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Here's what Indian ad world expects from 2023 edition of Goafest and Abby’s

Along with the general entertainment and sessions around creativity that Goafest offers, the industry expects the Indian adland's biggest fest to also have serious discussions over challenges faced by the industry and tech-led work emerging as the frontrunner

The Indian advertising industry expects to witness ground-breaking work that utilises emerging technologies and pushes the boundaries of imagination at the upcoming Goafest and Abby Awards.

Just like last year, the sentiments are that India’s biggest advertising festival and creative awards will see maximum participation from agencies.

The return of several prominent agencies including Mullen Lintas, Wunderman Thompson and McCann Worldgroup to the festival is being seen as a positive development, reinforcing the unity within the industry. 

Although, agencies like Dentsu, Wieden+Kennedy and Ogilvy and many others would not be participating in the Abby awards this year.

Along with the general entertainment and discussions around creativity that Goafest offers every day, the industry expects Goafest to also have serious discussions around challenges faced by the industry.

The industry veterans told that with The One Show's partnership bringing credibility and a rise in the number of entries in the Goafest, there is a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation surrounding the festival.

So, overall, the expectations for Goafest 2023 encompass celebrating the future of creativity, innovative uses of technology, and revitalising the festival's legacy through modernisation and evolution.

The Abby Awards has witnessed the introduction of new sub-categories in Digital Technology, Mobile, Design, and Audio Technology based on feedback from the creative professionals of the industry in the annual town hall conducted by The Advertising Club.

The Radio category has now evolved into the Audio category with the introduction of Content, the new sub-categories are in Use of Music, Sound Design, Script, Casting, Performance, Audio Technology, Voice Activation, Branded Content, Podcasts, and Content placement.

The 16th edition of the advertising festival, Goafest, is going to be held from May 24 to 26. The fest will also witness the 54th edition of the Abbys Awards, which has been recognising creative excellence in advertising for over five decades.

Since, the theme for the Goafest 2023 is 'The Future of Creativity', topics such as Generative AI and Open AI will be the highlights this year. The event will be co-hosted by The Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and The Advertising Club.

Bobby Pawar

Bobby Pawar, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Havas India, said, “I am a fan of great work and I expect to see something that is out of the box. The work that uses technology and pushes the boundaries of imagination, is going to excite people. Also, I am looking for the kind of work that takes brands to new places, finds new ways of engaging with consumers and new ways of being meaningful in their lives.”

“One of the things I would hope to see is the work that sells brands. Purpose-driven work is a part of it but I fear that the balance is dipping too much on the other side. We must not forget that if we do not move brands off shelves to capture the attention of people then there is no reason for it to exist,” he added. 

Pawar believes that the fresher the idea is, the greater the joy. He said that it would be great to witness something that has given him so much in these years, still thriving.

Viral Pandya

Viral Pandya, Creative Culture Officer, CogCulture, said, “Due to The One Show’s partnership this time, there is a lot of credibility which was lacking in the past couple of years. The work that I am looking at is world-class, we have come of age and we do great work.”

“We are in a mid-segment of agencies as we are not a network agency nor a small independent house. We would participate in the Goafest and see how our own barometer is. With The One Show coming in, there will be a rise (in the number of entries),” he stated.

Ashish Khazanchi

Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner, Enormous, believes that the return of large agencies in this year's Goafest is a great thing because it has always been about celebrating the industry’s unity.

“Also, thematically, this year they will be celebrating the future of creativity. So, I am expecting a focus on emerging technologies and how they are getting used innovatively. The agencies who are left out, if they can come back to the festival then it will be even better for the industry,” he added. 

Last year, Goafest and Abby awards registered a record number of registrations and entries setting the bar high for this year.  

Emmanuel Upputuru

Emmanuel Upputuru, Founder and Creative Chairman, EFGH Brand Innovations, however, said that not much work will be seen around AI but it will be reflected in the sessions at Goafest.

"I have always been a fan of Abby awards. Goafest is the single most important event in the industry’s Indian calendar. It is unfortunate that some so-called big agencies are skipping it. But it doesn’t really matter because what I have witnessed over the last few years is that the power has shifted," he added.

Manish Bhatt

Manish Bhatt, Founder Director, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi, stated that both Goafest and Abby Awards are the industry's pride. 

“Goafest is the celebration of industry where everyone unites. So, from that aspect, it is a significant event for us to be together. It's an occasion that one shouldn't miss, especially the younger lot who seek inspiration from the industry. There is a fair amount of effort to make Goafest vibrant. I have been hearing that there is a very prolific line of speakers this year,” he added. 

