As the Indian summer hits, so does the Cannes rush among the Indian ad fraternity. Last minute hustling on (hopefully winning) entries, plans to travel, speculation on winning entries, the Cannes fever seems to be everywhere. Or is it?

It is almost an annual pilgrimage for the senior ad folk. Reality check – not too many senior marketers visit the sunny Riviera’s festival of creativity nor do media agency bigwigs arrive in large numbers. For the vast mid-belly of Indian advertising talent, Cannes is on the periphery of their existence, a distant and almost unreachable dream.

Why aren’t more of us winning at Cannes?

After scoring a hat-trick at Cannes over the last 3 years and being the only media agency from India to have achieved this, I wonder why there aren’t more of us at Cannes and more of us winning the Lion. After all, nothing comes close to the euphoria of being on that coveted centre stage. Nothing beats the feeling of writing a Lion on your portfolio (or is it the Linkedin profile)

Part of the answer probably is in the chequered love affair of India with Cannes. The enthusiasm to enter goes higher every year and the medals tally wavers up and down. We put our weight on wins beyond our share in the world advertising spend but we miss wins in big categories like Mobile, despite having such a high mobile population and penetration.

The big creative agencies have their storytelling and packaging down to a science on what makes for a winning entry. The media agencies have some catching up to do on that front. Some newbies like Medulla Healthcare and PHD are cracking it with big ideas and stellar storytelling, but the industry needs many more.

The ‘cause’ story for India continues to resonate with international jury. What else could explain three Glass Lions in two years? The rest of the Indian work has patches of brilliance.

What does it take for us to claim our place in the sun?

India needs more courageous and more risk-taking work. We need more clients who will back that risk-taking work and will push the agency to raise the bar. Is it lack of desire to move out of the comfort zone for the creative agencies that we don’t see path breaking work in the emerging categories?

It also applies for media agencies too when it comes to bettering their game on selling brave ideas to clients and selling their work to an international jury through right packaging and storytelling.

Doing something that has never been done before landed PHD India in front of the Innovation Lions Jury. It was the only agency that made it there alongside all the innovation and tech start-ups and a brave client-agency partnership was key to that. And every Lion win has that at its heart and that would catapult us much further.

Indian marketers don’t have much of a show at Cannes. They willingly let their agencies take centre stage. Whether enough Indian clients are brave enough to consistently create work that would win at Cannes is a topic of much debate and controversy, but a higher level of presence from them at Cannes could change the game for India. Being in that context and amongst all that creativity and innovation is infectious and puts the taste of Cannes blood in your veins and then there is no going back.

What to look forward to in 2017

More wins and more glory and fewer Indians on the Jury (reality check). While 2016 was all about VR, 2017 promises to take the ‘Innovation’ lens steps ahead. The Innovation Lions would be my big bet for the star of the show this year as they promise to cover voice tech, bots, mixed reality, AI and more because this is where the ideas that really shape the future of our industry will be shared. Marketers and agencies will have much to learn on getting themselves and their businesses future-ready by watching what happens at this Cannes Stage.

Cheers to a good year for India at Cannes and hoping it wins as much for work that builds the business of brands as for work that builds the goodwill of brands.

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