Spotlight: Will a sluggish 2017 impact India's contingent to Cannes in 2018?

Slow growth in 2017 and fewer categories at Cannes are the main factors that are influencing how Indian agencies take part in the international awards festival

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Updated: Apr 17, 2018 9:00 AM

After setting a record at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity with a 40 metal haul, participation could be rather lukewarm from India this year, say some heads of creative agencies.

Slow growth in 2017 and fewer categories at Cannes are the main factors that are influencing how Indian agencies take part in the international awards festival.

The recently concluded Abbys registered a 35 per cent decline in participation over 2017. The Abbys received 3303 entries in 2018 while in 2017 it saw 4884 entries. Ajay Kakar, Vice President of The Advertising Club and Chairman - Awards Governing Council, attributed the drop in participation to a bad year and budgetary constraints.

Structural and regulatory reforms implemented by the government impacted ad spending in 2017, resulting in the lowest growth – 10% - in the last five year for the advertising industry. Clients slashed advertising budgets in wake of demonetisation and the implementation of the GST Bill. Kakar felt that the 10 per cent growth would also cast its shadow on the participation at Cannes 2018.

In a bad year like the last one,  Amer Jaleel, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer with Mullen Lintas, feels that when business is impacted, advertising shifts gears as well and the focus turns to more “bread and butter kind of work” than campaigns created to impress jurors. “When business is good, agencies and creatives have time to pursue work that can typically appear at Cannes. In a bad year energies are more focussed on things like more pitching and there is less time to do that extra bit of craft.”

He also felt that as the industry is emerging from a bad year the appetite for risk may be lower in 2018. “In a good year one can take that risk of sending in several entries of which some will win and bring the team fame. But when you are hard pressed with budgetary constraints, it is less likely that one will put in many entries at Cannes,” Jaleel observed.

More than 2017’s long shadow, some say that the overhaul at Cannes could also reflect on limited participation. Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Chairman & Chief Creative Officer, Soho Square India, is of the opinion that both category consolidation and a cap on the number of categories in which a single campaign can be nominated will result in a fewer entries across agencies. “This means that even if as an agency you want to back an entry, there are limited channels to enter that campaign,” he said.

Chattopadhyay strongly felt that the Indian ad industry “will scale back entries this year” also because of the economic and structural reforms from which the industry is now recovering.

While one section of the industry is ascribing the drop in participation to economic factors and the Cannes revamp, others feel that it is the lack of good work that is resulting in the drop. One industry veteran credited the drop in entries at GoaFest to less work worth nominating for awards.

“When the tides are rough and clients are cutting budgets, creativity has to peak. One cannot say that because budgets are cut, creativity is cut. When you have less money, you need to be more creative and create greater impact with that money,” said Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman and CEO, FCB India. He felt that the logic of bad year equals lesser creativity does not hold.

The industry is not filled with pessimists alone proves Tarun Rai, JWT South Asia, CEO. He is positive about taking part at Cannes. “I can’t comment on other agencies, but our reason for not participating was not slow growth. We had a pretty good year. And this year is good too so our participation at Cannes will be like other years,” he said.
But it still leaves us with one question: Cannes we do it again?

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