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Cannes 2003: Implications for India - Part I

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 30, 2003
Taking stock of India's performance at the Cannes Festival, and seeing what this performance can mean to Indian advertising in the time to come


It's been just over a week since the curtains came down on the Cannes International Advertising Festival 2003. And a full week since the Indian contingent to Cannes made its way back home, laden with a never-before haul of Lions. The euphoria attached to the wins has settled somewhat. The whistles and trumpets have been put away. Advertising life has returned to near-normalcy.

Naturally, there's no time like now to take stock of India's performance at Cannes 2003, and see what this performance can mean to Indian advertising in the time to come. True, the naysayers would insist that no number of Lions would have any bearing on the kind of 'real advertising' we do in this country, so why bother taking stock? Another section of opinion would argue that any form of 'taking stock' merely subscribes to the industry's hankering for acclaim from the West - a colonial hangover we can do without. These lines of thought will be addressed as we go along, but stocktaking we must do. And will do.

The pluses first. Three Gold Lions, two Silver Lions and one Bronze Lion. Six Lions in all. Something India has never managed before in one single year. An astonishing 29 nominations (four of which eventually picked up metals) in the Print and Outdoor categories. Something India has never managed before in one single year (one art director exclaimed, "India toh Brazil ho gaya!" when informed about the 29 nominations). Three nominations in Lions Direct, two of which landed awards. Great stuff in a category that is only into its second year at the Festival.

Now the minuses. Not a single nomination for India in the Media Lions category. And a paltry three nominations in the popular Film category, none of which returned metals. Of course, it's not as if we're used to double-digit nominations in Film every year. It's just that the 29 nominations in Print and Outdoor spoilt us silly. Also, what perhaps rankles more than the fact that we had no winners in Film (though a win or two would certainly have offset the disappointment) is the absence of more entries in the shortlist. Most ad folk here are surprised that some Indian commercials failed to make the grade. These include the ads for Center Shock ('barber shop' and 'photograph'), the Nutrela commercial ('fly'), the Times of India ad ('road digging') and Coke's 'Thanda matlab…' campaign (especially after the print campaign struck gold).

The sentiment, however, is upbeat, with most people seeing this as a landmark year. More importantly, there is a feeling that India has created a space for itself at Cannes, and here onwards, Indian wins would be a regular feature at the Festival. "Indian advertising is on the world map, no doubts about that," avers Vikram Gaikwad, creative director, Leo Burnett India. "A benchmark has been set this year, and this will force all of us to strive for more next year."

"It's been a brilliant year for India, and should serve as an inspiration to all of us," agrees Raj Kamble, creative director, Lowe. "Next year, I see many more Indian entries making it to the shortlist, and I also think we will win more Lions next year." Kamble - who technically had a 'nomination' this year for the 'Brazil-West Germany' ad for Nike, which he created with Adrian Mendonza of Rediffusion-DY&R before joining Lowe - finds support in Sean Colaco, creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi India, who also had a nomination for the 'clips' hoarding for Ariel. "The record number of entries from India this year is an indication of how seriously we take Cannes, and the 29 nominations we had in Print and Outdoor is remarkable for it shows that our work is also being taken seriously," Colaco says. "The bar has certainly been raised because of this, and the quality of work will further improve. I expect next year will be even better for us."

Interestingly, Manish Bhatt, creative director, Publicis Ambience, has a slightly different take on this. "It's good for India because we have broken an invisible barrier by winning Gold in Print two consecutive years. It has been proved that we can win metals, not just nominations." However, he cautions that there's another side to the story. "While 29 nominations is good news, I think this might give creatives a feeling that getting a nomination at Cannes is not so tough, and the motivation to excel might get lost." Bhatt, who had a handful of nominations himself, reasons that the standard of work that got nominated from India this year wasn't strikingly different. "In Print, a repetition of ideas, formulas and formats were recognized," he argues. "Does the nominated work this year match up to the best from the past like Fevicol, Complan or the 'journey' or 'second-hand smoke' ads for Cancer? It doesn't. The problem is that when slightly weaker ideas get nominated, an award could acquire an 'easy metal' tag, which could prevent people from pushing for the best ideas. We have to be wary of this."

One person who buys into the argument that India didn't have very good entries this year - especially in Film - is KV Sridhar (Pops), national creative director, Leo Burnett India. "Our TV work was far superior three-four years ago, and credit for that has to go to people like Prasoon (Pandey)," he observes. "However, over the past two years, we haven't improved in TV. We are not doing refreshing work, we are not achieving any breakthroughs in television." Kamble shares Pops' view when he says, "India doesn't do as much edgy work on TV as it does in print. The edgier you get, the more you experiment with ideas, the better your commercials become." Kamble attributes this to risk-averse clients and, of course, the higher costs involved in making commercials.

So, to what extent did India's inability to showcase breakthrough ideas in television result in a poor showing in the Film shortlist? What other factors could have contributed to so few nominations in Film? And what does the preponderance of Indian entries in the Public Service category say about our advertising?

We discuss all that and more in the second part of this article - tomorrow. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

(To be concluded tomorrow)

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