We attended our first Cannes Lions, thanks to a sponsored announcement on Instagram

Two youngsters in their twenties on their maiden voyage to the Cannes Lions in France.

“Malvika is hot in the press. You both come to Cannes.

That’s what the notification said. Business emails are notorious for their outdated presentations, so worn in use that we are forced to ignore them. But this one was a very welcome anomaly.

Krishnapriya and I were the Young Lions 2022 national winners in the Print category, and our agency had agreed to generously sponsor our trip to Cannes – travel, food, accommodation, etc.

For two 22-year-olds with less than a year in advertising, it felt like a blurry vortex of fact and fiction. The appearance of a distant chimera.

But after chatting with other international contestants and enduring cardio shopping sessions, our impostor syndrome finally fell through and we were ready for Cannes Lions 2022 – the most prestigious festival that celebrates creativity and the forces that exploit it.

On June 20, we found ourselves in the imposing sun-drenched venue – the Palais des Festivals – which also hosts the Cannes Film Festival. As you can imagine, we took a minute to dwell on the fact that we were walking the same red carpet as Tom Cruise. Why, it’s a small world.

We felt smaller, however, in the presence of many innovative ideas. Ideas that were equal parts substance and cum. Those who made people laugh, think and rebel. Every morning we headed down to the basement to take in the exhibition – a serpentine paper trail of all the Cannes Lion winning works we could freely marvel at and be inspired by.

What do you think IKEA, a furniture solutions store, can do for breast cancer awareness? Well, they took their “Kransborre” pillow – which already resembles a breast due to its round structure – and added a life-size mass inside to constantly remind women to self-examine. The copy was an extra boost. “Don’t sleep on it. Early detection saves lives.” Great.

How can you spark a conversation about the growing firearms content online? Just send a stunning message to YouTube. Use of YouTube. That’s what Guns Down America PSA did when they asked real gun survivors to examine the guns that nearly killed them. Bold and debilitating.

The urge to make an impact has always been second nature to The Exhibition. But the most gratifying facet was coming face to face with industry enthusiasts and barons who believe in such ideas, including Nike CMO DJ Van Hameren.

Keeping a finger on the pulse of trends, he explained how “there is no finish line” at Nike. Wendy Clark and Fred Levron, CEO and CCO of Dentsu International respectively, used the Cannes Lions stage as a launch pad and springboard for Dentsu Creative – Dentsu International’s unique new global network for accelerating creativity.

But while hammering the anvil of creativity, brands often overstep the bounds. Cultural appropriation appears, moonlighting as appreciation. Photos with ignored historical context end up becoming mute spectators on aesthetic moodboards.

“That’s why it’s important to collaborate with trusted voices,” said Karabo Poppy, a street artist and illustrator who showcases her South African heritage with every collaboration with the brand. “You know you’re not taking ownership when your work gives back to the company as well as the culture.”

Picking up words of wisdom every step of the way, we couldn’t have missed what Ryan Reynolds had to say. As audiences in the mighty Light sputtered rapturous applause, Reynolds spoke of employing humor in modern commercials and not being “hyper-sincere.” But even while providing advice, he managed to leave us all divided.

An equally starry moment materialized when Issa Rae took the stage. Creator and lead actor of the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated show, Insecure, Rae’s lyrics weren’t hearty but cutting edge: “Don’t be afraid to be a bitch.” It is this uncompromising and unapologetic behavior that has helped her achieve the standards she expects.

We, as creative people, bear the same responsibility to uphold high standards. Using our laurels as a reference to push the limits. To ensure that what we broadcast to the world makes sense. Dole has created vegan leather from pineapple leaves, which would otherwise go to waste.

Vice Media Group gave birth to “Backup Ukraine” – a clear call for people to preserve the monuments and buildings of Ukraine, which would otherwise have been caught in the crosshairs of war. It’s campaigns like these that not only grabbed the metals this year, but also landed in the moshpit of excellence, raising the bar for all. And it certainly didn’t happen without the people at the helm being “awkward” or “ruthless.” They are precision working specimens, just waiting to be bigger next year.

One such project, as I might proudly add, is our own house, the unfiltered story tour which has won 3 Grand Prix, among many other metals. It is this fruit of hard work and collaboration that has named Dentsu Webchutney “Agency of the Year” – an unprecedented feat for India on the global stage. The howls, cheers and clinks of rose glass may have diminished, but our hopes for an even better sweep in 2023 have not.

At the end of our trip, like all tourists, Krishnapriya and I stopped at the exchange. As you imagine an unassuming cashier converting Euros to Rupees, know what we have learned now –

Our ideas are the only currency we have. One day, your ideas inspire you to enter a contest that came in the form of a sponsored ad on Instagram. But the next day they might just take you to a new country.

Malvika Thirani is Senior Writer and Krishnapriya Ullattil is Visualizer at Dentsu Webchutney.

Charles P. Patton