Bringing the Cannes Home: Grey Dhaka’s Amazing Journey

Bringing the Cannes Home: Grey Dhaka’s Amazing Journey

August 7, 2016

Written by Taposh Ghosh

It was neither a sophisticated invention nor a high-tech solution, but rather a simple initiative that fueled Grey Dhaka’s amazing journey in winning the country’s first ever prestigious Gold Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this June. Dubbed as the highest accolade for creativity, the Cannes Lion basked in its 63 years of glory, for the very first makes its way to Bangladesh by the means of Grey Dhaka’s breathtaking effort – truly a tale that will be told for years to come. 

Grey Dhaka won the award in the Product Design (Solution) category for the innovative ‘Zero Electricity Air Cooler’; a simple idea combined of recycled plastic bottles and a little bit of Grade 8 physics, aimed to combat rising summer temperatures in rural households of the country.

“It was not won in a day”

The simplicity of the Eco-Cooler may make it seem as If the time between the plans to be devised to actually winning the journey may have been a really short journey, but that is certainly not the case. “It (The Award) was not won in a day” ensured Mr. Syed Gousul Alam Shaon, Managing Director at Grey Dhaka. The firm has been sending in its ideas to Cannes for a number of years now, having shortlisted a quite number of times before. 

The firm’s Creative Director, Mr. Jaiyyanul Huq pointed out in an interview that how important past year experiences at Cannes had contributed in winning this award. The company has been engaged for quite some time now in learning and identifying the trend of ideas actually winning at the festival. The research highlighted the fact how sophistication was not the only way to go about, but rather strong yet simple ideas, capable of generating greater impact throughout the society can also be ultimate winners.

It was this awareness, which had instilled the confidence that such a low-tech idea just might have the potential of going all the way. In other words, it can be said that all the research finally paid off.

The Eco-Cooler

The mind behind this nifty, yet award winning idea is Grey Dhaka’s Creative Supervisor, Mr. Ashish Paul. But how did he come up with the idea and what is the Eco-Cooler? As revealed in a recent interview, the idea for the Eco-Cooler began harboring in Mr. Paul’s mind when he overheard his daughter’s physics teacher teaching her about how compressed air behaved. Grey Dhaka’s video on the project explains the science in easy steps: open air into your palm with your mouth wide open, now do the same with your lips pursed, which felt cooler?

The entire Eco-Cooler project is based on a principle that we were taught in 8th Grade Science class. When suddenly compressed and then adiabatically expanded, the temperature of air drops down to adjust with the sudden change of volume. This makes the air cooler and the idea was translated into the effective Eco-Cooler.

The Eco-Cooler has the capacity to reduce the room temperature up to five degrees Celsius and contribute towards reducing the heavy demand for electricity which becomes a norm during intense heat waves that Bangladesh experiences and where many are yet to gain access to electricity. Trial runs to examine the product were implemented in a number of slums in Dhaka in April last year including Grey carrying out a project in Nilphamari and Rajbari in August that year.

The Eco-Cooler uses used plastic bottles cut in half and attached to a board placed in a grid pattern, which is then installed in windows of rural households. Depending on wind direction, and airflow pressure, hot air enters the open end side of the bottle and then cool air is experienced as it comes out from the other end, cooling the room. The flowing of compressed air into the rooms causes temperatures inside the houses to decrease significantly, making life much more bearable in the oven like tin sheds which reach boiling temperatures in the midst of summer. This ingenious idea is not patented, meaning anyone can use it. And it soon became a hit across numerous villages throughout the country. The Eco-Cooler – a simple idea, translated into an initiative to make people’s lives better.

The Team behind the Glory

“When it comes to working for awards, the whole office gets together” said Mr. Jaiyyanul Huq, Creative Director at Grey Dhaka. He mentioned the importance of all the entities involved with the entire process, starting from the serving partners consisting of internal members to even the drivers which took the team to the locations. It is the internal cohesiveness that drives such a goal according to Mr. Huq.

Mr. Syed Gousul Alam Shaon, Managing Director at Grey Dhaka also stressed upon the importance of the culture at the workplace when it comes to working on projects such as the Eco-Cooler. Only a culture where every member at the office feels like contributing by inspiring and promoting innovation, can make such wonders happen.

Group-picture (1)

GREY Dhaka Team

The team at Grey had been working on the project since the second quarter of 2015 alongside a number of other projects. The feasibility of the idea was to put to test as soon as the team had a clarity of the innovation. A small tin shed was set up on the roof of the office building to test the prototype and only after a successful was it time to take the product to the field.

The journey of the Eco-Cooler as a product can also be considered as a bit unorthodox, as the idea or solution came first and it was later that Grey as a team had to decide on a particular social problem that this brilliant innovation could solve.

