When the Promo Lions category was introduced at the Cannes Festival of Creativity (then International Advertising Festival), India fired. JWT’s entry ‘Firestarter’ for brand Kurkure (Pepsico) signalled India’s promo power in 2006.
One hoped work in this category would be more easily demonstrable to an international jury, and that it would not get lost in interpretation. This led to hope that great things were waiting to happen for Indian entries. Some good things did.
In 2007, JWT India won another Promo Lion, this one for ‘Nodding Bull’ for The Vegetarian Society. From the next year, when Promo Lions translated into metal, JWT India’s ‘Stretch Festival’ for the Government of Puducherry won a Bronze. India scored another Bronze in 2009, thanks to ‘Stainbroidery’ work for P&G’s Tide detergents by Leo Burnett. In 2010, Ogilvy & Mather struck Bronze, for its entry ‘Meltdown’ for client AICMED. And last year, it was Bronze for the ‘Silent National Anthem’ for Reliance Mediaworks, entered by Mudra Communications.
What’s with the bronze ceiling?
Roshan Abbas, MD, Encompass, who was on the Promo Lions jury in 2008, points out that with clients demanding results, most creative ideas which are difficult to measure do not pass muster with them – whereas, most entries from the rest of the world have digital components that are measurable. That is yet to happen in India, he notes.
“Our market is less evolved, so rather than search for the highest common factor, we look for the lowest common denominator of creativity in promos,” adds Abbas.
There are other awards for promotions where the Indian tally has been better over the years. Notably, the Promotional Marketing Awards of Asia (PMAA).
“In India, we tend not to veer towards disruptive elements with promotions. The slant is towards effectiveness. The Cannes festival is more focused on creativity; which is why, we see Indian promotions doing well in awards like the PMAA, which have a strong marking skew towards RoI and effectiveness,” explains Ambika Sharma, MD and CEO, Pulp Strategy, and zonal director for India for PMAA.
Says Dhruv Jha, business head, brand experience, Lodestar UM, “We don’t think experiential. We think ATL and mass media, and end up extending the same campaign idea for BTL. Therefore, there is no novelty, but only an extension of the idea to an on-ground promotion. The idea needs to be conceived for the consumer experience of the promotion for it to score on originality.”
That marketers work to ‘extend’ the ATL idea to promotions, including critical areas like shopper marketing, is a grouse shared by retailers like Devendra Chawla, president – Food Bazaar, Future Group.
He notes, “Store is the final decision making point, the moment of truth and this is where the rubber hits the road. Yet most consumer brands are used to thinking of television as the lead medium, because most of the marketing money they spend is on television. The idea therefore, is created for that medium, although experiential marketing in the shopper space can make the final difference to the purchase decision. Currently for most marketers, the focus is on creating the mass media campaign, and then extending it to the experiential space.”
According to Chawla, for a real disruptive experiential promotion, the idea has to be created for the medium. “While television will remain dominant, the shift in spends towards other mediums will happen gradually, like online and shopper marketing. On that there is no doubt,” he adds.
On the jury of the Cannes Promo Lions 2012 is Pratap Bose, COO, DDB Mudra Group. He notes that it is primarily the advertising agencies that enter at Cannes. And for them, the focus has always been on the Print, OOH, Design and Direct Lions categories. He calls them the ‘dal-roti’ categories for these agencies. And the top 10 creative agencies, according to him ‘don’t get the activation space’.
He adds, “This is a category where you need a great idea. But you also need to have the ability to pull it off in a ‘wow’ way. You need to be able to ideate, execute, capture and reproduce that work in a video that shows the uniqueness and impact of the work. It’s very difficult to win a Promo Lion without a video.”
Ambika Sharma, MD and CEO, Pulp Strategy, and zonal director for India, PMAA
“The approach to promotions in India is very different from what it is in some other markets. We are more effectiveness-focused, more product-experience focused with our promotions; rather than brand experience-focused. There’s a difference between an ad which is focused on pushing sales and an ad that increases the saliency of the brand; similarly with promos.”
Devendra Chawla, president – food and FMCG, Future Group
“Apart from business logic, some recognition too can work. Awards get the juices flowing for the advertising and marketing fraternity. Maybe it is time we have an award – or at least a category within an awards show – for shopper marketing. That should get the ideation process for promotional marketing kicked off.”
Dhruv Jha, business head, Brand Experience, Lodestar UM
“Typically in India, the client brief also starts with a campaign idea that needs to be extended to a BTL promotion or campaign. This limits the scope for ideas that can stand out internationally, because then you’re not thinking originally.”
Pratap Bose, chief operating officer, DDB Mudra Group
“In categories like Design, it’s about individual or at best one team’s craft. With Promo Lions, multiple vendors have to get involved in the entire process, from ideation to execution to capture and reproduction. So it’s that much harder to pull off. ”
Roshan Abbas, managing director, Encompass
“Our packaging is horrible. Most promo entries are done by activation and event agencies and seem to be last on the list of advertising agencies. So the quality is not good, especially when compared to entries put up by the rest of the world, which are made by specialised presentation teams. I’ve heard of teams that travel across the globe working purely on packaging of entries!”