What would you say to people who comment on Cannes Lions’ reputation as a party week?
I think that’s a very narrow view. It’s not just advertising people getting together and patting each other’s back, the number of clients that attend is amazing. The award show is just a part of it; the rest of the festival is lots of amazing seminars, great speakers, and new-age people on stage explaining what they are capable of doing. So, it is a huge learning ground and an opportunity to keep abreast of worldwide movements. Whenever there is a congregation, people will have a drink together, some will party hard — this is true of any festival anywhere in the world. Man is a social animal, you can’t tie him up in a Zoom call all his life. So, these people [who only see the parties] have either not had a good time when they visited or they haven’t gone there and are commenting [based on] googling.
What is Cannes Lions to you, then and now?
It is the most international one of the lot, and its in-person inclusion [of people from around the world] is one of its strong points. Other people have shows, Cannes has a festival for a week.
Cannes Lions mean a lot because the juries are international, so there is more of a worldview. And if you win, it’s a tremendous boost to morale — whether they are young or old. After all, it’s a recognition by peer groups from around the world. This will be my 25th year there, and I expect it to be a lovely combination of seeing the best of work, listening to the best of people, meeting a lot of good friends like [American advertising executive] Jeff Goodby, and making new friends [Cannes is where I met Michael Conrad, who asked me to be on the faculty for the Berlin School of Advertising]. So, people who think it is a ball out there... it is a bloody hectic time!
It’s been two years since the event took place in person. Is this a chance for a reset?
The industry, overall, has done a fantastic job during these difficult times. Last year, when we saw the work that won, it showed the effort that went in, even with one arm tied behind their back. This year, it will be a wonderful bottle opener — for emotions, for normalcy, [for creativity]; a kind of a vitamin injection. So, I am looking forward to it.
What are the opportunities now with Web 3?
The opportunities are galore, but you have to focus on the quality of ideas. You may have the metaverse and the like, but the pressure is to think even harder about the concept. You need to make people wonder ‘how did they think of it’ because the question ‘how did they do it’ is becoming easier now. What communication facilities did Mahatma Gandhi have? And he moved a billion people! Today, there are a whole lot of ways, but you must have a Mahatma Gandhi kind of idea.
The budget to participate in Cannes Lions is expensive, and many say that attending is no longer necessary, thanks to the rise of digital.
If there is no longer a need to attend in person, then there is no need to go and meet your mother in Jaipur. Just do it on Zoom. Don’t forget, in-person people inspire each other a lot more. Use all the technology available, but will it ever make up for human contact, that warm hug you give to somebody? Yes, Cannes Lions is expensive. But, I have a question: if you had a brilliant idea that you thought would rock the world, wouldn’t you find the money? I will not be able to send as many people this year as I have sent in the past. But you send people with a very clear understanding — that they will come back and share it with the others who could not go.
Piyush Pandey is Chairman Global Creative & Executive Chairman India, Ogilvy.