Reception by the general public or villagers was another crucial element to the success of the Eco-Cooler. When the product was taken to the field, the team had to engage heavily in educating the potential users of this product before they could actually be installed to the homes. And the response they had received was unexpected as to how overwhelmed these people were at such an initiative to make their lives better.

Brilliance over a Cup of Coffee

The inception of the Eco-Cooler is a wonder in itself as to how the idea initially came to Mr. Ashish Paul, overhearing his daughter’s Science teacher. Digging further into Grey Dhaka’s culture, it came into light as to how simple idea generation can be, over a cup of coffee or even at lunch. Acting as an incubator for innovative ideas, Grey has been leading the way in the industry for quite some time now. Perhaps it is the involvement of the office from the zero hour which helps ideas such as the Eco-Cooler realize its potential, which otherwise might have been sidelined as being too simple.

The Cannes Experience

It was Mr. Huq’s first time at experiencing Cannes firsthand this year and expressed how amazingly memorable the experience was, with winning the award being the icing on the cake. He emphasized on how being at such global platform makes us realize that we are not much different from the entire world. That our ideas and efforts are up there with any other country, competing at a global stage.

Mr. Shaon also highlighted the fact as to how attending such global events help us realize our potentials. When you meet with people from across the globe and converse with them, it is only then that you realize that you are not lacking behind in any manner whatsoever. Rather it is the thought that ‘we are not good enough’ which holds us down.

Mr. Huq also pointed out one amazing aspect, as to how he was hoping the that the festival would be a display of all high tech gadgetry which we imagine it to be like sitting so far away. But he was mesmerized by the fact that it was the people and the exchange of ideas that made such events worthwhile.

Also, the countless workshops and lectures were equally priceless of an experience as winning the award itself. It is the mixture of cultures and ideas which ultimately help us to be truly global yet act local, and bring out the best of our potential.

The Importance of Acting for the Society

The Eco-Cooler being a product which solves a social issue brings into spotlight the question as to what successful businesses can do when it comes to focusing on social responsibilities. On answering such a question, Mr. Huq stressed on the fact that businesses and individuals cannot think themselves as being separate from the society. We, both individually and collectively are part of the society and he believes that if you work towards giving something to the society, in one or another it is going to pay you back.

He also emphasized that when it comes to corporate social responsibilities, dumping money is not the way to go. “Giving money is easy”, Mr. Huq stated. Rather he believes businesses should strive towards providing solutions. Solutions which will create long term impacts that will ripple through the society in making lives better for people.

Grey at a Glance

Grey being a global advertising agency has been ‘Famously Effective’ in Bangladesh as well with Grey Dhaka and its portfolio consisting of the best brands of the nation. Grey Dhaka has been working with Telco market leader Grameenphone for a number of years now helping the brand maintain a firm grip on its leader’s position with highly effective campaigns. Grey Dhaka was also the mind engaged with the launching of the Bengali keyboard on Nokia phones, which took the nation by storm with the tagline ‘E Shudhu Bangla Tei Shombhob’. And remember all the flashmobs during the ICC T20 World Cup in Bangladesh? That campaign was too led by Grey Dhaka.

Grey Dhaka has also not lacking behind when it comes to gaining acknowledgment internationally. Under Mr. Shaon’s guidance as the company’s Managing Director, Grey Dhaka won several international awards such as APAC Effie Award, Spike Asia, AD Stars Busan and many more. And with greatest creative accolade now under the firm’s belt, it can be assumed that only greater success awaits this renowned agency.

The Way Forward

Grey Dhaka has already started working on projects it is planning to send to international competitions in the upcoming months and also next year. The team at Grey Dhaka feels that winning the Cannes has proved that Bangladeshi agencies is prepared to compete at the international level. This award should not mean that they have reached their full potential. Rather realize that there’s more room for improvement so that winning the award becomes an annual practice instead of a one-off thing.

Grey Dhaka also firmly believes that winning of the Cannes by Grey will also inspire other advertising agencies in the country to do better and create pieces of work which are good enough to compete with anyone out there. This award should represent as a symbol for excellence and a new bar for standards which must be met every time hence forward. Mr. Shaon firmly believes that after the Cannes “Anything is possible”, and that here onwards, things will only get better…it has to get better.


We at Bangladesh Brand Forum heartily congratulate Grey Dhaka for their accomplishment and hope that this becomes an annual affair for years to come. This award being the country’s first should be an inspiration for all individuals and firms working in the creative sector that we as a nation are out there now, competing shoulder to shoulder with the very best of the world. It is truly time that we embrace this reality and tell the world what we can do.

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