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Interview: Santosh Padhi, CCO & Co-Founder, TapRoot India

“I don’t think most Indian jury members have done enough to project the cultural connect of Indian entries or have done so in the past compared to the way the Brazilians, Argentineans or a Japanese do for their respective country’s work”

Neha Saraiya | Delhi | February 14, 2012

For the second year in a row, New York Festivals International Advertising Awards has selected a “dream team” – an elite group of worldwide creative officers to select the ‘World’s Best Advertising’. The NYF Executive Jury convenes in New York City on April 28 through May 2, 2012, concluding with the New York Show Awards presentation on Thursday, May 3, 2012. Joining this elite Executive Jury will be two celebrated Indian creative minds – Santosh ‘Paddy’ Padhi, Chief Creative Officer and Co-founder, TapRoot India, and Prasoon Joshi, President of McCann Worldgroup South Asia.

Paddy will be judging the NYF advertising awards for the second year in a row. What is it like to be on the jury of such a prestigious global award forum? What are the learnings from the experience? How do the jury members evaluate such a vast array of top-class creative works from diverse countries with diverse cultural backdrops? Paddy talks exclusively to BestMediaInfo on what it means to be on such elite panels. Excerpts:

This is your second year in a row on the Executive Jury of New York Festival’s International Advertising Awards. What are the expectations this year compared to last year?

It was for the first time that NYF or any other international awards in the world got more than 30 creative minds who are global heads or the seniormost ECDs of their networks to pick the best pieces of ideas during the four days of judging sessions. It was such a solid set of jury last year that it took a two-and-a-half-hour long discussion and debate to arrive at the Grand Prix. They are so focused that there are very thin chances of a great piece of idea escaping their eyes. I’m hoping to experience the same this year as I really enjoyed the honesty and the brutal way of doing justice to great pieces of work.

Do you think international award functions provide a chance to creative people to catch up on global creative trends? Fortunately or unfortunately, creative awards are the only way to judge a piece of work for its creative evaluation, and awards do play an important role for the youngsters in terms of motivating them. Awards are like steroids; the moment you have one it gives intense energy to do things more creatively. India has grown creatively in the last decade or so. Creative awards locally or internationally are given to pieces of work which have created a new standard in creativity, a new language, a new device, a new broken rule, anything that the creative people judging the works have never seen before. This holds for consumers as well; if you do something that they have never seen before, they will remember you for it.

What is your criterion for accepting an invitation from an international award show? Apart from three to four award shows to which I couldn’t make it at the last minute, I always look forward to get there as far as possible. I feel it’s my turn to give back to the industry, just as someone did when I was a kid years ago by managing some time to judge my work. Secondly, it’s a huge learning and experience for me as well, as there is so much of creative work that gets generated in the world that you do not get to see all of them otherwise. While judging you get to see them first-hand, followed by a panel discussion over some pieces of work, and this is the best part of the judging process. It’s amazing to see how a person from a particular region reacts to a piece of work, and usually when one comes back from such a session, one tends to inject so much of creativity that it keeps you charged for a few months. So, to me, being on a jury has always been a give and take relation.

Do you see differences in terms of quality and methodology among the various top international advertising awards?

I think around 50 per cent of the work tends to be the same, and they win across all the lead award shows. Those ideas cannot be disputed in any circumstances. The other 50 per cent differs depending on number of juries, where do they come from (region), their understanding of particular regions, local insights, jet lag, etc. The process keeps differing from show to show, but ultimately the juries are looking for those brilliant pieces of work that shout for attention whichever way you bring them on the table.

You will also be on the jury of Saudi Arabia's Okaz Creative Advertising Awards, and have also been invited to join the ADC advertising jury for the 91st ArtDirectorsClub Awards in New York. How are you gearing up for them?

I just came back from Saudi Arabia a few days back. I had judged Dubai Lynx before, so I was well aware of their culture, restrictions and a few dos and don’ts. it’s definitely not easy to get the best creative work when you are working in such regions, but hats off to the creative community out there who give their best to come out with a decent piece of work that make a difference in the consumer as well as the creative community.

