Incubating IAA’s next generation

Q&A with the 'IAA Champions' Srinivasan K Swamy and Ramesh Narayan

May 25, 2015 10:05:00 AM | Article | Gokul Krishnamoorthy

The average age of the International Advertising Association (IAA) India chapter’s managing committee dropped to around 42 years last year, when the previous committee made way for young blood. The older lot remain as ‘mentors’, without even voting rights. The intent, as is evident from this and upcoming initiatives like ‘IAA Future Leaders’, is to groom the next gen of India’s advertising, marketing and media leaders.
Campaign India caught up with India chapter president Srinivasan K Swamy (SKS) and industry veteran Ramesh Narayan (RN), both of whom are being honoured as ‘IAA Champions’ at the IAA Inspire Awards in London on 18 May 2015. Soon after, during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2015, an IAA House will play host to members allowing them to network and meet in their own premises, informs Swamy.
With some talk doing the rounds on the relevance of industry associations and their initiatives in India, we played the devil’s advocate in this chat with the two unflappable adlanders. Edited excerpts:
There are a whole lot of initiatives we have seen from the IAA India chapter, several of which we have followed closely. However, there is talk about the relevance of what has been done for the industry by industry associations as a whole, especially for youngsters. What is your take on that?
SKS: The role of the IAA is to promote freedom of commercial speech, promote self-regulation, and education. Many of the things we have done, have huge relevance to those we represent – advertising, media and marketing professionals. And we have also seen very good participation from them.
Our records show that it was the IAA president of then who met the powers that be, leading to the formation of ASCI. The IAA India chapter, incidentally, is in its Silver Jubilee year.
We have celebrated excellence with the IAA Leadership Awards for a few years now, and we honour individuals, not companies, with that recognition. The Olive Crown Awards promote sustainability and have done so for many years. I believe we have also created platforms for gender sensitivity in communication and given it the importance it deserves.
We have organised industry-specific events for sectors, which are important, but ignored when it comes to communication, showing where advertising can make a difference. Be it for real estate, retail or focused forums for smaller and emerging agencies, we have created forums to help them get future-ready.
We believe all of these (and several other initiatives which are well documented) highlight the relevance of what we do for the industry. If something that we have done is not relevant, we would like those who feel that way to tell us what more or what else can be done. We are in any case doing a whole lot more, which will be revealed as the year progresses.
The series of seminars, webinars and conclaves we have hosted would all fall under the gamut of education. IAA Mentoring sessions for students have proven to be highly popular too. While the IAA members base has grown from 200 to 300 between 2012 and 2015, a Young Professionals body of people under 35 years has also been formed and it is highly active. We are looking to create a Young Professional president too, with specific mandates.
In the next few months, we will hopefully also be able to announce partnerships with educational institutions. In markets like Europe, we have IAA-sponsored courses for people wanting to enter the industry.
RN: A little known fact is that the IAA managing committee today is probably the youngest of all industry bodies, not just in India but probably in the world. Last year, all managing committee members exited and did not opt for re-election, making way for younger people to get onto the committee. The average age now, of this committee, is in the region of 40 or 42 years.
The senior professionals have become ‘invited members’ for a short span of time. So, the future leadership is being groomed. All senior people have no voting rights; only a mentoring role.The next generation of IAA’s leadership is being groomed.
The younger committee is spearheading a lot of the initiatives. There is simply so much energy.
Congratulations on the IAA Inspire recognition. In both your cases, you associated with industry bodies when you were with your own outfits. Is it possible for a young, or even 40-something professional of today to devote as much time?
SKS: When I was made head of the Madras Ad Club, I was not the head of RK Swamy BBDO. And on the other hand, if you look at the young people driving IAA India chapter today, it is really a bunch of young professionals. Be it Manish Advani (from a Mahindra Group company), Monica Tata (HBO) or several others, they are all making time to contribute.
RN: Was Pradeep Guha was very much an employee of The Times of India Group when he worked those long hours for the industry. I feel professionals ought to play a more proactive role in industry affairs. The excuse everyone has is lack of time. As someone once famously and rightly said, ‘If you want to get a job done urgently, find a very busy man’.
Could it be that while what you IAA has done for the industry is relevant, it might have done more for the young professionals?
SKS: We are about to announce another key initiative soon. It is called the ‘IAA Future Leaders’, which is intended to identify and give young professionals the recognition they deserve. The process will be judged by nominees and winners from the IAA Leadership Awards. We are talking about young people from marketing and creative, and possibly media agencies. The identified ‘Future Leaders’ will be sent to Ad Asia in Taipei from 22 to 26 November.
RN: From next year, the winners of this competition will be sent to the IAA World Congress. The winners for this year will be announced in early September, at the IAA Silver Jubilee (event) in Kochi.
We understand that IAA comprises clients, agencies and media owners. But while festivals like Goafest have grown bigger in scope by embracing Publisher and Broadcaster Abbys, which are certainly relevant, one could contend that no industry body in India (that has advertising at its core), today has a creative property that could be inspirational for the young. Your thoughts.
SKS: We felt there are too many awards already and all of them are doing their own jobs. We wanted to institute an award, through our own process. We are instituting one now and it will be announced officially soon.
(This article first appeared in the 15 May 2015 issue of Campaign India)
We will pick the top 20 (or so) ad categories, considering integrated campaigns that we have seen in the public domain, for their quality of communication. It will not be a show that awards creativity for creativity’s sake, but for creativity that we have seen at work in the market. It is an award for real, honest advertising.
RN: Which is why, it is billed as ‘The Honest Award’. True to its name, there will be no ‘entry fee’.