Why was Cannes Ad fest 2022 Indian advertising industry’s ‘1983 moment’?


It is considered the biggest celebration of creativity in communications and allied fields. According to its website, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has been championing creative excellence since 1954 with the goal of providing a global destination and the definitive benchmark for creativity.

And this year, India stole the show with good ideas, and some bright flashes of creativity. Indian ad agencies scooped a record haul of awards — 47 trophies including five Grand Prixs. And for the first time, the coveted ‘Agency of the Year’ award also went to an India firm — Bengaluru-based Dentsu Creative.

An ad campaign, which gave a virtual tour of the British Museum’s treasure troves, was at the heart of India’s historic haul at the just concluded Oscars of advertising. The campaign designed by Dentsu Creative India married technology with creativity — the two critical elements that, experts say, have worked like a charm for winners from the country this year.

The campaign titled “The Unfiltered History Tour” alone won 12 awards — including three Grand Prixs, a titanium lion, a gold, four silvers and three bronze lions.

Dentsu Creative India’s “history tour” creative for Vice Media is one of 16 domestic campaigns that won significant awards this year. Among the other big winners were FCB India, Ogilvy, VMLY&R, McCann, BBDO, DDB Mudra, Leo Burnett and Byju’s.

So, at the festival in France, which attracts the best of advertising, Indian ad agencies won 47 trophies, including 5 Grand Prixs, two titanium lions, eight gold, 18 silver and 14 bronze lions. The previous best run for Indian agencies at Cannes was in 2017, when they took home 40 awards. That tally included one Grand Prix.

Among the Indian agencies, Dentsu Creative won a total of 12 awards, including 3 Grand Prixs. FCB India won a total of 14 awards. VMLY&R won 7, including 1 Grand Prix. Leo Burnett India, which won a total of 2 awards, bagged the last Grand Prix.

The “Chatpat” campaign, which focused on a 10-year-old social media influencer, was a significant contributor to FCB’s tally. His street-smart videos on life were aimed at building awareness and raising funds for vulnerable children and families.

Ogilvy India, which won six medals at Cannes, used artificial intelligence (AI) to create hyper-personalised spots for local businesses in around 260 pin codes for Mondelez India’s “Not Just a Cadbury Ad” campaign featuring actor Shah Rukh Khan in 2020. 2021, Ogilvy went a step ahead and gave local retailers the chance to create their own version of these spots for their stores, using AI technology again.

Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO India, said that while some agencies used technology well in their campaigns, others were noted for the radical solutions they offered. Paul added that 2022 was the 1983 of the Indian advertising industry as it won the advertising World Cup for the first time.

While 2022 has become a milestone for them, agencies are now competing with an army of influencers who understand the power of viral content. According to one industry veteran, two years of Covid-19 have disrupted the advertising industry. The ad agency is no longer the kernel of creative talent. Thus, the combination of technology and creativity has to be clever to stand out from the clutter. Digital being a far more complex medium than film, with multiple platforms and technologies, it is a learning curve for Indian agencies. Will the wins this year at Cannes give Indian ad agencies a leg up in the contested space they will soon be operating in?

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