Rajat Sethi
Jun 23, 2014

Cannes lessons: How Asia can do better in Direct

As a member of the Lions Direct jury, Rajat Sethi suggests ways that Asia can up its game in the category in time for next year's festival.

Sethi: "Social service is not the only work that wins at Cannes"

On 16 June, the awards ceremony was held for Lions Direct at the Palais des Festivals and the best work was justifiably rewarded with metals. I was personally disappointed that there were not too many winners from Asia in the Direct Marketing category. Asia only won 2 Silver (India) and 4 Bronze (Hong Kong, Philippines, Pakistan and Japan) out of a total of 75 metals awarded in the group. However, I was personally very happy that Pakistan won its first metal at Cannes for its Not a Bug Splat entry.

My 5 personal favourites among all the Direct entries were:

1. The Audi test drive cube
2. Sweetie
3. Almost identical
4. Penny the Pirate
5. Magic of flying

Having gone through the judging process twice, I do believe there are some key learnings which we can take out to ensure Asia wins many more Lions Direct awards at Cannes next year. So here are some of my suggestions:

1. Make your presentation video impactful—as judges are going through thousands of entries and yours needs to stand out and make an impact

2. If you have great award winning integrated work, enter in more than one category. There is a blurring of lines among categories, be it Direct or Digital or Activation or Media. Campaigns like 'Sweetie', 'Bentley burial', 'Magic of flying' and 'Almost identical' won Lions in more than one category.

3. Create a compelling story and don’t just present the work. Remember, besides creativity, judges look for results, execution, strategy and power of the idea. See 'Sweetie', 'GayTMs' and 'I wish my son had cancer' entries.

4. The campaign must be enduring, even if the creative execution is for that year. Great work has the seeds of an idea that can be enduring, adaptable and long-term. 'Inglorious fruits' and 'We were there' were two such entries.

5. Do research of the past years and see which sub categories have had lesser shortlists/entries as also what kind of work has won Gold and the Grand Prix. There is no substitute for planning carefully and background research puts your prospective entry into perspective and you can better judge how it stacks up against award winners.

6. Social service is not the only work that wins at Cannes. There are too many entries from India in the social category and too few in product categories. We need to broaden the work that we enter.

7. Direct Marketing does not only mean flat or dimensional mailers. It has sub-categories such as Ambient Media, Digital, Social media, Product launches, Business services, Corporate image, etc. The traditional understanding that Direct is only ‘mailing’ is outdated. Any medium that 1) gets a response 2) is relevant to the product/service and 3) helps build a connect with the current or future customer, can be entered in the Lions Direct category.

Remember, you are competing against the best work from around the world and you must present work that you truly believe deserves a Cannes Lion and not just because your agency, your boss or your ego wants you to enter.

Rajat Sethi is managing partner of Strategic Caravan International and a former country head of Dentsu Marcom, Wunderman and MRM.

Campaign Asia

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