Cannes is best known for its film festival; a period during which all the stars from the world of films descend to this beautiful part of the French Riviera. And the red carpet at the Palais is the most visible symbol of this festival. A giant staircase draped in red, with every star pausing for a bit to have the flash bulbs record his or her presence.
In June, every year, Cannes drapes and readies itself once again, but for another set of celebrities. This time, it’s the celebrities from the world of advertising, media and marketing. And the Palais readies itself to welcome over 12,000 delegates from over 95 countries, who come to Cannes to see, hear and learn from the celebrities of this industry and return home inspired and mesmerised. The red carpet at the Palais remains the most visible face of this festival too, with every one eager to have themselves photographed on this haloed staircase, be it by a member of the media or just a selfie stick.
A big difference between the two festivals is that the celebrities of this festival are far more remembered for their creative and innovative ideas than their clothes. The agenda within the Palais itself is very formal and demanding.
Seminars, forums, workshops, master classes, creative leaders programmes, classroom sessions, tours of the work…the list of ‘what to do at the festival’ is endless. With each of them running parallely, throughout the day, there is so much to do and see, that whatever you cover, you feel that you have missed out on a lot.
While the celebrities and legends from the world of advertising, ideas and creativity were all present, this year boasted a long list of star speakers from across the world of brands, corporates, entertainment, media, politics and creativity. So what attracts these beacons of brands, business and knowledge to the festival every year? What attracts market leaders and leading brands to the festival? Why do competitors and rivals agree to share the same stage with each other?
While there may be many reasons , I do credit the festival for its ability to evolve and transform as the times demand, year after year. To not only remain relevant for the challenges and aspirations of today, but to also offer a platform where the future is first seen and discussed, to help you prepare for that tomorrow, today. And thus a festival that was once seen as an industry gathering of only the advertising fraternity is today a celebration of creative ideas. This year, the journey stretched even further, by bringing innovations to the forefront.
Another face of the Cannes Lions Festival is the recognition of the best of best work from across the globe, in the form of a “Lion”. To win a coveted Lion is the dream of any agency or client, alike, because it is seen as the gold standard in the area of marketing and communications. And you can sense the passion and hunger for this recognition among the people and agencies who are assembled at the festival. This year the festival introduced two new categories of Lions. One for Innovation, and the other called the Glass Lion, the Lion for change.
However, the agenda of recognising work that shatters gender stereotypes through the Glass Lion came centre stage with this year’s marquee speaker, Monica Lewinsky. She stood on the stage, honest, humble and forthcoming, as she eloquently and passionately spoke about her experience as the “Patient Zero” of online shaming. And citing her story, boldly, she appealed to the audience about the importance of compassion—both online and off, while asking if cyber bullying is a fact of life in our social discourse.
So now to end my memories of the Cannes Lions Festival 2015 with the question that is on the minds of many. How did India fare, as far as the Lions tally is concerned?
The good news first. We have every reason to be proud of BBDO for having won the Grand Prix at the first year of the Glass Lion. It was a proud moment for the India contingent. But the bad news is that with the overall tally, we did not live up to our own expectations or potential. We have every reason to introspect. What went wrong?
But I take inspiration from these words of an old Hindi movie song: Chodo kal ki baathen, kal ki baath purani. Naye daur men likhenge milkar nahin kahaani. We have 12 months to prove to the world that 2015 was an aberration.
Cannes Lions 2016 beckons!
The author is CMO – financial services, Aditya Birla Group