Goafest: Celebrating Creativity

By: | Published: April 21, 2015 12:27 AM

The advertising community’s annual jamboree was a fine balance between the real and the virtual. Industry bigwigs tell Brandwagon what caught their attention at Goafest 2015, the sore points and how the festival can be made better...

WALK down the heavily carpeted conference area of Grand Hyatt hotel, Bambolim, Goa and you will find an interactive booth that offers “virtual reality”. An innocuous headset sits there but within a few seconds of putting it on, you launch off into a terrifying virtual roller-coaster ride. The virtual feels remarkably real. 

The experience is oddly symbolic of the just concluded Goafest’s underlying theme—the technology invasion in marketing communications and the confusion among brands when it comes to dealing with it. The advertising fraternity’s annual jamboree this year saw a number of packed sessions with international and national speakers such as Guy Abrahams, worldwide strategic marketing director at Zenith Optimedia; Jonny Stark, senior vice president, Asia Pacific at interactive agency Razorfish; Alan Moseley, president and chief creative officer of 180 Amsterdam; D Shivakumar, chairman and chief executive, PepsiCo and Radhakrishnan Chandrashekhar, head of communications and e-commerce, Nestle South Asia Region, all trying to find a balance between the two. 

Abrahams from Zenith Optimedia quoting research from The Economist which said that according to marketers, the discipline of marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the last 50 years. “The way we have been taught, communication is based on what the brand wants to say rather than what the consumer wants to hear. This was relevant at a time when media was scarce and there was brand controlled messaging. In our abundant world, the consumer is taking control of their messaging.” Abrahams advises brands to use social listening in place of focus groups. “Why mine data from surveys and focus groups when you can mine the reality of the digital world for insights?” he queries. Abrahams added that there is a need to home in on the new creativity of those who are native to the digital environment –YouTubers, bloggers, Twitter influencers and application developers. 

Moseley believes that in the digital context, it is critical for brands to stand out and get noticed. Moseley, who has worked extensively on sports brands such as Adidas, Nike and Japanese sports brand ASICS, talked about the importance of passion infused ideas. His interactions with runners revealed that running is not a solitary sport and it involves “”tribes” and “communities”. It was on this premise that the agency 180 Amsterdam launched an electrifying global campaign for Japanese sports brand ASICS called “It’s a big world. Go run it” which follows a runner who calls others to follow him by sounding a ram’s horn. 

In a separate conversation with FE, Moseley said that his agency 180 Amsterdam is interested in the creative possibilities that India provides and could at some point launch its operation here. His plans involve taking “Indian brands out to the world”; he is interested in Indian brands that have global aspirations and are looking for a global agency to navigate them there. 

This year, many agencies such as Ogilvy&Mather , BBDO India did not participate in the awards. Many broadcasters and publishers were not present, despite bagging awards for their entries. Pratap Bose, president of The Advertising Club Bombay and chairman of the awards governing council at Goafest said there has to be greater awareness and promotion for some of the newer categories. “But this is the highest number of entries that we have received any year from among media agencies,”said Bose. 

Santosh Padhi, co-founder and chief creative officer at Taproot, Dentsu India says that while he welcomes new inclusions, he hopes that the focus doesn’t stray from the creative ad awards, which in any case is the Goafest’s raison d’être. “Isn’t that why Goafest got instituted in the first place?” he asks. It is also a matter of concern to him that while international awards ceremonies such as Cannes Lions is witnessing an increase in the number of entries year on year, the Indian ad industry is sharply polarised and participation is dwindling.

There were 344 awards being given across categories such as media, ambient advertising, brand activation, branded content, design, digital, print, print craft and radio. J Walter Thompson (JWT) India won the maximum number of metals – as many as 35 in number which includes 9 golds, 8 silvers and 18 bronzes. Contract India won 22 metals which include 4 golds, 8 silvers and 10 bronzes. Taproot Dentsu won as many as 15 metals, which includes 1 gold, 7 silver and 7 bronze. There was only one Grand Prix awarded this year (equivalent of the best of show) and it was awarded to Linen Lintas for its ‘Brave and Beautiful’entry for Dabur Vatika Premium Naturals Shampoo which featured a bald model. 

FCB Ulka’s executive director and president of Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) Ambi Parameswaran says, “We have just one Grand Prix, this year but that doesn’t by any means imply that the quality of entries is inferior. Some years, the juries are liberal. Some years, they are a lot stricter. Overall, I think we have met the objectives of the festival. We have succeeded in diversifying the content we put in front of our people.  Instead of just inviting international speakers from agency groups, we have a wider mix of speakers this year, whether it is a film-maker, a mythologist or an entrepreneur.”

** Goafest can be the creative bridge between India and the world: Josy Paul, Chairman & chief creative officer, BBDO India

Indian creativity is on the rise and on par with the best in the world. It’s great to see how brands are breaking away from past conditioning and embracing new forms of communication while remaining rooted in our Indianness. This change may not be obvious for people outside India – especially international juries. So one of the roles that Goafest can play is to be that creative bridge. We need ambassadors who take our great local and culture-specific work and spread the message to the world. The best way to do that is to bring in international judges. Not any international jury, but creative leaders who have chaired international juries before. That’s one way Goafest can be great again.

