Arati Rao Shephali Bhatt
Jun 18, 2012

Campaign@Cannes Blog: How talking about that four letter word can make advertising better

Bits and pieces from the sessions, and India spotting on day one of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2012

Campaign@Cannes Blog: How talking about that four letter word can make advertising better

What’s in a name, they say? Quite a bit, because here at Cannes on the first day, there was a session that had ‘porn’ in its name, and it worked as an intriguing hook to reel in the post-lunch crowd.

The seminar was titled ‘Culture Shock: Porn. Youth. Brands'. It featured Elliott Polak, founder and chief executive officer, Textappeal, and Cindy Gallop, ex-chairman of BBH New York, and founder and chief executive officer of IfWeRanTheWorld.

The premise of the seminar was that if the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography on the internet was as low as 11 years old, brands targeting the youth need to understand pornography.

Gallop, who has started a website called, made the case for advertising creatives of today requiring a more profound understanding of the consumer mindset and emotional dynamics around sexuality, in order to foster a new form of creativity - one that moved beyond stereotypes, was about being ‘real’, was data-informed and female-informed. She hoped that the future would see advertising for products that were beneficial and helped people.

Earlier, Polak began the seminar by discussing various stereotypes of how sex is portrayed in advertisements of different countries - how sex is associated with products, with brand values, culture, attitudes and breaking rules. Amidst all the explicit and tongue-in-cheek ones, was an Indian commercial for Close-Up toothpaste:

Polak said the ad kept in mind that kissing in commercials isn’t permitted in India. True; I can’t remember any ad where a couple is actually shown kissing. But the suggestiveness is plenty - Fastrack is one brand in the youth space that instantly comes to mind. Axe and Wildstone would be others. Amul Macho had the ‘Yeh tho bada Toing hai’ commercials a few years ago. It makes one wonder that if kissing on the big screen (in Hindi films) is accepted now, would such an act in a commercial lead to public outrage? I’m guessing the answer to that would be ‘Yes’. How long though, before a brave (or is it foolhardy) brand gives it a shot and starts the conversation?

India-spotting (by the handycam-toting first timer at Cannes, Shephali Bhatt):

Day one at Cannes Lions was essentially about spotting adlanders from the sub- continent and saving their local (France) numbers for future communiqué. It all started with Huzefa and Rruta of Creativeland Asia, followed by Raj Kurup. Thereafter I accompanied DDB Mudra’s Sonal Dabral to the deligate registration counter where I bumped into Raj Kamble (ex-BBH India). Shook hands with Ogilvy’s Abhijit Avasthi (yes, keenu!) on the stairs while exiting from the Palais. Had a little chat with JWT’s Bobby Pawar about Cannes, all and sundry. Greeted Law & Kenneth’s Praveen Kenneth when he entered the venue along with his team. Spotted Colvyn Harris of JWT as well but never got a chance to say hello; tomorrow, definitely. Towards the end, Arati and I caught up with Ravi Deshpande (Contract Advertising), Pops (Leo Burnett) and Jagdip Bakshi (JWT London) over an interesting conversation sans coffee. Met Aditya Birla Group’s Ajay Kakar on our way back to the hotel. He told me about a few places where I can find vegetarian food. Must check. Finally, called it a day at the Palais after a chat with Mindshare’s Gowthaman. All set to conch shells and embrace day two already.

Campaign India