What would you say are the critical areas of interest for you, as the new president of the AAAI?
Now that we have expanded our executive committee with representation from the media independents, the needs of all the different constituents need to be addressed separately.
What are the issues that we need to address as we work towards building the industry is what is central.
The talent issue is one of the things that we need to focus on. As first steps, we have had training sessions and seminars. We obviously need more of those and build a certain standing for our profession.
From a creative development standpoint, we have Goafest and the Abby Awards which are very important. So that recognition that creative professionals get from their industry peers continues to be a very important element. We need to look into the issue of entering into a fruitful dialogue with clients, where some of the critical issues lie.
There are issues that need resolution with the IBF or the INS. In the last two to three years, the AAAI has done a lot. Today, there’s a lot more that you see of the AAAI working together with all these professional industry bodies. That’s critical from many viewpoints.
From one point of view, it could be in ensuring that the IBF gets a certain fairness, whether clients who don’t pay or agencies don’t pay; it works both ways. That’s a huge task for us.
It’s not an easy task because you have got to carry an executive committee with your thoughts. I think Madhukar (Kamath) did a fantastic job over the last two and a half years and we were working much better with each other. Each person has a specific role. We have responsibilities, which, when entrusted to any of the executive committee members, they fulfil well.
The joint working committee with the trade or industry partner is working well.The change will be limited to doing it my way.
The intent or the objectives don’t change. We want to make the AAAI a lot more responsible towards our profession. An incremental point is getting the AAAI to other city centres, whether its Chennai, Bangalore or Kolkata, to begin with.
Right now we have representation from one person from the north, the south and the east. I don’t believe that it is enough, we do have to develop those geographies.
Delhi is a very important market but we tend to underinvest in terms of our time there.
If you look at Chennai, Bangalore or Kolkata, there needs to be developmental programs, leadership seminars. The AAAI also needs better interaction with agency heads in Delhi. At the executive level, we cannot have that but at the local level, the needs will be evaluated. I definitely want to build a better dialogue with other city centres.
Madhukar Kamath had time and again spoken about the need to make the AAAI more inclusive. Can we expect to see more of that?
It’s already happening. The media agencies are now represented on the executive committee board. The credit goes to Madhukar as all of this happened under his watch. Since they are now on the executive committee, that role needs to be fleshed out more. Their focus and issues are a little different from that of the traditional creative agencies, so over the next couple of weeks and months, we will put in an agenda which will require that those concerns be addressed.
Are there any immediate changes that you have in mind, in your new role?
At this point, we have the elected members on the executive committee. We now have what we call the co- opt members, we do need greater representation. We need more members, too. If you look at it as a community, we need help here as these are all honorary positions. So it requires people to give us their time. Since we now have better representation, I believe that it will become more effective.
There is a lot that we can do. From an industry stand point, what we do towards developing business and the value that brands and businesses derive from it is immense.
I don’t believe that agencies get fairly compensated, that’s always been an issue.
The commission structure has always been an issue; clients calling 15 agencies to pitch has also been a constant issue. Sure, we do realise that the market is competitive, but then you start coming to a price point which is not sensible. There are agencies who are members of AAAI, who often work relatively free. That is harmful for the industry and all these remain topics for discussion. How we can ensure that people adhere to fairly established and set down policies, because you will always find people who work for low compensation?
Are there any changes that we can expect to see at Goafest?
Goafest is a great property that we have created, those three days are well worth the two months that we put in in terms of personal time and the blood, sweat and tears that goes into creating a property such as that. Obviously if you had to write the vision around Goafest, it would be to get the best speakers, the best jury and to get the best award show and let all our young people have a lot of fun as well .
I always feel it can be bigger and better. Now that we have seen other awards shows, we realise that we have got something really good going.
It is a tough act to follow, considering that last year we had great speakers, the venue was fantastic. This year, it won’t be any different, we will get global advertising leaders to come and talk and we want to build something that people want to put on their calendars. It is timed well before Cannes for that to happen. The great thing is that we are all buoyant about India and I hope that the same buoyancy will rub off at Goafest. It will put 2009 behind us and we can start 2010 with a bang.
Do you have any changes in mind for the format of the Abbys?
Obviously the intent is always to be very fair and ensure that all the concerns of creative directors are covered correctly and adequately. That’s a priority for us. We don’t wish to mar the evening with any other interpretation other than that of great work being recognised. You have got to be able to understand somebody else’s point of view and we will examine it again this year and try and address the concerns.
Can we expect to see a younger jury?
We do have a fairly young jury at the moment. The jury selection and the selection process itself is not easy. You have got to get people who understand what we do. That’s because you are pushing boundaries in creativity, so whether you are pushing borders of art or the articulation of an idea, you must understand the craft. We have a nice mix because there are experienced people who lead different juries and then there is a healthy blend of people within the jury who ensure that there is the right balance.
‘Young Turks’ was an initiative that was launched to encourage participation from the younger lot of industry professionals. How do you intend to build that in your role as president?
We have not progressed far with that. It’s an idea that is required to be taken forward. I think what we have currently is a very senior view of the industry so maybe the concerns of our junior talent needs to be addressed.
What about the participation of women members in the AAAI?
It’s occurred to me in great detail recently. I was at the World Economic Forum where they had the India summit – the issue of gender opportunities was discussed and debated across two sessions there. Within the agencies, I believe that we have a healthy mix. I don’t believe that we have that mix at an industry body level. We currently only have one. It does need a balance.