Rahul Sachitanand
Jun 29, 2022

Cannes Lions 2022: Despite India’s outperformance, APAC’s metal count dives

Creative leaders reflect on why usually-strong markets such as Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand underwhelmed this year.

Cannes Lions 2022: Despite India’s outperformance, APAC’s metal count dives

Cannes Lions continued to be an event dominated by shops from Europe and North America, as APAC networks and agencies registered their second successive decline in both award submissions and wins in 2022. While the region bagged 119 metals in 2021 (after the event took a pandemic-enforced break in 2020), it performed worse this year with 104 medals overall.

APAC’s frailties were also hidden to an extent because of India’s outsized performance this year. The market bagged 48 awards this year, compared to 22 in 2021. This included three Grands Prix for Dentsu Creative for Vice Media’s Unfiltered History Tour, while Ogilvy's Shah Rukh Khan My Ad also shone on the big stage. Leo Burnett India also won a Grand Prix for The Missing Chapter, a campaign for P&G. Overall, Dentsu Creative Bengaluru won Agency of The Year

For Indian agency leaders, this was a moment to gloat—for their agencies—and the industry at large. “I’m over the moon with the Titanium win along with the hat trick of Grand Prix and a whole lot of other metals,” Ajay Gahlaut, creative chief for Dentsu in India, said. “Not just me I think no one in the entire Indian ad industry has been part of such a huge haul of Lions ever before.”

Despite Dentsu India’s haul, its APAC leaders declined to detail reasons for its other markets falling behind in 2022. Campaign Asia-Pacific reached out to creative leaders at multiple holding groups, but most declined to respond.

“Japan and New Zealand didn't reach the heights of previous years, but they are sure to return in the near future,” Reed Collins, chief creative officer, Ogilvy Asia, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “Having won at some of the other international festivals held earlier this year I was a little surprised at the returns for them at Cannes. They certainly had the work.”  

While the India teams may have partied hard—and may continue to do so—their APAC peers, especially those in key markets such as Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, may be more introspective now. For example, Australia’s haul this year was down to 16 from 22 last year and China, New Zealand and Thailand also saw a fall in wins.

However, a single year’s performance at Cannes Lions may not be enough to point to an overall decline in creative capabilities in the region. For example, Emma Montgomery, CEO of Leo Burnett Australia, explained that it took three years for her shop to piece together the Grand Prix winner for Innovation 'One House to Save Many'.

“One House to Save Many was almost three years in the making, and a true creative collaboration between our agency, our clients and the partners we brought together to design the solution,” she said. “This award proves big impactful creativity is a team sport, and when we work to outcomes, not campaign timelines, we get transformative results.”

It is hard to ascribe specific reasons for this performance, but some reasons could be poor representation of APAC among the jury, smaller representation among award nominees, and few global champions for the work.

For example, among all the juries this year, APAC representation was limited. Yasuharu Sasaki, chief creative officer, Dentsu Japan and Eugene Cheong, chief creative officer of DDB Asia were among jury presidents while Kazoo Sato from TBWA and Divya Karani from Dentsu Media were other regional representatives. North America and Europe dominated the jury lists.

Valerie Madon, chief creative officer for VMLY&R in APAC, says that in a highly competitive arena like Cannes, it is challenging to get noticed. “There’s good work from many different countries in Asia … but it is a competition, so once work is submitted you can only hope that the diverse juries in the room simply love your work more than others,” she said.

VMLY&R India won a Grand Prix for Maxx Flash The Killer Pac’, a product that aims to eliminate India’s mosquito problem. The same agency bagged a Silver Lion for Unipads' 'Resuable Sanitary Pads'.

She challenged the notion that APAC’s performance has slid. There were years when Japan reigned and others when Australia did well, as did Thailand and China. “Guess it should not be surprising that another country has taken the lead as a powerhouse this year,” she added.

Ogilvy’s Collins also resists from knocking other markets in APAC, despite India’s outperformance. “India had an exceptional year … but I wouldn't say the rest of APAC performed poorly,” he argued.“It is great to see a shift in the markets being awarded and I truly hope to see it continue.”

Madon said that every office goes through phases of not winning and it only encourages the company to do better. 

"For example, our office in Japan is producing amazing work like the Shibuya Virtual City for a big telco brand, which has been highly effective in Japan," she said.

There may, however, be some lessons for markets that had a sub-par Cannes Lions 2022.  “The winning work inspires us to see things differently, challenge us to be braver, and make the impossible happen for subsequent shows,” Madon added.

Collins felt that Cannes winners every year point to a growing geographic diversity of creative output, in APAC and beyond. In 2021, Grand Prix-winning work emerged from from Islamabad, Pakistan (“Naming the Invisible by Digital Birth Registration“ for Telenor), while this year, he pointed to Honduras (“Morning After Island”, created by Ogilvy Honduras for Grupo Estratégico PAE), Kenya (“Lesso Lessons”, created by Ogilvy Africa for Roto Tanks & The Ministry of Health Kenya) and Portugal (who won its first-ever Grand Prix in the Design category). 

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