better.

It was an improved performance over last year as far as the gongs were concerned for India, with 24 metals in all, up from 17 metals last year. What was interesting though, was the fact that the Indian metals were won not solely by the traditional big guns, but across agencies on whom you probably didn’t place your pre Cannes bets.

I certainly won’t be biased if I said that Mudra and BBDO clearly were a clear notch above everybody else, not just for the metals that they won but for the number of shortlists as well, which in itself is as much an achievement at Cannes.
Someone asked me …what was the one learning for Indian agencies this time around? I have said this repeatedly and I say it again … Large traditional advertising agencies have to realise that the consumers we deal with today are very different from what they were, even say five years ago.

What they are saying now is LEAVE US ALONE. We’re not interested in your message – unless it’s desired, personal and relevant. Therefore agencies who get that, and are grounded strongly in engaging and emotionally connecting with them, and have the wherewithal to deliver these in terms of skill sets and specialised services will be the ones who do well at the award shows too. The good 30-second spot agencies don’t have a choice but to reinvent themselves.

I’m dwelling a little more on the Indian metals tally, because that’s one of the main reasons why we come to Cannes don’t we? To see if our work is worthy of winning.

What perturbs me is the fact that barring a few, most India jurors vote against their fellow Indian agencies, which is why our Indian tally is never as quite as it deserves to be.

It is a well known secret that the LATAM jury members, for example, go all out in the final judging stages for Gold, Silver and Bronze to ensure, that their part of the world wins, irrespective of agency or country. They are united, ‘brothers in arms’ and protectionists of themselves and very proud if I may add, in their belief that they are the messiahs of advertising creative ability.

Our creative brethren from India are unfortunately never those who are that magnanimous, and that’s a pity. Reminds me of the ‘crabs in the well’ story.
Like all Cannes seminars there were a few outstanding speakers and I have picked two speakers/ seminars as my favourite ones for 2011.

The Kraft seminar featuring Malcom Gladwell on Day 2 was quite a revelation.
In an environment where we all are attuned to being first and where the ‘importance of being first’ is normally paramount, Malcom took a very radical view when he said that we should first aim to be 3rd or even sometimes 4th.
When you aren’t first and you have the ability to steal with pride, you can make up for lost ground by learning, adapting and improvising upon the mistakes that your competitors perhaps made.

Facebook wasn’t the first social networking site … Friendstar was …and then came MySpace. A culture built for innovation does not often allow for implementation and what customers want is very different from making innovations.

My second favourite pick was Sir Ken Robinson’s speech in the launch of the Ogilvy & Inspire series. Ogilvy& Mather used the occasion on David Ogilvy’s 100th birthday and his wife Herta’s presence added to the sweet nostalgia of the occasion.
Sir Ken Robinson, in my view, epitomised the eloquent and classic British style of public speaking. He had depth, wit and provoked the heart of the creative act, which is Inspiration.

“When talent meets passion, that’s where the magic happens,” he said. Inspiration then flows like the adrenalin as the sprinter lines up for the 100 meters final of the Olympic Games. I couldn’t agree more.

The other British knight, Sir Martin Sorrell, was the moderator in two back to back seminars, including The Cannes Debate, with his usual “matter of fact” self. What I liked about him was the that he wasn’t afraid to ask the hard questions … including the one when he asked James Murdoch whether he was planning to buy Formula 1. The icing on the cake for Sir Martin must have been when WPP won the Holding Company of the Year after wresting it from Omnicom after all these years.

The works on show at the Award nights were a revelation too. Fantastic creative ideas on the four evenings made me often say the clichéd sentence to myself “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Droga5 with three Grandprix winners, and the ROM chocolate entry from McCann Romania, which won two Grand Prix, clearly stole the show this year.

I must admit that I am inspired yet again, as I head back to my office and back to the drawing board again. For those who could make it this year to Cannes, I would implore you to cascade the work and learnings to those eager minds back in your agencies. Ideas are for sharing and what better, than to take those ideas we witnessed from the Mecca of creativity, back to our people to make them better craftsmen.

As I leave Cannes, something at the back of my head repeatedly tells me that it is all about doing a few things, and doing them brilliantly. Less than 2 per cent of all Indian entries win metal, and that’s a statistic over the last five years! Think about it my friends… there’s a lot of truth in those numbers.

Adios till next year.

(Pratap Bose is CEO, Mudra Max.)

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