Nisha Qureshi and Shreyas Kulkarni

What's on the minds of India's Cannes Lions '23 jurors?

There are jurors, and then there are jurors. This one is the latter. These are a few of the Cannes Lions 2023 jury members selected from India.

Josy Paul, chairman & CCO, BBDO

Garima Khandelwal, former CCO, MullenLowe Lintas Group

Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, Global CEO & co-founder, GOZOOP

Aalap Desai, CCO, Dentsu Creative West and Dentsu Creative Experience India

Farishte Irani, group head – copy, Dentsu Creative, India

Some of them have been there before, and some haven’t. afaqs! posed a few questions to these jury members to understand their thoughts about the task that lies ahead of them.

Edited excerpts:

What are you looking forward to most, during the judging process? 

Garima Khandelwal

Being on the jury, is definitely one of them. It’s great when a piece of work gets a unanimous yes, or no from the jurors. But what’s priceless is when it’s a divided house and a passionate debate ensues.

You feel invested in a part of that piece you champion for. The interactions and the connections you make at Cannes, are always something I look forward to.

LinkedIn is already buzzing, with various jury members trying to reach out. I’m looking forward to meeting the ones I met online, during international judging platforms, over the last two years.

Ahmed Aftab Naqvi

I look forward to being immersed in the absolute best creative work from across the globe. I look forward to experiencing the insights found at the intersection of human truth and brand value that are transformed into ideas. These (ideas) not only push the boundaries of advertising but, more importantly, drive progress for people, business and society.

Aalap Desai

I’m really looking forward to the learnings and exposure from the discussions with my fellow jurors. It’s so fascinating that such a diverse and talented bunch of people will come to the common conclusion of giving away the biggest prizes that advertising has to offer.

Farishte Irani

I’m looking forward to the debating and the hours of immersing myself in creative work. In-person judging is an experience like no other. It forces you to overcome your own biases, articulate exactly why you love a piece of work, and look at the larger message every decision can send to the industry.

As a young, ambitious creative lead, judging work like this, leaves me feeling inspired, competitive and hopeful for the industry’s future.

Josy Paul

I try and go as a pilgrim, and not as a judge. I want the work to judge me, rather than me judging the work. That way I receive new things that help me broaden my mind, and gain a deeper understanding of the work, the culture it comes from and the creative journey behind it.

I love and truly enjoy the personal growth that the process brings and am excited to see where Cannes Lions will take me this year. 

How do you plan to prepare for jury duty?

Garima Khandelwal

During the short-listing phase, I like to immerse myself in the work so that I’m better prepared. I remember once I met a member on the short-listing films jury, and she had so many notes and questions on various Indian entries. Homework is important – the hunger to find answers and perspectives when you meet the representatives.

The intricacies of any culture and context, come alive for the jury members in the case videos. You’re the voice of the context of any work shortlisted from your culture and country.

I remember a jury member was comfortable with Spanish and real-time translation of what she was speaking, was made possible virtually. So while technology was quite handy, I’m sure nothing beats live experience.

Farishte Irani

Study, study, and study some more. As an Indian woman, I come with my own biases and perspectives. The challenge is balancing my unique perspective and learnings with creative insights and cultures that I’m unfamiliar with.

I start by analysing the winners, entries and shortlists from previous years, and learning about the cultural context that inspired the work.

Interacting with my fellow jurors from around the world, also helps. Every jury has an extremely diverse set of creative leaders, who always add any missing cultural context. I suppose the key is to do your own research and be prepared to have your mind changed by creatives, who have actually experienced the cultures.

Josy Paul

I try not to plan or prepare too much, because true creativity happens when you let inspiration guide you. Like an antenna, you’ve got to receive without any bias, prejudice or preconceived notions.

Ahmed Aftab Naqvi

I have the opportunity to work closely with very well-diversified multicultural teams across countries that are delivering solutions for brands in their local as well as international markets. While this global experience will definitely be useful for jury duty for the work coming from different cultures and contexts, I strongly believe, at the same time, all great ideas have a universal language that directly touches the heart. 

