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Retrospect 2003: Six Lions, one ad congress and a few good ideas

By , agencyfaqs! | In | January 05, 2004
For all the naysaying, 2003 was certainly hugely significant for Indian advertising for the manner in which it made inroads at Cannes


When India docked 29 finalist nominations in the Print and Outdoor categories at last year's Cannes International Advertising Festival, wonder who choked harder: the international advertising community or their counterparts here in India? That just four of these 29 nominations ultimately translated into Lions is beside the point. The fact that Indian advertising had descended on advertising's sanctum like a Hun out of the steppe was enough to take the breath away.

The breath caught but momentarily, of course. For, as already mentioned, when it came to actually claiming metal at Cannes, it was quickly evident that Indian advertising still has some way to go. Especially in the all-important Film category, where India picked up a piffling three nominations. It was the closest we got to Lions in Film last year, it must be added.

Yet, for all the naysaying, 2003 was certainly hugely significant for Indian advertising for the manner in which it made inroads at Cannes. The country returned an unprecedented Lion tally of three Golds, two Silvers and one Bronze. Add to this the 29 nominations, and it's fairly obvious that India has ceased to be a fringe entity at Cannes. No, it doesn't mean we will automatically fare well at Cannes this year. (In fact, going by the work produced in 2003, many in the industry harshly, and perhaps rightly, rule out "such wishful thinking".) All it means is the country is now more than just another blip in the Cannes radar.

If it was a high noon for India at Cannes last year, credit has to go to O&M India with its haul of five Lions. ("For all those public service ads," we hear the Ogilvy baiters snigger, to which all we say is, look people, O&M isn't the only agency making 'those public service ads', so how come they're the only ones getting awarded for public service advertising? And just for the record, two of the Lions Ogilvy brought back were for DM exercises done for mainstream clients such as Hutch and Businessworld.) And McCann-Erickson India deserves praise for laying its hands on a Gold Lion for the brilliant print rendition of Coke's pervasive 'Thanda matlab…' thought.

No mention of India's recent triumphs at Cannes can be complete without mention of O&M India's creative chief Piyush Pandey being appointed as Jury President for the 2004 Cannes Advertising Festival. No mean achievement for a man who almost became, among other things, a professional tea taster, Pandey's feat is seen not only as accolade for Indian advertising but for Asian advertising, as a whole. For helping put India on the world's advertising map, take a bow, Piyush.

If O&M and its moustachioed honcho were the toasts of the local ad fraternity post-Cannes, Pandey came in for much criticism by the same bunch of people for the manner in which India's creative showcase was handled at the biannual Asian advertising congress - AdAsia - which the country hosted in Jaipur in November 2003. Pandey, who presented the best creative work from India, set the mercury rising by showcasing work almost entirely produced by his agency.

Our sympathies are with those who believe the showcase should have been representative of the good work produced by the industry, and not just by O&M. Admittedly, in recent times, O&M has almost always produced some of the best advertising seen locally, but there's no denying that other agencies have also come up with good advertising… some of which even Cannes has acknowledged. That advertising should have found its rightful place in the Indian showcase. It didn't. That and all the good stuff that O&M has been doing… that would have been a true celebration of Indian advertising.

Speaking of AdAsia 2003, the massive four-day Asian congress was easily one of the highpoints in India's advertising calendar last year, coming as it was to India 21 years. An event of such scale and magnitude would obviously have presented a logistical nightmare, but all credit to the AdAsia Organising Committee and the Bombay Ad Club for pulling off AdAsia 2003 with Swiss watch precision.

One of the biggest draws at AdAsia 2003 was the impressive array of speakers sharing their wisdom on different aspects of management, advertising and marketing. Yet, the speaker sessions, it has to be said, were a mixed bag. More than a handful of speakers gave the attending delegates enough to chew on, but a few, for whatever reasons, didn't quite live up to the reputations that preceded them. Or so went the consensus. Those who impressed in particular were Ricardo Semler, Sergio Zyman (he had a point of view that was either applauded or abhorred), Scott Bedbury, Clyde Fessler, Santosh Desai, David Droga, Marcello Serpa and Jeff Goodby. And yes, from an advertising perspective, Day Four - with Droga, Serpa and Goodby holding centre stage - was pure value-for-money. Ah, and Tarsem Singh's jaw-unhinging showreel was the unexpected bang for the buck.

While on the topic of showreels, with 2003 coming to a close, all agencies would be in the midst of compiling their respective 2003 reels. While the industry wouldn't - couldn't - have seen all the work that came out this year (especially the creative that came out during the fag end of 2003), we did a quick check to see which pieces of advertising from last year stood out, purely in terms of creativity. Piecing our findings together with what we at agencyfaqs! have seen and analysed, here's a roundup of the work that broke clutter.

The universal favourite (and may we add, the strongest contender for the Campaign of the Year award) is the lovely Hutch campaign ('Wherever you go, our network follows'). So we didn't say anything new. Fine, and because enough has been said and written about the simplicity of the ad and its proposition, we'll let it pass. On to another extremely popular and endearing ad - incidentally with a kid and dog to boot. Maruti (the 'toy car' ad). Again, this one scores for the simplicity in the thought and the single-minded proposition. 'Paanch matlab chhota Coke.' Aamir Khan's officious Bihari Samaritan act and Rajesh Vivek's oafishness mix well to deliver a delectable piece of communication. That this ad essentially sold a price proposition by borrowing from and adding to the 'Thanda' campaign makes it a clean winner, giving Coke a chance to take a shot at the Best Continuing Campaign award (in conjunction with the 'sherpa' and 'Bangali babu' ads).

The 'Express Yourself' campaign by Airtel is another that seems to have impressed many (though it has its share of critics), with some even fancying the campaign's chances of pipping the Hutch campaign to the post. Interestingly, with BPL Mobile having aired its slickly directed new commercial ('escape'), the category has become extremely dynamic from a creative standpoint. Another category where a handful of fairly strong commercials are simultaneously wooing the viewer is financial service. The contenders: Franklin Templeton Investments (three-ad campaign), Kotak Bank (the 'restaurant' ad), SBI Mutual ('rain') and Allianz Bajaj.

The 135 PS (Tata) Safari Petrol (the 'roller coaster' film), HP Cruise ('cuts out the noise' campaign), Cadbury Delite ('dining table'), Hitachi ('electric bill'), Nirma ('soap opera'), Palio nv ('petrol station'), Krackjack ('breakup'), MAK Lubricants (the 'donkey' ad), Alpenliebe Lollipop ('thumb'), Mentos ('bar'), AdAsia (campaign), Indian Oil's 'India Inspired' campaign, Bullet Electra ('road crossing'), Himalaya Throat Drops (this one has an excellent guerrilla execution for Outdoor), Ranipal ('swami'), Baazee.com ('gift'), Sansui ('shattering glass'), Daewoo ('old man'), Titan ('debate'), Chevrolet ('I am…'), Kinetic Zing Rockin ('hawaa nikaal de')… All these random-sorted commercials have been liked in varying degrees.

Interestingly, one of the most engaging campaigns created last year happens to be in the little-seen public service category. The campaign, created by O&M and promoting the cause of child adoption, uses the simple execution device of warm and cuddly soft toys to make a strong case for embracing destitute children. Unlike as is often seen in public service advertising, this campaign doesn't shock or unnerve. It simply reaches out to the child within. It would, indeed, be a surprise if this campaign did not end up high on the merit list. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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