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Cannes Diary: Houston, we need some problems

Nima DT Namchu, Executive Creative Director, Cheil India, provides his final thoughts on Cannes Lions 2013 and takes a look at why India is still in a catch-up situation

July 4, 2013

Nima DT Namchu

I am a stickler for deadlines. This article, however, is overdue by more than a week. For the extremely patient editorial team at who waited and waited and waited and waited until they lost all hope of hearing from me, I have no acceptable explanation to offer.

But I apologise. Sincerely.

Now that the haze and the excitement of having been at the 60th Cannes Festival of Creativity has lifted and the winning entries have been watched, re-watched, read, reread, discussed and re-discussed to the extent of having a negative effect on our productivity, a realisation has dawned upon me. And it has hit me harder than the international roaming bill that’s going to land on my desk going to next week.

We get shortlisted. They win Gold.

We win Gold. They get Grand Prix.

We get Grand Prix. They win Titanium.

We win in Craft and Design, they get applauded for innovation and effectiveness.

Why do you think that happens?

I have a theory.

The reason why we don’t do as well as we would like to at Cannes is because we (our clients included) believe that our brands, products and services are doing well in the marketplace. We are suffering from, what I would like to call, the Emerging Market Syndrome – “The consumer is waiting to buy our products. We are doing far better than the guys in the Western Hemisphere, we don’t need to try harder.”

We are on maintenance mode.

Experts have been going on about how, besides India and China, every other market is going through the toughest of times. Yet, the biggest wins and awe-inspiring innovations come from those very markets. How do you explain that?

Bad business is good for creativity?

I think the clients in those markets have realised that their problems are too big for “good” to solve. They appreciate the business need to be brave, to push their agencies to deliver truly cutting edge work. As we all saw during that week in Cannes, their agencies are responding with stuff that’s really pushing the envelope. And not all solutions are appearing in the form of a print ad or a 30-second commercial.

Meanwhile, we pin our hopes on print, outdoor and, maybe, a film or two.

While I have great regard and respect for the work that won from India, I couldn’t help but notice that we only won in categories that everyone has been predicting the demise of. Sure, our craft and ideas were truly world beating, but only in print, outdoor and design. Let’s face it, we need to get noticed in innovation, mobile, cyber, media, promo and activation, branded content & entertainment, integrated and creative effectiveness.We need scale. (Ok, maybe not in every category, but at least in the important ones.)

We could start by identifying some of the really big, real world problems that our brands could be faced with. Anything that’ll get everyone in the room to agree that the only way out is to hit the ball out of the field. Bigger the problem, better it will be. Otherwise, next year, we’ll be sending in more of just the clever stuff.

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