Perspective | Goafest 2013: A bollywood potboiler!

Sun. Sand. Water. Booze. The ingredients to this pot pourri are perfectly found in the holiday destination of Goa. The heady combinations of the available ingredients and the perfect setting of Goa makes it appropriate for anyone to forget office,  deadlines, home and only experience relaxation and party. Goa once synonymous to only fun and party is now equated with fun, party, awards and serious business work-well all thanks to the numerous industries for which Goa has become the destination to not only bring the best of minds to relax but also chart out new businesses and laud them for their hard work. The Advertising industry makes an annual trip to Goa and the best creative minds ditch their suits and ties to don the sun hats of leadership and wear the metals of hard work around the neck.

The entire advertising industry looks forward to Goa fest, a time of the year when the entire fraternity meets up to celebrate and recognize creative excellence and encourage the young minds to come up with the freshest idea every year. The Abby award as it is known is judged by eminent people from the advertising and communications industry. Goa fest is jointly organized by the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and the Advertising Club of Bombay and Goa fest 2013 was the sixth consecutive year when the two paired up again to organize this creative fest.

Goa fest has been increasing in size since the year of its inception. 2012 saw Goa fest opening its doors to all nations in South Asia, inviting strong client participation through the Marketing Wizard initiative. The three day festival in 2013 saw a cross mark of three thousand delegates which was an increase of about 10-15 per cent from 2012. The fest saw a participation of 200 agencies against the 175 of 2012. The positive numbers flashed are also to be noticed in the numbers of scandals emerging out every year at Goa fest. It has increasingly become an event associated with scandals, controversies and bad news that rock the advertising industry and the spirit of creativity with which they come forward to celebrate the hard work. 2103 was definitely an embarrassment if you were in any way associated with the Abby’s or the creative agencies which saw a demeaning of the profession and an insult of creativity in the name of achieving the highest number of awards.

The theme for Goa fest 2013-“Just what you unexpected” was lived up to the hilt with the heat being turned on by new disclamations tumbling out of the closet every moment. So, even before the Goa fest could begin Ogilvy, the winner of the Abby for over a decade refused to run the race. It definitely turned out to be a bonanza for the rest. Speculation were high until Abhijit Awasthi, National Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather cleared it all by saying that they decided to opt out because, “The awards (Creative Abbys) were not energizing our people, not motivating them as they used to earlier. There is not one specific reason behind the decision to withdraw from Creative Abbys this year. When the Creative Abbys used to be in Mumbai, it had a different impact and sheen but after shifting to Goa, it was not so appealing for us. Despite all apprehensions, we continued participating every year. But this year we decided to abstain from it as it was not energizing us. We are exploring a few options to motivate our people at the local level. One of the options is to start our own internal awards."

Awards linked to creativity is always under the scanner whether it is the Oscars or the home grown Filmfare. Stories like awards being bought, and they not mattering to the artist to continue doing a good body of work has always been heard. Agencies have in the past many a time not participated, proclaiming the awards to be rigged and proven it to be a farce. However, when the big names of the industry are involved in scam ads then it really is a matter to look up and take notice. So when JWT entered a poster campaign for Ford Figo, which was not released anywhere by the agency, featuring cartoons of women bound and gagged in the trunk of a Ford Figo, it raised questions about ethics in Indian advertising in the international market. It seemed that the Indian agencies too have embraced the trend of creating controversial advertisements specifically with the aim to win awards. The controversial ad had been selected for the Creative Abby’s and had made it to the first round. JWT and Ford both issued statements that they had not authorized the release of the campaign and therefore the ad was withdrawn.

However the harm had already been done for the ad created a furor and it resulted in the exit of Bobby Pawar, Chief Creative Officer and Managing Partner of JWT’s office in India to exit. If this was not enough the Goa fest had to deal with another blow with the jury chairman of digital category Sajan Raj Kurup, Founder & Creative Chairman, Creativeland Asia  deciding to opt out of the festival. He not only refused to judge the entries but also called for opting out his agency in the participation of the fest. Kurup’s reason to opt out was the scams being unfolded and not any personal grievance against the organizers of Goa Fest or the industry. In an internal memo to the jury members Kurup wrote that he “personally” did not feel it right to be associated with awards in any way in the country.

