The Oscars of Advertising – Cannes Lions is a place where each year the best in industry, creativity, advertising and tech converge for a week-long celebration of the best of the best work produced by this industry that has molded the way society thinks and acts be it through social awareness causes or endorsing a brand through purchase.
With India missing in on the action with very low participation and bagging little above half of its Lion’s tally compared to that of last year – it was definitely a proud moment for the country to watch its heroes of creativity, the Pandey Brothers receive creativity’s highest honour – the Lion of St. Mark award.
While the Rosé definitely didn’t flow as much as it had in yesteryears with a visibly quieter Croisette this year and the availability of several empty chairs at the notorious “Gutter Bar” just at the corner of the Martinez hotel on the Boulevard, the festival witnessed a lot more closed door meetings with several conference rooms in hotels along the Croisette being booked for intimate engagements by top execs from the advertising and consultancy industries in their focused efforts to channelize brand spends in their direction.
Staying core to its values and steering away from the thought that Cannes was only about being a destination for the elite in the industry to show off their wealth while sipping Rosé on a yacht rather than fostering creative business ideas, the festival this year has definitely raised the bar through the various knowledge sessions that were attended by packed audiences in the Palais, beach houses and the 60+ other venues which held sessions on a wide range of topics spanning blockchain to gender inclusivity.
No doubt the entire experience would have been incomplete without catching a glimpse of the industry’s ring leader – Sir Martin Sorrell, it was indeed refreshing to witness the man in a very candid conversation with his good colleague and renowned author and journalist, Ken Auletta, discussing forecasts of the industry’s feature, highlighting gaps in the current agency structure and subtly bringing to light nuances of his untimely exit from WPP. "Am I an easy person to deal with? The answer is no. Am I demanding? Yes.” exclaimed the ad king, when responding to pressures that led to his departing from the holding company he founded. Clearing allegations on the real cause of his leaving WPP, he adds “I explained that very simply in the letter I wrote to the 200,000 people in WPP, that I felt that the situation had become untenable for several reasons and that it was in the best interest of the shareholders, the clients and the people inside the company.”
One could easily see why, despite being shrouded in controversy, the advertising legend was still able to attract a jam packed audience at the largest hall in the venue with live streams all around the Croisette and in every beach house, in the way he handled with poise any unnerving question that was thrown to him, while cool-ly firing a smoking gun in WPP’s direction with the statement “S4 Capital of which I am Executive Chairman, is a peanut in comparison, but I do have to admit that some people have peanut allergies” that left the audience in chuckles in what was one of the most anticipated sessions of this years Cannes Lions festival.
While relaxing on an arm chair on the Beach at YouTube’s sundowner, I spent a few moments just soaking in the atmosphere of what was an energizing week that definitely left me more enriched than I came with several learnings to take back to my team and colleagues in Dentsu Aegis Network.
Famous last words at Cannes Lions:
- “Breakfast at 9 sounds good”
- “Let’s just go for one drink and check it out”
- “Let me drop you an email later tonight”
- “See you at the venue in 5”
Au revoir from your roving reporter at this year’s Cannes Lions. See you soon!
(Abhinay Bhasin is Associate Director, Data Sciences at Dentsu Aegis Network, India. He is a recipient of a post graduation in Economics from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.)