Advertising Interviews

Terry Savage

Chairman | 18 Sep 2009

The reality is that the world is changing more quickly, more rapidly than we have ever seen before. Digital is becoming omnipresent. The concept of old media is dying. And to be effective, you really have to be across the thinking processes. You need to get your people engaged with what people are doing in the region at a level of excellence. What we are saying is that here is a learning experience – you need to either change the intellectual adopters into real adopters or enhance skill quotient of the real adopters by exposing them to the world’s best practices.

Terry Savage, Chairman of International Advertising Festivals (IAF), has his hands full at the moment with the Spikes Asia 2009 conference, currently underway at Suntec City in Singapore from September 16-18, 2009.

exchange4media had caught up with Savage when he was in Mumbai recently to promote Spikes Asia. Savage had stressed that Spikes was an affordable option for agencies that wished to send their people to an event, which had the premium quality of Cannes Lions, but was not as expensive as the premier international advertising festival.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Rishi Vora, Savage speaks about Spikes Asia and more. Excerpts:

Q. What was the thought process behind launching Spikes Asia?

See, Cannes is a very premium event. It’s an amazing event for learning, for development, and for understanding the massive change occurring in the communications and the creative field today. But the reality is that Cannes is incredibly expensive to go to. So, it acts as a natural filter process that only the top advertising companies can get to Cannes. Now, we understand that there is a whole range of people in this industry who should also get a chance to meet and learn from thought leaders and premium speakers in the advertising industry. So, we are setting up a series of regional events with the same premium values that we have at Cannes, but with a far lower price point than Cannes.

Q. So, how much cheaper is Spikes as compared to Cannes?

A trip to Spikes will cost you 20 per cent of what the Cannes trip will cost you. It’s a cheaper option for agencies that want to engage their people in a massive learning process in terms of what is happening in the business. The reality is that the world is changing more quickly, more rapidly than we have ever seen before. Digital is becoming omnipresent. The concept of old media is dying. And to be effective, you really have to be across the thinking processes. You need to get your people engaged with what people are doing in the region at a level of excellence. What we are saying is that here is a learning experience – you need to either change the intellectual adopters into real adopters or enhance skill quotient of the real adopters by exposing them to the world’s best practices. Here is an opportunity to teach them on the one hand, and inspire them on the other hand, in a relatively inexpensive platform than the Cannes. And these are people that probably won’t ever get to Cannes. My point is that the buried assets within the organisations are still being paid. They are massive investments. So, let’s really maximise our investments by bringing them up on what’s happening around the world in the communications and advertising business.

Q. The people who speak at Cannes – will they also be taking sessions at Spikes?

The same quality of people that are on the seminar programme at the Cannes will speak at Spikes. If you look at the seminar programme, the 26 seminars have some of the leading worldwide speakers. And any one of those seminars could be at Cannes. The quality is that high. What I am saying is that here is an opportunity to have premium experience at a price which is affordable within the region. As can be seen by speakers like Sir Ken Robinson, David Drogue, Rodney Fitch and John Hunt, Prasoon Joshi, Piyush Pandey… the list is absolutely endless. So, you’ve got a premium event which you people should be going to.

Q. Who are the Indian jurors that you have got on board already?

Piyush Pandey is President of the Craft; Prasoon Joshi is on the Traditional jury. And there are other Indian jury members who I can’t remember top of my head. There will be Indian advertising professionals as jury members and speakers. Nokia has got an interactive seminar on how to engage the Indians with the Internet. And these are the sort of lessons that we are trying to give to the whole region. Great thought leadership can come from both inside and outside the region.

Q. So far, how many entries has Spikes managed to register?

Well, they are about 2,750.

Q. And the delegates?

Right now we have 450 delegates and we anticipate this will be up and around the 800-mark. Are we happy, given the fact that this is our first year? Yes, we are very happy. Also, these delegates are coming right across the region.

Q. How are you promoting this event in India?

Well, I have flown to India to talk about the event. And obviously we are using the Cannes database to promote this event through most of the Press, which I should say have been very supportive in giving us the coverage for this event. The Times of India is strongly involved in making people aware of the offering.

Q. 2009 is a year of major slowdown. And advertising festivals around the world (which have already taken place) saw a dip in the number of entries, including Cannes Lions that saw a 20 per cent dip in the entries. Considering this, what are your observations on advertising industries around the world?

There are two things. Firstly, there is the economic crisis. And when there is a crisis, people try to cut down on spends and tend to become more selective in terms of which award shows they enter and what they enter in those shows. And that is perfectly natural and exactly what we thought will happen.

On the wider front, there is again a reason why people need to visit events like Spikes – because there is this shift happening in the business. Traditional media is under attack. Digital is central to all lines of thinking, and I think what we will see in entry patterns going forward is a readjustment between those media that will be used less in the future and those that are going to be used more in the future. But the world doesn’t move at the same speed. In some countries, print will continue to be strong, while in other countries it will be weaker. At the end of the day, there is a reality that we are in the ideas business and it’s going to be ideas that are driving communications and creativity henceforth, and the channels that are use will commensurate with the ideas. Community involvement is the key. And with that happening on a larger scale, we will see a lot more idea generation, where the media that will be used will be relevant to the idea.

Q. Are you looking at adding new categories at Cannes Lions 2010? May be a category for the works done for the mobile screens?

We will only introduce a particular category if it is relevant to what is happening in the industry today. You need a revenue stream and hence, you introduce a category – that’s rubbish! I will introduce a category because it reflects what is happening in the business. If I think mobile is at a point where it should be introduced and it can be justified, I would do it. If I think a particular category does not reflect what’s happening in the industry, I will not introduce it. We are certainly looking at a couple of things. We might take our decisions over the next 2-3 months on whether to introduce those things or not. But we will never introduce any category until it deserves a true place in the Festival. I don’t want to be scaming categories at Cannes. The categories have to be legitimate. For example, PR, if you get 420 entries, it’s a legitimate category, which means there is a real understanding of the category in the industry.

Q. So, what would the preparations for Cannes Lions 2010 be like?

To be perfectly honest, before Cannes, we have Spikes; we have Dubai Lynx, and Euro Best. From the event’s point to view, will there be changes? Absolutely! What precisely they are – I can’t tell you, but whatever they are, would be meaningful.

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