With five of the top agencies not attending, it is not a great sign for the festival. The organisers should also seek feedback from people outside India. In all my travels to award shows internationally, it’s disturbing to hear the negative comments about Goafest. We’ve got to correct that urgently. But one thing is for sure, everybody agrees that Goafest has tremendous potential. The D&AD-Kyoorius festival of creativity seems to be evolving well. It feels like the organizers are responsive and creating new formats of engagement for greater learning. They are also bringing in a mix of Indian and international jury members. We are encouraged by the things they are doing. There’s a genuine effort to lift the industry. We’d like to be involved and are looking at ways to participate.

** Being safe is not safe anymore: Bobby Pawar, Director & CCO, Publicis Worldwide, South Asia & India

“It was heartening to hear advertisers such as Anand Kripalu, MD & CEO of United Spirits, talk about how marketers need to change their approach. Being safe is not safe anymore. A lot of the advertisers who spoke also referred to client-agency relationships and how they need to be attached to one partner for the long haul. But with the accent on margins and bottom lines and quarterly earnings, the shelf life of a chief marketing officer is at best a couple of years. This obviously impacts the brand persona. On awards and the larger question of participation, I think it’s regrettable that a few agencies just don’t want to get on to the dance floor.

** Goafest and Kyoorius-D&AD can co-exist: Shashi Sinha, Chief executive, IPG Media Brands

Everyone is talking about social media and real time marketing and the challenges of keeping up in a lightening-paced digital world. But while we have all highlighted the issues, the solutions are hard to find.  The trauma of super-segmentation and specialisation is being felt by both agencies and marketers. The crowning session at the Goafest was the powerful speech by Arnab Goswami which talked about the journalism of activism, vis-a-vis neutrality. I think that it is a good idea to have speakers from other disciplines, other than advertising. On the question of whether there can be multiple domestic awards in creative—I feel that there is definitely legroom. I think that globally D&AD’s focus is different; they have more of an accent on design. Under the Ad Club, we run different awards whether it is the Effie or the Emvie and they each retain their identity. I feel that the Kyoorius D&AD award should not be pitted against the Goafest. Both can co-exist. That said, I am still very concerned about the bad blood in the creative industry. In so many ways, we are back to square one—because this is exactly like the time when Goafest and the Abbys were two separate awards.  Awards need to be taken in the right spirit.

** The Abbys need to build on their respectability: Ashish Khazanchi, Managing partner, Enormous

I thought that there was some really outstanding work for Tata Docomo and Nike and if I was the jury chair, I would surely have awarded them the Grand Prix. We gave out as many as 344 awards, which is considerable in the light of the fact that so many agencies chose to skip the festival. I think that the Abby should be coveted, and not something that everybody wins. The bigger question is: are we awarding too much? And in doing so, are we also awarding entries that don’t deserve to be awarded? Scam entries continue to come in and we as an industry need to address this malaise. For instance, if there is a genuine piece of work that gets awarded—isn’t it unfair to stack that with a lesser seen and known entry? Also if you are looking for participation from newer stakeholders, whether it is the broadcaster or the publisher community, people will participate only if they are inspired. There is a lot of sanctity in a festival like Cannes Lions. The Abbys need to build on their respectability.

** Great choice of speakers, seminars: Great choice of speakers, seminars: Sam Balsara, Chairman & managing director, Madison Group

This time around, Goafest had a great choice of speakers and content in seminars. The speakers made some valid points on agency-advertiser relationships. Most emphasized that only long-term partnerships can yield positive results, in the context of the changes that the marketing communications business is seeing.  That’s encouraging.

** A perfect platform for networking: MK Anand , Managing director & CEO,  Times Network

Goafest was vibrant and active. These events offer a  platform for people to meet each other and do  business. While that sounds simple, it really is rare that we meet without agenda. The exchange of ideas and experiences invigorates and inspires. And Goafest makes all of us feel at home with its familiarity and affability.

** IT’s  a marketing communications festival now: Manish Bhatt, Founder & director, Scarecrow Communications

The accent now really is on integrated communications. I was chairing the integrated category and I was happy to note how mediums are working with each other, professionals are collaborating on creative solutions in order to create winning work. Ultimately, the client wants one solution that can travel well. I am happy to note that Goafest has transformed into a marketing communications festival. The Abby’s is the truly national award and the legacy of the Indian ad industry and efforts should be made to strengthen it, and not to weaken it.

** The entries were good but not exceptional: Pratap Bose, Chairman, Awards Governing Council, Goafest

We have ensured that the awards and the process behind it remain fair and we are definitely on far more stable ground than we were. Hopefully, many of these agencies will return. A lot of the work was good this year, but did not significantly impact or alter the category. This is why we did not award more than one Grand Prix.

** We can’t do much if an agency wants to keep away: Ambi Parameswaran, Executive director, FCB Ulka & president, AAAI

Even in its heyday, Abby rarely got all agencies to come and participate. Enterprise and Lintas used to stay away often. This year, some of the agencies have chosen to stay away. Interestingly, some of the work they have done has been entered by their sister companies – for instance, the Grand Prix has been won by Linen Lintas even though group company Lowe Lintas doesn’t traditionally participate in the Goafest. Agencies have their own reasons for staying away from the awards. We are willing to talk to them. But beyond, a point, we can’t do much. The show will go on.

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