Tahaab Rais’ Cannes Diary: Day 1 – The ‘Inspiration’ Journey Begins


Continuing the point of view that was shared in the article titled ‘Finding Oz’ in the Arabian Marketer, where I wrote about our region’s journey at Cannes from failure and heartbreak to gradual redemption and eventual bliss, I’ll be sharing key insights from my experience at the Festival in 2015, as the days go by. And I’ll also be nervously looking at how (and if) our region is attracting more eyes towards itself and igniting the imagination o f its own people, and while at it, that of people from around world too.

Now, Cannes is an amazing place to visit. And while the Lions Festival and the awards are a huge part of the advertising industry, I made it a point to take some time out in the early hours of the day to experience the town with David, a taxi driver. My brief to him: “Make me see Cannes over the next couple of hours, the way a true Cannois would.” I wanted to discover a few “hidden gems” that Tripadvisor forums had hinted at.

During conversations with David, while we drove through the stylish yet charming streets, I discovered two key points that have impacted how I’m going to look at this year’s fest. Firstly, I was enthused by how much he knew about the film and music fests and how he loved the atmosphere and environment when they were around. And to my surprise, how little he knew (and hence, cared) about the creativity fests. He knew what movies were playing and what bands were performing (including the street bands); but didn’t know what brands were changing the world, impacting lives, generating millions in earned media and the like, and hence, winning. Secondly, I wasn’t surprised with how little he knew about MENA. “I only know Dubai. Great city”, he said. Truth be told, as MENA, we haven’t done anything in the forms of movies, music or advertising to affect David.

After the taxi ride, I checked in to the Palais, met friends and colleagues from agencies, did the “hellos” with others, enjoyed the few talks over the course of today, that focused more on trendsetting and culture than some of the ones that stated the obvious about technology, digital, social media, strategy…

I look forward to the Festival warming up and as a result, towards the talks that actually move me to change the way I think; that give me new ideas that I can obsess over. The way David did.

I come to Cannes to feel small and to feel humbled; which is an awesome feeling by the way, as that inspires me.

David did that even before I could see the shortlisted work. He inspired me more than the amazing work that the juries have nominated, from all corners of the world. It got me thinking: Wouldn’t it be awesome if work from our region that highlighted genuine problems AND solved them in an effective manner, become newsworthy enough to reach a newspaper or a radio/news channel at Cannes to reach people like David? Wouldn’t it be amazing if more work from other cultures did the same to inspire David too? And help him see how important this very Festival is or can be?

That’s a great provocation to assess the work that wins at Cannes Lions this year and the years to come.

Coming to this year’s awards: How is this year shaping up for MENA’s agencies? The shortlists for Direct, Mobile, Press, Promo & Activation and Innovation Lions are out. And the winners of the Health Lions are declared. Well, if starts are meant to be a precursor, we’ve not really set the shortlists on fire. But we haven’t been asleep either. MENA agencies raked in a few good wins at the Health Lions. Props to those winners! And several MENA agencies got shortlisted at Cannes Lions for some of the expected campaigns that have won in previous award shows. A couple of potential biggies were amiss from the shortlists in Direct, Promo & Activation as well as Press; but we’ll watch their progress over the next few days as other category shortlists are revealed.

Here’s to tomorrow, towards more enlightening talks, towards continued spells of the amazing Cannes sunshine and more work from MENA shining in that light. And towards one day, David (or someone else like him that you and I get into a taxi with) respecting and recognizing what we do.


Note: The views expressed are my individual views and not those of the agency I’m associated with.

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