"I don't know if there is any scam work in print, but I can't think any of our TVCs winning at the Cannes this time," said Balki (R. Balkrishnan), national creative director, Lowe India.
That sentence, in a way, summed up how most Indian creative professionals were feeling about India's prospects at the upcoming Cannes festival.
agencyfaqs! spoke to a few industry biggies to get their opinion on the issue. The venue was the Cannes Prediction Showreel presentation by Leo Burnett last Saturday.
Pops aka KV Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India, found the recent Greenply commercial as "fantastic". But he said, "The irony is that internationally people wouldn't understand the concept of reincarnation."
Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, creative director, O&M, too wasn't feeling very bullish on India's chances this year. He said, Indian ads could do better if they had universal appeal.
Agnello 'Aggie' Dias, executive creative director, Leo Burnett India, felt the ads from India across radio, print, outdoor and TVCs were only good enough to repeat last year's disappointing performance (four Bronze Lions).
"There's no way we will have an encore of 2003," he added. India won three Gold Lions, two Silver Lions and a Bronze Lion that year.
He, too, had concerns for Indian ads broadening their appeal. "No doubt, a lot of cultural and local nuances get lost in translation. But interestingly, that doesn't happen with work from places like Brazil and Thailand. This margin can be overcome by the print medium, which can be less complicating." he suggested.
The top-line creative directors assembled at the Leo Burnett event were not very gung-ho about the international line-up for Cannes either. The showreel had 50 TVCs culled from the world's top 25 award shows over the past year.
Leo Burnett's Pops was of the opinion that the commercials were "good, but not great". "The winning idea will be a combination of fresh thinking in communication and the execution" he said.
He said the MTV campaign (nail artist, football champion, salesman) was an example of fresh thinking. The ad said that if MTV was somebody in any profession, it would be the best in that profession. A trend coming through, he felt, was that brands - that were not known for great advertising earlier - were now making their place in such shortlists.
"The Hondas, Toyotas and adidas have been overshadowed by the Volkswagens, BMWs and Nikes. Now, they stand on the same level. We also see a lot of brands which are trying to reinvent themselves," he pointed out. Ads using celebrities, he felt, remained least likely to win as always.
Mahabaleshwar of O&M didn't see any critical trends emerging towards either ideas or execution, but firmly believed that a great ad needed to get a good total score, irrespective of whether it did good or bad in any one department.
KS Chakravarthy, national creative director, Rediffusion/DY&R, described the shortlist as "good...nice...what was that?" He didn't find this year's adverts as great, and would advise Indian agencies of not getting too carried away by the awards, as little of the work actually belongs to mainstream advertising.
"Just like a concept car in an auto-show, or a designer's collection in a fashion show, the winning ads are just a showcase and don't speak much of what the trend really is," he said. He recalled the popular Honda (grrrr!) commercial from the shortlist (a sweet animation film with an even-sweeter jingle, wanting to shift people to quieter and cleaner diesel-engines). He dubbed the work as garbage and wondered how it managed to win the many awards it had.
The creative assemblage nodded in agreement. Some 200 people had attended the Burnett event. The Showreel is a tradition that the agency has been following since 1986, when it was only a contest for Burnett employees.
The purpose was to generate excitement and provide a preview of standard-setting work shown at the prestigious international advertising festival at Cannes for enthusiasts unable to make the trip.
Traditionally, Leo Burnett's Creative Exchange department compiles the reel, after conferring with top creative directors and juries to get the "inside scoop" on commercials with greatest potential to win at the festival.
These are then narrowed down to the strongest contenders by Burnett's Global Product Committee (a rotating cross-functional team of Leo burnett's senior creative directors, managing directors, planners and producers from around the world, who debate and judge work produced across the agency network). Predicting 13 of the last 15 Grand Prix winners, the agency's executives seem to be quite on-the-ball. © 2005 agencyfaqs!