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Brandstand: ‘If they Cannes, why can’t we?’ The ‘Sher Cannes’ Formula

Willing winners must ensure that they act against their intuitive grain, as Advertising and Marketing folks usually are urbane in constituency, developing solutions that are rooted in real mass problems, not sounding fashionable at home but worthy of glory in the world stage

Now that everybody is back from Cannes, this must be the question asked in every agency and client organisation, the latter deeply inspired by ITC’s triumph. India’s performance has been steadily improving and with greater strategic focus, we can surely become a front-runner in metals. For that we need to crack the ‘Sher Cannes’ Formula’ – (Cause multiplied by Scale) divided by (First World Relevance).

The first part of this puzzle is surely the Cause, the desired impact of the communication programme. It must be rooted in third-world context, ideally connected to suffering and discrimination, the age-old route for Indian creativity to shine in global stages. Our cinema maestros, Satyajit Ray in particular, understood this very well and secured the finest accolades for the Apu Trilogy, Ashani Sanket and peers, artistically demonstrating the vulnerability of India. His sophisticated urbane efforts were intelligently reserved for Indian audiences, who vociferously appreciated their nuances, while not cutting much ice with award juries. This year’s major winners understood this well, identifying causes that are rooted to our cultural fabric, yet possessing the connectivity to global emotional scrutiny. So, the very first step must be to garner this exclusive emotion, instigating the incurable urge of the ‘haves’ to resonate with the perils of the ‘have-nots’. India, thankfully, has no shortage of such causes and when married to the rights of women or the development of children, the possibilities are endless.

The second part of this puzzle is to multiply the chosen Cause with maximum Scale. By now, juries have been conditioned to spot scam-scales, the pattern of entrants to conjure minimum audiences as proof of efficacy. So, it becomes necessary to have a genuine demonstration of intent, frankly quite easy in India given our large population. If the cause is of concern to the residents of Tulsi Pipe Road only, then its potential is lost in evaluation but if it can be made appropriate for every second-class train passenger in India, then chances are considerably brighter. What must be noted is the demonstration of efficacy versus the potential of efficacy, the impact can be filmed on passengers travelling from Rajkot to Surat, but the sheer evidence of scalability makes the idea attractive. To get back to the cinema example, our great masters were rewarded the most for poverty and famine, anecdotal in terms of the script but widespread as a recorded occurrence. As proven now and earlier, media brands are highly effective partners in the effort to drive Scale, adding valuable layers of credibility in the process.

The third part of this puzzle is the denominator, which is ‘First World Relevance’. However strong the cause and however large the scale, the entry will not be considered favourably if remotely first-world in nature. As in rooted in an affluent urban problem or seeking a solution for the upper middle-classes, in such cases an unwritten prejudice of juries will come to play. That the prerogative of genuine first-world solutions lies only in the first-world, winners from other economies must compete on their undisputable expertise, which includes deprivation, hygiene and inequalities of every kind. Which explains why neither in films nor in advertising, for the most part, genuinely ‘westernised’ entries hardly ever make the cut. Willing winners must ensure that they act against their intuitive grain, as Advertising and Marketing folks usually are urbane in constituency, developing solutions that are rooted in real mass problems, not sounding fashionable at home but worthy of glory in the world stage. In the early years, when Indian agencies insisted on cloning international winners to stake their cherished claim, failure due to perceived sameness or cloning was the usual answer.

A few other potent steps can additionally assist a triumphant outcome of the ‘Sher Cannes’ formula. Task forces dedicated to identifying such delicious causes should operate diligently and scientifically, collaborating with social scientists and the Government whenever applicable. A possible solution is to form alliances with rural marketing agencies that possess a wealth of cases without the expertise to convert them to winning entries. The cases themselves can be composed in association with academicians, to build a tenable scholastic foundation that can be beautified and smartened with resident decorative expertise. Creativity in campaigning is certainly important but increasingly in a call-to-action format, closer to political messaging than crafty advertising. Most importantly, we must suspend our universal popular-culture leanings to becoming overwhelmingly Indian for this very global purpose.

The ‘Sher Cannes’ formula is spiritually inspired by the many legendary Sher Khans from fact and fiction, including the Bollywood hit Zanjeer and Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’. They are renowned to be influential, intense, relentless and passionate – qualities which mark winning entries at Cannes as well. So next year do multiply ‘Cause’ with ‘Scale’ and then divide the result by ‘First World Relevance’, a Lion may well be the delightful outcome.

(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at:

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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