The Cannes Lions festival has a special significance for our advertising fraternity. It allows a certain section of the heavyweights to stretch, yawn and do the 'been there, done that' act. As for young Turks out to drape themselves in glory, it allows them to get sloshed in places that they have never been sloshed before, with the eternal hope of making the metal detectors at airports go haywire on their return. To a major section of the crowd however, it's an opportunity to learn that Cannes is not pronounced cans or canz, but kahn (if you're European) and khan (if you're Indian). Of course, a simple google search on 'Cannes pronunciation' would have thrown up 942,000 results in 0.23 seconds, but then, if you are a fresher, you would have known something that your boss didn't, and that would have gone against you this year-end.
So, for all those agencies that tried hard, but couldn't get themselves to a shortlist, the following could be the reasons:
1. Your entry was not in black and white
Much before Bernbach, Burnett, D'Arcy and Ogilvy left their mark on the advertising landscape, Henry Ford said something that major award-winners have taken note of, year after year. He believed that a Cannes can be of any colour as long as it is black. (Or did he say 'car'? Heck, it doesn't matter -- both are to show off, both take you places and both get you the babe in the end.)
2. Your entry wasn't funny
We're not talking about ads that end up being unintentionally funny, but a lot of clients and agencies in the country believe that cutting back to housewife shrugging her shoulders and rolling her eyes at the camera after the product window in a TVC counts as humour. At Cannes, it doesn't. Anywhere on earth, it doesn't. Not even if the housewife was fat.
3. Your entry wasn't the 'tears in the eyes, hair standing on end' kind
A lot of brand managers have had that experience on seeing the first cut of their brand's TVC, but that has more to do with how they were going to explain the disaster to their boss. Your entry has to make the jury go through that.
4. You did not take up a social cause
Your adhesive helps stick Israel and Palestine together, your mobile service gets a new idea that gets victims of abuse to speak, your egghead characters entertain children in orphanages -- Cannes is that time of the year when the socialist in you hogties the capitalist and lets the Good Samaritan take over. Everyone should have everything -- and you should have your metals.
5. Your entry had an international look
The jury is still out on whether India is a land of snake-charmers and magic. So, don't affect their sensibilities by sending out films shot in a 'John Woo meets Tim Burton' style. (You wouldn't want the room to go dark and spin around them in slow motion.) Make sure that the track is in Bhojpuri or Awadhi. Go for a Raghubir Yadav kind of voice. You could also add sunflower fields for good effect.
6. You got the audio mnemonic all wrong
It's always nice to be inspired by the Intel and Britannia ads for their memorable sign-offs, but the asinine laugh of a star does not, by any stretch of imagination, qualify for acoustic branding. It not only kills the urge to buy the mobile, but will urge the jury to get your whole team together after a wild tequila night -- and kill you all, one by one.
7. You decided that it was the best time to rhyme
Retro is a good genre, but going back to nursery school and reliving rhymes is simply not on. So, be it an ad for a functional mobile featuring dysfunctional models who go sing-king, bazaar-car, been-queen, or a large satellite TV that gets into word play with six-remix, drama-hungama, goli-doli, hook-cook and race-chase, the jury will stare-swear, rue-stew and sweat-regret.
8. Your ad had a celebrity
When Sachin takes guard with a hockey stick, he'll probably be thinking of his pay cheque and you'll probably be thinking of getting his autograph for your nephew, but what'll the jury think?
As a great man once said, 'Bring home a lion. And, the pride will follow'. All the best for 2012!
(L Suresh is an independent creative consultant)