Very often in its lifecycle, a product, service or organisation loses relevance. Rather than provide the desired effect, it doesn’t achieve what it set out to do. In my mind, the Advertising Club Bombay is one such organisation, which has lost all its sheen and glory. Other than a few cool and not-so-cool activities, there’s little else that it does.
It’s not a Club with a physical presence like Press Club or a Bombay/ Delhi Gymkhana. So, even if as a journalist I may not care much about the Press Club’s activities, it’s a great place (at least in the renovated avatar in Mumbai), where one can drop by in the evening, have a drink and meet old friends. Despite not having a clubhouse, etc., given that most of India’s Madison Avenue mandarins are in Mumbai, the Bombay Club is by far the biggest (and most happening) in the country. Well, it still is, though in the last few years, I am not very sure whether it means anything at all to the fraternity.
There was be a time when the Club calendar was very active and had some excellent events. As a rookie journalist with The Indian Express, I remember being asked by the Business Editor to go for its meetings and write a two-para report. Later, in the early ‘90s, when I was with Mid-Day, the paper would sponsor many of the Club’s activities and I remember covering a few of them. I would look forward to the Ad Club Bombay’s events.
The annual awards – christened Abby in the mid-90s – were the high point of the year. They would go on endlessly, but were fun. They turned slick around the time Pradeep Guha took charge as President.
All was well until three years back when the industry felt that it made sense to have just one awards event instead of two and so the Abby became an integral part of GoaFest. For the first two years of GoaFest, the Advertising Agencies Association of India (3As of I) would have its own awards show and there was intense rivalry with the Abby.
So, it was with some relief that the Abby went to GoaFest. However, that’s around the time when the problems started. The Creative Abby – the mainstay of GoaFest – saw its results leaked to The Economic Times in 2008. There was much sound and fury over it, but only to see an encore last year. And once again this year.
There was a bit of an outcry when I raised a few tough questions and asked the GoaFest and Ad Club top guns to quit, accepting moral responsibility for the awards leaking for the third consecutive year. None of that happened. Some in adland felt the results leaking wasn’t a great deal. In fact, as I figured, given the number of fake ads that make it to the Abby, not many take the awards very seriously… except, of course, those who win or don’t win them.
And now, we have a fresh controversy with two seasoned men in the industry slugging it out over some reported wrongdoings at the jury meet. The GoaFest chairperson was quick to slam a report on the issue, but we are still waiting for the truth on this.
Perhaps we’ll never get to know.
The GoaFest/Ad Club guys say that there is an internationally renowned auditor checking on the awards process and that all members of the jury are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. But having been on the Ad Club jury for a bit, I can tell you that both of these are a joke. The auditors’ representatives aren’t able to police the process effectively. As for the NDA, that the results have leaked all these years indicates that no one really cares a fig about disclosure.
Since there’s no legal action that can taken for a newspaper leaking the results, the only way to reprimand it would have been to bar entry to its reporters and executives. The Ad Club Bombay, as the custodians of the Creative Abby awards, could’ve asked GoaFest to do it. After all, they’ve been spoilers all these years. But the fact that no such ban happened raises uncomfortable questions.
My belief is that if this is how it’s going to continue to function, it’s possibly better that the Ad Club stops being an embarrassment for the community. Some of its better-run events – like the Effies and Media Abby – can still be held, possibly under the aegis of the 3As of I at GoaFest. As for the Creative Abby, well, from the way things appear to be going, I’m sure nothing much will be done even next year.
My worry is that there is no one to really check the functioning of the Advertising Club. There’s a government and BCCI policing Lalit Modi and his IPL, there’s a Sports Ministry lording over Suresh Kalmadi and the various associations, but our esteemed Ad Club Bombay and Abby organisers have no one to caution them if they go wrong.
These adwallahs, I tell you, have all the luck.
(The views expressed here are my own. Post your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at @pmahesh.)