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IAA Congress Commentary: Dubai does a Jaipur

22-March-2006
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IAA Congress Commentary: Dubai does a Jaipur

While not strictly comparable, Dubai today reminded one of Ad Asia Jaipur in November 2003, writes Amit Agnihotri, Group Editor and Co-founder, exchange4media. This Dubai Congress has the scale, stature, speakers, and buzz that we were missing in many conferences, with a possible exception of Cannes.

Certainly thousands of miles away from home, the IAA Congress is the place to be. On Day One of the Congress, a strong speaker line up made the event worth the hype. Barring a few glitches, over 2,000 delegates enjoyed the discussions on future of advertising business, role of media, change management (that’s the official title of the Congress ‘Challenges of Change’) and even entrepreneurship.

Following the formal opening of the Congress by Dubai Prime Minister Sheikh Maktoum, IAA Prez Ghossoub read out the official words. This was followed by a series of interesting presentations. The central theme, as said earlier, was ‘change’, and how the ad business can survive.

Dentsu Chief Tateo Mataki advocated that his organisation was managing the shift by changing from being an “agency” to first “company” and now a “total communication services” organisation. His stress on integrated offerings was clear from his zillion Dentsu examples that he played with his presentation – from sports marketing to branded content to marketing services like PR and sales promotions and events. Nothing earth shattering there, but a good confirmation that Japanese major Dentsu also sees the world through the same lens as its western counterparts like WPP do.

Another advertising heavy weight, BBDO Chairman, Allen Rosenshine, addressed ‘change’ in a different way. His presentation, titled ‘New Media Technology: What’s New and What’s Not’, was cynical of all the hype and hoopla surrounding new media and its impact on advertising business. Key message? “Don’t Change because the pundits say so!” In Rossenshine’s view, while new media is powerful and posses challenges for advertising business, ad agencies have two strategic strengths – their understanding of brands and consumers. And as long as they can have good “work” going. change will not make agencies go the dinosaur way.

I later spoke with Rossenshine on a few aspects of ad business, including BBDO’s performance in India, and future plans. That will be a topic of a separate report.

“Managing change is about going on the edge,” said John Pallant, creative honcho of Saatchi & Saatchi. He then showed some edgy work that drew a round of applause. So, how do we get great ideas when things are changing around so much? The answer is ‘tribe’. What’s that? It’s a Saatchi way of jamming a few bright, unfamiliar creative folks into a room with a client brief and only two daylights on hand. Pallant believes this formula creates magic because experience tells him that best creative work comes out in a pressure situations and when the team members are trying to “impress” each other or the Creative Director. Pallant added that a lot of new business wins and satisfied clients could be attributed to this work style. Well, if this can work for Pallant and Saatchi, it can work for you too. Give it a try!

But it was an unexpected speaker – entrepreneur Sahar Hashemi co-founder of Coffee Republic (a popular UK coffee chain) – who drew maximum share of cheers and claps. She took her audience on a 30-minute ride – taking them through a heart-tugging and sincere tale of how she made it big in business despite having no background in the business. Her advice to the mesmerized audience – Take the Leap! Once you decide to go ahead with the gut, a safety net will always appear, automatically. Her story was a little like the Alchemist, and audience wouldn’t stop clapping even after Hashemi had stepped down from the stage.

So, the busy day is over now and delegates are getting ready for the evening gala dinner. While the party will go on till late night, all know that tomorrow promises to be another interesting day. Most of us will wake up early because maverick speaker, Sergio Zyman, will be on stage at 9 am. Trust us to be there! Just keep logged-in.

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