Aalap Desai

I’ve been to international forums multiple times before too, and it always helps to keep track of all the interesting stuff that happens around the globe and read about it. We’ll see a list online before the physical judging. So, reading up on the big entries there, also helps a lot.

What are the some trends that you expect to see in the participating work? Do only Indian works have the ‘poverty porn’ tag?

Farishte Irani

India is slowly losing this tag. The winning campaigns from India, over the last couple of years, have actually subverted the trope. They have really put India on the map, not only as a ‘developing’ country, but also one with an excellent creative industry.

Every ‘developing’ country runs the risk of creating work that purely falls into ‘poverty porn’ – whether it’s the Middle East or Asia. It’s up to the industry to subvert these tropes, and only create campaigns that are actually effective and adequately represent the culture they speak for.

As for trends, artificial intelligence (AI) is currently the new tool that every creative wants to play with (and master). Technology is slowly making itself known in every category. So, I’m excited to see how it translates to more traditional mediums, like print.

Josy Paul

I don’t want to judge too soon. I want to be, instead, surprised and inspired by the participating entries. I believe I will find something new, exciting and inspiring. That’s what matters.

Aalap Desai

I expect to see many AI ideas this year. It’s the hottest thing out there.

Poverty porn is not just an Indian phenomenon. In my previous judging, I noticed that it is actually an South East Asia thing.

Garima Khandelwal

Indian work that won big last year, didn’t have that tag. The work was tech-forward, and that’s the reason it won across categories.

In this post-COVID era, when the entire world has come off a common experience, with so much chatter about AI and reinvention, I’m curious to see if there is a common, not so obvious, trend that can be picked on.

Ahmed Aftab Naqvi

I anticipate seeing a strong focus on purpose-driven marketing, as more brands look to align their values with those of their audiences and the innovative use of AI to creatively address the complex challenges facing businesses and society today.

At this year’s Cannes Lions, instead of a particular trend being continued or followed, we’ll see trends being set and celebrated.

What does the rise in the number of Indian jurors at Cannes Lions, say about the quality of the country’s work? 

Garima Khandelwal

The credit for this, goes to the Times of India (ToI) team, Malcolm Raphael and Partha Sinha, who duly represent the names.

Indian work has always made its mark at Cannes. Some years are better than others, and especially after last year’s sweep, the correlation of the work and recognition, is reflective with Sukesh Nayak, PG Aditya and Gautam Reghunath announced in the first list of speakers at the Palais. That’s recognition of India’s work.

The timing is also relevant. When businesses and brands are looking at India for growth, revenue streams are looking at India, and representation, diversity and inclusion are prevalent everywhere, then how can advertising festivals not reflect the same?

Farishte Irani

The rise in the number of Indian jurors, is proof that the country’s advertising industry, is a force to be reckoned with. What was once, perhaps, just a bit of tokenism and representation, is now an acknowledgement that Indian creatives deserve a seat at the global table. India’s performance globally last year, most definitely played a role in this.

Indian campaigns, like the ‘Unfiltered History Tour’ and ‘Not Just A Cadbury Ad’, went beyond the typical spaces of a ‘developing’ country. Indian campaigns can contend with, and win against, the best in a global arena.

The rise in the number of Indian jurors, also inspires younger Indian creatives to put their best work forward and treat every brief as if it could make a difference. It speaks for the work that Indian industry legends have done to get us this far, and the potential the Indian advertising industry holds.

Ahmed Aftab Naqvi

The quality of Indian work is amongst the best in the world and, hence, there is a rise in the number of Indian jurors as well. The credit goes to the legends of the Indian advertising industry, who’ve worked tirelessly over decades to bring Indian advertising to a world-class level.

Non-network, independent agency owners, getting representation, reflects the strength and promise of the industry. It also shows the direction in which our country is heading and the glorious future that lies ahead — full of promising ideas, powered by the ideals of our culture.

Aalap Desai

India won big at Cannes, last year. Also, the overall market size in India for all businesses, has increased, making it one of the top three markets for most brands. The increase in the number of judges, is an acknowledgement of that.

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