Alap Desai

Meanwhile, Alap Desai, Chief Creative Officer, Dentsu Creative West and Dentsu Creative Experience India, said that he is just expecting Goafest to give him enough reasons to come back to it again.

“Goafest used to be all we dreamed of some years back. I am expecting the festival to go back to its glory. By adding and celebrating the new and celebrating evolution. I want them to do this so that we can get back to it again. Most of us want to,” Desai said.

The annual advertising festival has received mixed opinions from veterans regarding its past decline and the ongoing potential resurgence. While some perceive a resurgence in the festival's popularity, fuelled by a notable increase in the number of entries and the participation of numerous brands, others remain sceptical, emphasising the significance of the awards and the esteemed jury panel as key indicators of Goafest's true revival.

Despite differing views, there is a general consensus that there is a lot of good work that will be celebrated at this year's event.

Pawar said that there has been a jump in the number of entries in Goafest which means there is a lot of belief in the festival. 

“They have had a great jury chairman and a line-up of speakers even in the past. Goafest is a good balance of learning and celebrating great work. People come together and become a community that fosters networking opportunities. It spreads across three days, providing an opportunity to meet individuals whom you typically compete with on a daily basis,” Pawar stated. 

This year, the jury line-up includes the likes of PG Aditiya, Guneet Monga, Mangesh Rane, Emmanuel Upputuru, Sabyasachi Mittar, Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, Ashwini Deshpande, Avinash Pandey and global names such as Nick Law and Wesley ter Haar.

Furthermore, he went on to add, “We are all bonded by creativity and the desire to do creative things. So, to create a place and an atmosphere where that can happen is just amazing and The Ad Club and AAAI are doing a marvellous job in that regard.”

Pandya said that there are workshops that will be held at Goafest and a lot of big brands are also coming in. So, it will be action-packed for sure. “Abby has always been prestigious, so it cannot decline,” he added. 

Khazanchi said, “The whole COVID-19 phase was a period of dark clouds over the entire advertising business but all that is behind us. There is enough work to be celebrated now and I am sure there will be a much larger number of entries in Goafest this year.”

Bhatt, while speaking about the Abby Awards, said that it has always been a very valuable part of the entire festival. “We have done some interesting work during the year with a variety of brands,” he added.

On the contrary, Desai said, “I feel that the way that we see the festival has not changed for decades. It's not about the venue. It is about the awards. The work we celebrate. The jury that takes part and how hard and prestigious it is to win one. The day we see these happen, the resurgence will too.”

The purpose of Goafest is not only to recognise achievements in the advertising industry but also to serve as a platform for discussing current issues and shaping its future, according to some industry veterans.

However, opinions on this matter are mixed, as some believe that discussing industry issues is essential for securing the future of advertising, while others emphasise the need for the right context and environment to engage in these discussions.

Jitender Dabas

Jitender Dabas, Chief Operating Officer and CSO, McCann Worldgroup India, commented that Goafest has struggled to invite big agencies' participation over the last few years, for various reasons. The timing at the peak of heat in Goa is largely the controversies around the creative awards but I believe the value of an advertising festival should be more than just awards.

“It’s a forum for the advertising and marketing industry to get together and plan for its future. The theme for the Goafest is ‘the future of creativity.’ Perhaps an apt choice in the times of AI. But in my view the future of advertising as an industry isn’t the same as the future of creativity,” he added.  

Dabas believes that creativity will survive AI but advertising as an industry can struggle. And there are bigger issues threatening advertising as an industry.

“A definitive sign about the future of an industry is how many young and bright people are coming into the industry and creative agencies are struggling to attract them. The other measure is the business model sustainability,” he added. 

Furthermore, he shared a wishlist of issues that a gathering of the advertising and marketing fraternity like Goafest can discuss.

“Why aren’t young people joining advertising anymore? How do we get the bright, young and passionate people back to the creative agencies? AI or procurement - which is a bigger threat to advertising as an industry? The right valuation of creativity. Is the business/remuneration model of creative agencies making it unsustainable?” Dabas asked.

Other issues include, “From retainers to project-based relationships, the demise of long-term client-agency relationship and decline of brand stewardship. Where are the next set of advertising leaders going to come from? Making advertising a happy place to work. What will it take?”

Dabas went on to say that it’s always nice to invite Bollywood stars and celebrities to add sparkle but unless one acknowledges and discusses these issues, they aren’t going to secure the future for the advertising industry.

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