Indian Ads and Cannes

Shobhika Puri

Cannes Lions Advertising Festival is a much awaited event for the international communications fraternity and India is no exception.

However, the kind of media attention that it is receiving even after the Festival has concluded, makes one wonder as to what’s the message that is being sent across? Are the numerous debates and comments about our dismal performance in bringing home the awards doing justice to the creative talent of our country?

This year, there were 24,242 entries from 90 countries across various categories. India had the fifth highest number of entries. At the end, we managed to bag 3 Golds, 7 Silvers and 7 Bronzes.

Why is India not being able to match global standards? Where are we lacking? What is the mistake that our ad people are making time and again? These are some of the numerous questions being raised about our abysmal performance. However, such questions defeat the very purpose of such a global platform. Cannes is not only a platform for recognizing creative talent that has the potential to cut across boundaries but, also a meeting point for professionals in the global communications industry to learn, unlearn and re-learn from each other. By focusing our communication on the quantitative results we are missing the wood for the trees. Every year, crores of rupees are spent by companies to participate in the Festival not just to bring back some medals but, to widen the horizons of our communication professionals.

Another big mistake that is made time and again by many is that not every ad is aimed at a global audience. Every ad has a specific objective that the client wants to achieve. Generally, the ads are region specific and not many aim to address the international audience. Thus, they are developed keeping the local culture and demographic profile in mind. What works well in India may not work well in Spain. In fact, why even cross borders? What works well in Chennai may not work in New Delhi. What may work for one generation, may not work for another. For example, recently there was a Virgin Mobile ad where Ranbir Kapoor uses Facebook update to get his friends to call him so that he could earn some money to call his girlfriend in return. This is clearly targeted at the young generation. How many 50-plus people would be able to relate to it or appreciate it? Then, recently another ad has been aired about a young boy asking his father about the health benefits of eggs, who in turn asks his father, who again in turn asks his father. In India, four generations eating together may not seem so shocking but, the chances of such an ad doing good in US may be bleak.

The point emphasised here is that the purpose of an ad is to cater to the needs of the audience that the client wants to address. Given the diversity in culture, ethnicity, history, etc that people across the world have, it is not easy to build a communication strategy that can cater to all. Even big corporate giants like Google, McDonalds, KFC, Microsoft, Nokia, etc swear by globalisation and localisation strategies and ads are just a reflection of that need.

This should, in no way, be construed that it is undermining the achievements of Cannes winners. Indeed, they are worthy of applause for being able to cut across boundaries, for being able to stand out amongst thousands of creative minds and for influencing distinguished people from across the world. This is no small achievement but the ads that could not make it should also be given their due. If an ad achieved what the company for whom it was made wanted it to achieve, then it is a winner by all means. India has a lot of talent even though much of it is still untapped. It would be an insult and injustice to the creativity and hard work of such people if we reduce their worth to mere numbers!

(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer)


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