AdStand: Festival at Cannes

$72 Million festival has drawn to close, hundreds of delegates from across the globe have come and soaked in the week long extravaganza. Agencies across the globe have celebrated the wins and rued the miss. Yet even before the Gutter Bar changes its name back to Croisette 72, the big news from the festival is not about winning, promotions or new jobs. The big news is about Publicis withdrawing from Cannes for a year.


The Publicis #CannesExit

Publicis is the third largest participant in the festival and a real creative heavyweight at that. Just this year it contributed a mere $2Mn in entry submissions. It is estimated that the real tab for Publicis this year have been close to $20Mn with all the expenses thrown in. No wonder the share price of Ascential, the company that owns the festival crashed once the announcement was made. Publicis isn’t cutting down on investment though, it wants to invest this money in AI driven solutions for the marketing industry.

The reactions have been swift and brutal with almost the entire creative fraternity and the rivals shell shocked.

FCB’s Carter Murray was clear in his response to the pullout. To him, the advertising agency business is a business of creativity.  “Technology inspires us and fuels our creativity, but we are NOT a technology company. And we are NOT a consultancy. We help brands and businesses define their purpose and bring it to life in creative ways that transform businesses and the world.”

Eventually, it is Publicis’ decision to stay or exit. For creative business, it may mean that awards and trade shows may see themselves losing some flab and may become tighter, cohesive and celebratory of really good work.

Meanwhile back home, McCann India has done exceeding well at Cannes along with usually bright Taproot, Ogilvy, W&K, BBDO, Satchi,Leoo Burnett and off late Medulla (the healthcare agency).

Three campaigns stood out for me, the Adidas Odds campaign, the Savlon – Healthy Hands Chalk Stick campaign and the HP Roads That Honk campaign.

All three are examples of a new marriage of social good with commercial acumen. This often leads to a new kind of conversation and overall upliftment of the society.

Savlon Healthy Hands Chalk Stick


It’s a simple idea that has the potential to change lives. Lifebuoy three years back was also there at Cannes with its tale on Hand Hygiene. Savlon’s tale is more powerful and the innovation is more meaningful. This innovation taps into the existing behaviour and offers a simple solution. Ideas like this need to be applauded. The issue for me though is this: did ITC miss a trick to really make the campaign impactful?

What if the ordinary citizens could join hands with Savlon and order Chalk for schools in neighbourhood? I did try to order, they are not listed in either the ITC site or on Amazon. The chalk is not listed on the ITC site as well. I think the brand has missed a big opportunity to make the innovation mainstream and make the whole world seek it out. ITC is a master marketer, may be it will do so in coming days.

HP-Roads That Honk


This is even simpler than the chalk with soap idea. Roads on hills with hairpin bends normally have concave and convex mirrors to ensure that vehicles see each other, know the incoming traffic and give way. HP has taken this simple device many levels ahead by building technology that alerts the other driver by Honking. While we may ask the question about how an agency is involved in an innovation like this, the wider question is the lack of any conversation on Twitter or Facebook. Its sad that almost no one saw the device, almost no one experienced the power of Honking Roads, no one’s life was saved because of the device. With HP’s muscle I would expect that more and more roads and hairpin bends would have the technology implemented.

Meanwhile I like how the good old way of creating unfair competitive advantage for the brand has been used by Motilal Oswal in its new campaign.

.It has a sharp insight, it builds a compelling narrative, has used the music effectively and the promise of the brand builds the traction. They have kept it decluttered, not bothered to change the world, made a strong connection with the brand. This is what communication is all about: sharp insight, good narrative and promise that works.

Not that Cannes didn’t have such ads, but somehow we dumb this kind of work down when the festivals arrive.

Original published here:






Naresh Gupta

@googlegupta / 9811160480
Sent with Airmail


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Should Indian Advertising attend Cannes Festival

Everyone in advertising loves awards. Now the clients’ love awards more than the agencies. Fame is a potion everyone wants to be drunk on. Even if it means that the potion is self-brewed, self served and is self-serving. That to me is the Cannes Advertising Festival. The Festival is a self-created indulgence that is insidious and expensive indulgence. Cannes is the equivalent of a selfie. Today we know selfies are not good.

There are three key reasons that are key to not attending Cannes. First is pure financial reason, second is strategic and third practical.

First lets go through cold financial reasons. Cost of an entry is about Rs. 65,000 to Rs 100,000 depending on the category you choose. Rarely do agencies sends just one entry. This year India has filed entries that must be in hundreds. No entry is filed in isolation, there is a significant expense in creating the entry: usually a short film that narrates the whole story, which costs as much as the entry fee. Each delegate pays around Rs. 200,00 to get to participate in the show, not including stay and travel. If you do the math India this year may have spent close to Rs 20 Crores to enter, participate and travel to French Riviera. While this money at overall level may be small from the overall industry perspective, for an industry struggling to up profitability, this is a huge cost.

The second reason is pure business strategy driven. Participating in any industry award show is driven by how the managers see the long-term benefit accrue to the agency. Advertising is a business where the creative team works to get famous, they want their peers to celebrate them, be proud of them. The agencies that win awards believe that good showing at the award show helps the agency in winning new business, grow exponentially, and improve its overall standing. Likes of Gunn Report who rank the creative folks by the awards they win furthers this feeling of improved reputation. Nothing can be farther from truth actually. The agencies win new business despite not winning awards. Agencies’ reputation is not linked to only winning awards, but also linked to how the consumers react to brand messages and how much of trust they have won of their clients. If anything the agencies lose their key creative talent after the award shows, those who win awards put a higher price for their talent, hungry agency heads make them better offers and a slew of musical chairs are played after awards shows. Imagine if the industry had distributed the 20 crores they spent for awards between the key talent who matter, how much better it could have been?

The third is reasons of practicality. There was a time when participating in festival like Cannes meant greater exposure to best of art and craft in the world and thus improving your own skills. Today in the connected world, everything is available in real time; there is no new grand discovery that is being made at the festival. This years big winners from ALS to Apple are all well known and have been debated by the entire fraternity. The industry also knows clearly what is true brand work and what is ‘created for awards’ work. Organizers at Cannes do call a slew of key speakers to come and address the fraternity; today most of what they say is available across many seminars and TED talk videos. It makes little sense to hop across to other end of world to get to hear increasingly stale brand ambassadors.

This is the age of connected world. In this connected world a reclusive, self-contained, self-indulgent award festival has lost relevance. Selfie, but why?


Published first in Business Today, July 5th 2015 issue as part of Cannes Debate