Clients want works that work: Ajay Kakar

16 Jan,2014


A quick chat with Ajay Kakar, Chief Marketing Officer – Financial Services, Aditya Birla Group who is also Chairperson of Effie 2013 on the eve of the annual advertising effectiveness awards. Effie 2013, which is is scheduled to take place tomorrow, Friday, January 17 at the Taj Lands End, received 419 entries, a 20 percent hike from last year. Excerpts from an interview with MxMIndia…


We’ve had a tough 2013 for marketing and adspends given the slowdown. So did that have an impact on the entries for Effie this year?

Well, whether the times are good or bad, marketers always wish to have more budgets. The pressure on budgets is always there. And therefore the demand and the need for measurable results that work for either the brand or the business will stay high. In current times, where there is a cautious optimism, people will want to know what they can expect for their rupee. Therefore, going forward, effectiveness is going to be the primary measure of success for an agency.


But for a creative agency, the ultimate high continues to be a creative award.

So that’s why I said for agencies tomorrow and for marketers and brands today. A creative agency loves to do creative work. A client wants works that work. The ideal from a brand perspective is creativity that works in the marketplace.


Given that we’ve had problems with the Creative Abby last year, what is it that seems to be happening right at the Effie and not so at the Abby?

I can’t comment on what’s not happening at the Abby, but there are two clear distinctions with the Effie. This is the only award that recognizes work that works in the marketplace. Two, it recognizes both the client and the agency.


According to me, clients are very keen to be aligned to the need for effectiveness. And when you have a client who’s aligned, the agency alignment becomes much easier. So I can see that Effie has a common alignment of clients and agencies. Both are agreed that effectiveness is good. Or effectiveness should be good. Creativity, by clients at large, is yet seen as an indulgence of the advertising fraternity but effectiveness is something clients expect, demand, appreciate and therefore agencies are becoming more and more proud that they have campaigns that are working in the marketplace. For the key agencies will soon say my work works in creativity and in effectiveness.


Also, in the case of the Effie, you don’t have cases of proactive work or plagiarism, right?

First, as I said, it’s a common agenda. Second, we have clients, planners and the numbers guys judging. Three, yes you’re right, the “scams/ plagiarism/done-for-the-sake-of-an-award” entries aren’t possible drivers of this award. Also, if you look at the constitution of the jury, we aspire to have a 70-30 ratio in favour of clients and within agencies we’ve brought in creative and media agencies. We’ve brought in business heads or planning heads and we have electronic voting.



Before you ask the next question, I must also say that we announced the shortlists only a day after the final judging was done. We were being overcautious, and didn’t want people allege that there was any influencing. In fact when the jury came in for the second round of juding, they didn’t know entries they would be required to look at.


You also have Lowe Lintas and Ogilvy participating!

We have 50 agencies participating and the excitement isn’t just restricted to the big agencies. All agencies want to do effective work for all their clients. We’ve had a 20 percent increase in entries with as many as 419 entries this year. The entry fee is Rs 21,000 so it’s not like a free thing or a case of ‘jeetega toh jeetega, haarega toh harega’. Every entry and client sends is the best of the best. They are backing it with money.


Any changes from last year?

Every year we have a meeting of all the thought leaders of the industry for feedback and improvements that need to be taken. So that’s how I think we refined the awards this year. For example, people said that we should sharpen our definition for the ‘David versus Goliath’ category. Similary for CSR etc.


Last year, we saw Mindshare shortlisted. This year, only creative agencies appear and only few others appear to be in the final shortlist.

Yes, that’s a coincidence, but the fact is that anyone is allowed to enter. It’s not just creative agencies. You can even have clients entering, and they did. For example, there is a Marico entry from its agency and there’s something, the company entered directly.


One final question: why such a delay in holding the Effie this year. In 2008, you had it on November 26, the day the terror strike happened. And this time, it’s on Jan 17, with a last-minute change in the date… all well?

The delay happened because of the holidays that came in. We had one round of judging – in Delhi, before the holidays, and the second after that. Also, on the last-minute change in the date and venue, it happened because of a problem with the venue and the contract they had. In fact we are lucky, we got the Taj Lands End.


Even luck is favouring effectiveness!



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