Double Standards: Does the Goafest Conclave need more youth?

From the time Goafest started, the Industry Conclave has been the preserve of the CXOs. Is it time that youngsters were involved, Arati Rao asked two senior professionals from adland

Apr 25, 2011 07:18:00 PM | Article | Arati Rao

MG Parameswaran ((Ambi), executive director & CEO, Draftfcb + Ulka (L) and Dheeraj Sinha,regional planning director, Bates141 Asia (R)

Should the Industry Conclave involve younger people?

Ambi: Yes, by all means Conclave can involve the younger people. But let us not be in a hurry to throw the doors open to all the Goafest attendees. The Conclave is about the business of advertising and so we need to ensure that the attendees are involved with the business end of advertising. It could be an aging CEO or a young turk CEO/Entrepreneur. Both should be welcome, as long as they are there not to discuss awards but the realities of doing business.

DS: I think there is no substitute for experience and wisdom. Fortunately, we have that in our industry in good measure. But diversity is the hallmark of any representative body. Advertising is an industry with a large young population. It would be interesting therefore, to have a greater participation from the young at the conclave. Also, the issues that this industry faces are known to all of us. What we need now is action. The experience and vision of seniors and action orientation of the young should make for a potent combination.

Would younger people (by which we mean younger people in relatively high up positions) be able to add more value and perspectives as panelists?

Ambi: Wisdom does not rest in grey hair alone. So young business leaders are welcome to attend the Conclave and they could give new perspectives to the business. Let us at the same time not be in a hurry to swing to the other extreme. As the saying goes, those who ignore the mistakes of the past will be condemned to repeat them. So there is a lot of wisdom in the more experienced people in the industry. They have seen run away inflation, they have seen IIM Graduates joining advertising and refusing to appear for an interview with Citi and HUL [yours truly being one of them], so while the younger leaders will bring in new energy and enthusiasm, the older leaders will bring in a huge amount of collective learning.

 

DS: I don’t know if younger people will add more value than is being currently added, but they should certainly bring a different perspective. Since they are at the forefront of our business they may have some real solutions to the industry issues. So if we are talking about the talent issue or client respectability, then chances are that we will have more workable solutions if they have the flavour of everyday realities. In fact co-opting the next generation makes the issues themselves more widely owned. So it doesn’t stay as somebody else’s responsibility, it becomes a shared responsibility.

Should there be younger people in the audience as well, as the talk of changes that will take place affects them too?

 

Ambi: Yes, younger people should be welcome to attend as audience, but there has to be a cap to allow participation from the attendees. The Conclave is a success only if the audience actively participates. This would mean we need to have 50 to 70 active attendees; in addition we can have another 200 passive observers, absolutely. That said even those attending as passive observers need to be involved with the business end of the game.

 

DS: This can be a double-edged sword. If the conversation on the day is rather negative and takes away from the self-worth of the industry then it might leave the young a little dejected. However, if the conversation is about what we can become and has action points for everyone in the industry, then it will be fruitful to have the younger people in the audience.

What other measures could be taken to make the Industry Conclave more relevant?

 

Ambi: Conclave is a forum for the industry leaders to discuss issues facing the agency business. We have had broad topics discussed at these forums, with guest speakers from the client side, media, research, other service industries etc. As we go forward we may see Conclave addressing specific issues instead of general issues. For example instead of addressing broad problems facing the industry, we may see the Conclave taking up just one issue like Talent Attraction and Retention. Or a thorny issue like New Business Pitching. We keep comparing Goafest to Cannes and Adfest. We need to remember that it is just a few years old. As we go forward I am sure the festival will grow to become more useful and more meaningful. So we will see a balance of business discussions, celebration of great work, learning sessions and fun/frolic in the beach. Maybe the balance has not been reached as yet. But have patience, we will find the balance.

DS: The industry conclave should be a culmination of certain conversations, which can start much before. The platform could possibly be used to reach conclusions and consensus on a way forward for the industry – a common charter. After all, it’s a summit at the top-most level of the industry, and these are the people who can bring about the desired change.