On Day 4 of the Cannes Lions Festival of creativity, my favourite moment came at the Awards Ceremony, which is held late in the evening on all five days. This happened when the “Airtel 175 replayed” campaign was awarded a Gold Lion. I love this campaign, because the idea is so beautiful, and it dovetails wonderfully with the 5G promise of the brand. As the Leo Burnett team went up to the dais to receive the Lion, I stood up quite excitedly and hastily clicked a picture. A Chinese lady seated next to me asked why I had done this. I told her that I was very fond of this campaign, and, more importantly, it was from my country, India.
I also thoroughly enjoyed a session titled “Unboxed” delivered by Tom Myhren, Vice President of Marketing Communications at Apple. He unboxed for us some of the secrets of Apple’s brilliant advertising, and the principles of good client-agency partnership which make such impactful advertising happen. Among the principles he articulated so compellingly are the following : We pay you (the agency) to challenge us. Get to the point. Embrace the product in the communication. Keep the message simple and sharp, even though the execution may be sophisticated. Be brutally objective about what actually worked in a campaign and what did not.
I loved the point he made on strategy. Strategy is sacrifice, he said, and the best strategies are so narrow that they can dance on the head of a pin. Broad strategies typically do not deliver well. He illustrated this through the example of the Apple watch. When this watch was first launched, it was positioned rather broadly, with many different benefits being called out. But this did not work well at all. Soon thereafter, the strategy was narrowed down to the area of “health and fitness” and the watch was positioned as the “ultimate device for a healthy life”. This has worked really well for Apple.
Yet another memorable interaction during the festival was with Will Guidara, an award-winning hospitality entrepreneur who helped the restaurant named Eleven Madison Park to become the Number One restaurant in the world. He spoke about the remarkable power of being unreasonable, particularly when it comes to doing things to delight customers. While his talk was rooted in the hospitality industry, this is, in my view, a leadership truth that cuts across sectors. In fact, I would hazard a guess that many of the award-winning works at this Cannes Lions festival came from either client or agency or both being unreasonable in their pursuit of achieving great.
This was my last day at Cannes and so I took the opportunity to speak to a few other delegates to obtain their views and reactions. The most memorable answer I got was from a young Vietnamese woman, who told me that the festival had strengthened her belief that creativity is a strategic driver of business. I agreed entirely with her, because, over just the past four days, I had seen some of the world’s finest brands showcase some amazing creativity in their advertising and communication.
The evening of the fourth day ended on a high note, with a live performance of Brazilian carnival music on the terrace of the Palais, which is the venue of the festival. As delegates from across countries began dancing spontaneously to the lively singing, it occurred to me that music is the most universal of languages. It has the potential to bring people together and to heal the world. On that optimistic note, I will sign off on my Cannes Diary 2023.
(Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views.)