Campaign India Team
Jun 20, 2013

Cannes impressions: A tortoise shares his takeaways

Sandipan Roy, regional strategy director, Isobar APAC, tries to pace himself for the physical and mental marathon that is Cannes.

Sandipan Roy
Sandipan Roy

If as a child you sniggered at the ‘tortoise and the hare’ tale like I did, you need to be at Cannes. I’ve been here for four days and I’m exhausted. It’s not just the physical exhaustion of the after-hours partying, it's a mental tiredness. The brain’s protesting because its not used to being constantly tossed around between mundaneness and awesomeness. And believe me, this can happen within the space of 15 minutes in a single panel discussion.

Welcome to Cannes Lions, 2013. Where the mundane sits in perfect harmony with the awesome and there is often a sense of deja moo—the feeling you’ve heard this bullshit before. But when it is awesome, it really is awesome.

The bottom line is this: pace yourself if you want to last; dive in too early and you will burn out. Look at everything with an open mind. Don't let the past reputation of a brand, speaker or agency stand in your way. After all, it’s the one week of the year where we pat ourselves (sometimes others) on the back for a job well done.

A few key messages I’m walking away with, in no particular order:

Scam is becoming legalised (and thank God for that).

In a discussion on ‘creativity at scale’, the moderator asked a certain panel member, “How much of the work, that has won you so many Gold Lions, was actually seen by real people, not just jurors?”

There was snigger from the audience and an uncomfortable silence in the panel. The panellist replied, “A good idea for you is a chest of gold. For us, it’s a Gold Lion.” Brilliant! I think it’s time the industry stopped sniggering at scam work. We’re all creative people, who, if not allowed to produce great creative work for our clients, will find other ways to do so.


It’s been absolutely great to see how much the industry has achieved after being liberated from the screen, printed paper, or in some cases, the client’s P&L pressures. It’s almost as if someone’s turned the switch on.

Owning IP is one of the biggest things right now. I find it absolutely fascinating to see agencies creating new products, digitising traditional products and developing new services. But there’s a bigger emotion here: We’ve never really owned anything. Everything we put our souls into belonged to the clients. For the first time, the industry is owning what is rightfully ours. And we should celebrate this.


This has been a clear theme in virtually every seminar. Being authentic as a brand and keeping it real for the people you want to sell to.

This kicked off in a seminar titled ‘Celebrities and the Media’ where a pop star, a ‘domestic TV goddess’ and a comedian discussed how the only way to succeed in this connected world is to be authentic.

Going on in my head was, "Yeah, right! Not you guys, surely?” It’s interesting that all the work that has found success this week has come out of a real truth. There will be debates about whether the classic brand models of ‘values and personality’ are still valid, or whether brands should let go and behave like proper people—adaptive and fluid in the given context. I am somewhere in the middle, but the jury’s still out on this.

Emotion over innovation

All brands and agencies have been reminding participants about this. It seems like a blindingly obvious point, but is it truly happening?

Again, this has been quite a fascinating ride for the industry. For the longest time, all that we did was appeal to human emotions through our stories. Then came this huge ‘kickstarter’ wave where it was all about the next cool thing. Now we’re all scrambling to get back to appealing to human emotions via innovation.

An interesting take on the topic of innovation was from Facebook’s global head of creative solutions, who said that we were the only industry where ‘being inspired by other people’s work’ is a terrible thing. The man’s got a point. Think about it. Leo Burnett and Contagious put up a very entertaining seminar about tech trends over the next five years, and how brands can embrace them. Party, an independent agency that makes ‘cool things,’ loudly proclaimed that it was easier to innovate but harder to appeal to human emotions.

Social good

There’s been quite an inspirational message at Cannes this week. Marketers and agencies alike are trying to create something of greater value to humanity, as opposed to just selling their products. Coke has led the way with quite an uplifting presentation of its recent work. Many brands are doing the odd ‘social good’ initiative. I guess the key is to look at whether these attempts are just relegated to CSR or with an eye for awards, or if they become one of the key pillars of the brand. I’m cynical but would loved to be proven wrong.

Deliver value to people

This is nothing new, but makes a lot of sense when ‘engagement’ is fundamental to brand experience in a connected and convergent world. The key message has been to reward people for staying with a brand. Work like ‘The Dumb Ways to Die’ is a classic example of how a song is tackling the serious topic of safety around Melbourne’s metro. Our industry has always been at the periphery of the performing arts, but now it is fascinating to see we are borrowing from music, theatre, dance and art to deliver value to people. This is truly inspirational.

And finally, here are some must-dos this week

  • Drink rosé. This is the only time and place where you won’t feel embarrassed about drinking a wine that hasn't quite made up its mind about what it wants to be.
  • Don't wear sunblock.
  • Don't try to sport the grubby look intentionally, and master your ‘hangover look’ as it gets progressively worse each morning.
  • Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Reject the mundane and truly embrace the awesome, as there’s a lot of that. Especially as you will never see some of the work again beyond this week.

The article first appeared on Campaign Asia

Campaign India

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