It’s okay if India doesn’t win big year on year at Cannes: Santosh Padhi, Taproot Dentsu

Santosh Padhi, CCO and Co-founder of Taproot Dentsu, talks about what the agency is sending to Cannes this year and what he thinks about India’s overall chances at the festival

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Jun 13, 2019 1:42 AM

Six out of ten years that Taproot Dentsu (earlier Taproot) participated in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, it has managed to bring home at least a Lion (14 in total, including 6 gold), which is more than what most agencies can boast of. As the agency enters its 11th year, we find out what Taproot is sending to Cannes this time and what Santosh Padhi, CCO and Co-founder of Taproot Dentsu, thinks about India’s overall chances at the festival.


Taproot recently completed a decade, and also 10 years of sending entries to Cannes, how differently are you approaching the festival this year and what excites you the most?

Cannes has grown beyond an award festival in the last decade or so. They have been customising things to meet the recent needs of the industry and hence are ahead in the business. The blend of multidimensional awards, speakers, gathering of industry and the lovely vibes on and around the streets of Cannes make me visit again and again. Absolute positivity and great vibes floating in and around the Palace unknowingly create the same positive energy in you. The amount of great award-winning work helps bury one’s ego. The quantum and variety of work gives a great degree of hope to the industry. I have always come back from Cannes and made the team’s lives miserable. So I always wish to visit, and the team prays I shouldn’t!


There are many international awards that Indian agencies participate in, is Cannes still the most awaited? And how do we approach it usually?

Usually, there are two patterns that are followed while entering Cannes Award; one, the work that you produced last year is entered right from the first international award show such as Adfest, OneShow and D&AD etc, and if that work wins and has managed to already get you global momentum, then most of the times it sails smoothly. The other pattern is that you start with entering the work first at Cannes, as some believe certain freshness in the jury room makes the impact. I have seen both patterns work equally if the work is genuinely good. My last few years’ observation tells me that we Indians value Cannes and so most agencies here start exposing the work internationally first with Cannes.


What entries are Taproot Dentsu sending to Cannes this year?

One is ‘Dulux: Nazar Battu’, where we got artists from across India to create unique designs of ‘Nazar Battu’, India’s common symbol to ward off evil, to extend the life of Dulux Weather Shield used to protect the exteriors of the house. The designs printed on the top of the lids allowed consumers to put them up on the façade of the house as per their culture. Second one is ‘Dulux: Painted by Paint’. For years, paint has been perceived as being utilitarian. It is always in the background. We conducted an activation in art galleries and studios, bringing together every colour from the Dulux catalogue and pouring hundreds of litres of paint out of a 9-foot can to create masterpieces. 


What do you think about India's overall chances this year?

Considering the size of our market, one doesn’t get to see all the work that has been produced in a year, barring the big one or the ones that have managed to do their PR well. Hence, it’s always difficult to know who all have produced what kind of work. But I’m pretty sure, like every year, this year too, we will surprise the world with our work. 

I loved the film craft and execution of this piece jointly done by Wunderman Thompson India and Amsterdam office for Jimmy Nelson Foundation called ‘Blink Test’. Some of the raw stunning looking images have been put together with a lovely piece of music; this has already got a nice international award exposure at Adfestand and Oneshow. Apart from that, I have seen a few more which may impress the Cannes jury, but I felt they were short of a few ingredients to create the magic. Lastly, we have been doing well in Health & Pharma plus Glass Lions. Some of the issues we deal with in our country automatically qualifies our work in these categories. So we have a grip on them and I feel we will continue doing well there.

Last year we won half the metals that we won in 2017, what can we do to improve our chances this year?

India has performed very well at Cannes in the last 8-10 years. With many Grand Prix, loads of Golds and more than hundreds of other color metals, our work has been travelling as a benchmark and example and is part of many global meetings and presentations. We have pushed the world to get into the root of our ideas and culture. Yes, it has taken time but finally we got noticed. We have been the inspiration to the world in a very different way, but still we have a long way to go.

Which categories do we always suffer in and why?

If you look at the past, we have done well in most categories, Print Posters for a few years, Design, Direct marketing, Health & Pharma, Glass etc. Yes, Films and Integrated are the toughest of the lot, but we have been having our presence there too. We need to push the executions and scale in such categories. Having said that, a Lion is a Lion and doesn’t matter where it comes from till the India numbers looks healthy compared to others. And lastly, when you are evaluating a person, agency or a nation, I always think it should be an average of at least three years, as creativity is subjective and not a formula that we keep feeding to print the award winning ideas year on year. It’s ok if we don’t win big year on year, as something that goes up eventually has to come down. Very few have sustained the curve upwards for years.  

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