Mumbai: Faced with single-digit growth at best this year and struggling with negative sentiment from a global slowdown and the recent Mumbai terror strikes, leading voices in the advertising industry are questioning whether it is appropriate to hold the Goafest ad awards in April this year.
This three-day event is organized by the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and Advertising Club Bombay at Cavelossim beach in Goa annually to award creative and media excellence.
“Anyone who wants to have three nights of celebration at a time when there’s gloom all around has to be crazy,” said a creative director at a leading agency which, he added, may pass on the event this time.
Mood downbeat: Colvyn Harris, chairman of Goafest, says the decision to host Goafest 2009 was near-unanimous and that he is on the verge of deciding on a public relations and event partner. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman, McCann Erickson (India) Ltd, says that going by recent events, the ad industry should not hold the usual awards this year. McCann did not take part in Goafest last year and hasn’t yet taken a call this year.
Some agencies, which did not want to be named, said the substantial expenditure involved in taking part in such awards in any meaningful way, from award entry fees to travel expenses, is an onerous add-on, particularly considering they don’t have enough for raises or even, at times, salaries. Other advertising executives, though, stopped short of such a measure and said the awards format should be revamped. However, some advertising executives, such as Mahesh Chauhan, group CEO, Rediffusion Y&R Pvt. Ltd, wonder why agencies debate attending Goafest when they can afford to send creative personnel to the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
Colvyn Harris, chairman of Goafest, and CEO of JWT India, told Mint that the decision to host Goafest 2009 was near- unanimous and that he is on the verge of deciding on a public relations and event partner. Award categories will be decided after further feedback from creative directors, he added.
Goafest 2008 got about 3,800 award entries and all the big agencies, bar Lowe and McCann, took part, but it is questionable if the event can hit that figure this time. Many of the smaller agencies and companies could be no-shows this year, an agency chief said.
Big agencies aren’t exactly gung-ho about the event, either.
Piyush Pandey, executive chairman, Ogilvy and Mather Pvt. Ltd, said, “With the economic slowdown and the terror strikes, things are different this year. We need to take a stricter view on awards.” He added that a second Goafest meeting will decide on the matter and that he will take a call accordingly.
Lowe Lintas India Pvt. Ltd’s chairman R. Balakrishnan said that Lowe has its own internal awards and will not be participating in Goafest. The company has stayed away from industry awards for the past few years.
Joshi of McCann Erickson has instead suggested a contest among agencies to create citizen activism ads or public service ads against the terror attacks. “Something on the lines of what the news channels did during the terror strikes. They suspended normal news bulletins and limited their coverage to the terror attacks,” he said.
Many advertising professionals as well as advertisers are clearly pushing for a more meaningful event, if one is to be held. Anil Nair, president, Law and Kenneth India, says it’s not economically viable to have a Goafest at all, especially given the slowdown in India. “A lot of work that wins in the Goafest is obscure work, run in less-known publications and created for the purpose of winning awards. It sends out a wrong signal to the industry that such work is worthy of winning,” he said. “True creativity is work that impacts the brand and its bottom lines (as awarded by the Effies). It makes sense to marry the two—creativity awards and effectiveness awards.”
A leading advertiser in the telecom space says agencies should be thinking a lot more about impactful communication now, rather than chasing awards that at times reward “scam ads” (ads for brands that don’t exist, or ads that just run once in some small newspaper, etc).
Many are mooting changes in the awards format. Sanjay Tripathy, head of marketing at HDFC Standard Life Insurance Pvt. Ltd, suggests changes such as Client’s Choice award which will increase advertiser participation. He adds that at Goafest last year, there were complaints about lacklustre participation at the numerous seminars, events, etc., and that participation should be made mandatory. Agnello Dias, former chief creative officer at JWT India, added that there was a certain overlap in categories last year which could be reworked.