Raymond Chin
Jun 23, 2016

Cannes 2016: The Chinese are better at hunting Tigers, not Lions

Raymond Chin of SapientNitro China explains why Chinese work from Cannes Lions this year is more of a whimper than a roar.

Raymond Chin
Raymond Chin

As of writing this article, according to the judges, there isn’t a lot of great Chinese creativity coming out of Cannes Lions this year.

This is bad because I’ve been tasked to write an entire article based on winning work coming out of China at this year’s Cannes awards.

So now I have to write about something else.

The Chinese are better at hunting tigers.

Some of the most beloved Chinese folklore stories have got tigers in them. Even the Kung Fu Panda has a tiger girlfriend.

Tigers are simply awesome, but they generally look different from lions.

Juries look at the tiger and go… “That’s a really awesome beast, it’s got sharp teeth, four legs… but where’s the mane? Why are there stripes?”

The West’s reference of a tiger is Tony the Tiger and Eye of the Tiger, things that are either too cute or classic.

So what can us creative folk working in the China market do?

Translating the roar

Some of the work from Anomaly and local hot shop W, have in the past done extremely well in award shows such as One Show China. They have quite an exceptional level of craft.

But somehow, they did not even get into the digital craft shortlist here. Sometimes a creative idea does not make sense to judges because there is a lack of understanding of the Chinese context of a “Double Eleven sale” or the Chinese digital ecosystem of WeChat. Not every jury has the luxury of a Chinese judge being there to help translate the roar. So it might be good to think about how to put it in a simple enough way for judges to understand. Maybe even get another office outside of China to help craft your entry and look at it with fresh eyes.

Breed some ligers and tigons

Ligers and tigons are magnificent beasts. Breed some ideas that can work in all markets. Some ideas have got such strong insights and executions that they can cut across many countries and cultural nuances. And sometimes it is about breeding an unlikely combination of eastern and western thinking. This year, some of the best work done about China was created by a Swedish agency for SK-II. They took a Chinese pain point and told a story that could get empathy from everyone. Yes, it does have some shortcomings in terms of providing an authentic solution to Chinese women. But it is still very good work.

Go Voltron on everyone

Yes Voltrons are technically lions.

But they are such bad-ass mechanical beasts so awesome that no one cares if they are lions and tigers anymore… they are just… Voltron!

In many ways, China’s technology has overtaken the rest of the world but no one knows this story. Apple Pay? Pfffft, we had WeChat Payment three years ago.

How do you wow the judges with cool Chinese tech? How do you tell this story and use them smartly in your executions? How do you smartly use a cocktail of storytelling, culture and technology to break boundaries?

Whatever technology you highlight, it needs a human problem to be solved, that’s a given. You build a Voltron, but it’s got to have a bigger purpose like fighting….. (insert favourite villain here).

Break out of the zoo

If our tigers are in a zoo, they are more often than not, parked safely in the Print, Craft and Outdoor cages. Let’s break out of these cages more often, and tear the place up. Eat people, maim young lions (bad analogy!) and in general run wild in the city of Cannes. Everyone from the Lion judges to the Film Festival and Adult Festival stars should come to Cannes uneasy and nervous, asking, “Did you hear about that tiger…?”

Never dress a tiger up as a lion

Lastly we shouldn’t dress up as Lions either, that’s not who we are and chances are, we come across as hokey. We sometimes address causes that don’t really exist or come up with solutions that are too melodramatic and hard to believe. We should just be ourselves, tell it like it is, and have a level of maturity and sincerity in our work. I know there are other countries who are guilty of this too, fighting for humanitarian causes, but you sometimes wonder… if it is such an amazing solution, shouldn’t it be the last time you see a solution for said problem? It never is.

We can be better than that. We can honestly know whether we are making real impact in our community. Roars that come straight from the heart by any big cat will send shivers down the spine.

Let’s come back with a blood-curdling roar next year.

And you know what? Sometimes an idea that works in a complex market like China, and wins the heart and soul of the Chinese people, is actually more than good enough.

Raymond Chin is chief creative officer at SapientNitro China


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