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Half The Wins, Twice The Pride

India was not shining bright as the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity kicked off, but two Grand Prix and the Lion of St. Mark changed all that, making this a historic year for the country

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The significance of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the world of marketers and advertising professionals has never been in doubt, even as the festival went through a trial by fire of sorts last year. Global industry leaders, for different reasons, suggested that the festival had digressed from its raison d’être, which is to fuel and cultivate creativity in its various forms in marketing and advertising.  

Cannes Lions organisers responded, and the result was a more compact, much more serious event. For those who have attended the event in the last many years would say the ‘buzz’ was missing this year. But nearly all global CEOs felt that was required, and was important.

A direct ramification of this streamlining, which also saw a reduction in the number of categories, coupled with Publicis Groupe’s decision to abstain from the festival this year, was a decreased number of entries, and wins, for several countries.

This however was not necessarily true for India.

In comparison to the 953 entries that Indian agencies had entered in 2017, this year a total of 979 entries were sent from India. Out of these, 69 made it to the shortlists. While Indian agencies won a record 40 Lions in 2017, in 2018, India brings home only 21 Lions. This is one of the lowest Lions count from India in the last five years — the 15 Lions of 2015 being the only exception.

The Big Wins
This low Lions count was outshined by the quality of the wins. Apart from India’s two Grand Prix, and Asia’s first Lion of St Mark,  it was also noteworthy that the likes of FCB India won its first-ever Gold Lion and that one of the Grand Prix was for TBWA\India — agencies that have undergone transformation in recent years, and now have awards to show for it.

In addition to the two Grand Prix, India’s Cannes Lions haul included four Gold Lions, six Silver Lions and nine Bronze Lions.

TBWA\India won the ‘Grand Prix for Good’ for its ‘Blink to Speak’ campaign, which was described by one jury president as a kind of ‘cure for paralysis’.  “There are two kinds of ideas that get awarded. One that everybody abides by and the quality and value of the idea are instantly apparent to the judges. The other is the one that is subjective; some people like it and some don’t. This idea had the quality of the former,” said Parixit Bhattacharya, chief creative officer, TBWA\ India.

The second Grand Prix came in the highly competitive Creative Effectiveness category. This is essentially the work that has proved its worth in the marketplace and has data of a year to back its success for the brand’s business objectives. Ogilvy India’s award-winning campaign ‘Savlon Health Hands Chalk Sticks’ won this Grand Prix.

Savlon’s ‘Chalk Hands’ involved creating soap for school children that doubles as chalk, pushing the brand’s hand wash focus and agenda in a fun, seamless manner.

“This is the kind of win that makes you forget all the words you know since childhood but we have managed to hold on to a few. This award belongs to the bravery of our ITC Savlon client and our team Savlon back in the Ogilvy office. Mahesh Ambaliya, the originator of the idea, we salute you. We are humbled to be on the stage on the same night as Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Pandey. This can only be God at work,” said Ogilvy India’s team behind the campaign, Kainaz Karmakar and Harshad Rajadhyaksha, in a joint comment.

Celebrating FCB India’s wins, the agency’s group chairman and chief executive officer, Rohit Ohri, said, “This Gold Lion win is the first for FCB in India. And a shining testimony to our creative transformation. We have worked hard over the last two years to transform our creative reputation in the market. I am delighted that a few Lions will now walk with us as we continue to push harder and higher.”

The Lion of St. Mark
Another big reason the year was special for India was because of the Lion of St. Mark. Counted among the highest honours of the festival, the Lion of St. Mark this year was bestowed on veteran ad-men Piyush and Prasoon Pandey.

Instituted in 2011, the Lion of St. Mark has been awarded to leaders such as David Droga, founder of Droga5; Bob Greenberg, founder, chairman and CEO of R/GA; Dan Wieden, co-founder and global executive creative director of Wieden+Kennedy; and Sir John Hegarty, worldwide creative director and founder of BBH among others, for their “outstanding contributions” to the global creativity in advertising and communications over their lifetime.

“Piyush and Prasoon have undoubtedly made the world pay attention to creativity in India. While they are famous, and rightly so, in their homeland, I’m thrilled that we have this opportunity to celebrate their contributions to our industry on the Cannes Lions stage. The fact we get to honour the achievements of two brothers makes this year’s Lion of St. Mark award particularly special,” said Jose Papa, managing director of Cannes Lions.

The Year Of Upsets
Cannes Lions 2018 is a milestone for the 65-year old festival itself. Not only did the festival don a sober avatar but there was a marked increase in the number and presence of consultancies at the event. From being advisors of sorts, consultancies began blocking space at the event, and this year, made it clear that they are here to win the awards. Accenture, in fact, went home with a win no less than a Grand Prix.


There was a marked reduction of platforms and technology companies at the festival, which agency heads said was a change they wanted, to get the festival back to its focus on creativity.

Breaking WPP’s seven-year hold as the Holding Company of the Year, this year the award went to Omnicom. In total, Omnicom agencies received 10 Grand Prix and two Titanium Lions after a strong performance across a broad spectrum of categories and regions around the globe.

“We are thrilled with the results at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival which is a testament to having the best creative talent in our industry. Cannes Lions are among the most prestigious awards in our industry, and the fact that Omnicom agencies took home the top honours across a range of categories, spanning traditional advertising, digital, mobile, media and PR, speaks about the breadth and depth of Omnicom’s offering. We are so proud of the quality of work our agencies are doing across disciplines and geographies for their clients,” commented John Wren, chairman and CEO of Omnicom Group.

In all, Cannes Lions 2018 has begun a new journey for itself. How these changes will now grow the platform is anyone’s guess but if industry leaders’ views are anything to go by, this is a change for the better.


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