Blog from Busan: 'It’s only been work, work, work'

The author is on the jury at Ad Stars 2017 and shares his experience in South Korea so far

Aug 23, 2017 04:16:00 AM | Article | Raj Nair

Firstly, let me start with saying that Indian agencies should participate a lot more at Ad Stars Korea. When you have juries headed by the likes of Suthisak Sucharittanonta from BBDO Bangkok (or more popularily, Suthi), Helen Pak from Grey Canada and Wain Choi from Cheil Korea, you can safely take for granted, that hardly anything bad will pass through the net. 
Ad Stars Korea gets some 21,000 odd entries. No doubt, this has a lot to do with the fact that entries are free (imagine that, in today’s day and age). A lot of seasoned professionals from around the world do the initial round of online judging followed by the physical judging that happens here in Busan over two days. 
Having judged Cannes Lions in the past, the big difference is that this is by and large an Asian advertising festival with entries primarily from all over Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, a few from India and Pakistan, but you also have a few entries from Latin America represented by Brazil, Peru and even from the USA. European countries haven’t entered much work though there are judges from Vienna, Brussels, Prague as well as from Rio and Sao Paolo and even Auckland and Melbourne. 
The jury I’m on is judging Interactive, Mobile, Integrated, Innovation and Radio. (Some may feel that radio is an odd one out in this mix as it is a truly traditional medium but it does bring an interesting flavour to the overall mix of work one has to go through.) Five of us are from five different corners of the globe, namely, Helen Pak from Canada, Gabriel Araujo from Brazil, Tom Paine from New Zealand, Rindert Dalstra from Belgium and myself from India. The sixth guy Aste Gutierrez from Singapore didn’t make it.
As always, the discussions operate around the insight and the idea behind the work, the execution of it, the practicality of the application, the scale (how many people has the specific piece actually reached out to), the correctness of the category in which the work has been entered and the “don’t-get-swayed-by-the-slickness-of-the-case-study-video” discussion. And it’s always great to learn nuances from a jury of peers and heavyweights around these discussions. There’s a transparent approach to judging, which borders on the brutally honest and gladly, an utter lack of lobbying. 
So far, it’s only been work, work, work. And appropriately, most of the judges, after 36-hour flights for some, have been walking around like the zombies you may have seen on the Korean hit film, Train To Busan. 
By the time you read this on Wednesday, the Golds, Silvers, Bronzes and Crystals (what the finalists are termed here, will have been decided). Next, interestingly, all the jury members across all the categories will get together and evaluate all the Golds that have been awarded and pick the Grand Prix for the categories. Once that is done, I’ll be able to kick back a bit and take in some of the sights and sounds of Busan. From Thursday, the actual festival kicks off with an array of exhibitions, workshops, conferences and needless to add, PARTIES!!!

Lastly, the local food is quite amazing. There’s obviously way, way more to Korean food than kim chi and one doesn’t get enough of it, back in Mumbai. At least one has been getting to sample that in ample measure while working. The people here are friendly, sweet, helpful, humble and very quick to point out that English is not their strength so “please speak slowly” while being generous with their own brand of self-deprecatory humour. 
So onwards to some more judging, more meeting new people, more discussing work and yes, finally some partying!
(Raj Nair is CEO, Madison BMB)