White Rivers Media founders' tips for first-time attendees and entrants at Cannes Lions

Shrenik Gandhi and Mitesh Kothari shared with why Cannes Lions attendees should prioritise 'Inside the Jury Room' sessions; overcome mindset barriers, embrace our creative strengths, foster sustainability as a horizontal process, and leverage data more creatively

Akansha Srivastava
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New Delhi: During their first visit to Cannes Lions, the founders of White Rivers Media navigated beaches, halls, corridors, and hotels, ensuring they attended most sessions. They aimed to bring back valuable insights to their 12-year-old agency, strengthening its ability to capture subcultural moments in their work.

Among the various AI, creative, and global work-related insights, one that particularly stood out to Mitesh Kothari was the importance of using data creatively rather than superficially.

For Shrenik Gandhi, CEO and Co-Founder, White Rivers Media, a key takeaway was to view sustainability not as a vertical aspect but as a horizontal narrative. “Many current sustainability efforts are superficial, and people are smart enough to see through them. This needs to change,” he emphasised. 

In its first year at Cannes Lions, White Rivers Media entered three of its campaigns: Astral Foundation: Daughters of Piplantri, Amazon miniTV: Hip Hop India, and Pulse Candy: Pulse of Defiance

Although the agency didn't secure any shortlists in the various categories it entered, Kothari and Gandhi learned the importance of creating case studies that effectively convey the cultural context to the jury. 

Gandhi added, “It’s also important to define the problem statement along with the cultural context in the first 20 seconds.”

"While it’s mostly the holding companies’ creative agencies that enter Cannes Lions from India, White Rivers Media's efforts and courage to showcase its work at a global level stemmed from the belief its clients bestowed on them," Mitesh Kothari, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, White Rivers Media, told 

He added, “We would like to give a lot of credit to our clients for trusting us. Our presence at Cannes Lions and our decision to enter our work will definitely inspire other independent agencies to participate in Cannes Lions.” 

This year, India’s performance at the Cannes Lions concluded on a modest note, securing just 18 awards over the five-day event, including only two Gold Lions. This is the lowest tally for the Indian contingent since 2019 when they also managed to win 18 awards. This year, India earned 2 Gold, 7 Silver and 9 Bronze at Cannes 2024.

Gandhi emphasised that India's performance at Cannes Lions does not fully reflect the country's creative prowess. "There is a wealth of creative work happening in India that isn't submitted to Cannes Lions due to various barriers, whether commercial or a mindset issue of not recognising the potential we have. We need to be more confident about the high quality of creative work being produced. Another barrier is exposure; we should encourage more marketers and independent agencies to attend the Cannes Lions next year. Experiencing the passion and energy here can be incredibly motivating."

Kothari asserted, “The perspective of the jury towards entries in categories like direct, glass, and social has evolved significantly. It's crucial to grasp these insights thoroughly. Those attending Cannes Lions should make it a point to participate in sessions like 'Inside the Jury Room'. Here, jurors explain the rationale behind their decisions on winning campaigns within their respective categories.”

Discussing White Rivers Media’s growth strategy, Gandhi highlighted the agency's emphasis on specific subcultures and pop cultures, such as cricket, Bollywood, religions, stocks, startups, and others. “We delved deep into these passion points, creating work that truly stood out,” Gandhi explained.

In addition, the agency places significant focus on cultivating a creative work culture. “We strive to foster a work environment that maximises creativity. Our goal is not just to be the ‘best’, but to give our 'most’. While our best may not always be the finest in the room, striving to be the 'most’ committed often leads to ‘best’ as a natural outcome,” he added.

Watch the full interview here: 

creativity jury Mitesh Kothari Cannes Lions Shrenik Gandhi data campaigns White Rivers Media Sustainability