Nothing that made me want to come back and do things differently.
Of the four times that I have been to the (Cannes Lions) festival, I have mostly come back feeling that we need to ‘up our game’. That we need to be ‘at par’ with the best in the world and we need to speak a universal language. All that stays more or less the same, except maybe with the belief that we are not doing badly as a country, despite how a handful of judges might rate us.
Awards are irrelevant. If my country wins though, I am happy.
I enjoy meeting fellow countrymen on Cannes terrain, given that we barely get chances on home turf. Though a few of them fellow Indians whom I don't know, that I tried to smile at, returned my smile with a cold stare. Nothing to do with being brown I hope.
Anyhow, I decided to attend a few talks and the ones I enjoyed most were Pharell Williams, who totally blew me away, Jamie Oliver (yes, the chef) and Monica Lewinsky (that’s right, the Lewinsky).
Williams succinctly put everything in life, down to “intent”. I can’t rebuild his talk here but watch it somewhere on the net please. It’s a great watch – it’s the cool Ryan Seacrest interviewing him.
Williams says that whatever you set out to do, if you have the right and truest intention it will work. You may ask what’s the big deal about that piece of ‘news’. Well he’s just reminding us that in our seeking of bigger and better things, we lose sight of the smaller things. We lose sight of our ‘intent’ and go chasing things that hold no meaning minus the right intent. And then we question what failed us.
Williams came across as a genuinely lovely human being. All his success (and there’s tonnes he’s doing by the way) comes from him being gracious, truly talented, thankful and respectful to everyone in his life and by collaborating with people who know much more than him. He stays firmly grounded and spiritual. His namastes on a global platform made me super happy. And let me tell you you haven’t a clue how old this boy is. Go figure. I don’t know too much about his music, except that it sure has a happy ring to it and now I know I probably like him much more than his music.
Jamie, well he’s power-packed. He’s put in years of focused hard work in doing some amazing things with food. ‘Jamie Oliver’ is a brand. Creating movements and educating an entire younger generation in the UK and elsewhere about nutrition and food and health. He is an advocate for eating right. He says we have strange problems today – death from starvation and deaths from excess eating. Truly a strange world, full of imbalances. He looked directly into the eyes of the numerous marketers in that forum from around the world and said without a blink: “Trust is a currency in short supply”. Something for them to chew on. Love his gumption.
The one other talk was again nothing to do with advertising.
It was Ms Lewinsky. She was on the crucifix for 20 years and has finally come down to speak to us about some stuff that inflicts pain on several victims in our worlds today. Her single plea: ‘Stop cyber-bullying’ and shaming. That’s right. Don’t partake in sharing and tweeting and commenting on something by being vicious, if you haven’t thought for a moment what the victim might be going through. There’s always two sides to every story. And with a landscape where some of the media can be completely insensitive, we as individuals thrive on lynching, one-upmanship with our smart alec statements and tasteless jokes. All she wants us to do is pause and think of the victim and turn the tide with one contradictory comment with another point of view that’s valid or then just silence. We don’t have to add to the din. Let’s be sensitised and responsible. Cyber-bullying is a reality today. Most of us have children and realise how they could be affected by this. They could be bullies or victims and they need to be made aware. They and us, we all need to know that mistakes happen but no one deserves to be penalised and scarred for life by a whole world of strangers who use the internet to carelessly and mercilessly pass judgment.
While I shared this story with an intern at my office today, she looked blankly at me. She didn't know who Monica Lewinsky is.
Aah! I am old. This is a story from 20-odd years ago and this intern is all of 19. But she has something to learn from it. Monica was 22 and naive when she fell in love with her boss, who only happened to be the president of the United States of America at that time. And the media thrived on her and her story relentlessly for all these years. It’s a wonder she is alive and able to share her story and speak up. A testament to the fact that she has the most incredible family and friends in the world. Take a bow, wherever you are.
So in a nutshell, 2015 at Cannes was an eye-opener at some level.
My intent needs assessment, my food habits need modification, and my urge to comment or share needs careful thought.
Thank you for reading my piece and hope that I could bring you some sunshine from the South of France.
- Sneha Iype Varma, executive producer, Nirvana Films