India is no stranger to the presence of multiple awards in various sectors. However, the ‘fun’-filled advertising industry has some issues at present, when GoaFest is in its second year. Perhaps the discomfort stems from the fact that unlike most other awards that are organised by independent bodies, these awards are organised by advertising professionals themselves. Perhaps there are other reasons. exchange4media, in a bid to delve deeper into the issue, spoke to 23 prominent agencies on the subject.
As is known, GoaFest is a two-day advertising festival with award functions for the creative and media fields. Prior to this, Bombay Ad Club’s Abby Awards and Emvies were the only industry awards in this space.
Of the 23 interviewed agencies, three aren’t participating in any of the awards, while nine are taking part in both awards. Eight agencies are only on GoaFest and have kept Abby out, while two are only on Abby. In total, GoaFest has 18 votes, while Abby Awards has 11.
GoaFest Vs Abby
The reasons given by agencies for choosing GoaFest over Abby ranges from the ‘cost’ factor to some wanting a bigger platform to compete in to some questioning the credibility of Abby to some terming it an O&M affair.
Srinivasan Swamy, CEO, RK Swamy BBDO and President, AAAI, said, “Many agencies are staying away from the Abby’s, whereas the response to GoaFest is much more.” He asserted that they were not against any of the Ad Clubs and would continue to take part in their events. He added, “On client’s insistence, we have actually sent some entries for the Abby’s this year.”
Taking some allegations head-on, Kalpana Rao, President, Bombay Ad Club, on the other hand, believes that the GoaFest marketing was just an attempt to malign the Abby. “Some of these ‘non-participating’ agencies are also judging. If agencies do not compete with the best, what is the point? Most comments are really out of jealousy.”
Shanta Kumar, CEO and MD, Saatchi & Saatchi, who was instrumental in setting up the Abby Awards in 1994, admitted that over the years the event had slipped in a range and that he didn’t like this. He said, “I did not want to be part of the lacuna which, I have been told, are getting corrected.” Talking about the judging process, Kumar explained, “At least I found it in my agency’s case, where entries went missing or entries in wrong categories were pushed forward by certain people.”
Ajay Chandwani, CEO, PerceptH and Chairman of Abby’s judging committee, rubbishes the claims over the unfair judging process and explained that the open format judging process was reinstated last year by popular demand from the creative people who visited the international awards where it was common practice.
He added, “Since last year, we made it a point to include judges from non-participating agencies like McCann, JWT, Mudra, Saatchi & Saatchi and Rediffusion DYR. Moreover, three of our jury chairmen – KS Chakravarthy, Prasoon Joshi and Balki – are from non-participating agencies. If we were in anyway to hide a process or create divisions between agencies, we could easily have said that this agency will not participate and why should we invite them. We also have an independent auditor, with whom anyone can verify about the whole judging process.”
Subhash Kamath, CEO, Bates David Enterprise, asserted, “As far as judging is concerned, I found it very fair and transparent.” (Bates Enterprise is participating in both Abby and GoaFest.) It would be interesting to point out that Bates David is part of the O&M fold in India.
One allegation on the Abby this year is that there are more entries from film producers than from advertising agencies. Chandwani, while admitting this fact said, “Film craft is a category that we started last year on the behest of film producers like Prasoon Pandey, Ram Madhwani and Namita Ghosh. They asked us why Abby did not recognise the film producers and all the credit went to the agencies, when they were the people making the films.”
While Brand David is participating in the Abby Awards, they are unsure about the GoaFest. Kumar Subramaniam, President, Brand David, said, “The Abby’s is a great celebration and as far as the judging goes, some of the most eligible people have been a part of the judging, so I don’t think it could be unfair.”
The case against Abby’s & the One-agency Mishap ‘O&M’ factor
Many are very vocal about Abby Awards becoming an O&M affair. The fact that O&M has been winning on the platform by a huge margin for many years now doesn’t really help Abby’s case. We asked Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman and National Creative Director, O&M India, about his views on these allegations.
Pandey replied, “If these are solicited comments from the media, then I’ll congratulate some people that the media asked them their opinion for the first time on something, and if they are unsolicited, I feel sad, but I’ll still answer.”
