The Indian advertising industry is upbeat about the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity returning to Cannes, France in June 2022 after the festival turned online for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rohit Ohri, Chairman and CEO, FCB Group India, expressed his excitement on the prospects of attending Cannes on-ground after a hiatus of two years. “It’s good to see normalcy returning. We haven’t yet decided on the numbers but like every year, we will enter Cannes this year as well. Getting awarded on the stage is totally a different feeling,” he said.
The organisers of Cannes Lions have announced that the festival will follow a hybrid model where people will be able to attend both online and offline. For Indian agencies, the decision to attend the festival in person would depend on the Covid situation as the event approaches.
Kunal Jeswani, CEO, Ogilvy India, said, “Over the last two years, we haven’t been attending any offline events. It is just not safe for our people to do so. But there is still a fair amount of time to go before Cannes 2022. Whether we send our people to attend Cannes in person or not, depends completely on how the Covid situation pans out next year.”
Ashish Chakravarty, Executive Director and Head of Creative, McCann Worldgroup, also feels that some apprehension will be there for attending the festival in person as we are not completely out of danger. “We will get a clearer picture once they release more details, and also the state of the pandemic, closer to the event dates.”
“It is heartening to hear more and more stories of normalcy from various creative and business leaders that I am in touch with. I also welcome the intent expressed by Cannes Lions festival to return to its physical form. It would be amazing to meet friends again from around the world in person, and celebrate stories of resilience and courage through the times we have lived in. While it is too early to speculate the size of the Indian contingent that would attend, I have no doubt in my mind that Indian creativity will continue to make a strong mark through the festival as it has in the past,” said Sajan Raj Kurup, Chairman and Founder of Creativeland Asia.
Mullen Lintas which started entering the Cannes Lions awards in 2021 and won two Bronze Lions will send entries for 2022 also. “As of now, there is no conversation about attending the festival in person, but we will participate in the awards. How much and which pieces of work will be entered is something the entire management will have to sit together and decide,” said Azazul Haque, Chief Creative Officer, Mullen Lintas.
Cheil India, which regularly wins awards at Cannes Lions, is also upbeat about entering the awards and attending the festival in person. Emmanuel Uppurutu, CCO, Cheil India, said, “Apprehensions will be overpowered by the excitement of going to Cannes which is like an annual pilgrimage.”
He said although they are looking forward to participating, they are yet to figure out the details.
Participation from the Indian contingent
In 2021, pieces of work from 2020 were also taken into consideration. While the total number of entries worldwide marginally came down to 29,074 in 2021, from 30,953 in 2019, India had sent 699 entries in 2021 as compared to 1,053 sent in 2019.
“In 2021, due to financial restraints, the number of entries from India were less in comparison to the previous years. In 2022, I am expecting the entry numbers to go high as normalcy is settling in,” said Ohri.
“In 2021, Cannes Lions had slashed the entry fees due to Covid. Until now, it is unclear if they would increase the entry fees or not. But to build the momentum and let more and more people enter, they shouldn’t increase the entry fees,” he added.
Cannes is expensive, which only makes it viable for the larger global agency networks to compete at scale. According to Jeswani of Ogilvy, “Entry fees are always a balancing act. I'd love to see Cannes find a way to incentivise new agencies and smaller, non-network agencies to compete as well.”
Citing similar thoughts, Haque said the fees should remain lower. He said, “Participation may not be like pre-pandemic times, but a lot of agencies would want to participate as a symbolic gesture just to show that they are getting back to normal. While I think the Indian advertising industry is reviving, this will be a chance for them to show the world that they have gotten back to normal.”
According to Satbir Singh, Founder and CCO, Thinkstr, scaling down of entry fees and delegate fees can help many agencies to make up their minds. “Because of issues like limited flights, as of now (and Cannes is months away), flight prices are exorbitant. Agencies are still to emerge from the last two years’ trauma. I’m sure there will be some attendance from India, though it’s likely to be a small percentage of normal years. We have not taken a call yet on participation,” he said.
What industry leaders are looking forward to at Cannes 2022
India’s performance at Cannes Lions has been consistent over the years with the best-ever campaign in 2017 when it brought 40 Lions home.
In the last physical Cannes Lions Awards, held in 2019, India had won 18 Lions despite a significant reduction in categories.
This year, 11 works from India won 22 Lions — 2 Gold, 9 Silver and 11 Bronze.
“Would love to see India continue to make its presence felt at the festival. On a personal note, since we were one of the most impacted countries by the pandemic, I would want some of those works to win, the ones that made a real difference on the ground,” said Chakravarty.
Haque said a lot of pieces this year will be pandemic related and that could be a separate category as well. “As far as India is concerned, there are many pieces of work that have gotten famous but there is not a single piece that has stood out as a clear winner. The bold and beautiful work has not happened as it used to happen in the pre-pandemic times. Keeping that in mind, I have not seen any piece of work on which I can put my finger and say that this is going to be a clear winner,” he added.
Ogilvy India, which won a Silver and a Bronze Lion this year, is eyeing to enter with full force on the back of some of its recent breakthrough work.
“Like every year, Ogilvy will enter the awards. There is already a bank of work that we've created that is worthy of entering at Cannes and there is still enough time to do a lot more. Our focus, as always, is to create breakthrough work, that consumers love and remember, for our largest clients in India. The awards follow,” said Jeswani.
LIONS as a platform is known for the knowledge seminars besides awards.
“Cannes Lions do these amazing knowledge sessions every year. I look forward to attending them. This year, unlike every year, the Cannes Lions must include sessions that include marketing lessons from the last two years, how advertising and marketing has evolved during the last two years. I would like to listen to speakers sharing insights into the Covid-induced totally different world of advertising and marketing. I am saying this because we can no longer give examples of work done in the last 10 years as Covid changed everything and we have to unlearn a lot,” said FCB’s Ohri.
“Cannes is a great place to meet people and get inspired and motivated. It is great to hear that it is taking place on-ground this year, it will be great to go back to the Mecca of advertising,” concluded Uppurutu.