Madhura Nathwani
Jun 28, 2011

Madhura Nathwani's Blogs from Cannes

Madhura Nathwani is chief operation officer, Sharp Shooter Films. This is a collection of her blogs from Cannes Lions 2011.

Madhura Nathwani's Blogs from Cannes

Sunday jottings from Cannes

Arrived in Cannes early in the morning on Friday, June 17 both apprehensive and excited about the festival that I’ve heard so much about.  Since this was a last minute trip, all the hotels were sold out and we had rented an apartment.  Much to our relief the apartment was a good size, well furnished and centrally located.  Phew! Spent the rest of Friday and Saturday getting to know the town.  It really is a quaint place – cobbled streets, little cafes, beautiful beaches, many holidaying European families, luxury hotels, seafront restaurants, bars, designer shops and of course the Palais where the Cannes Lions is being held. 


Today, Sunday, is the first day of the festival. Being the geek that I am, I couldn’t wait to get started.  One of the best seminars that I attended today was called ‘The Long Idea’.  The speakers were Jimmy Maymann, Executive Chairman  of Goviral and Martin Lindstrom, Brand Expert and Author.  The theme that ran through the seminar was that brands need to keep conversations alive, especially via Social Media, leading to long term branding.  The only way to achieve this type of branding is through the quality of a brand’s storytelling and the quality of the consumer’s experience. 

Martin, one of the speakers had conducted a neuroscience experiment to establish whether there was any connection between great religions and great brands.  He found that the most powerful religious feelings and the most powerful feeling for brands generate activity in the same region of the brain.

Great religions as well as great brands are built on ten pillars – grandeur, vision, a powerful enemy, storytelling, mystery, symbolism, rituals, appeal to the senses, sense of belonging and evangelism. Apple is a the perfect example as it covers all ten pillars (yes, even rituals – fingers working on the Ipad, the Iphone, the mouse). 

Another study recently conducted by Martin placed a family in a community.  The family discussed branded objects with their neighbours casually. These brands that were discussed in casual conversation caused the neighbours to go online and interact with the brand.   Seeding offline is as important as incubation and adoption.  Offline brand activity should start 3-9 months prior to the actual online activity to make the online activity more effective.

To get 100 people to adopt the brand, Jimmy discussed the 1:9:90 principal where 1 person sets up the content, 9 people are chosen to evangelize it and that’s how the remaining 90 people start interacting with the brand.

The key is to understand consumers and create the kind of content that they would choose to interact with.  In a world where attention spans are limited, where everything is on-demand and consumers are empowered, creatives and brands have an increasingly challenging task ahead of them. 

Digital brand activity in India is still nascent.  My guess is that this will change over the coming years…in the meanwhile, we need to prepare ourselves for a different kind of story telling to a more savvy audience.  Budgets for youtube ads will rival those for TVCs.  Young minds out of nowhere will be much in demand.  Huge opportunities will open up and when they do, we will need to be prepared.

Au revoir and more tomorrow…

Of Seminars, Workshops and Master Classes…

Some great sessions today.  I’ve tried to give you useful insights.  Here goes:

The Seminar by Initiative


  • Local marketing insights are the foundation of a brand’s marketing strategy. Each market is unique – some value trust, some authenticity and some are price sensitive.  Every commercial, every print ad, every social media initiative, every owned channel needs to reflect the needs of the local market.  The tone of the message and the way the message is delivered when based on local insights creates a virtuous cycle for the brand across paid (media available for sale), earned (media driven by customers) and owned media (brands channels). 
  • Brands need to have empathy with the consumer.  A great example is that of Hyundai in the US during the recession. Hyundai realized that car sales were down because people were afraid to lose their jobs.  Based on this insight, the company came up with Hyundai Assurance which assured customers that if they lost their jobs, the company would take the car back and that there would be no more monthly payments to make.  Simple but courageous.  And guess what? The Hyundai Sonata became the number one selling car in its segment.

The Seminar by BBDO

  • Each screen is different and a user’s relationship with each one has specific characteristics.  The TV is the Jester, your friend, The PC is the sage or an older sibling, the tablet is the wizard and the phone is the lover.  Messaging for each of these devises has to be specifically designed for the device.  A TV commercial can’t just be pushed to the PC or the tablet.  Be especially careful while marketing via phones as this device is really the closest to the consumer.  Any message that comes via the phone needs to be particularly relevant and add value.

The Workshop by Mindscapes

  • Consumers love it when a brand fights for a cause.  Not necessarily a serious one! Sometimes the cause is invented.  Like when Snoop Dogg wanted to emigrate to Australia but the authorities didn’t want ‘criminals’ to reside in the country. MTV started a ‘Welcome Snoop’ Campaign in Australia which garnered a lot of media attention and social media activity.  The brand is linked to the cause that it raises awareness about and the awareness leads to sympathy for the cause, fueling brand growth.
  • The other nice tool is to create a product or offering that never existed before again based on an insight.  For example, a beer company, Andes, created a ‘tele-transponder’ which it placed in bars all across Argentina.  So, when the girlfriend called, a guy drinking with his buddies would enter the sound proof transponder and pretend he was anywhere but at a bar (the machine created artificial ambient sounds of your choice – traffic, baby crying etc).  Fewer arguments and happier couples!
  • Temporarily remove an element associated with a brand – like no whopper at Burger King and tape reactions of customers when they hear that.  Those clips can be played across social media.

