There were empty seats in the front row during Trevor Beattie’s lecture. That was strange because the man is an internationally acclaimed creative genius. The founder of independent advertising agency Beattie McGuinness Bungay Ltd, Beattie was behind two of the most memorable campaigns of 1990s—the FCUK campaign for the high-street fashion store French Connection, UK and the “Hello Boys” poster campaign for Playtex Wonderbra. A closer look at the seats, however, explained why: the previous occupants had ditched their chilled beer and an energetic rain dance to hear the earlier speaker, Thirasak Tanapatanakul, the executive creative director of Bangkok’s Creative Juice agency, and they had left the seats soaking wet.
“That,” says Josy Paul, national creative director, JWT, “sums up how Goafest 2007 was received by some 2,800-odd participants.” There was non-stop partying on the beaches of Goa, punctuated with seminars addressed by international and national speakers at the three-day event organized by the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI).
Yet, some participants thought the event, which concluded on 21 April, managed to achieve what it had set out to: “Goafest was fun. Sea, surfing, partying along with insightful seminars and thorough discussions, it had it all,” said a young participant from Grey Global.
Even international speakers such as Donald Gunn, author of the ‘Gunn Report’, an annual worldwide league table for the advertising industry, Beattie and Tanapatanakul seemed impressed with the concept of the advillage.
“It’s a wonderful idea to create an advillage and have the seminars, parties and the exhibitions all happening at the same venue. It’s impressive that the festival managed to get over 2,000 delegates only in its second year,” said Gunn. Tanapatanakul said he was impressed with the size of the jury and the number of entries. “I think the quality of the work displayed was very good,” he said.
The event was like one big carnival as delegates swarmed through the advillage, attending seminars, going through work displayed at the galleries and generally having a good time. “At an event like this, you feel like you are a part of the industry; otherwise you rarely get to interact with people from other agencies,” said Shilpi Bhargava, an account manager with McCann Erickson. “It definitely puts things in perspective,” added Shefali Gupta, also from the same agency.
The presentations made by international speakers such as Gunn; Maureen Johnson, head of WPP’s global retail practice, The Store; Fredric Joseph, CEO, Zed Digital, the digital arm of Zenith Optimedia; and Gregg Albright, director, Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, were well received. Just as Beattie’s was, the empty seats in the front row notwithstanding.
Beattie was vocal about issues plaguing the industry, and emphasized the need for agencies to “care about their doings” and to do away with scam ads (ads that are not part of the commercial campaign of a brand, but are done with an objective to win an award). “It’s like going on stage to receive an Oscar for a movie that was never screened,” he said. “That’s bloody cheating!”
Beattie’s passionate urge, however, was wasted as far as the Goafest awards event was concerned. A majority of entries and several of those that won awards, were “scam ads.” “After Trevor’s speech on scam ads it was really disheartening to see so many scam ads having made it to the festival and win laurels. Over 60% of the contending entries looked like scam ads. Not only they had poor production quality, many of us hadn’t even seen them before,” said a young delegate from Mudra DDB, Mumbai.
Some industry execs also used the opportunity to interact with the younger delegates. “They have got quite a few young participants. Talent-hunting, thus, is expected,” said a senior manager from Rediffusion DYR who did not wish to be identified.
The interactive sessions on the beach failed to take off as few were interested in early morning sessions after a late night. Some speakers didn’t show up. However, AAAI seemed happy with its efforts. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Arvind Sharma, chairman, awards committee, AAAI, and chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett.