As the nation celebrated the 62nd Republic Day with renewed optimism, there was a fair reason for smiles in the adfrat. The news of the Great Abby Compromise started doing the rounds in the morning yesterday and was confirmed by the exchange4media.com website and SMS alert around noon. The trade could heave a sigh of relief that the country’s most prestigious recognition of creative (and media) talent will not be pulled out of the annual jamboree conducted on the beaches of Goa every April.
At play were a variety of egos and strange illusions of who should be giving away the awards every year.
First, some background. There have been several issues marring the reputation of the Abbys as a clean, fair award. One, agencies won metals for ads of obscure products and services released in little-known media. And then there were many who felt that not all was well with the judging process of the Abby resulting in big boy Lowe pulling out of the Abby for some years now. Last year, it was also discovered that the process of judging itself was not entirely ethical, forcing the Ad Club to write to those found guilty to voluntarily return the awards. All of this concerned only the Creative awards and not the Media Abby.
The AAAI started GoaFest in 2006 on beach-y environs a la Cannes with its own awards do. The trade was divided on which awards are bigger or better to participate in, and finally the Ad Club bosses were convinced that holding the Abby in Goa mein hi samajhdaari hai. As it happened over the last few days over email and in tete-a-tetes across the corridors of power.
So, is all resolved for GoaFest and the Abby? Well, the fun has just about begun. GoaFest is scheduled to happen just 70 days from now, and sources tell me that the Abby process is still not streamlined. While Lodestar UM CEO Shashi Sinha has organised the Media awards without a blemish over the years, the Creative Abby will require Sinha to employ all his organisational skills to cleanse the system. As an insider in the system told me, it’s not easy handling the creative top guns.
Although Ernst and Young personnel were directed by the Ad Club not to speak to the media, sources in the Firm told me that none of their recommendations to correct the judging process have been followed in the past and their role is limited to being mere tabulators of scores.
While the new Awards Council may find it tough to police scam ads as the rules allow for entry of an ad that has been displayed even once, regardless of the profile of the media. Like every year, the second half of last month saw Mumbai’s Free Press Journal flooded with ads from leading agencies for obscure and some well-known brands and services.
The Council, meanwhile, has to grapple with two other worries. One, ensuring that judging rules are strictly adhered to, with jury members not voting for their own work. And two, plug all the holes that have resulted in the results leaking to The Economic Times for all of the years that the Abby has partnered with GoaFest.
For now, Abby 2011 will be jointly ‘owned’ by the Ad Club Bombay and the AAAI with the casting vote being exercised in case of unresolved issues by the Chairperson, who is an Ad Club nominee. GoaFest, meanwhile, continues to be governed only by the AAAI. While there are a few who believe that the Ad Club shouldn’t have given in to the demands of the AAAI, most industry people are relieved that the impasse has ended and we do not have two sets of awards.
Whether the new dispensation will be able to prevail upon Balki and Lowe to participate remains to be seen, though for now I am quite bullish that Shashi Sinha and his Abby Awards Governing Council will be able to put up a clean act. Take it from me... ;-)
(The views expressed here are my own. Post your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at @pmahesh.)
Abby continues at GoaFest; Awards Governing Council created with Shashi Sinha as Chairman