Seminar by AOL (Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post spoke)

  • Content is King reiterated
  • The Internet has grown up.  Consumers have moved from adolescence where values online were different from values offline. 
  • The four pillars of an online property are trust, authenticity, engagement and pursuit of happiness
  • 85% of consumers visit only 30 sites a month of which 10 are constants.

Master Class by Taxi

  • As an independent agency, it’s important to know who you are, what you do and what you stand for. 
  • Design is key
  • Do great work or bad work but stay away from the middle as everyone is there and it’s just too crowded


Tuesday on the Croisette and in the Palais

This was an early, early morning.  Had a 7:30 am breakfast meeting at The Carlton Terrace, apparently the place for meetings. Met with the founder of a highly successful UK based production house.  She told us about her humble beginnings 20 year ago when she drove to Cannes on her motor bike to find a director she could rep.  She managed to find one who was kind of quirky but passionate and the rest is history.  She’s been back for the festival every year since then and off late as a jury member.  

That brings me to my next point.  Most foreign production houses are appalled by the fact that India producers rep many of the same freelance directors. So, what are we competing on? Price? And what value are we adding to these directors? Getting them one-off films? Really makes me think that maybe it’s time to say no.  Maybe it’s time we got a commitment and made one in return. 

Sparking a movement was the theme of the wonderful workshop conducted by Strawberry Frog.  Sparking a movement when a change is needed takes courage.  The risk is that maybe no one will want to follow you.  But then again, one or two people might… then a third might.  And three is a crowd isn’t it? Soon there will be more people joining in and finally it will be risky not to join.  

The highlight was a talk by Robert Redford sponsored by Yahoo.  The auditorium was packed.  Robert spoke about hitchhiking in winter across Europe (at the age of 19) when he happened to get to Cannes late one night.  He was so tired that he lay down in his sleeping bag on the beach, under the pier.  He was drifting off to sleep when he heard sounds of music and laughter and looked up at the Carlton hotel wondering what it would be like to be one of the men in a tux at the hotel.  Makes you realize the kind of struggle people go through before they make it.  

Cannes is full of such stories.  Stay tuned.  More tomorrow. 

Highights from Day 3

There were some great sessions today.  Although some ideas and thoughts are now beginning to sound repetitive, there’s always some new and interesting information that is presented and really worth sharing. 

  • The workshop by Sharethrough about distributing brand videos on the net was a highlight for me.  And no surprise but the starting point is the Creative Strategy.  We have moved beyond interrupting a consumer while he’s watching content he has chosen to view. Brands now have to earn consumer attention through strong content and preferably content that the consumer would be happy to share.  The content therefore has to be highly engaging but in order for it to work for the brand, it also needs to create brand awareness. 

A good starting point for creating the content is to ask what people will say about the content once they’ve viewed it.  Many ideas go right out of the window when we realize that there’s nothing to say about the content. 

Now branded content can be so engaging in and of itself that it often drives traffic to the publisher! A fantastic example of this is the Jennifer Aniston video on Smart Water which not only went viral but created brand awareness too.

  • The Leo Burnett seminar was about defining an effective brand.  The starting point is to ask what the ‘human purpose’ of the brand is and then the brand needs to live its human purpose via its actions.  Once consumers find that brands are living their purpose, the market performance of brands is enhanced and brands becomes popular. 
  • The Facebook seminar on how brands can use Facebook more effectively was a must attend.  There are 500 million people using Facebook, a platform that brands have to leverage, especially since it provides an opportunity for people to recommend brands and products to each other.  People are looking to friends for recommendations just as they are in the offline world.  A good tool for brands is to spark a conversation on Facebook – even by asking a simple question which people would be interested to answer.

Facebooks new offering, the Sponsored Story (where newsfeeds and likes from friends about brands come up on the right and only go to friends and friends of friends) is a powerful way to reach consumers in a way that was not possible before on the net – via word of mouth, only that on Facebook word of mouth can have an exponential effect. 

The Beauty of Cannes…

Reflecting on the last few days, one of the things I realized is that Cannes has been a great way to unwind.  The sun is always shining, the weather is fabulous, the scenery is spectacular, the faces around you are happy, everyone is relaxed and there’s not a cell phone in sight.  And the hours spent in the Palais absorbing everything going on in the industry globally, listening to eminent speakers, hearing great stories really broaden ones horizons. 

I decided to take some time off today and went to the beach. Lots of single people, groups of friends and young families. 

Also checked out Rue the Antibes, lined with all kinds of shops – small ones as well as the usual suspects, selling everything from clothes to bags to shoes to accessories to groceries.  Decided to window shop as I couldn’t justify buying one more article post my US holiday a couple of weeks ago. But it did take a lot of restraint!

Dinner will be at Le Suquet, a little winding cobbled street that is on a slope with restaurants on either side. Each menu is unique with all kinds of specialties.  Today is the longest day of the year and from what I hear everyone’s going to be outside making the most of it. Have a booking at L’Echiquet recommended by a local friend.  More tomorrow.


Campaign India

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