On a world stage, India is doing really well. The quality of work is definitely here: Kevin Swanepoel

Kevin Swanepoel, the CEO of The One Club, talks about the Indian advertising scene, One Club's extensive education programs and the future of marketing and branding.

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Feb 1, 2016 9:03 AM
On a world stage, India is doing really well. The quality of work is definitely here: Kevin Swanepoel

New York-based The One Club is gearing up for the latest edition of One Show, the global advertising and marketing awards, which will be held in May 2016. Kevin Swanepoel, the CEO of The One Club, was in India recently in town as part of the 'One Show World Tour'. We got a chance to catch up with the ad veteran and talk to him about the Indian advertising scene, One Club's extensive education programs and the future of marketing and branding.


2016 will be the 9th year since One Show opened its doors to India. How has the journey been so far?
It has been interesting enough. For me, the journey has been fantastic. I love India as a country and for the past couple of years we have seen activity in India and agency participation grow tremendously. 2015 was one of the most entered years by Indian agencies and I think the results have been very good, India has won a lot of awards. On a world stage, India is doing really well. The quality of work is definitely here.

What differentiates One Show from other advertising awards?
We are a non-profit and all the money that we receive goes towards education, diversity and improving the industry. This is the first, big differentiator but it goes deeper than that. We really believe that the One Show awards have the utmost integrity. When it comes to judging, we do not allow the judges to get into big debates about entries. The reason for this is that these are top professionals from the industry; they can gauge a good idea from a bad idea. 
We do not allow lobbying, we do not allow cliques to form. In other award shows, the jury is picked on the basis how it will benefit the number of entries you get. We don't do that. We ask all past judges and board members to nominate the best people in the industry currently. We get a list of about 2,000 odd names and then this list is sent back out and people vote on it. We do not pick the jury from clients, CMOs, press, people who might be part of strategy or media, etc. You have to be creative and you have to be doing the work to be a part of the jury. It is a very democratic process. We have three Indians in the jury this year.

Is this the largest number of Indians in the jury till now?
Yes, it actually is. India did so well last year and we are really hopeful that we see more work from India and more winners from India. 

You have been observing the Indian ads for a long time. In your opinion what has changed over the years?
I think one of the big things, was the Nike case study (Nike 'Make Every Yard Count' campaign). I think it was one of the better examples of case studies. They (the agency) did not try to sell itself too hard. They were confident about the message they are putting out. In earlier years, this was not the case. So, I think over the years, after gaining awards and experience, the confidence has helped Indian agencies.

Is there anything in particular that Indian agencies can improve? You mentioned earlier the fact that agencies tend to over rely on statistics, which might at times not match the reality. 
It is not just an Indian problem, it is a global one. Our judges spend more than 8 hours a day going through the case studies and to bombard them with social media statistics, press clippings, all the adjectives that people use to describe their campaigns; they just glaze over them. If the idea is good, it will win. You don't have to hard sell to the judges; they are from the advertising industry too. 

What are some of the initiatives that The One Club is undertaking in the education space? Firstly, we are hoping is to get the schools more involved with the 'Young Ones' competition. The reason for this is that to start getting creatives recognized globally, one of the ways is to start with the young ones. The young talent in India is amazing. If they can enter the 'Young Ones' competition then they can get globally recognized. If you as a young India win the Pencil, your career will go through the roof. So, I would encourage young ad students to enter 'Young Ones'. 

We then have the next tier, which is called 'One To Watch'. The jury is the top creatives from all the big networks. There is no other competition for people under the age of 30 that will give you this kind of recognition. So, this is how we want to elevate the young talent in India. 
What does the future hold for advertising?
The industry is definitely heading towards a mobile-centric environment. So, yes, TV is not going to die, print is holding on, radio still exists even though everybody spelled doom for radio 20 years ago. So all these media will still exist. What we are going to see is more integration of the Internet of Things; how are brands, consumers and appliances going to interact with each other? We do not know yet but we are starting to see early phases. We are starting to see virtual reality coming from a geeky thing to now becoming a practical application. Brands and creatives are getting very clever about how they integrate upcoming technologies into the brand story.

So, how does this change how you approach creativity? Is technology a challenge or an opportunity?
It is a challenge but it is making opportunities available. For instance, now ads can take into account the multiple accesses on mobile devices. So if you turn the phone, maybe the picture changes. You have all these multiple sensors to your smart devices. We, as creatives, can take advantage of all these sensors. We are just tapping into this. Home automation is just exploding right now. It is going to be an exciting 5 years, I can tell you this.

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