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Comment: Abby leak – Time for someone to take responsibility

01-April-2009
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Comment: Abby leak – Time for someone to take responsibility

First a disclosure. I’ve been on the jury of the Ad Club for most years in the last decade, and even though it takes a full day in terms of time, it is fun discussing top creatives with the best minds in the business. As is the case every year, I was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and the entire process was monitored by Ernst & Young. Other than the jury and the E&Y team, the meeting includes personnel from the Ad Club secretariat and often the chairman or co-chair of the Abby committee. The only way in which word can get out about the results is if someone in the room chooses to squeal. That is, a member of the jury, the chair/co-chair, Ad Club/ E&Y staff or the photographers.

It’s regrettable that for the second year in succession, a few results of the Creative Abby have been leaked. The reports have appeared in a newspaper (The Economic Times) that belongs to the same group (BCCL) where the Advertising Club Bombay President (Bhaskar Das) is a bossman. Incidentally, last year, too, ET had scooped the story. It’s going to be impossible to find out who leaked the info. But suffice it to say that journos from the country’s No. 1 financial daily did not publish it by sourcing information from a juror’s friend’s barber. It’s got to have to come from a reasonably reliable source and validated by a biggie.

I don’t think it is correct to damn the journalists writing the story. It’s their job as reporters to dig for news. For, if someone is ready to divulge info that can be authenticated, it is natural that a publication will carry the data. The stakes are high. These are the industry’s biggest advertising honours. This year, a total of 4,494 entries came in, a 7-odd per cent jump from 2008. There were 90 judges involved in nine juries. Ogilvy itself sent some 650+ entries. The obvious attempt is to make sure that the Abby is disgraced and loses its sheen.

It’s time someone in the Goafest/Ad Club core team gets into damage control mode by doing one of the following:

1. Find out who did it. Expose him/her (via a leak to the media) and banish the person from all industry events.
2. Key office bearers must take moral responsibility and quit.
3. Ban/boycott the newspaper in question for carrying the story.
4. Dump the entire jury – all 90 of them – and promise to get an all new set next year.

I don’t think point No. 3 helps except that it will dissuade others from following suit next year. I’m not going to recommend that it should be point No. 2 though, if it had been a government official or a minister, surely everyone would’ve asked for heads to roll.

As a member of the 2009 jury, I volunteer to be subjected to scrutiny. Aside: next year, perhaps I should take an NDA from the organisers. No revealing the results!

(The views expressed here are my own.)

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