The coming together of AAAI and Ad Club Bombay’s Abby in 2008 was celebrated with much fanfare and the industry touted the GoaFest as the Cannes of India. There have been factions earlier, too, which supported AAAI or Ad Club Bombay, and there is still a divide where few agencies choose to stay away from the fest citing no good work to enter in a year or the much maligned ‘cost cutting’ as the reason.
Though the entire premise of GoaFest being the Cannes equivalent of India takes a huge hit when time and again the results of the Abby awards get leaked much before the actual event. It does make one wonder whether the coming together of AAAI and Abbys, especially the creative Abbys, was actually good for the reputation of the latter, which has been in existence for close to four decades now and has been celebrated by the industry movers and shakers.
Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT, and GoaFest Chairman, is emphatic when he says that nothing can take away the essence of GoaFest. He said, “We have put in a lot of effort to bring GoaFest to the stature it is today. It is an industry event, where people exchange ideas, meet people and celebrate work. It’s an unfortunate incident that there is speculation on the results and hats off to others who do not tow the similar line. In no way does incident like this diminish the spirit and purpose of this property.”
Ajay Chandwani, Director, Percept, and Chairman, Creative Abbys, said, “When AAAI and Abbys joined hands for GoaFest, it was with the purpose of bringing both the bodies on one platform and celebrate the industry together. The awards are not a major political dilemma, hence a speculation like this will not really serve something that is of national importance. I suppose this is a fallout of having a large jury, which incidentally happened in the interest of the industry. But this in no way brings any disrespect to Abbys or diminishes its value, which is widely accepted by the industry.”
‘Things are not watertight’
Harris and Chandwani vouch that the platform that GoaFest provides to the industry is unique, but they are also the people who are closely associated with the fest this year. The purpose of bringing Abbys to GoaFest was to give it a larger dimension and also to end the conflict arising out of two awards. In the five years since its debut, the fest has found the fraternity largely seeing reason in this joining of hands.
Josy Paul, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, BBDO India, puts this aptly, “GoaFest is GoaFest! Nothing can substitute it or take away from it. The festival is a celebration of excellence; it’s more than just the sum of the metals. The coming together of AAAI and the Ad Club Bombay is a significant achievement. It confirms the combined and collective commitment of all parties to further the standards of Indian advertising. GoaFest is getting bigger by the year, and when something becomes this big, everybody wants a piece of the action!”
“I’m not for leaks in the system and I don’t think anybody wants it. But clearly, things are not watertight. I would urge everybody to look at the up side of GoaFest. No leakage can dampen the collective effect of inspiring work, wonderful company, great learning and three days of sun, sand and Goa,” reiterated Paul.
One thing is clear that those who are convinced of the coming together of AAAI and Ad Club Bombay are also clear that GoaFest is not just about winning a metal or two. Arvind Sharma, Chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett, maintained, “I don’t think announcing awards prior to the event is really is a scoop. After all, it’s an industry awards and not something of national importance. Yes, it does take some excitement out of the fest, but the fest is not an awards show, but about sharing ideas, celebrating work, interacting with people from the fraternity. It is not about one gold or a bronze metal, but much more than that. After all, didn’t we know the result in school yet gathered later to celebrate it?”
That’s a point that Sandeep Pathak, CEO, Bates 141, too makes, albeit with a twist. “Even at Abbys, one would have an inkling of who the winners would be, so it’s not like the awards are some kind of surprise. Anyone following advertising knows which are the popular work and likely to win. With GoaFest, there has been a democratisation of judging, which was restricted to few. But with this, has also come a few hazards, thus the need for putting some processes in place.”
‘Leakage reduces the stature of the awards’
If one had an idea of the winners even when Abbys was held in Mumbai, does that mean that one can just take it for granted that at GoaFest, as the dimension gets only larger, this validates the scale of leakage to multiply manifold? Many don’t take the jumping of gun with such ease. “The entire leakage issue definitely reduces the stature of the awards show. The blame must rest with the organisers and the jury for yet again failing to prevent this. This is an annual farce,” said Shiv Sethuraman, CEO, TBWA\India.
So, is the partnership proving to be fatal for the Abbys? Mahesh Chauhan, Group CEO, Rediffusion, made no bones about it when he said, “Though I am tempted to say no, but the answer is yes. The result leak does make me re-think about the whole idea of bringing Abbys to GoaFest. It does take away the veracity of the award. I think it’s time for us to introspect and understand why the jury cannot keep shut and what values they carry. It can be very much possible the case of one bad fish spoiling the name of all.”
His parting shot says it all, “For Rediff, GoaFest is not at all about awards, but a place to party and listen to few industry leaders.”