Raj Kamble
Jun 21, 2017

Opinion: Cannes Lions, are you worth it?

In an era when everybody talks about ROI in advertising, an ad man wonders aloud about the ROI on advertising's brightest metal

Opinion: Cannes Lions, are you worth it?
This is the 64th year of the Cannes Lions. I am attending this for the 14th time and as I walk around, I am a little nostalgic about the previous years at Cannes. When I came to Cannes for the first time in the year 2000, the world was a different place. 
The Gutter Bar was not so popular and you could spot only 5-6 Indians there like Piyush Pandey, Pradeep Guha and Rajiv Agarwal. It was a pleasant one week for connecting with the industry. Some people won awards, some didn't and it went about like a ritual. 
Today, Cannes Lions is bursting at the seams. Categories have increased left, right and centre. The tents on the beach seem to multiply every year and the French Riviera is busy as a beach. It's like the old Cannes Lions Festival got drunk, popped steroids, injected some botox, pierced its body, coloured its hair and is driving around town in a red Ferrari. 
The number of entries crossed the 40,000 mark a few years back and over 15,000 people attend every year. And as is usually the case, when a shiny red unattainable thing is paraded in front of a much larger set of people, you start hearing the question, "is it really worth"? Or as my ex-boss Sir Frank Lowe put it one night in Cannes, while sipping on his vintage wine, "Do you realise how much money I've invested in this ego-boosting festival?" 
His question never left my mind. In an attempt to solve this dilemma for myself and many other people, here's some "Cannes-culation" about the worth of a Cannes Lion metal. 
Imagine a small design studio called Orange in Hyderabad. They have done some amazing packaging for an upcoming food brand and are entering it in a few categories. They will incur costs for making the case study boards and films (and we all know that Case study films these days are reaching Motion Picture levels). There will be the cost of the entry, and as soon as they submit the entry, they will get an email from a Cannes Lions representative suggesting 7 more categories that would be good for the work entered. They will most likely be tempted and go for it. Then there is the cost of sending a team here - their flight, stay, entry pass and so on. 
Cannes Lions gets over 40,000 entries every year and the cost to enter can be anything between 800 euros to 1200 euros depending on the category. At an average of 1000 Euros per entry that's about INR 300 crore only for the entries. 
Then coming to the passes, with 15,000 attendees and about 3000 euros per pass, we are talking about another INR 300 crore pouring into Cannes Lions from all over the world to buy passes. Add to that the travel, stay, food, the parties, the sponsored tents, the paid talks, the paid cafes, the branding and so on - even the air you breathe while at Cannes Lions is most likely paid for by some brand. That turns the worth of the good old Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity into approximately INR 1200 crore. Let than sink in for a moment. 
Now let's talk about what do we get in return? Yes, we get inspired, we connect with people, we enjoy the beach and all that - but those are just the bells and whistles. What we all really get, or hope to get, is a piece of that red Ferrari - a metal trophy. On an average, Cannes Lions gives out 1000-1400 trophies per year. Removing the unpaid ones, that's about 1200 trophies. About 1200 trophies for INR 1200 crore rupees. That's 1 crore rupees for 1 trophy. That's the value of a Cannes Lion. 
But that's just its inherent value. That's all behind the scenes. How do we know if it’s worth it for us? How does the owner of Orange in Hyderabad know if it’s worth it? In my view, it’s worth it if you know what to do with it. The value of the Lion is currently locked in the trophy. It's in your hands to take it out and transfer that value to your business. Can you take that piece of metal and go win a INR 1 crore in billings? Can you do enough PR around it worth INR 1 crore? If you are able to transfer the value of the Cannes Lions trophy as value to your agency, then yes, it is absolutely worth it. And once you start seeing the realisation of the value of the trophy, you can invest in it smartly and better in the following years. 
But if you don't do that, Mr. Orange owner in Hyderabad, you can just be happy with the silver or bronze that is couriered to your home that one year and keep telling everyone you meet how Cannes is so not worth it, while you keep attending every year and drinking at the Gutter Bar.  
(Raj Kamble is the founder and CCO of Famous Innovations, 2016 and 2017 South Asia Independent Agency of the Year. Famous was also featured in the 2016 and 2017 World’s Leading Independent Agencies list.)
Campaign India

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