The $72-million Cannes festival has drawn to a 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 misses. 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 $2 mn in entry submissions. It’s estimated that the real tab for Publicis this year has been close to $20 mn 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 pull out. 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 the 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, Leo Burnett and off late Medulla (the healthcare agency).
Three campaigns stood out for me: the Adidas Odds, the Savlon–Healthy Hands Chalk Stick and the HP Roads That Honk.
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 uplift of the society.
Savlon Healthy Hands Chalk Stick
It’s a simple idea that has the potential to change lives. Three years back Lifebuoy 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. It’s sad that almost no one saw the device, almost no one experienced the power of Honking Roads and no one’s life was saved because of the device. With HP’s muscle I would expect the technology to be implemented on more and more roads and hairpin bends.
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. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u77JSR1sCFo). 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 de-cluttered, 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 a promise that works.
Not that Cannes didn't have such ads, but somehow we dumb this kind of work down when the festivals arrive.
(Naresh Gupta is Managing Partner and CSO of Bang in the Middle.)
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