When we do breakthrough work, the world notices: Navin Khemka on Cannes Lions win

Whisper India’s ‘The Missing Chapter’ has won a Bronze Lion in the Media Lions category at Cannes Lions 2023. Done by EssenceMediacom and Leo Burnett, the campaign has won awards at various forums, including a Grand Prix at Goafest 2023 under the sub-category Innovative Use of Out of Home.

Commenting on the win at Cannes Lions, Navin Khemka, CEO - South Asia, EssenceMediacom, pointed out that this is Essence’s first win after 15 years at Cannes Lions. The agency merged with Mediacom last year to become EssenceMediacom. Elated over the win, Khemka said, “When we do breakthrough work, the world notices. Winning at the Cannes Lions is the ultimate recognition for this campaign. I am extremely proud of our teams that have set new benchmarks on developing pathbreaking work based on insights, inclusion, and impact on society. Together, we are empowering a new India to realise its true potential.”

Earlier in the year, EssenceMediacom had put up a strong show at Goafest 2023, where the agency was named Media Agency of the Year, winning four Gold Metals and a Grand Prix for their campaign ‘The Missing Chapter’ done for P&G’s Whisper India under the sub-category Innovative Use of Out of Home. EssenceMediacom won four Gold metals for campaigns, ‘Tapping Twitter’ to educate users on online safety for Google, ‘Lets not just greet but meet this Diwali’ for Coca- Cola, ‘Dekho Wicket Se Cricket’ for Thums Up, and ‘The Missing Chapter’ for Whisper. The agency won 20 metals in total.

In a freewheeling interaction with Adgully, Navin Khemka speaks about the mantra for creating award-winning work, the merger between Essence and Mediacom, AI and advertising, and more.

For Khemka, there are two mantras for any winning team. He said, “In our industry, we are as good as our people. I think the team that we have with us at EssenceMediacom is a fantastic bunch of young talent. And I would also say that the clients and the type of work that they are buying also keep challenging us to do more. I am very fortunate to have a list of clients who keep telling us to produce something new, something pathbreaking, so that we are able to produce excellent results.”

Commenting on the merger between Essence and Mediacom, Khenka said that the merger is just four months old, though it was announced a year back. He added, “After the merger was announced, the way all the work streams have been designed by the global team, set the ways of work going forward, and how we were able to adapt to all the global work streams locally and were able to set up an paralleled leadership team right now in India, where at one end I have the corporate team, the business team and then I have the strategy and transformation team. The transformation team ensures that for every critical client we have a transformation plan going forward. So yes, we are ready to transform our clients and we are also willing to transform ourselves.”

While acknowledging that currently there’s a lot of buzz around AI, Khemka felt that these are very early days for AI in the advertising industry. According to him the best way to use AI would be to partner with it and the tools that are available right now. “Right now, there’s a lot of mundane day-to-day work that that creative, media and social agencies are doing. If that part of the work can be automated and can be given to AI to manage, then that will free up a lot of our time to do breakthrough work for our clients, which I don’t think AI can do. We are still very relevant.”

These are edited excerpts. For the entire conversation, watch below:


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