Rahul Sachitanand
Jun 28, 2021

Cannes Lions 2021: Despite promise, APAC metals count falls in challenging year

While the region won an additional Grand Prix in 2021, a drop in submissions and less jury representation than others hampered APAC's performance.

Cannes Lions 2021: Despite promise, APAC metals count falls in challenging year

Despite winning more Grand Prix in 2021 compared to 2019 (the festival skipped the 2020 edition due to the pandemic), Asia Pacific agencies made little headway in improving their metal tally this year. While Ogilvy Pakistan (for Telenor) and Dentsu Mcgarrybowen, Taipei City shone through their top prize-winning work, shops in the region saw a lower overall collection of awards this year at Cannes Lions 2021, as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, smaller number of submissions and the ongoing challenges of jury representation from the region hamstrung APAC’s efforts to increase its metals haul.

Industry executives contended that ascribing specific reasons for this stagnation wasn’t simple. “I have no clear answer to this,” Merlee Jayme, president of the 2021 Cannes Lions’ Radio & Audio Jury and Dentsu McGarrybowen global president said. “I've been in too many jury rooms. Many times, understanding, accepting and rewarding work that one is comfortable with varies. It always helps to have diversity in a room. It opens hearts and minds when one understands.”

Industry executives Campaign spoke to agreed that while APAC had struggled to increase its metals tally, agencies did churn out some noticeable work this year. “For me personally, it’s not about the numbers but about the work,” Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO India told this publication. “By focussing on our difference, and by embracing the region’s diverse challenges, we can offer a wider spread and depth of ideas, with the power to influence the worldwide jury.”

See all our Cannes Lions 2021 coverage

APAC work managed nine Golds this year (one higher than the previous), it fared worse in Silver and Bronze totals. It also came up empty in the Titanium category and didn't win the Grand Prix for Good. The final batch of winners brought the APAC metal tally to 113. Australia led the region with 29 Lions, followed by India with 22 and Japan with 14, well ahead of all other APAC markets. In contrast, in 2019, APAC’s accounted for 120 metals, with 36 for Australia, 18 for India and 16 for Japan.

Meanwhile, in this year’s edition (a combination of 2020 and 2021 entries because of the pandemic), the number of entries from key APAC entries was down across the board.  China and India accounted for much of the decline, with Chinese entries dropping from 941 to 660 and India from 1050 to 669.  Thailand also submitted a lot fewer entries from 427 in 2019 to 271 this year. Australia and Japan also dipped lower. 

While the pandemic and sweeping cost cutting measures could account for some of this, entries from key Western markets either held their ground or marginally improved over these editions. For example, The US saw the number of entries increase to 9124 from 8138 between 2019 and 2020/21, while France, Germany and Canada also increased their entries. The UK, however, saw a decline from 2268 to 2192.

Nominations and award wins were one part of the story. The other piece was a relatively low representation for the region in the jury and among chairs, which made it harder to champion work from here. From APAC, the jury chairs included Jayme of Dentsu McGarrybowen, Reed Collins of Ogilvy (direct category), Kimberly Bartkowski, from IBM APAC (design), Seamus Higgins from RGA (mobile), Tamon Fujimi of Massive Music (entertainment Lions for music) and Claudia Cristovao (Innovation). However, global names and those from large Western markets again dominated these positions.

Industry leaders contended there was a upgrade in the quality of work entered, even if it wasn’t reflected in the overhaul awards haul.  “You could smell the brutal authenticity in a lot of the work that won across the world, and in the APAC region,” says Paul of BBDO. “That’s what Pakistan and Taiwan’s first ever Grand Prix was all about.”

The region also contributed other head-turning work this year, including The Punishing Signal for Mumbai Police by FCB Interface India, and the Donation Dollar for the Royal Australian Mint by Saatchi & Saatchi Melbourne. Australia. “The big signal from this year’s awards is that the jury came looking for work that is more meaningful, that is real and sustainable, and driving continued change in a powerful way,” Paul of BBDO added.

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