When I walked into Goafest 2014, I had a lot of hope. I knew deep down that this festival needed to overcome the clouds of last year – and grow. I am an optimist who rants and I have no qualms in admitting it. Beats chasing negative stories and so-called points of view that will surely get us more hits. As I wrote in the issue of Campaign India dated 30 May 2014, this is a unique festival run and owned by the advertising industry. Therein lie some of its problems. But they can be overcome. And because it is owned by the industry, it must be inherited by the next generation of the industry in its fullness.
The line up of speakers from India’s youngest app developers to marketers like Sanjay Tripathy, Karthi Marshan, Deepika Warrier, Sameer Satpathy and Anuradha Narasimhan, is welcome. Their differences were far outnumbered by the commonality of their thoughts. Anuradha’s candid revelations on what she felt about people who ‘cared for her brands’ - the agency folks - was as endearing as it was enriching. Deepika’s ‘One’ philosophy which is already WIP for Pepsico with Mindshare, shows us a future rich in possibilities for both agency and client. Tripathy’s straightforward pointers on the direction the relationship needs to move in, was priceless. The rest weren’t any lesser (More in our coverage of those sessions next week).
Having said that, we could have done without the sales pitches. Delegates will know what I’m referring to. Look at the schedule, and look at the 'Knowledge' sessions Campaign India has made no reference to in its coverage of Goafest 2014.
The rewards are there for those who picked 'sessions to attend' right. From Preethi Mariappan to Melanie Varley to Guy Hearn, the insights presented by speakers were precious. Yes, we missed a creative ‘biggie’ if I might call him or her that. But hey, the I&B Minister of State’s first address to the nation is going to be at Goafest. The festival, despite the creative agencies staying away, is growing in stature.
Organisers put a masterstroke on the canvas by roping in Srinivasan Swamy to helm affairs. He’s a man, from what I have known of him for about 10 years now (as a ‘cub reporter’ in Chennai according to him), who believes in putting words behind action. The results are showing and are there for delegates to experience.
We know that there have been budgetary and time constraints. To have pulled off such a festival, on such scale, given the constraints and the negative vibes, is worthy of applause. But there’s a catch. The compromises endured in the bargain might have deducted from how good it could have been.
I spoke with several industry veterans on what they thought about the awards ceremony that was hosted last evening, 30 May. It was by far, in my opinion, the worst presented ceremony (as an event) in the Abby history I knew – which is only the last seven or eight years. And that had become a talking point while the ceremony was on, in the corridor outside.
This has less to do, in my humble view, with what transpired in 2014. It had more to do with what people were willing to believe, based on the past. I do not want to defend the organisers. But I do want to borrow (out of context, arguably) what Sanjay Warke of Toshiba said in his talk at the Advertising Conclave presented by Discovery. Something to the effect of: “When we get lost in the numbers, we lose the feelings that actually drive the numbers.”
It’s a Macbethian truth. Ministers of Evil, by which I am referring to what we are more inclined to believe, will continue to say simple truths - only to deceive in the end. The reality is that we have senior stakeholders who have joined hands to ensure that the show goes on. Glitches, minor or major, are not worth becoming talking points. Criticism where it is due is needed. So is appreciation.
There are a lot of things we’d like to see improve about Goafest next year. The foundations of some of which have been laid already. The Publisher and Broadcaster Abbys have attracted not just entries but stakeholders of increasing relevance not just to marketers but also ad agencies.
When some from the creative agency fraternity walk back in, the growth in the festival's stature and size will show. It’s like the rural consumer (broadcasters and publishers: this is strictly a loose analogy) being wooed out of desperation in an urban squeeze rather than as an organic growth strategy by companies. It helps companies stay afloat today, but will hold them in good stead when the urban upswing comes by.
As an effort to rebuild, Goafest 2014 deserves more than a pat on its back. But I reiterate that it can also do without sales pitches masquerading as expert opinion on the centre stage.
Having said all that I have, if things stand as they do this dawn by this evening, I will walk out of Goafest with greater hope and expectations than trepidation, from Goafest 2015.
Achche din aane wale hain. Going by the first two days of Goafest 2014, we could even say, Achche din aa gaye hain.
It feels wonderful to be one of many chroniclers of an industry with such substance and spirit.
(The author is editor, Campaign India.)