JWT India has been among metals at the Cannes Lions festival (International Festival of Creativity) quite often. If it was a Promo Lion for Kurkure’s Firestarter, there was Lead India, Naaka Mukka and more for The Times of India, and Slim Jeans for Levi’s, among others, that are top of mind.
We invited Senthil Kumar, NCD, JWT, to reflect on the agency's tryst at the advertising festival, and the country’s lacklustre run beginning with SSC&B Lintas’ Gold Cannes Lion in 1996. It has not been as bad since 2004 when Indian agencies started winning consistently, reminded Kumar.
"I was still in college, I guess, when India won its first Cannes Lion," he recalled. Talking about India's run prior to 2004, Kumar explained, "It must have been because we were not recognising our creative potential and not sending in the right entries and also note that not every year is a leap year for India (pun intended)! There must have been a poor harvest of ideas across agencies during those years. It was only post 2002 that Indian creatives started believing more that our work could compete and win on the global creative stage. Am sure that if you looked back, the number of entries from India during the unsuccessful years would have been far lesser."
Asked to pick two campaigns from the work that fetched JWT Cannes Lions, he chose 'Naaka Muka - A day in life of Chennai' and 'Arjuna The Archer - Sulekha.com'.
The Naaka Muka film won two Gold Lions at the festival. It won Gold each in Film and Film Craft Music in 2009. "It took 56 years for India to win its first Gold in Film at Cannes and I am proud to be the writer and the creative director of the film, making India proud on this global stage."
Sulekha.com's campaign 'Arjuna The Archer' was a film based on the art of Patta Chitra Katha. It won in Design Lions. Kumar described it thus: “A vivid story that simplifies online yellow pages and encourages online transactions through the life of Arjuna in 2008 AD. A film that bridges mythology with technology to save a priceless art form and revive it for future generations through a collective online Patta Chitra Katha Reservoir on Sulekha.com."
Success of Indian agencies at Cannes Lions tends to get evaluated on the number of metals they collectively win. What does this number mean at the agency level?
"The number of metals never really matters but the colour of the metal does. Only if you win Gold, you get to go on the stage and receive it in front of the whole world. But what matters most is the fact that as creative champions of India, we can make our country proud on the world stage. I still remember vividly that year, when the entire JWT creative team was waving the Indian Tricolour on the Cannes stage as we received the Grand Prix for Lead India. It was India's first ever Grand Prix at Cannes and what a night that was," recalled Kumar.
Not every year is full of trophies. 2003, Kumar's first year at Cannes Lions, was rather forgettable. "I felt like an idiot and wanted to jump into the sea because nothing I had created was even shortlisted. But the next time I went there, I returned with a bag full of Gold Lions for the Levi's Slim Jeans Campaign in 2006," he surmised.
Here’s hoping this year’s tally is rich for Kumar, JWT and Indian adland.