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Commentary: Goafest 2014 keeps its promise – it was fun and business as always

The attendance was impressive with almost 2,000 delegates. Young ad professionals turned up in good numbers. And more Abby metals were won this time than ever before. Ultimately, ‘almost’ collectively, the industry won

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Kalyan Kar Editor-in-Chief BestMediaInfo.com

Delhi | June 3, 2014

I have been attending Goafest from as far back as 2007. In my mind I had told myself that this year would be my last visit to Goa to witness and participate in India’s very own and largest ad fest. As I boarded the plane, what kept playing on my mind were the controversies that have plagued Goafest for the last couple of years, and whether the organisers could pull it off successfully. This year a record six top agencies stayed from the Abbys. Owing to a last-minute change at the helm, the affable Srinivasan Swamy, aka Sundar to most of us, was persuaded to take charge.

True to his nature, Sundar promised to deliver the best- ever Goafest. The only hitch was that the timeline got pushed back further into the torrid and humid Goa summer. So, for the first time in its history, Goafest was held indoors in the 5-star comfort of the Grand Hyatt in Bambolim. Thank heavens for this smart move by Sundar and his team.

[caption id="attachment_14545" align="alignright" width="150"]Srinivasan K Swamy Srinivasan K Swamy[/caption]

The attendance was impressive with almost 2,000 delegates. It was more than enough to get things off on the right note. Young ad professionals were there in good numbers, lending the right touch of fun and frolic over the three days. They couldn’t care less about the controversies. As one young ad executive commented, “We couldn’t be bothered about the politics and egos of the honchos. Let them fight their petty battles, we will continue to have fun and take back some learnings and, of course, a handful of trophies!”

Well said! I am not naming you, but this is exactly the spirit that will ultimately prevail and keep Goafest afloat.

There have been scams, plagiarisms et al in the past. Most awards around the world have some time or the other faced this issue. They have all taken time but have largely managed to root out the problem with checks in place. So, why should Goafest be treated differently? Why should the Abbys be boycotted? It is like the typical middle-class argument that says why join politics, why vote, since undeserving candidates will stand and win most times! Or is it because the Abbys are “made in India”, so they deserve to be browbeaten? Come on, folks, show some patriotism. Cannes Lions, New York Festival, Spikes, Festival of Media… you dare not boycott them because you will not even be noticed if you did! The best you can do is not to send in entries. End of story.

gfAs I have written many times in the past, it is time the leaders of the advertising industry joined hands to root out whatever is wrong with the Abbys, help clean up the act, and participate in strength. A divided industry is the last thing any Government will care about, doesn’t matter how many issues you may have on taxation norms, etc. There is a lesson to be learnt from the real Corporate India.

Was Goafest 2014 a success? Of course it was, no doubt about that. The organisation and arrangements were good. There is no point in carping over whether the speakers at the Knowledge Seminars this time were better in 2013 or 2012 or 2011. That would be negative thinking. When you have some delightful speakers like Google’s Rajan Anandan, Vanita Narayanan, Managing Director, IBM India, Norm Johnson, Chief Digital Officer, Mindshare, Melanie Varley of MEC Global, and some interesting speakers who are not from advertising and marketing, it can make for great learning and useful offbeat ideas to take back home.

[caption id="attachment_40968" align="alignleft" width="150"]Pratap Bose Pratap Bose[/caption]

Was participation any less? Not really, as Pratap Bose, Ad Club President, said. “We had 53 agencies that sent in entries this time against 49 last year. So, even without the six who didn’t come, we still had more!”

[caption id="attachment_42780" align="alignright" width="150"]Ajay Chandwani Ajay Chandwani[/caption]

As for number of entries, the Abbys had received almost 2,700 entries this year. This includes the 619 for Media Abbys. The number of entries for Creative Abbys has fallen drastically but that can be explained by the fact that six major agencies stayed away from the Abbys this year. The big creative agencies always account for a large number of entries, as Ajay Chandwani, Co-Chairman, Abby Award Judging Committee, pointed out.

However, there were more metals that were given out this time. Kudos to the Ad Club for introducing new categories like Publisher Abbys, Broadcaster Abbys and PR Abbys. It helped make more participants that are part of the communication business inclusive.

[caption id="attachment_28268" align="alignleft" width="150"]Colvyn Harris Colvyn Harris[/caption]

Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT India, made a telling point when my correspondents caught up with him after the final evening of the Abby awards. “We are so delighted because 40 wins is a lot. And we are particularly delighted because it’s across so many categories – the digital element, content, craft scale. Here in this platform you can show your work in so many categories. There are enough categories to win and enough categories to lose. Now we are divided in our opinion because there is another award show coming up. My opinion is that, technically, we should enter all our work in both shows. We have to work towards a win-win,” Harris said.

And in an interview to my friend Pradyuman Maheshwari of MxM, Harris said, “The Olympic Games takes place despite countries not participating in them. In Cannes, some agencies participate and some don’t but the ones who win believe their work is good. Coming back to India, Goafest is a property by the industry, for the industry. It’s very easy to boycott an industry function. Do we want to do that? No. We want to support this institution.”

For now, the Goafest is over. We will wait till next year, sincerely hoping that the ad frat will over the coming 12 months bury their differences and make Goafest and the Abbys even stronger. Let the best always win, fairly.

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