It was quite an experience to judge something like this, as to do justice to a piece of work it’s very important to get the local cultural connect, which at times takes a lot of your time as every time you have to depend on the explanation or the local juries to take you in to their shoe to get the hang of it. One notices that more and more regional/local award shows are getting into the mould of taking a global perspective for their award shows, like Malaysia’s Kancil Awards has been doing for some time by getting a few international judges. So did Sri Lanka with their Chilli Awards. I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all to do this in our country as well, considering the way world is shrinking day by day.

I’m looking forward to be part of ADC in March in New York. It is a 90-year-old brand, supposed to be one of the oldest award shows in the world.

What kind of judging process is the most fair according to you?

I think nowadays awards have become far more important for most network agencies and individuals. This wasn’t the case a decade back. I can appreciate the desire for creative awards, it’s the most important thing to boost yourself and the agency when it comes to creativity. But how and at what cost? People at times cross their limits to get there, we have witnessed this happening year before last in a big way in our local awards. And this also happens in other parts of the world. It’s just that a bunch of people are setting a wrong example; it’s scary that these things are inspiring the youth in our industry. Hence, it’s extremely important for the industry to be ruthless on such occasions, as this is definitely not what we would like to pass on to the next generation.

Of all the international award shows judged by you, which remains your best experience till date and why?

I have been invited to most of the international award shows like Clio, Cannes, One Show, NYF, London International Awards, Dubai Lynx, Adfest, Busan Korea, Okaz (Saudi), ADC, etc. I consider myself lucky to get such wonderful opportunities to experience many wonderful things during judging as knowingly or unknowingly one learns a lot when 8-10 jury members from around the world analyse the idea. The richest I would say is NYF – for two reasons. Firstly, I met some of the best Chief Global Creative Directors, especially when some of them have been your bosses a few years back, and secondly, I was the youngest member of the panel. There is always something special that you get out of every award show.

What is a bigger task – managing creative duties at the agency or the responsibility of an international judging panel? How do you allocate time for both?

I think both are equally tough, one has to be in a right frame of mind when dealing with both as I feel there is a big overlap. You have to pick the world’s best idea in a award forum and you do the same thing in your agency on a much smaller scale. The reason is that what you are choosing in the award forum has to have a great creative standard as that becomes the benchmark for many for the next year, and it’s equally important while picking the idea in your own agency as that piece of work should have the potential to be on the global forum next year. If not all, at least a few should have the potential to compete on a global level.

How do you deal with the issue of scams ads in award shows? Scam ads could be defined as those that have not been released or you have stolen money or borrowed from Dawood Ibrahim to release the ad or one has given ‘supari’ to release the ad. The client does not exist, the brand does not exist.

Jury members are asked to choose good ads, leaving behind the bad ads. I have never heard juries being asked to pick scam ads – and ads badly done are often laughed upon as scams! The jury is purely judging on what’s there on the table – they will pick the greatest, simplest and freshest ideas, ideas that make you feel small, ideas that make you feel I wish I had done it, ideas which will set new standards in the world of creativity. Believe me, that’s what matters to juries. The rest is up to the organising committee to deal with. In simple words, anything that’s done within the rules of the book set by that particular awards committee should qualify, and if they do not meet the guidelines and criteria, then of course they are entitled to be called scam.

How do you deal with the issue of patriotism when you have to evaluate an Indian entry?

One of the reasons juries comprise members invited from various parts of the world is that they should be the voice at times for the cultural connect in the idea from his or her country. So you literally become the voice of the idea at times which deserves to win. But I don’t think most Indian jury members do that or have done so in the past compared to the way the Brazilians, Argentineans or a Japanese do for their respective country’s work. It’s sad that when it comes to creative awards, Indian jury members want their network to do well. It’s sad but that’s the truth. I’m hoping the younger generation will put the country first at such global forums.

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