Cannes Lions International Festival not just about advertising; it’s more about celebrating creativity now

CANNES: Aquarter of all registrations at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity are marketers. Even a decade ago one might have had better luck spotting an accountant than a marketer walking about the Palais des Festivals, the centre of global creativity, at least for this week. After over six decades, it’s no wonder Cannes Lions has changed. For one, its now no longer a festival of advertising but a festival of creativity: a broader definition that allows marketers, technology companies, artists, musicians and anyone else who can lay a claim to being creative.

The change reflects in the once houseful agency hangouts that seem sparsely populated compared to internet companies’ beach shacks. You find giant signs indicating a Pinterest or YouTube shindig and traditional ad agency executives being wooed on Google yachts. No longer are Grand Prix and Gold just the birthright of traditional ad agencies, the US and UK or even independent ad shops.

Now it’s Sao Paulo, Lima or Bihar as was proved by

Hindustan Unilever

‘s ‘Kan Khajura Station’ romping home with three gold trophies.

No one genre of creativity is a sure shot at an award. Winning work ranges from creative driven by cutting edge technology to work based on tried, tested media, for instance, say, the missed call.

Says Josy Paul, chairman, BBDO, “Cannes is now about the long tail.

And not just about traditional ad agencies and networks. The long tail of technology, media, people, channels, TV, YouTube, culture makers, designers, fashion designers, entertainers, have joined the game. They form the tail that’s wagging the dog. It has shaken the communication business.”

In light of these fundamental shifts, we ask a couple of regular and new Indian attendees to give us their view of Cannes and what they learned over the past few days, be it in seminars or over a glass of Rose and cute croquettes or in judging sessions at the festival. Excerpts follow:

A Client in Cannes

It’s not news to hear Ajay Kakkar, CMO, Aditya Birla Finance, tell us that most Indian clients believe Cannes is a vacation. But not for him. In his sixth year as a delegate, Aditya Birla Group’s Kakkar is perhaps the only senior Indian delegate who takes notes on his phone during sessions and seminars and attends the award show for the short presentations which run before the winners call. “You get to expose yourself to the best brand work in the world under one roof,” he says. “But Cannes is like a brand and as it happens with all brands expectations can be greater than delivery.”

#TIL (Today I Learned): Most importantly it’s not about digital marketing, it is about marketing in a digital world. Technology will be the enabler. There’s no magical formula for great brands. Don’t start with business but position your brand in a way that is relevant to society.

Consider Dove’s Real Beauty. Board members didn’t fully appreciate the idea at first. So the agency went to the members’ families, their wives and daughters talked about their notions of beauty. A film was made and showed to board members. That’s the genesis of Real Beauty. Ideas are no one’s property and come from anyone and anywhere. India won metal in PR but not one campaign is from a PR agency.

Can Do Better: Cannes hasn’t eluded scams.

There’s too much repetition in theme, seminars and sessions and a diplomatic balancing act when it comes to speakers — WPP equals Publicis.

Some presentations are corporate plugs.

Give us a perspective and show us how your company is living that. Google did it.

A Judge’s Diary

Aditya Swamy, executive vice-president and business head, MTV India, has a day job talking to the youth, devising ways to keep their attention and creating content to enthral their not easily impressed minds.

The MTV India chief now must rewire the very manner in which he consumes content as a judge in the Branded Content and Entertainment category.

#TIL: Not all brands, not all categories are talking to young people. As a marketer you’ve got to expand your horizons and stay away from putting brands, people and ideas in boxes. We’re at a global forum, and everybody is dealing with the same problems. It’s interesting to see how we tackle these problems in perse ways because it is dictated by different cultural contexts.

The term new media is dead. It is “the” media. Pro-social work is everywhere and from an Indian context there is so much more we could do in that space. Don’t think of content belonging to one screen; ask yourself where can it go?