The International Advertising Association India Chapter’s IAA Debates in Delhi presented by the Dainik Bhaskar Group on 13 May 2013 saw the verdict being delivered in favour of the motion: ‘Creative awards can also be given for differentiated one-off expressions’.
Pratap Bose, COO, DDB Mudra Group, and Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO India, spoke 'FOR' the motion, while Deepika Warrier, VP – beverages marketing, Pepsico India, and Lloyd Mathias, director, GreenBean Ventures, spoke 'AGAINST' the motion. The session was moderated by Shafalika Saxena, CMO, Microsoft India.
Setting the tone
Setting the tone for the debate, moderator Saxena pondered over the role of ad awards, and whether they were a ‘great good’ or ‘necessary evil’. She added, “Should ad awards be about the art, or the revenues of it?”
Creativity at the core
Opening the debate by defining creative awards in context, Pratap Bose said, “It's a no-brainer. The subject in itself is condescending. Creativity is at the heart of everything we do. It (the topic) indirectly says to me, '12 of 14 Cannes Grand Prix must be withdrawn’.”
On the subject of one-offs, he underlined that some of the biggest campaigns started off that way, with the example of the iconic Cadbury Dairy Milk commercial featuring a girl dancing her way on to the cricket field. He said, “Cadbury started with one creative thought. Piyush Pandey didn't say Cadbury's going to spend Rs 20cr (or some huge amount). It’s another thing that they eventually did.”
Underlining that creativity is not defined by big budgets or scale, Bose drew the attention of the audience to internet sensation Gangnam Style by Psy and Kolaveri Di from India. “Wasn't Psy a one-off? What was Kolaveri Di? We did the silent anthem for Independence Day that started off as a thought. Volkswagen did the talking newspaper. It was meant to be done on one day, with a specific objective,” surmised Bose.
‘Advertising must sell products’
Countering the motion, Lloyd Mathias focused on the objective of advertising and what it must accomplish in the market. In his opening remarks, Mathias urged the audience to go back to the basics. He said, “Advertising is meant to sell products and build brand preference.”
Criticising the award obsession while making his case, he added, “The need to fill up showcases and work towards bonuses is encouraging short cuts (for the sake of winning awards). Awards are encouraging lazy advertising. Advertising is not for art's sake.”
‘A single act of defiance can bring change’
Josy Paul emphasised on the need to look for the differentiated ‘one-off’ that can ‘take off’, with examples from real life. Drawing parallels to historic movements led by acts of defiance by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, he said, “I believe that a single act of defiance can bring the change. I would not discard an ad just because it’s a one-off; personally, I’d definitely give it a chance if it’s worth it.”
He added,”One-offs have a role. They provoke the mainstream. I will treat every one-off as an R&D.” He cited the example of Apple’s 1984 Superbowl commercial and Dove Real Beauty campaign to make his point. Surmising his initial remarks, Paul also noted that every ‘big idea’ starts with the germ of an idea, that could be labelled a ‘one-off’. ‘Let us not dismiss them,” he urged.
‘‘One-offs’ cannot create long term brand equity’
Deepika Warrier acknowledged that recognition and therefore awards were important, with a rider. She said, “Recognition for great work is important. The question is, 'What should we recognise?' We should recognise work by the impact it’s having on brand building. Let’s not forget why we create ads; we create ads to help the brand in some way and hence the purpose of ads is most important.”
Warrier added, “It isn’t just about client or just about agency, it’s about the partnership between the two for long-term brand equity - and one-offs cannot create long-term brand equity”.
Making the case for work that delivers for the brand, she countered the Apple example of 1984, and said, “An Apple was a one-off, but it was one in a billion.”
Are six judges in a room the only ones who’ve seen it?
The debates shifted gears as the question and answer round commenced. Moderator Saxena popped the question, “Is an ad that no one sees a great piece of work or myopic self indulgence?” effectively questioning the way awards are conducted.
She also asked the team speaking against the motion if they were indeed arguing to make advertising all about rational messages – thereby running the risk of ads looking like infomercials.
Responding to the charge on pushing for rationality, Mathias said, “We are not pushing for all rationality in advertising. I don't think rationality and creativity are mutually exclusive. Rationality and creativity can work together. We are not arguing against creativity, we are arguing against something done just for a metal.”
He commented on the ‘six people in a room judging the award’ practice, adding, “And if they are the only ones who have seen it, is what I am against.”
Warrier corroborated, noting that ads must not be created for winning awards. Taking a dig at Goafest, she said, “I'd really like to know how many clients were there at Goafest this year. I wasn't.”
Underlining that the awards obsession was taking over productive time, she added, “Peak season for us (in the beverages category) is March to June. I don't find creative guys at the time because they are busy either judging awards or entering them.”
Bose drew the attention of the audience and panellists back to the topic on hand, and offered: “Creative awards are judged on the basis of the creative idea. It's about that one great idea that could add to a brand story, or it could be a new brand idea. And it could be starting off with a one-off.”
Responding to the audience on allegations of adlanders creating ‘one-offs’ purely for awards, Paul surmised, “Everything that is done or made is for a purpose. There has to be that friction of creating something new (with the approval of the client). There is no ceiling to creativity and one-offs are a result of creativity.”
The verdict at the end of the debate was delivered by the audience, which stayed firm in its position supporting the motion since the commencement of the debate: 'Creative awards can also be given for differentiated one-off expressions.'