Where's the chink in India's creative armour?

From budgets, lack of mid-level talent, low quality execution, to entry barriers at award shows, the hurdles are many but the industry is upbeat about overcoming them

A spectacular and record-breaking innings across award shows last year, has made India a force to be reckoned with at the global advertising platform. At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity alone, India bagged a record 40 metals in addition to 10 pencils at the D&AD awards, seven Clio awards and a whopping 49 metals at Spikes Asia. Not just this, India's leading (M)Ad Men, Piyush and Prasoon Pandey will receive the highest honour at Cannes this year, the Lion of St Mark, for their work and contribution to the industry.

Yet, Indian creative agencies lag behind in the Gunn Report, an authoritative global index of creative excellence in Advertising. Only McCann Worldgroup India featured in the top 50 agencies list (ranked 32 worldwide.) In addition to McCann Worldgroup India, six other agencies from India made it to the top 50 APAC list. Taproot Dentsu, BBDO, Ogilvy and Mather, Leo Burnett, Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi along with Wieden+Kennedy appeared in the list, in that order, for their path-breaking campaigns from 2017.

Award show entry barrier

While finding them in such global lists is always a matter of pride and celebration, Indian agencies not featuring in this list or any list for that matter should not be the only reflection of the creativity and calibre of agencies here, felt Kainaz Karmakar, Group Creative Director - ‎Ogilvy & Mather India. She said, "Our work is creatively sharp and relevant. A lot of our work is making a mark on the world and we must acknowledge that. Not just in creative awards but also in international effectiveness award shows. This report, like every report card must be looked at with a sense of balance."

Finding a place in the Gunn Report is dependent on the number of awards an agency wins. Topping the Gunn Report therefore is all about playing the awards game. Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi (Publicis Groupe) that won accolades for the GiveHer5 campaign last year will not be participating in any award shows in 2018 as per the holding company's directive to divert funds to building the AI platform Marcel. "Playing this award is a very expensive game; with the entry factor and all. It's also about how significant India is in ad market globally. We are important from a strategic perspective but not from the top 10 global ad revenue market perspective because of our economy," pointed out Anil S Nair, CEO and Managing Partner, Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi. 

He further added, "We're the so-called under-valued ad market in terms of the value for population. So the fact is that we don't have the kind of resources to play up this awards game."

Taproot Dentsu has emerged as the second most awarded agency from India in 2017 as per the Gunn Report. It is ranked at 20 in the APAC top agencies list. Agnello Dias, co-founder and CCO, Taproot Dentsu, concurred with Nair, when he said that, "Entering awards is tough. So if you can't enter awards, you cannot get a high score in the Gunn Report irrespective of what you do."

Understanding India

While taking part in award shows is a real hurdle for agencies, there are other factors that dictate India's representation globally. "According to me, it's also about the constitution of the jury and their understanding of the work that needs to be awarded. Many times, we think a certain piece of work is good internally and we share it with our global counterparts; but we don't get the kind of acknowledgment we were hoping for. That's because of a cultural disconnect and also their understanding. Because our humour is very different than theirs. Even if you were to look at the Oscars, the benchmarks are really different," noted Nair.

He added, "It's also that the market for all work produced in India is in India only. That's not the case for many other countries. What's produced in UK or US is exposed beyond that particular region."

Talent Woes

Pointing out that talent deficit is a concern for agencies, Prasoon Joshi, Chairman McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific and CEO & CCO of McCann Worldgroup India, said, "There is a talent deficit at mid-level. The maximum churn has happened here with a lot more avenues open for the talent to explore so today we see a gap and an area of concern here. Industry is cognisant of this reality and has been making efforts to retain this talent and also groom younger talent."

Improve idea execution

Karmakar felt that India does need to sharpen some of its approaches. "We can sharpen our understanding of new-age media and push those boundaries harder. We can put our minds to how our executions can compete with the best in the world and become the best in the world," she said.

Execution, as Karmakar pointed out, is what India does not get right even when there is a great idea. Nair said, "Many times, our finesse of execution lets us down. People in the network have confessed that the idea was to do well but finally when it came to gold or silver consideration, the shortlist conversion, if you look at it from a mere marketing perspective, is very poor."

Budgets fail us too. Nair further added, "We don't have the ability to pay for all technical teams across advertising. It's important have that level of detailing in our films."

We shall overcome

Speaking about India's global performance, Joshi said that while there is much left to be desired, "Internationally India's talent is well recognised today and I'm optimistic about the future of our talent." He further added, "Indian Advertising has come a long way and is uniquely addressing the complex demands and needs of the market and brands."

Both Nair and Karmakar said that while India does have to improve its quality of work and execution, one must not dwell on lists and rankings. "We have a long way to go and should look beyond if we can make our advertising better," said Nair. Karmakar was confident that "We can do all this, but we must do it with joy and without a sense of panic."

"We must never turn into those parents who make a report card, the only measure of their child's success," she pointed out. For more updates, subscribe to exchange4media's WhatsApp Channel- https://bit.ly/2QUdLCK

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