Speaking on the broad industry scenario, he said, “It is not a desirable thing to have two awards in the industry that would lead to a division. However, we are in such a situation. Both awards are judged by the same set of people and for the same work, it makes more sense for us to enter in just one. We have nothing against anyone but we have decided to enter the Abby Awards only.”
Coming to the Abby-O&M ‘affair’, Pandey said, “Agencies have been participating in these awards for the last 15 years. There are over 60 members on the jury and even if five are from O&M, 55 are from the rest of the industry. I really don’t know what to say to that comment and especially when it is coming from those who have never won themselves.”
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with the Abby Awards. I think people have problems with O&M and if they spent half their time being obsessed about their own affairs than O&M’s, we just would have a better industry,” added Pandey.
When asked about some charges made on the Abby’s judging process, Pandey said, “If I had to comment on that, I would really be giving importance to some people for the first time in their lives and I don’t think I want to do that.”
While that is what O&M has to say, there are many agencies that are strictly-off Abby Awards at present. Nakul Chopra, MD and CEO, Publicis India, explained, “We are participating in the GoaFest only and not in the Abby Awards and the reasons are very simple. The industry really didn’t want a case of two award shows and AAAI made an earnest attempt in working at that, but the Ad Club has really not responded.”
“The Abby Awards, by the own admission of Ajay Chandwani, had flaws in the judging process. He claims now that it has all been taken care of and that may be true, but the point is that the awards had problems and there was not much that was happening on that. Now when the AAAI has decided to initiate another award to give the industry a fair award, we would want to be a part of that. AAAI, after all, constitutes agencies unlike the Ad Club, which is made of individuals.”
Kurien Mathews, Director, TBWA\India, said, “GoaFest is better as there is more industry representation and encouragement given to young people. We would participate in other events of the Ad Club, but we are prudent about which awards to participate in.”
Agnello Dias, Senior VP and ECD, JWT India, said, “GoaFest is the one to go as young people find it more attractive. This is only for this year and we may or may not stick with this decision next year. The main deterrent is the cost. Moreover, if you are doing well in Abby’s, there was a tendency to believe that not many agencies participated in them. In the past, functioning of Abby was not up to the mark.”
Prasoon Joshi, Judge at Abby’s and Regional Creative Director – South and Southeast Asia, McCann Erickson, said, “We’ll participate only in one award function, and chose GoaFest this year because we can’t afford to be a part of more. I do think Abby is trying to hard to change.”
KS Chakravarthy, NCD, Rediffusion DY&R, said, “It is entirely based on the cost.”
All and Nothing at All
Some agencies like Triton, Law & Kenneth and Lowe are not participating in both these awards. R Balakrishnan, ECD, Lowe, said, “We only participate in very few chosen international awards. These awards are fun – we don’t take them very seriously.”
Meanwhile, Ali Merchant, Director, Triton Communications, believes that the prime function of his agency was not for awards but was for moving their clients’ business forward. However, Anil Nair, COO, Law & Kenneth, reasons that they did not want to be part of these internal politics happening in the industry.
A majority of the agencies we spoke to have confirmed their participation in both the events. M G Parameswaran, Executive Director, FCB Ulka, said, “We believe that ad agencies are not there to collect awards but display good work.” Adrian Mendonza, Executive Creative Director, Dentsu, said, “We have participated in the Abby and I have judged them too. It’s an award that is respected and has its own standing and status.”
According to Raj Kurup, Executive Creative Director, Grey Worldwide, “Abby’s is one of those which have heritage behind it.” Suman Srivastava, President, Euro RSCG, observed, “The industry needs one big ceremony rather than many small ones. The sooner we sort out the whole mess; it would be good for the industry.”
D Rajappa, President, Everest Brand Solutions, commented, “Abby is of great interest to creative people. It can be very rewarding to win there. We would like to believe that it is done fairly.”
So, we have a situation here wherein agencies can enter almost seven international awards, but are wary about taking part in two Indian awards.
(With additional inputs from Supriya Thanawala)