The committee who coined the theme for Goafest 2013 as ‘Expect the unexpected’ seems to have had a premonition of things to come; the fest has lived up to its theme this year and how!
How it all began
The wild fire was created by JWT’s campaign for Ford showing the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi flashing a peace sign with scantily clad women in the Ford Figo’s boot. The controversy was supported with another ad showing Paris Hilton driving a Ford Figo with the Kardashians tied up in the boot and the third one had the Formula One driver Michael Schumacher kidnapping his male racing rivals namely, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. The posters were posted on the website Adsoftheworld.com. Official apologies were issued by Ford and JWT’s holding company WPP. The brand faced an image crisis with international publications slamming the incident and dozens of people on social media saying that they will never consider a Ford purchase after this campaign. This controversy raised the issue of scam ads in the industry and led to the exit of Bobby Pawar, the Chief Creative Officer and Managing Partner at JWT India and Vijay Simha, Creative Director at Blue Hive, a WPP unit dedicated to managing the Ford business.
Criticism flowed in from every corner with outrage from the creative fraternity on the sacrifice made by the agency’s creative leader to please the client. It raised questions on the agency being blamed solely for the goof-up when procedure demands that every piece of work received as entries at award shows should be accompanied with letters of approval from the client. However, the case rested with the exit of Sriram Padmanabhan, Vice President – Marketing, Ford Motor Company.
The fest and what followed
The white sands of Zuri seemed to have smoothened the troubles of the creative fraternity, but this turned out to be a temporary relief that lasted only till the fest ended.
What started with the what the AGC may have viewed as a stray case beginning with Leo Burnett’s plea for withdrawal of its radio spots for Tata Salt Lite, led to an unprecedented series of numerous complaints, and a never seen before phenomenon of what the adlanders termed as a ‘extraordinary turn of events.’
Some of the work that came under the scanner included BBDO India’s ads for DHL, DDB Mudra Group’s work for Electrolux on the grounds of work being similar to work done by Ogilvy Hongkong and Y&R Sao Paulo for LG washing machines. Also, Leo Burnett’s work on Coke Studio, McCann Worldgroup India’s work for ATSS, work done for Tide Detergents by Leo Burnett, Sanctuary Asia Magazine work done by JWT India as well as the agency’s work for Godrej Security.
The Super Jury twist
So unexpected was this turn of events that Shashi Sinha, Chairperson, AGC announced on April 12, 2013 as the last day of receiving complaints, in an attempt to shut the Pandora’s Box.
To address these numerous complaints, the AGC decided to constitute a Super Jury, which had Jury Chairs from all the categories within the Creative Abbys to give a verdict on all pending complaints.
The Super Jury comprising Agnello Dias, Carlton D’silva, Josy Paul, KS Chakravarthy, Nitish Tiwari, Piyush Panjwani, Prasoon Joshi, Prashant Kalyankar, Rakshin Patel and Sonal Dabral met on April 23.
After due deliberations, the Super Jury unanimously decided that there had been enough time given between the shortlisting of entries and the final judging for feedback and objections of any kind to be raised and they believed that all such feedback was accepted and acted upon before the final awards were presented and the deadlines should to honoured.
The essence of the decision was that all awards given will stand. In addition, awards that had been rescinded due to similar complaints for DHL (agency BBDO Proximity) and Electrolux (agency DDB Mudra Group) will be reinstated.
Interestingly, most complaints came post the announcement of the awards received were supposedly anonymous, maybe trying the sully the reputation of the awards through the misuse of vested media. On the other hand, complaints that came through a proper channel while the Abbys judging was still on were taken up and some entries were barred.
With dozens of metals at stake, one unsaid concern amongst members would have also been the repercussions of stripping off awards from so many prominent advertising agencies and its affect on reputations of some of those businesses.
The intriguing question is: Can the exits of industry professionals, damage of reputation of both the agencies and clients, and verdict of the Super Jury help address the deeper issue of plagiarism and scam ads faced by the industry today? How can this larger problem be addressed?
Sanjeev Bhargava, Managing Partner, JWT Delhi said, “It is up to the people who participate and it is not something that the administration of the awards can control because it is sometimes not possible for us to check all plagiarised ads. All award shows suffer from the same issue but it is important that people who submit the entries for the awards ensure that they are genuine, original and submit the entries with due permission from the clients. Only then, we will witness entries that are genuine rather than scam or plagiarised ads.”
According to Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, Creative Head, Bates CHI & Partners, each creative person not only in India but globally as well needs to make the change and decide if they want to make a career on doing great work on brands or proactive work, my experience says you are respected and remembered for the honest work you do.”
Sam Ahmed, Vice Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Rediffusion – Y&R said, “I think we need to have a clear, consolidated and collective view on proactive work in the future. I don’t know how we can control plagiarism but when it comes to proactive work, I am not against it as long as it’s raising the creative bar of the industry.”
However, Priti Nair Co-Founder, Curry Nation feels that scams and plagiarism show a lack of creativity and no honest creative person would ever indulge in these two.
While we dwell on the ad fraternity, what is the client’s take on these proceedings? “As a marketer, I don’t think this affects me. I see this as an exception to the rule, and prefer to ignore the exception. The agency and the client are interdependent and one cannot build the brand without each other,” concluded Ajay Kakar, CMO Financial Services, Aditya Birla Group, on an optimistic note.
With inputs from Twishy
Goafest 2013 coverage on exchange4media is presented by Patrika group.