Notes from Goa: The whitest man around...

Pat Burns, Creative Head at BMB Madison, writes exclusively for exchange4media on his observations and takeaways at GoaFest 2011...

e4m by Pat Burns
Updated: Apr 8, 2011 9:42 AM
Notes from Goa: The whitest man around...

A quick introduction: My name’s Pat, I’ve been in India for two months as CD of BMB India. If you want to know any more, come and say hello. I’m easy to spot: tall-ish, ginger hair, and a hundred bucks says I’m currently the whitest man in Goa.

Now, I’ve been generously invited to write about my thoughts and experiences at GoaFest. But I’ve only been here for an hour, so aside from saying that my check-in went fine and I’m thinking of going for a swim, I’ve got nought.

So I hope you don’t mind if I talk about something I know rather better.

Every time I start a sentence with ‘back home’ or ‘in London’, I can hear myself saying ‘this one time, at band camp…’. Bear with me, though – I’m going somewhere with this.

So, then. Back home, I’ve been to my fair share of awards dos. I’ve put on countless suits and headed for the Grosvenor, or some vogueish converted slaughterhouse in the East End. I’ve clambered on the Easyjet for Cannes (although, in recent years, I’ve taken to arriving on a bicycle. I dare you to ask me about that, I’ll bore you to death). I missed out on the private jet to Kinsale last year, but I could find the Spaniards in my sleep.

But we do it differently in the UK. We mooch up like surly teenagers being forced to go to a christening of some distant cousin while the football’s on. We moan and backbite our way through the paper-thin shortlist, occasionally pausing to heap grudging praise on someone if – and only if – they once pulled us out of a housefire.

Sometimes, of course, you win. Even then, we treat it with a certain amount of disdain. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to win a Cannes Lion, and the time which elapsed between the announcement being made and me hotfooting it out of the venue to find a nearby bar would need special equipment to measure it. It was the sort of thing that Usain Bolt shaves off the 100 metres. The colossal delegate’s fee (and apologies to Felicity, our wonderful erstwhile Finance Director, if somehow she gets to read this) went on 1 minute in the spotlight. The wealth of seminars and workshops went completely untouched.

We don’t treat these events in the way we should. We don’t go to learn. We don’t go in search of inspiration. We go in search of free booze and the possibility of leaving with someone you didn’t arrive with.

It’s almost like we don’t care.

Now, I’m not saying everyone in the UK is a feckless freeloader who’s there to pick up a paycheck and a cab home on expenses. There are reasons for this attitude. The state of the UK ad industry is pretty parlous, and could take up pages by itself. (If you’re interested in reading more, I’d direct you towards a regular blog written by a college friend of mine – It’s miserable and passionate and incisive, and so blunt you could cut glass with it.)

But it does feel like we’ve fallen out of love with what we do. We’re in the doldrums of a relationship which was once happy and fulfilling, and which either needs a shot in the arm or a bullet in the head.

‘What’s all this got to do with GoaFest?’ you might ask. It’s a good question, and I’d hate it to seem like I was stalling for time. Even though I am, a bit.

Well, everything and nothing. It’s just that I don’t get that feeling here in India.

There’s less cynicism. There’s less weariness. There’s more energy and more possibility and more buzz. There’s a feeling that what we do, while maybe not important, is a great way to spend your day.

I’m looking forward to a bit of refreshment.

I’ll try to be a bit more on-topic tomorrow – in the meantime, I’m off to a ‘Conclave’. I do hope they’re not expecting me to elect a new Pope.

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