afaqs!

Points of View: Hungry for lions?

By Sohini Sen and Saumya Tiwari , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | June 15, 2015
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Do campaigns showing the country in a poor light and playing up to stereotypes tend to win more at Cannes?

Remember Lifebuoy's Gondappa film which won big at Cannes last year? Or even the others from 2014's metals tally - including 'Share my Dabba' and 'No Child Brides'. If one common thread could be pulled through them all, we would see that each of them showed our country in a poor or hungry, impoverished light.

Call it the Slumdog Millionaire syndrome (remember the movie which went on to win an Oscar and lot of international praise, even as it showed the underbelly of Mumbai?) or just a coincidence, the fact remains that most award winners from India, of late, have been the ones which have played up to the stereotypes of the country being backward, neglected and poor.

Points of View: Hungry for lions?

Now, Cannes Lion is undoubtedly one of the biggest awards for any creative agency. Who wouldn't want to display that glamorous statue on their mantelpiece? But, while it is true that farmers killing themselves need to be reported in media, and issues like child marriage should be discussed as well, can it happen that campaigns like these tend to touch the international jury more?

In turn, can it also be true that Indian agencies and brands are trying to portray India in a not-so-holy light just to get a better shot at the awards? Are we really that 'hungry for lions'?

Arun Iyer
National Creative Director, Lowe Lintas + Partners

Arun Iyer

There are certain perceptions that the western world carries about us - such as poverty, health issues. It is not the only image of the country, but as an industry we seem to be pandering to that.

While the chances of winning a lion if you play up to the stereotypes is not brighter, it is true that around 80 per cent of winners in the last decade have probably done that.

The expectations of playing back the images are not just limited to India. We expect campaigns from Ireland to be funny, we want to see more finesse and craft from Brazil etc. However, I don't see the same expectation when it comes to print.

What is more important, is the ripple effect it creates. You may have done some genuine work and won an award. This creates a cycle where agencies think that work on that pattern can get more awards.

Santosh Padhi
Co-founder and CCO, Taproot

Santosh Padhi

I see it happening, not just in India but everywhere. Brands are trying to make a difference to society and not just sell products. Maybe the difference is that the western countries will make something like a 3D printer (Intel) and we will do a Dabbawalla campaign. Whichever is the right channel to reach our audience, the relevant thing for our TG, we will do that. It is about recognising local issues, not about trying to win awards.

Fortunately or unfortunately India has lot more issues than the world has. And we have been doing public service advertising for years. Google did a Indo-Pak film. Though it is cliched, but it is the reality.

However, it is a task to make the international jury understand that this is a problem in India and therefore we are trying to find a solution. Ultimately the jury is awarding the creative idea and not the country.

Josy Paul
Chairman and CCO, BBDO

Josy Paul

Winning at Cannes is unpredictable. The work has got to be fresh and original. The idea itself needs to touch a universal chord. And the execution has to really move you.

Some of the recent campaigns that have won big at Cannes without showing 'underprivileged India' are ideas like Nike's 'Make Every Yard Count', and Gillette's 'Shave Sutra' and 'Women Against Lazy Stubble'.

But we've also seen big winners that look at the country's underdevelopment and find solutions to uplift it. These are prototypes for good. Recently, for the 'The Indian Confederation of NGOs' ( iCongo), we put out a lighthearted 'video appeal to the jury at Cannes Lions' - the film on YouTube urged the jury to be more conscious of some of these things. The film went viral instantly! The industry loved it. It's great when an industry laughs at itself.

Bobby Pawar
Chief Creative Officer, Publicis South Asia

Bobby Pawar

The vast majority of Indian winners at Cannes have nothing to do with showing the country in a bad light. By and large they are dramatizations of the product benefit.

The few campaigns that can be accused of putting a lens on the uglier bits of the country are mostly of the public service variety. Since their job is to try to solve the wrongs in society, they will pull the curtain back from some unsavory truths.

Does that induce international juries to award the entries? Not quite. Good juries tend not to award the uniqueness of the problem, but the genius of the solution. So if you want hold up a lion plated in gold, you'd be much better off using the wrinkled bits of your brain to find a great idea rather than a new social problem.

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