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Mixed Media: Is the GoaFest only about booze and the beach?

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Mixed Media: Is the GoaFest only about booze and the beach?

Okay, I know that the suggestion made in the headline is going to raise quite a few brows. And ruffle many feathers. And hurt some sensitive souls.

First off, I am personally of the belief that events or forums like GoaFest are good for our industry. However, and this may be read in large, block letters: not in the way it is conducted until now. Yes, GoaFest isn’t serving the objectives to be a well-rounded celebration of advertising. An exercise in futility? That may seem too harsh, but if it continues in the way it is, it may soon be dismissed as that by the very people who ‘own’ it.

So, why am I saying all of this right now? Because the announcement for GoaFest 2010 was made last Friday. One had expected organisers Advertising Agencies Association of India and the Advertising Club Bombay would’ve changed gears, kicked butt, and come up with an all-new GoaFest.

Remember, the officebearers of these two associations we are talking of comprise India’s top advertising, marketing and ad sales gurus. People, who build brands, shape the fortunes of many corporates. Men and women, who are cool, grounded and love thinking out of the box.

I have been speaking to a fair number of ‘stakeholders’ since the last year, and while many want it to continue it was, that call for the status quo was more because of the fun element. “It’s a three-day working holiday,” said one. “And please don’t deprive us of that,” he hastened to add, realising what I was trying to get at. The CEO of one of India’s largest media conglomerates was very candid when s/he told me why his/her company wasn’t putting monies on GoaFest. “There’s no point doing it. I am answerable to my shareholders and I can’t be sponsoring something that’s fun and frolic and very little business.”

The CMO of an organisation that plans to continue with his sponsorship this year too was forthright. “I know it’s not achieving much for my brands, but there’s too much at stake in keeping the big advertising boys unhappy.”

Hmmm. So, what ails GoaFest?

1. Quality of speakers: We’ve seen over the last few years that whenever there’s a good speaker on board, people chuck the beer and get to the sessions. Since everyone knows that India is a huge growth area with most international ad shops and corporates having a presence here, I don’t see any reason why we can’t plan speakers well in advance

2. The Creative Abby: For the last two years, the results are being leaked. Lowe has been absent from the awards for a while, thereby rendering it incomplete. While the people who were responsible for the leaks over the last two years have gone scotfree (or at least no one seems to have been held responsible and owned moral responsibility), don’t be too surprised if it’s leaked this year too, and to the same business daily

3. Just for fun?: The organising committee appears to be working overtime to ensure the fun element. Nothing wrong with it, but it appears that the concentration is more on the fun element – the introduction of the swimming pool this year – than the value add for delegates

4. Lack of planning: Industry bodies have a sound organisational model, but with officebearers holding more than active day jobs, it’s critical that GoaFest has a permanent CEO or a commissioner a la Lalit Modi with IPL. The CEO then looks ahead and plans multiple events if need be

5. Goa weather: April is possibly one of the worst months to be in Goa. Hot, humid and horribly muggy. Surely not the best time to be outdoors.

Of all of the above, I would think if the content at the festival and integrity of the awards could be in place, a lot of the rest will fall into place. The Abby judging ought to take place in Goa on the day of the results or the previous evening. Adopt the Cannes Lions model, I’m sure it’ll work. As for the speakers, the need is to have an impressive line-up of international ad and marketing professionals and Indian corporate captains. Get them to speak at the various sessions or conduct special workshops.

GoaFest is too good a property for Indian adland to squander. The issue is does anyone care?

(The views expressed here are my own. Post your comments below or mail them at or tweet them at @pmahesh.)


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