afaqs!

Lessons from Cannes: How a Lion converted pronouns

JWT's Indu Balachandran describes how one little Silver Lion united the 'divided' Indian ad industry into one collective, 'We'

Indu Balachandran

"Listen, I have an idea…", the copy-person tentatively & #BANNER1 & # says to his art-partner on a muggy afternoon in Chennai. The partner's eyes light up. In that moment, 'I' becomes 'we'. Together, they struggle to craft the idea.

But it's still a lonely couple. Soon, a servicing guy comes along. "Hmmm…", he nods, half in fear, half in joy. "Looks good... it'll be tough but we'll sell it." Suddenly, one more has joined in - the 'we' is now a threesome.

Then, the ad gets released. Someone outside the agency sees it in the papers and exclaims, "Did you guys do this one? It's terrific!"

"Yes, we did it," says a random person in the agency, who was so far saying, "Those guys upstairs have been working on a strange ad…"

Subsequently, the agency enters it at the local city awards show. The work returns empty-handed. "Did our ad win anything?" the whole agency asks together. "No", answers the upset creative team.

That precise moment, the pronoun changes. "Their ad got nowhere. Between you and me, even I couldn't understand it, actually," mutters one critic to another.

Just when almost everybody has forgotten about the advert, the ad pops up again at the annual agency review. "Wow! That's cool," says a creative head from another branch office. "Who did this? You should send it to Cannes!"

Almost by magic, the hands go up. "We did it!" The chorus is in full cry again.

Now, we are in a café in Cannes. Members of a huge gaggle - that's the Indian delegation - are asking each other, "What did you guys enter?" (Notice the singular pronoun here: You.)

Then, the first shortlist is out. There's a rush to see it exhibited in the great hall at the Festival.

The agency folk - who all bonded so well at the Gutter Bar last night, becoming one big Indian family - temporarily divide up into different pronouns, 'yours', 'ours', 'theirs'. "Two of ours….five of theirs…how come your work didn't figure in the list?"

Meanwhile, an entire country of ad people wait back home with bated breath, in cubicles, in shooting floors, in recording studios - wondering what 'they' will bring back home.

Finally, the results are announced and that one ad, created by the lonesome twosome in faraway Chennai, wins.

In that one electrifying moment, the pronoun changes. An entire office in South India erupts in a deafening cry, "We won!"

The pronoun spreads. Five other branch offices around India say, "We won!" Another development: A new brotherhood of 'we' is forming: Ad people from different agencies in Chennai are saying, "We won! Our city beat Mumbai. We even had the highest number of finalists."

Meanwhile, right at the Palais de festival, the 116 delegates from India are unconsciously becoming 'we' converts. As eyes scroll down the winners' shortlist, everyone is suddenly only looking for that one word: India. SMS, calls, and e-mails all suddenly get punctuated with 'we'.

It's funny how one little silver lion can, for a brief moment, unite us - all opinionated, divided, individualistic, competitive ad people - into one collective, 'We'.

(Indu Balachandran is executive creative director, JWT Chennai. Her agency won a Silver Lion for the Red Cross campaign "Give" in the recently concluded Cannes festival.)

© 2005 agencyfaqs!