How the pandemic could affect India’s participation at Cannes Lions

Industry watchers assert that the volume of entries sent by Indian agencies are likely to see a decline due to the reduced quantum of work owing to the pandemic

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jun 8, 2021 9:26 AM
Cannes Lions

January is usually when industry executives would be booking their flights to the French Riviera. And by June second week, adland would be all set to hit the French Riviera - looking forward to celebrating ideas, thought-provoking discussions, the panoramic landscape of the azure seas casting its magic, rose, yacht parties, and more. But as Covid-19 has continued to surge this year, Cannes Lions 2021 a.k.a, the Oscars of advertising which is finally upon us is set to be purely a digital event for 2021, the organizers have announced after initially stating earlier this year their intention for the annual festival to take place in France as usual. However with the second wave of the pandemic wreaking havoc across the country and hitting businesses, to what extent will it impact India’s participation at Cannes Lions 2021 given the excessive charge that one has to bear for nominating their work at the festival?

A resultant dip in entries?

Taproot Dentsu’s Co-founder & CCO Santosh Padhi feels that on an overall scale, there must have been a dip in the volumes of the entries that Indian agencies send to Cannes. “It’ll differ from agency to agency. Everyone is smart enough to know where to put in the money and from where to cut it. As much as the financial losses, another reason behind this could also be that not much great work happened in the last year because of the situation we all found ourselves in. We were lucky to have been able to produce the Facebook Pooja Didi ad that has already won so many awards at different festivals,” he asserts.

Padhi adds that award functions like these are needed within a creative ecosystem. "I truly believe that good work needs to be celebrated. This not just boosts the morale of the young people but also guides the industry into creating more powerful narratives. And the entry fee should not be a barrier for anyone to participate. I would agree that the entry fee to most of these competitions is quite high. I feel the googles of the world who are playing a massive role in digital marketing also getting a good chuck from our industry hence award festivals should reach out to them for support as if the industry does well they will also do further well,” he says.

The Ascential-owned festival was earlier optimistic about its return to being held in person in 2021 but was later declared to be held as a virtual event due to the Covid-led lockdowns in various parts of the world.

Anil Nair, CEO, VMLY&R India, too admits that there is most likely to be a decrease in the number of entries, most likely due to the reduced quantum of work, as well as opportunities, owing to the pandemic and the lockdowns. However, I also look forward to the pandemic throwing up stories of hope and innovation as difficult times always add grist to the creativity mill.

I feel sorry for the numerous young creative minds deprived of opportunities that afford interaction and collaboration; many would consider this past year as one that was stolen from their budding careers.

I hope that there are some, if not many, ideas that emerge out of this doom and gloom as a silver lining to what has otherwise been a Titanic washout of a year. But I’m sure that irrespective of who wins, we will have the entire fraternity cheering from the sidelines,” Nair remarks. 

Let there be hope

Senthil Kumar, Chief Creative Officer, Wunderman Thompson India, remarks that it sure has been a difficult year for everyone with several marketing plans and communication campaigns postponed to 2021 and continues unabated with some ideas even pushed to 2022, post the second wave. However, he has an optimistic way to look at the situation. “Art is nothing without Exhibition. Creativity is nothing without Recognition. Ideas are nothing without Celebration. And when it comes to Cannes Lions, the Oscars of Advertising, we have to find a way to exhibit the best Indian ideas on the world stage. If agencies and marketing teams have created work last year that has impacted the markets and moved the nation, in spite of the crisis, I believe it has to be seen and cherished, and celebrated by the world at large. I believe it’s never about the size of the agency or the size of the budget but the size of the ideas. The bigger the idea, the deeper your faith, and you will find a way to fund the exhibition of your idea, one way or another,” Kumar asserts. 

The biggest change this year is that the Lions, the awards themselves, will be back after a two-year hiatus.

According to Samir Asher, Co-Founder & COO, Tonic Worldwide, the question for agencies is whether they want to burden their teams with crafting entries when most are trying to manage the Covid situation or are recovering from it.

“This year for everyone the priorities are different, however since it's virtual event participation may not be impacted. Good entries will find their way to the awards.  However, agencies will be stretched helping clients who might have got impacted in the second wave and as partners would want to support. Cannes Lions should also factor these situations and relook at the entry fees,” Asher notes.

The Lions will take place from June 21-June 25 and will have a live broadcast every day, with Daily Award Shows hosted by Juan Senor in Cannes. There will also be one-hour specials focused on each Lion, where the Jury President presents a deep dive into the work, and chats with the winners.

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