The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2015 is just about fading from memory. It’s a good time to reflect on the winners, the ones who didn’t get past the shortlist, the juries, Pops’ South Indian dinner, cheesy pick-up lines (uttered, heard or overheard) at the Gutter Bar (mostly outside its washrooms), ‘sales pitches masquerading as seminars’, strip and swing clubs (that will strip you of all your money), spectacular fireworks at the end of it all, some unfortunate incidents, the priceless learnings and inspiration from the work and minds at the Palais… and in some rare cases, work that wasn’t entered at all.
When Touch the Pickle touched the pinnacle (Glass Lions Grand Prix), it was a moment of pride for all of us. Given the lackadaisical metal tally, it was a saving grace for India as well. There were some who felt #LikeAGirl should have gotten the top honour in the inaugural Glass Lions, like it did in PR Lions (Grand Prix). The Leo Burnett work earned enough Golds for Mark Tutsell, P&G and team to be happy. But the ones outside the Palais, whose views don’t really matter, weren’t in agreement. That’s Cannes Lions – unpredictable, debatable. Ensures that the buzz remains until next year’s festival.
In the Palais, I ran into Jose Sokoloff, the chairman of Lowe’s global creative council, about three months after a lovely chat in Dubai. The man behind path-breaking campaigns that got guerillas in Latin America to give up arms, and rehabilitated into industries like fashion, was his usual spirited, silent self. It was the day after the Glass Lions winners were announced, if I remember right. I asked him if they had considered entering a piece of work done by Lowe Lintas India for Havells, in the new category. A part of the Hawa badlegi series, this film featured a young girl sitting by herself before the TV, while her family sits down for dinner. When she refuses to join them at the table, her family joins her one after the other, on the couch, and they end up having dinner together. I don’t remember anyone using the words period or pickle. The Indian audience didn’t need help with interpretation. They knew from experience.
Make no mistake; I am not grudging the BBDO India win one bit. It had a hell of a lot going for it, not the least of which was the category fit. A sanitary napkin talking periods – what more could you ask for? A client like P&G backed it, making it far easier for juries to appreciate it. And my friends at BBDO India do know that this was one of the few magazines saluting the Gillette Soldier for Women all the way.
There is just too much good work though, that end up not getting their share of the limelight at international forums. But they need to be recognised. Lalitaji for the detergent brand or the Rasna Girl for the soft drink concentrate, or a Jo Tera Hai for Airtel, would not stand a chance of making it past an international festival jury. But they also serve, and deserve more than an effectiveness award.
The irony is, like the work that isn’t seen outside, creators of such work are also invisible, and so are their valuable points of view.
Back to the inspirational Sokoloff. When asked if the Havells piece of work was considered by Lowe for the Cannes Lions, he admitted that it was overlooked and that it should, in fact, have been entered. Like some other good work that has been overlooked, he added.
It was his turn to ask why I moved from Dubai. I explained that while Dubai offered a great life, good money, wonderful people, won more awards on average than India, part of why I moved was the quality of the real, everyday work that we see in India.
Work that some international juries would never get to see – and probably not get, even if they did.
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