Interns who pitched a poop joke and landed a Gold Lion at Cannes

This year at Cannes, two interns walked home with a Gold Lion for a humorous take on constipation, which included what they described as a ‘silly poop joke.’ Despite its seemingly light-hearted approach, the campaign successfully combined creativity with effective messaging, capturing the attention of both the jury and industry professionals at Cannes Lions.

Pranali Tawte
New Update
Otter for Macrogol Hexal Cannes Lions

Imagine this: two interns bound for Cannes Lions, who nearly missed their flight, not expecting much—and then boom! They clinched a Gold Lion in the Script category at the Audio & Radio Lions. Meet Rag Brahmbhatt and Nidhi Shah, Miami Ad School students, interning at Serviceplan in Hamburg, Germany, crafted a radio ad called ‘Otter’ for Sandoz Deutscheland.

Their campaign, which added a pinch of humour to creativity, not only won a Lion but also spotlighted their unconventional approach in a category traditionally marked by seasoned veterans.

In this interview, Rag Brahmbhatt and Nidhi Shah share their exhilarating journey from interns to Cannes Gold Lion winners, reflecting on the whirlwind of emotions, the transformative power of creative freedom, and their hopes for the future of advertising.

Edited Excerpts: 

As young professionals, how does it feel to achieve such a significant victory at Cannes Lions?

Nidhi: This was probably the biggest day of our lives, and we weren't even expecting it. It made us feel so good and confident about what we are doing. Having a room full of incredible people, who have probably won 50 Gold Lions, laughing and admiring our work, was the best experience ever.

Rag: It was a very small idea. It wasn’t like we had been working on it for a year with a team of 50 people. It was a small, fun idea, and we didn’t even know it would be submitted when we pitched it. But it turned out to be very huge for us.

What emotions and thoughts did you experience when reflecting on this achievement?

Rag: It was overwhelming, definitely. On the day we were flying from Hamburg, our flight got canceled, and our luggage got misplaced. Our red carpet outfits were actually our airport looks. It was all so rushed, we were in the cab texting people that we might be late. We didn't realize we were in Cannes until we spoke to the judges.

How has this impacted you personally? Have your goals or perspectives changed in any way?

Nidhi: Yeah, definitely. If we hadn't spoken about this idea on the second day of our internship, we probably wouldn't be here. It makes us feel that even the smallest, silliest ideas are worth saying out loud. You never know what might happen. We had amazing mentors, Michael Wilk, Global Head of Art at Serviceplan Group, and Till Diestel, Chief Creative Officer & Partner at Serviceplan Germany. They were so supportive and believed in us from the beginning. Our biggest takeaway was to say what we mean, and if you have an idea, say it out loud.

What was going through your minds leading up to the award announcement?

Nidhi: We didn’t even know we were going until we got the shortlist. We were so happy just to make it to the shortlist, and that’s when our thinking stopped. We never thought it would turn into a real award. On Sunday morning, Michael called us and told us to pack our bags because we were going to Cannes. We were shouting on the phone; it was a lot of excitement.

Rag: For me, it took 60 seconds to process. I don’t remember how I went on stage; I was just following the team. We went on stage, collected the trophy, came back, and then realized it happened.

While packing your bags, did you have any expectations or hopes regarding the awards?

Nidhi: A little bit, yes. I mean, we didn't plan an outfit just in case we won. And you know, the funny thing about Cannes is that you only get to go on stage if you're winning a gold. If you get a bronze or silver, you don't really go on stage. So, while we were packing our clothes, we thought, ‘Is this outfit really for the stage?’ Probably, a little bit, yes.

Rag: Since we got shortlisted, we thought maybe one would turn into a bronze. But getting a Gold was beyond our wildest dreams.

What were some of the most memorable moments or experiences for you at Cannes?

Rag: Spotting the people we have always stalked on LinkedIn, the big CCOs. We met a couple of them on the red carpet. They were so nice and congratulated us, saying, "See you next year."

Nidhi: After collecting the award and returning to our seats, a judge came up to us and said she had judged our work and wanted to take a picture with us. That was overwhelming, having someone on the jury appreciate our work so much.

How did attending Cannes Lions help you connect with industry professionals and gain insights into current advertising trends?

Nidhi: Connecting with industry professionals at Cannes is challenging for interns or juniors since no one has the time to give you those 15 minutes of their day. But being with Serviceplan, our agency, was great. They were nice to us and helped us connect with others, making the experience worthwhile.

Rag: Insights, I’m not sure, but we saw case studies we liked, and they won. It made us feel we have a good sense for this kind of thing.