Controversies appearing before the start of the event add to the hype but controversies related to Goa fest refused to die down even after the Abby’s were long soon over. It made the organizers cringe to the extent that Shashi Sinha, Chairperson, AGC, commented that they would not take any more complaints for the Creative Abbys as enough is enough and everyone must move on. The next controversy in waiting to hit Goa fest was withdrawing of the Abby-winning print ad for Electrolux 

Washing Machines by DDB Mudra from the awards by the Awards Governing Council (AGC). The entry had been withdrawn on the basis of the work being similar to the work done on a campaign for LG washing machines by Y&R, Sao Paulo, Brazil. A similar situation was noticed with BBDO Proximity who lost two gold and silver which it had bagged for a print and outdoor campaign for DHL. The ad was said to be a lift of a campaign for furniture removalist Allied Pickfords done by Ogilvy & Mather, Singapore. Leo-Burnett followed en-suite as it dramatically withdrew two radio spots for Tata Salt Lite following a debate at the AGC that it was not legitimately released.

Perhaps the publicity to Goa fest was still not over. Everyone was ensuring that as many cats should be out of the bag to enable Goa fest brand to take a beating or give it as much publicity for it to become a bigger brand in 2014. So the next controversy to crop up revolved around the big agency McCann Erickson. McCann was 

accused of plagiarizing for its Active Total security Systems (ATSS) that won a print grand prix. The idea is said to have been drawn from a Mio GPS print ad done five years back in 2008. However a small difference is to be noticed in the two ads. While McCann showed tangled houses, Mio GPS created by Bates Asia showed tangled roads. The agency’s Big Babool also came under scanner for a bronze in Print and silver in Print Craft categories.

No publicity is good or bad, publicity is publicity. In a world where digital spirals the hype and the hits create a controversy, any publicity is good if you are gaining the attention.  Arun Malkani, Chief Marketing Officer for Birla Sun Life Insurance Co. Ltd opines that the concept of ads created for winning awards has always existed for several years now. It’s pretty sad that this time around the controversies have sullied the image of Goa fest. Definitely the reputation has taken a beating. Mandeep Malhotra. President, DDB Mudra group agrees with Malkani that the brand Goa fest has taken a beating. “It has diluted the spirit of appreciating good work. I believe we should have a category of published and unpublished work to solve the matter.”

Arijit Ray, CEO, Dentsu India however argues that, “Goa fest has got a close to a decade’s history. I don’t think that the currency of Goa fest will go down. It’s a big domain and this is just a passing phase. Goa fest has the capacity and potential to come out of it. I am sure Go fest will endure this as these kinds of events only add to the strength of hard workers.”

The numerous controversies also gave a license to everyone to object. Objections were raised to several entries and demands were raised for withdrawal of them to the AGC. Leo Burnett's ‘Tide Detergents’ (four silvers and a bronze across Print, Print Craft & Outdoor); Coke Studio (one gold, four silvers and a bronze across Design, Print, Outdoor, Integrated and Ambient); JWT's ‘ Sanctuary Asia Magazine’ (two silvers and three bronzes across Print, Outdoor, Design and Direct) and Godrej Security (a silver and a bronze in Print Craft) came under the scanner.

It’s the season of remixes and old being served in the new format.  But Goa fest stands for creativity and the new that the advertisers bring to the table. Thus it needs to be ensured that plagiarized ads never make it to the metals and strict steps need to be employed to avoid any embarrassment in the future. Arun Malkani suggests that the Goa fest needs to tighten up its entire administration procedure and examine all the entries very closely. And whether the work is published or unpublished the advertiser needs to keep in mind the sensitivities of the people. Continuing to work hard and rising above the petty controversies will allow the organizers to retain the sheen of Goa Fest and project it as the Cannes of India.

Sandeep Sharma, President, RK Swamy Media Group is of the opinion that the jury should be well balanced by having representatives not only from the advertising industry but also having people representing the consumers and stakeholders. This would give it a balance and an appropriate acceptance and also increase the quality of judging by making the awards cherished by everyone who wins it due to the varied opinions that has brought forth the creative award to him.

Senior team members of agencies are in the fire, and mistakes like this do effect the entire team especially juniors. The declaration of many that the awards are not motivating and others that they don’t matter, really makes a young person question his choice of profession and somewhat diminishes his integrity, motivation and dedication to work hard. Mandeep however does not agree that youngsters are affected by this. He says, “The young live in their own world, so bad noise or good noise, nothing seems to really affect them. The young today are more focused than we were in our times. They know exactly what they want and they are not to be swayed by awards. What sway them is a better job opportunity and the higher offer package.”

Well, considering all the opinions it only seems correct to say that only time will be able to answer whether the brand Goa fest has diminished due to the controversies surrounding it or will it emerge stronger than before with the industry coming together to not allow its reputation to be tarnished. Whatever be the case we at Adgully are waiting for Goa fest 2014 to know the answers. | By Rabab Rupawala [rabab(at)adgully.com]

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