Cannes Ad Fest 2019: An open canvas for creativity

I have been making it to Cannes for a few years now. And the festival has never failed to amaze me. Amid the humdrum of activities — delegates trooping in and out of the Palais, the work on display, sessions, parties, award ceremonies, and conferences — the sheer scale of the event leaves me breathless. 

To me, Cannes is an open canvas for creativity and each year brings with it a new set of ideas. I will be watching how the consultancies present themselves at the festival this year. Increasingly, these consultancies (such as Accenture) have been competing with traditional agencies and they are now beginning to enter work at Cannes. Watching what they bring to the creative high table would be interesting in my opinion. 

I am also looking forward to ad campaigns from some of the regions around, including Latin America, Thailand, and Japan. The way they present their ideas, especially, the Latin Americans, is something we can learn from. Having been a juror at Cannes in the past, I find that we've lagged in presentation. Our ideas are good, but presentation is weak. In global ad fests, time is of essence. You have to convey your point quickly and with maximum impact. Some countries have mastered the art of doing this and therefore have a better strike rate at the festival. Yet, I expect India to do well, especially, in digital. This is a category that has come of age and the work entered is refreshing. So yes, I am rooting for my country as well.

Global ad fests are getting democratised. Good ideas are emanating from different parts of the world and the hegemony of a few countries is no longer there. Indian ad agencies, therefore, have an even greater chance of winning across categories. Jurors, too, are far more open and amenable to ideas from different parts of the world than they were earlier.

At a broader level, Cannes is a reflection of the ad industry and the churn it is undergoing. Age-old agencies are being acquired or merged with younger, more agile companies. The amalgam  — where the traditional and digital agencies are becoming one — is actually the way forward for the industry. In a few years from now, there will not be a specialist digital agency as we have today. Digital will be part of the creative product offered by an ad agency. This, to me, will be a true reflection of the media consumption habits of people and how they consume advertising in particular.

I think the technology companies have understood this well, which is why their presence has only grown in the last few years at Cannes. In fact, they are getting stronger because advertising dollars are shifting there — to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And ad agencies will increasingly have to compete with these giants, in boardrooms, client offices, and award ceremonies.  

The author is CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network, Greater South and chairman & CEO, India

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