Nidhi: There was a case called Child Wedding Cards from Impact BBDO Dubai. We loved it before Cannes, and when they got a Grand Prix and were sitting next to us, it was surreal. Being at Cannes felt like the Oscars of the advertising industry.

Can you share the story behind the 'Otter' campaign? What inspired the idea? How did it align with the brand's objectives?

Nidhi: I'll explain how we even got the chance to work on this because it wasn't really our brief. Our global ECD, Michael, reviews briefs from Serviceplan’s international offices, and he spoke to us about this brief from the Belgian team for Sandoz, a laxative brand. They wanted to talk about constipation in a different way because it’s such a taboo topic.

Rag: It’s a universal problem, but they wanted to stand out. Michael showed us the brief and initial idea, and after a while, I casually suggested an idea. Michael liked it and told us to develop it. We wrote the first draft, did an AI recording, and showed it to him. He and Till laughed and decided to work on it, turning it into a longer script quickly. Everyone was laughing except the legals. The work was with legals for a week and then everything fell into place.

Was the brand on board with your unconventional approach?

Nidhi: Yes, we got feedback the same day it went to them. The whole marketing team was laughing at it. I think that’s what worked for the jury too; it was a relief from the usual messages. They were like, ‘Wow, you’re making a poop joke.’

How did you manage to bring a fresh perspective to the traditional medium of audio and radio with your campaign?

Nidhi: We brought a fresh perspective because it was our first time working on audio and radio. We had no reference points, so it was just what we thought and wrote. It was original and fresh because of our lack of experience in this medium.

Rag: And everyone has seen documentaries narrated by a popular British voice. We used that as a reference and put it into the radio spot.

What do you think made your approach stand out?

Nidhi: We tried to be very silly in a space where silliness isn’t common. Our CCO, Till, mentioned that the industry lacks humour and should be funnier. That idea stayed with us while writing this, and it unconsciously became funny, making it stand out.

Are there any other campaigns you can recall now?

Rag: The CeraVe campaign by Ogilvy PR was huge for me. I’ve admired them for a long time. I’m a huge fan of Mathers, but to see CeraVe used as a skincare professional and the whole PR campaign around it, I thought, was very funny. The biggest takeaway was that they can be funny and do so in a very loud way

Nidhi: I loved theThe Misheard Version I saw in audio and video, the Grand Prix winners in our category. Bringing back an old song and re-recording it for a test was hilarious. There were many funny and culturally insightful campaigns, like the child wedding card or the In Transit campaign about a trans person narrator on the New York subway.

Rag: What also stood out was seeing insightful stuff from Asian countries like India and Pakistan. Everyday things for us resonated on a global level.

Nidhi: Yeah, things like the Vi Dabbawalas campaign from Ogilvy are part of our daily life but resonate globally, winning gold. India is rich in cultural diversity, and there’s much we can draw from.

How do you plan to build on this success for your future projects?

Nidhi: We are still interns at Miami Ad School with three more months to go. Our biggest goal is to land a job at an agency that values our work and resonates with the kind of work we want to do. We both want to do culturally relevant, funny, and insightful work. Finding an agency and a job that appreciates this is our professional goal.

Are there any new directions or ideas you are excited to explore now?

Rag: One thing is not to get too carried away with new technologies like AI. It’s overwhelming, especially for juniors. But just being funny got us this far, so we should focus on telling a good story and not overwhelm ourselves with learning too many new things.

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives aiming to achieve success at Cannes Lions?

Nidhi: The main lesson is to say your stupid ideas out loud. Wherever you are, find someone whose work you admire or whose opinions you respect. Harass them until they hear your ideas. Hopefully, they will push your ideas, just like our mentors did for us.

Rag: It doesn’t matter how small the idea is. Just say it. As a junior, you’re not supposed to know the right thing; that’s for seniors to decide. So be stupid and say whatever comes to your mind.

What role do you think young creatives will play in shaping the future of advertising?

Nidhi: Our generation values being funny and caring about important issues. Combining these two will produce different work. We want to make a point and make people laugh, so I’m excited to see what our generation will bring.

Rag: We often say that brands shape your perspective. There are very real people behind these brands, and that will be the younger generation, it’s going to be us. We definitely have the power to change or shape the future of communication and influence the opinions of the majority. So, yeah, I think it’s going to be very fun and exciting, especially in the future. I’m really looking forward to that.

Otter for Macrogol Hexal Otter Cannes Lions win Rag Brahmbhatt and Nidhi Shah Serviceplan Cannes Lions Gold wins 2024 Otter for Sandoz Deutscheland Sandoz Deutscheland