My driver in Goa was a dude called Abdul. His frequent questions to me have actually inspired this note. As soon as I got into the car at the Dabolim airport, he asked me, “Kiska function hai?” A question that a lot of people have been trying to answer, I guess. But I told him that we were advertising people. To which he did not really say much. I suspect it was more to do with his mistrust as well as his lack of knowledge. All that he could understand is that we made films. And that was what kept him going all the days that I was there.
But GoaFest will be remembered for more than just this. The first day, the day of the Ad Conclave, will particularly remain etched in my mind for a variety of reasons. For one, the brilliant session of Ranjan Kapur and the Nasscom bosses, who told us that it would be better to collaborate rather than cartelise. Famous last words; only time will tell how seriously they were taken note of. And, secondly, for the wonderful evening that some of us spent at the shack close to the Leela. There were some seriously big names at the shack that night – beginning with my boss Vikram Sakhuja, GMan, Ajit Varghese, Sameer Nair, Ishaan Raina, Madhukar Kamath, Paritosh Joshi and yours truly. It was a gathering that could decide the fate of media in this country.
As the evening went by and the alcohol got over at the Conclave – someone needs to fix this problem once and for all – we all gravitated to the shack where Paritosh made sure that there will never ever be a shortage. And it was there, like Moses, that Sameer espoused the cause of the three fundamental truths of not only advertising but also of life. People were also introduced to the concept of MMR (not the All-Out version). And for once, everyone was in agreement and how! To add to that, we heard some lovely renditions from the good old 60s by Mrs Kamath and Vikram. I was made to shut up when I tried to emulate them and decided to concentrate on the more important aspects of life – the three truths and MMR!
Day 1 of the Fest saw Abdul ask another fundamental question. “Koi star aaye ga kya yahaan?” I replied, “Boss, yahan sirf star aate hain, bade bade star.” To which he replied, “Maine to kissi ko bhi nahin pehchanta.” And that was then it struck me of how nondescript a job we all do. But this depression soon wore off as soon as I stepped in to register. Most of the people at the registration desk were struggling to find a photo ID which the organisers kept on asking for. Thank God for my iPhone, I was able to show them a scanned copy of my driving license. I got the ID, and when I left, I saw some very senior media pros practically going down on their knees and promising to bring their ID next year. The same people who had fun at my expense and my electronic ID some moments ago! I silently thanked Steve Jobs.
Oh, the exuberance of youth! The energy, the zing, the fun, the look of aspiration in their eyes, the sheer look of gay abandon. Seeing them made me wish why we didn’t have such Fests when I was under-30. The speakers were fantastic, and the Awards were really well handled. Last heard, some creative agencies were threatening to register themselves as media agencies for the next GoaFest. I came back with some resolves that night. And it was good to see a lot of clients telling their agencies, “Dude, I want to see you up there next year.” And to wrap up the evening, yours truly played some inspiring pool with Pratap Bose. Never knew the man could play pool too!
Day 3 on the way to the beach Abdul asked me yet another gem. “Kitna paisa lagta hai iska?” So I gave him some number excluding cost of hotel (that was bothering Sam). He did not respond for five minutes. And then after much thought he asked me, “Aur itne paise ke liye kya milta hai?” It was my turn to keep quiet and think. How could I quantify the time spent on Day 1 getting to know people who I had only heard of? Or the value that I could attach to the knowledge learnt from the speakers or to the fact that I met some old friends (who still remembered me!). I preferred not to answer the question and mumbled something incoherent. I guess Abdul got the message…
I did go to the Abby’s. With all the controversy surrounding the leak, how could I not! I sat there patiently for more than an hour witnessing awards being given to campaigns I did not even know existed! Guess my exposure to media in parts of Shillong or Kanyakumari and in papers such as the Free Press Journal is fairly limited. Having been proved an unworthy consumer of media, I and a couple of like-minded under-exposed media practitioners decided to drown our limitations at Martin’s shack. The night was good with music that we all were exposed to. Finally it was time to go home. The lure of 28 thrown by my good friend Ajit Varghese was not enough to keep me back. Sorry Ajit, we will decide the situation on the squash court in good time to come.
When Abdul was driving me to the airport the next morning he asked me yet another fundamental question: “Agle saal aap wapas aoge?” This one did not need any deliberation on my part and I promptly replied in the affirmative. As a postscript, I promise that I will reveal the three fundamental truths and the secret of MMR if someone takes me to Goa again and to the very same shack. Till then I am looking forward to 2009. Thank you AAAI.
(The writer is Managing Director, Motivator, a GroupM company)