View from Nepal: Goafest is a new hope in South Asian advertising

The knowledge seminars at Goafest had an eclectic line-up of speakers, who have been able to trigger our advertising minds to think beyond regular advertising

Apr 17, 2019 08:33:00 AM | Article | Ujaya Shakya

My journey from Kathmandu, with few of my agency colleagues, along with my son Nyanik as he had a school break, was filled with anticipation. The very thought of being a part of one of the biggest advertising festivals in the region excited all of us. And of course, Goa, with its pristine beaches and natural beauty never disappoints, as I have been there twice before, to attend the Goafest, and a regular there during my Pune college days. 
I feel, over the years, the festival has become more grander. It is reassuring to know that it is gaining popularity beyond the Indian shores, and now we see entries coming from other parts of South Asia, including Nepal (we had five finalists this year). I also liked the fact that the event has lots of youth participation in particular. This is pivotal for our ad industry, as in recent times; this industry has been witnessing a dearth of talent. Hence, now we need to attract and retain more talent into our industry, so they can contribute their unconventional thinking, as our industry is increasingly becoming media agnostic, and data & tech are gaining more relevance in the process. Truly so, the event has a soul of a comprehensive advertising festival, with lots of fun to attract the next generation. With knowledge seminars at the heart of the festival, the idea is to learn, inspire and grow.
The knowledge seminars at Goafest this year had an eclectic line-up of speakers, who have been able to trigger our advertising minds to think beyond regular advertising. So, in a sense, it is becoming more inclusive, and is a representative of the changing times we live in. Madonna Badger showcased how one can change the narrative of the ad industry through a series of powerful films advocating her powerful message #WomenNotObjects and with her emphasis to use the filter of empathy. The responsibility of portraying what women feel like and what women can do, rather than how they look, lies completely on our shoulders. Indeed, it was a powerful session to start the day. 
Barry Wacksman began his session with two most overused words in our industry in the recent times – Disruption and Transformation. His views on business transformation, experience transformation and marketing transformation were the most enlightening thoughts from this year’s knowledge sessions. 
Gordon Bowen spoke about how creativity will always outshine data, showcasing series of ads from Olympics for United Airlines to Disney and how advertising inspired Disney to produce the much-loved movie “Frozen”. With a series of ad films, he perfectly demonstrated how creativity is unparalleled. Showcasing his work for “Intel Inside” through a film, he proved the endless possibilities and the power of creative idea and intuition. He concluded his session with the message – Creatively led, data driven and tech enabled – was the biggest takeaway, also the philosophy lived by Dentsu Network agencies. 
Harshwardhansinh, a 16-year old CEO, was a pure delight to listen to, and he represented the true spirit of millennials. It was unbelievable to listen to his achievements and viewpoints as a young person who had his first breakthrough at the age of 10. Lt. Gen. Hooda’s session was very emotional as he gave examples of honour, courage and loyalty represented by the army. He spoke about leadership that brings out the value system by citing examples from Gorkha regiments, which mostly includes soldiers from Nepal’s hilly region. Cricketer Virender Sehwag engaged with a light hearted conversation, as he took the audience down memory lane. 
The broad spectrum of leaders from different walks of life sharing their experiences was a true learning opportunity for the young minds. Besides soaking into knowledge, the festival hosted a wide range of Indian cuisine, which represented varied palates of India. And, the drinking sessions which started every morning with the champagne glass (besides the morning coffee), before you enter for the knowledge session, gave a fun spin to the whole event. As the sun set, the fun quotient rose, with the after parties going beyond midnights and of course, Goa beaches are a unique experience, especially if you are coming from Kathmandu. 
Apart from all the fun and learning, I also felt that there should be a separate Rest-of-South- Asia segment for Abby Awards, so other South Asian countries do not have to compete with Indian entries. It’s bit unfair that entries from Nepal have to compete with the best of Indian work, which is now competing at the global stage. India is an evolved market in the region. So to attract more entries from other South Asian nations it might be a good idea to segment it differently. With this new direction in the award category, it will also help to make Goafest more inclusive for the region. Thus, making it a notable event for the advertising professionals across South Asia. 
(The author is the founder and managing director of Outreach Group based in Kathmandu and the author of ‘Brandsutra’.)