'A year of heart-warming performances, but Indian adland needs introspection'

Cannes Lions 2021 winners met at Clubhouse to reflect on the year's wins and where the industry needs to improve

e4m by Mansi Sharma
Published: Jun 28, 2021 8:26 AM  | 4 min read
cannes lions

Cannes Lions 2020-21 Festival of Creativity had started on a rather dour note for India as it managed to bag no shortlists in the Titanium, Innovation, and Glass Lions. However, as the festival progressed, the Indian contingent was back in the game, winning 22 Lions -- including 2 Gold, 9 Silver, and 11 Bronze Lions -- a slight increase from its 2019 performance of 18 wins. 

The industry believes that though India’s performance after a year of uncertainty was certainly heartwarming, the agencies need to reflect on why the sheen of metals is dimming for the past two years. 

Speaking in a Clubhouse room, hosted by exchange4media for the winners of the year,  Cheil India CCO Emmanuel Upputuru said, “India is quite consistent at maintaining its average metal count for the past few years now, but I couldn’t help but notice that the numbers of Grand Prix and Gold Lions are slowly coming down. This, as an industry, we need to think how we can improve.” 

The average metal wins for India in the past five years has been 25-26, the biggest win coming in 2017 with 40 Lions. India consistently won at least one Grand Prix since 2015 the maximum being two in 2018, but the past two seasons have run dry on that part.

He also added that he is quite happy about how is India is finally making headway in modern categories, moving from its habitual strong forte of Film, Print & Publishing, and Outdoor Lions. “It shows that we have been evolving as an industry and creating good work in digital formats.”

For the past two years, digital-first creative agency Dentsu Webchutney has been emerging as the top winner at Cannes Lions. This year, the agency managed to win 7 Lions for three campaigns -- ‘The 8-bit Journo’, ‘Better Half Recipes’, and ‘The World’s Most Reported Trailer’, the former-most getting India its first-ever digital-craft Lion. 

The agency’s NCD PG Aditiya, lauding his team for the exceptional work, added that this feat has come on the back of exceptional brands like Swiggy. He said, “Great work comes from great brands. For example, Swiggy. Last year, we won Lions for them for a very goofy campaign (The Voice of Hunger). But this time, they wanted to go beyond that. And ‘The Better Half Recipes’ is in a completely different flavour. They decided that they want to share this ambition of creating path-breaking content and winning laurels with us. Agencies should realise that winning awards is not an echo chamber for our egos and for us to feel good about us. Great brand partnerships are equally important.” 

Adding to the discussion, DDB Mudra Group CCO Rahul Mathew noted that he wants to see the winning work at Cannes move beyond being just highly social. 

He said, “I am not saying that we are doing it any better, we too have won it for ‘Project Free Period’, which is social work. But we certainly need to move beyond creating just that kind of work. Because at the end, and it is true for our fellow South Asian countries as well, that we end up competing with our own work and I feel that is one of the reasons that metals are slowly dwindling down for us.”  

FCB Interface Vice Chairperson & CCO Robby Matthew noted that he was quite impressed by the kind of work India managed to present and work for at Cannes Lions 2021. “It was great winning this time, especially in the times that we are living in right now. I loved all the work that we presented there, especially ‘Project Free Period’ (by DDB Mudra Group).” 

For the uninitiated, the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity wrapped in a virtual format on 25 July after a weeklong celebration of groundbreaking advertising from across the globe. India had sent 699 entries, culminating for two years, out of which 77 got shortlisted.

Here’s the overall performance of India at Cannes 2021, in terms of shortlists and wins.

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