This is the first & #BANNER1 & #time that I have been to the Cannes Advertising Festival. I have travelled a bit around the world, but this festival has somehow eluded me.
My colleague, Prajjal Saha, who has been here before, is covering the festival. How could I make myself useful, I wondered?
What if I looked at the Cannes Lions 2008 as a cricket statistician would? And tried to predict how the Indian entries would perform on a purely statistical basis?
So here goes a statistical answer to everything you wanted to know about India's participation at Cannes. The analysis is based on India's performance between 2004 and 2007.
Q. To begin with, how many Lions has India won over the last four years?
A. Until two years ago, the Indian score was always in single figures. Its tally of Lions was poor, with six being the maximum in 2003. However, agencies in India won a total of 12 Lions each year in both 2006 and 2007.
Q. Where does that place India in the league of award winning ad nations?
A. I looked at two recent years, 2004 and 2007, for comparison. (Just to give you an idea, this year, entries have been received from 85 countries.)
In 2004, a dozen countries won 10 Lions or more. In 2007, a total of 18 countries got into double digits.
In 2004, India with its four Lions, tied with Malaysia for 17th place in the number of awards won.
In 2007, India with 12 Lions, tied for 14th place with Malaysia, Thailand and The Netherlands.
So, yes, India is gradually going up the ladder.
Q. Some mean souls say India is doing better because it is sending more entries than before. Is that true?
A. There are two parts to the question. The answer to the first part is that, yes, India has sent twice as many entries in 2008 as it did in 2004: 1,109 entries as opposed to 541.
Prajjal has calculated that in 2008, Indian agencies spent Rs 2.6 crore in entry fees at Cannes. And mind you, that does not include associated expenses involved in preparing and sending the entries.
Q. So, it is true that Indians are winning more because they are spending more?
A. More entries do help, but the Indian strike rate is getting better, too. Let me explain.
In 2004, there were 18,706 entries worldwide, which won a total of 396 Lions.
In comparison, in 2007, there were 25,660 awards, which led to 482 Lions.
India's share of the entries in 2004 was 2.9 per cent; its share in the awards: 1.0 per cent.
In 2007, India's share of entries had risen to 3.6 per cent; its share of Lions was 2.5 per cent.
So, yes, India's share of entries did grow between 2004 and 2007 (from 2.9 per cent to 3.6 per cent), but its share of the awards grew even faster: from 1 per cent to 2.5 per cent.
This happened because India's strike rate of successes has risen. In 2004, only 0.7 of India's entries (four out of 541) won awards. In 2007, 1.3 per cent of the entries (12 out of 931) did so.
If you were to look at the average between 2004 and 2007, India's strike rate has been 1.10 per cent: Every 91st entry during this period won a Lion. The best strike rate was in 2006 at 1.6 per cent: Every 63rd entry that year made it on to the stage.
Q. How does India's strike rate compare with that of the major award winning nations?
A. In spite of a substantial jump in its hit rate from 0.7 per cent in 2004 to 1.3 per cent in 2007, India continues to stay at No. 18 among the list of major ad nations in terms of strike rate.
But it was just a hair's breadth away on the strike rate, behind countries like Sweden and Brazil in 2007, and can hope to climb a bit up the ranks.
The UK, which came up with the highest Lions, 70, in 2004, had a marvellous strike rate of 4.6 per cent. However, the US, which came out on top in 2007 with 76 Lions, had a hit rate of merely 2.1 per cent. So, there are substantial swings between one year and another.
However, the average strike rate among the top 18-20 nations is about 2.5 per cent. This means that every 40th entry from these countries comes up with a Lion. India's average for the last two years shows that every 70th entry makes it.
Q. In which categories has India won most?
A. Over the last four years, India has won nine Press Lions and eight Outdoor Lions. These are also the categories in which two-thirds of the Indian entries between 2004 and 2007 were made.
Q. Is the strike rate of success the same across award categories?
A. Before going into that, remember that the Indian strike rate over the last four years has been 1.1 per cent.
Speaking broadly, India's hit rate has been significantly better in the newer categories between 2004 and 2007: It is 4.3 per cent in Promo Lions (two of 47 entries so far have been awarded); 2.9 per cent in Radio Lions (two of 69); 1.7 per cent in Lions Direct (three of 181); and 1.3 per cent in Media Lions (three of 225).
In both Outdoor Lions (eight of 911) and Press Lions (nine of 976), the strike rate has been 0.9 per cent, lower than the Indian average strike rate of 1.1 per cent. Film Lions is the only big category where the hit rate of 1.3 per cent is above the Indian norm, but that's only because, after a consistently poor show, India won three Lions in 2007.
The worst category from the Indian standpoint so far has been Cyber Lions, where it hasn't won a single award in spite of 92 entries between 2004 and 2007.
Q. On to the final question. Statistically speaking, how many Lions can India win this year?
A. There are 1,109 entries from India in 2008.
Scenario I: India gets the lowest strike rate of recent years, 0.5 per cent in 2005. India wins six Lions.
Scenario II: India has the same strike rate as in 2007, 1.3 per cent. India wins 14 Lions.
Scenario III: India's strike rate reaches 1.6 per cent, as in 2006, its highest ever. India wins 18 Lions.
If none of this pans out, we could always borrow from cricket and blame the glorious uncertainties of advertising.