Cannes jury has often complained that Indian ads are melodramatic: Prasoon Joshi

Written by Anushree Bhattacharyya | Updated: Jul 1 2014, 18:01pm hrs
Prasoon JoshiAt this year?s Cannes International Advertising Festival, Joshi added yet another feather in his cap by becoming the first Asian to head the Titanium and Integrated Lions juries.
Prasoon Joshi, chairman and chief creative officer, McCann Worldgroup India and president, South Asia is known for the various hats he dons in the advertising industry as well as outside it. At this years Cannes International Advertising Festival, Joshi added yet another feather in his cap by becoming the first Asian to head the Titanium and Integrated Lions juries. This is Joshis fourth stint as a Cannes Lions jury. In his first stint, he was part of the Print jury in 2006. In 2008, he was jury president of the Outdoor category and then in 2009, he was part of the Titanium and Integrated team of jurors. In a conversation with FE BrandWagons Anushree Bhattacharyya, Joshi talks about his new experience and the areas Indian agencies need to focus on for a better run at international advertising award shows such as Cannes Lions. Edited excerpts:

As an Asian jury president what were the key points you kept in mind when you presided over the two categories Titanium and Integrated

It is a big honour to represent my country as well as other Asian countries at a coveted international stage such as the Cannes Lions but along with it comes responsibility. The process of judging in a creative industry such as advertising is the collective work of a jury and I as the president of two categories was responsible for smooth functioning. In other words, I was responsible for proper conduction of an orchestra. A campaign always has two sidesartistic and marketing. The artistic side of any campaign is about creative solutions. There are various ways of solving a problem, but the trick lies in how one applies his sensibilities. The marketing side is mainly about effectiveness of the campaign and the kind of impact it has had on the sale of a product. In case of both the categories, Titanium and Integrated, it is the artistic side which is given more importance in order to understand how a simple idea had a huge impact on people. The focus is on the quality of the idea.

How is judging creative work at Cannes different from The One Show or D&AD

The One Show held every year in New York is a very prestigious award and each and every win at the award show is cherished by all, while Cannes Advertising Festival, as the name suggests is a festival which celebrates advertising. From various workshops to seminars, etc, Cannes is packed with many interactive sessions which allow advertising professionals to mingle with people from all walks of life. Cannes is a culture building exercise.

Observers say that presentation plays a vital role at Cannes Lions. What are the points agencies should keep in mind while preparing a presentation for the festival

The first thing that creative agencies need to understand is that the jury at Cannes Lions goes through a deluge of work, so it is very important that the presentation should be simple and easy to understand. Secondly, the presentation should not be very long and should not be full of complex arguments. Instead, agencies should quickly come to the point. A jury often loses interest if the presentation it too long. In such situations, even if the creative work is good, the jury fails to notice it. Finally, while preparing the presentation agency heads need to understand that they cannot fall in love with their work and the presentation should not be a reflection of it.

Indian agency heads have often talked about how the limited understanding of Indian culture is one of the reasons behind the country not wining as many metals as countries such as Brazil, Australia and America. To what extent has the scene changed in the last couple of years

There was a time when people in the West still thought India to be the land of snake charmers but all this is a thing of the past now. People in the West now know more about Indian culture. For example, people now know bindi is from India, and is part of the Indian culture, which was not the case a few years back. Even as the knowledge about Indian culture has increased in the last few years, people from European and American countries are yet to understand the nuances of our culture completely. For example, at Cannes Lions international juries have often complained about Indian ads being melodramatic. Yes, I too agree that our ads are melodramatic but so are we in our real life. They fail to understand that melodrama is part of our culture and our ads reflect emotions that are part of our culture. As jury members from India our job is to increase awareness of Indian culture, and we do that when we spend time with international juries.

How has Indias performance improved at Cannes Advertising Festival in the last couple of years

Creative agencies in India are doing great work, and this is evident from our performance at Cannes in the last couple of years. We have come a long way from the days of winning one or two Cannes Lions to raking in 20-30 Lions year after year. I remember in 2004, my work on brand Coca-Cola had won two gold Lions. At the time, it was a rare thing to happen, so much so, that the next day The Times of India covered the news on its front page. From then to now, it has been a long walk. Today, an agency easily manages to win three-four metals every year. However, we are yet to reach the level of American and European countries. But that is not because we are not good at our work, it is mainly because the West is warming up to Indian culture.

While Indias performance is usually good in traditional categories such as film, print, outdoor, which are the other categories you think requires attention

Traditional categories such as television, print, outdoor are no worry areas for agencies from India. The reason behind this is that we live in a different world. In India while on one hand we have media dark regions, on the other people in urban cities are exposed to all kinds of media and remain connected all the time. So traditional categories are still very big in India. For example, television is used heavily by brands as it has the biggest reach. Similar is the case of other media verticals such as print, outdoor and radio. Compared to traditional media, digital is still small but is growing gradually. Even advertising spend on digital has increased. Therefore, the number of creative work entered in the category is less. However, one category where India should have dominated is mobile, given the huge user base the country has. In the coming years, I would like to see Indian agencies entering more work in the mobile category.