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GoaFest 2011: A great ritual, not so great answers - Dheeraj Sinha

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GoaFest 2011: A great ritual, not so great answers - Dheeraj Sinha

It may not be an exaggeration to say that every second person in Goa right now is an advertising person. The ad industry has flooded the airlines, airports, hotels and roads of this beach paradise. The non-advertising passengers in the airline looked around in awe, wondering is this part of Bollywood? The airport was filled with cool shades and shorts-wearing fashionable people from the ad land. While a lot of us complain about seeing the same faces all over again in Goa, I think it’s a great ritual. An industry without a culture of its own cannot be an industry. And the festival of advertising that GoaFest is, gives this industry its own ritual. A three-day non-stop celebration of ideas and people, accompanied by the greatest grease of the industry – alcohol – makes GoaFest a totem of this industry’s culture.

The Conclave on the first day tried to handle the issues faced by the industry. The idea of learning from other service industries about what we could do better is a great one. But the conversations unfortunately did not join up to give a way forward. The individual presentations were a great peek into how a TCS or Reliance or Yahoo handles and innovates its product, services, and people policies. How does advertising solve its woes basis this is still to be concluded though. Let’s face it, these are not issues that are born as of yesterday and, therefore, it’s not easy to find these answers at a 30-minute conference platform.

The first day of the festival, however, has raised more questions than answered them. And more so, it raised more of the same old questions. That the industry has issues with remuneration, talent attract-ability and retention, and is struggling with client expectations of agencies being brand and business partners, is an old finding.

Goa as a location frees us in mind, body and opinion – we wear shorts, drink alcohol and rant about almost everything in the industry. Well then, maybe we could have a little more direct conversation around what could possibly fix this. The diagnosis on the table is not new, the answers on the table better be. For an industry that walks into marketing boardrooms and pushes clients to confess their problems, we can expect a little more unabashed thrashing of the issues.

The matters of the house can, in fact, best be solved by the people of the house. To my mind, GoaFest can possibly be a meaningful platform for the insiders to come together and reach a summit level understanding. To finally put together an action plan for the next generation to take forward. And in that context, as the research on the industry threw up, we do need a lot more representation of the next generation of ad people whose motivations and future were being discussed today.

This is a rather heavy beginning to a somewhat fun festival. I am, however, looking forward to seeing some great ideas being put up and celebrated in the next two days. I am hoping that the speeches over the next two days take the conversation forward rather than reiterate the old. It’s important that while we celebrate the work that we did last year, from this festival emanates a direction and an inspiration for the next year. I am hoping that the younger generation of advertising industry gets more than just the ‘rain dance’ to write home about.

(Dheeraj Sinha is Regional Planning Director, Bates141, and author of ‘Consumer India – Inside the Indian Mind and Wallet’.) 

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