DO HIGH PROFILE GLOBAL AD CONFERENCES SERVE ANY PURPOSE?
CONCLAVES, FESTIVALS, AWARD SHOWS DOES THE GLOBAL AD FRAT REALLY NEED TO MEET & EXHIBIT THEIR SKILL-SETS, PARTY REAL HARD AND VANISH... ONLY TO RE-SURFACE FOR MORE OF THE SAME? 4Ps B&M'S MONOJIT LAHIRI DOES A CHECKOUT.
It was at the recently concluded Ad-Asia – played out with suitable fanfare in Delhi – that somebody brought this topic up. “Boss, for me, this tamasha seems pretty much like an Old Boys Club with lots of 'Hey Hi, and wow, lovely meeting up again and My God, where on earth did you disappear?' and stuff! Save some (in fact a very few) sessions, it's a long, boring, hyped event created by hype-valas, begging the question: who's doing what for whom?”
Startled at this somewhat irreverent and unusual outburst connected with an eagerly-awaited and publicized meet, I immediately button-holed a few articulate members of this community for their side of the story. The fall-out was rather interesting … Kolkata-based Ujjal Sinha fired the first salvo, in style. The MD of Ad Agency Genesis cut to the chase in a flash. “It's like this. The original idea of these global fests usually refer to a meaningful exchange of ideas, thoughts and concepts about an ever-altering communication landscape, where the very lingua franca of the brand-consumer conversation is changing every day. However, on the ground, is this very elevating and inspirational idea being played out? The reality is that these meets, first and foremost, appear to be a fabulous platform for networking – a meeting ground with the movers 'n shakers, hi-flyers and big boys of the Ad biz. The focus, basically, by the powers-that-are seem to concentrate on how to outshine and out-dazzle the previous editions of these meets by adding more big name luminaries, glamour, props, whatever. It's more a carnival than an engaging, interesting and serious meet where communication professionals (across all segments and countries) meet to debate, discuss and showcase their wares in a spirit that celebrates the best of communication, both as a global bond and an agent of change,” Sinha tells 4Ps B&M.
Red Lions' Creative Head, Elsie Nanji, is much kinder and more circumspect. She believes that it's largely about “who you are, where you are coming from and what's your agenda”. However, her links with these global fests have been largely restricted to her being a member of the jury – the latest being SPIKES at Singapore “So I can't really comment like the others, but I do definitely believe there are a lot of pluses if you care to look for them. What are you looking for remains the key question. And hey, don't run down networking. In today's global village, where confluence – not conflict – is the mantra, it's no longer a dirty word!” says Elsie.
Another respected creative veteran, Ivan Arthur, joins the party, with his very own spin. “It is interesting that today – unlike earlier times – local relevance translates immediately to global relevance. From Sensex and flying slippers in Parliament to your nephew's marriage in Canada, your home is no longer your castle with tall walls and no windows. Advertising has always been a world with large, open windows to let in the winds of inspiration and change. Today, when global affiliations are the order of the day, international Ad conferences are very much a part of being the professional socialite you are expected to be!” says the ex-NCD of JWT across the seventies, eighties and nineties. While Indian advertising has become truly Indian, Arthur adds, “it has, paradoxicallly, turned more global, with both our work and professionals celebrated at the highest levels abroad, gracing eminent juries and panels, winning laurels galore, perceived as a solid creative force to reckon with. Finally, these global meets in India are like a bulb glowing on the world advertising map, embracing three great commandments writ in stone: Visibility. Integration. Relevance.”
Kolkata-based Sid Roy – Executive Director of Response – winds up the debate, with his perspective. “Many of them have been sent there as part of a reward/appreciation gesture from their agencies for the good work they've done through the year. Others, because the bosses believe the exposure would be useful for the expansion of their knowledge base. So what happens? The kids are usually awe-struck by the glamour (Cannes) of the show, the shoulder rubbing with the who's who of the Ad world and the freak-out parties! They end up usually having a blast – nothing more! The more serious among them, dedicated and determined to use the fabulous, inspirational take-out at home, find it impossible to get a receptive client They are reportedly told (mocked?) that these firang ideas are great for the west and Ad conclaves/award shows not sell our products to Indian consummers. Mota Bolo, Seedha Bolo, Jaldi Bolo aur Tashan, Nautanki and Vilayati drama avoid kar, beta!!” says Roy.
So, at the end of the day, what gives? I guess it's a tough call and like Elsie says, it's largely about the focus, agenda and realities that accompany you to these global meets.
What's your take in this debate, dear reader...?