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Cannes Lions 2019: Underdogs shine amid India’s dismal outing

A quick wrap of the international festival of creativity from the Indian prism as Dentsu Webchutney steals the show as most awarded agency from India and FCB Ulka wins a face-saver Gold for the country

Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman & CEO, FCB India, lifted the only Gold Lion for India (Image credit: Getty Images @ Cannes Lions 2019)

Sixty-eight shortlists from 15 agencies and 18 Lions won by 10 of them. India’s 2019 outing at Cannes Lions in the past seven years was just a little better than in 2015, when it had won 15 Lions. Last year, there were a total of 21 medals for India. The best performance was in 2017 when India hauled 40 Lions.

Also read: Cannes Lions 2019: FCB Ulka hits a Gold for India, finally

Saurabh Varma, CEO, South Asia, Publicis Groupe, who represented India in Creative Effectiveness jury, brushed aside the poor outing and told, “Winning Lions is good but not everything and we should be proud of the real work we have been doing. All that matters is the work that you take to your clients, which attracts them.”

Varma was right when we see Dentsu Webchutney’s 6-medal haul from the real works done for Swiggy, Flipkart and Uri - The Surgical Strike, or FCB Ulka’s Gold standard Open Door Project for The Millenium School. But does it mean that the big winners at Cannes Lions from across the globe were not real? spoke to many jury presidents across the categories and almost all of them were of the view that even though it is the festival of creativity, they kept impact and scalability in mind while awarding them big.

For example, Creative Effectiveness Jury President Ogilvy’s Worldwide CEO John Seifert told that the Indian shortlist ‘Sindoor Khela’ from FCB Ulka could not win because there was not enough evidence that the campaign had any direct impact on the sales of TOI.

Take the example of the Grand Prix winner in ‘Health & Wellness’ category. McCann, Tel Aviv lifted a Grand Prix for Ikea’s ‘ThisAbles’, whereby the furniture retailer created add-ons for existing products to make them more accessible for people with disabilities.

When asked why Adidas Odds by Taproot Dentsu, which could be a similar idea, did not win that big in 2017, and at the same time Ikea got a Grand Prix, Jury President, Shaheed Peera, Executive Creative Director of Publicis LifeBrands, Publicis Resolute and Real Science, Global, told that they looked into several other factors, including scalability by creating 13 open-source 3D printed add-ons, each solving a different accessibility issue, and its impact on sales.

A Bronze for five shortlisted entries to Wunderman Thompson India

The jurors of the Industry Craft category awarded a Bronze Lion to five shortlisted entries to Wunderman Thompson India as one Bronze Lion campaign. Even as the agency won an award, it lost on the points. It got three points for a Bronze while it could have been five points if they did not win.

Senthil Kumar

Talking to, Wunderman Thompson India’s Senthil Kumar said, “The entries - Blink Test and Blink Off for Jimmy Nelson Foundation were different. Blink Off was a poster campaign while Blink Test was a unique Human-AR interface and combining two different pieces of work for one medal was wrong.” has got a clarification on the medal count from the organisers but was yet to receive the reason behind awarding one medal for two different pieces.

This year also saw the rise of the underdogs while the big agency or networks failed to make a mark. While Dentsu Webchutney won six Lions and FCB Ulka won the face-saver Gold for the country, Ogilvy India had no show despite three shortlists.

Worldwide also, Ogilvy did not feature in top-3 of ‘Agency of the year’ and ‘Network of the year’ awards. Although Seifert did not show any sign of worry and hoped to bounce back, the agency’s new Global CCO and celebrated adman Piyush Pandey has an immediate task at hand to take the agency and network to the top-3 positions. Since Pandey is not a big believer of awards, it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.

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