Looking beyond Creative at the Abby: Pratap Bose

03 Jun,2014


It’s been a grueling few months for Pratap Bose, President of the Advertising Club and Chair of the Awards Governing Council. While the controversies may have embroiled the Creative Abby awards last year, Bose reaped the fruits this year with around a 50 per cent drop in number of entries. Hours after announcing the awards, Bose spoke to Pradyuman Maheshwari in sunny Goa.


Are you happy with the way Abby 2014 has turned out to be?

From the point of view of both the Advertising Agencies Association of India and the Ad Club, I think we’ve achieved what we set out to. As President of the Ad Club, my No 1 objective was to make it an ethical show. Cut out all the crap that we had last year and restore the faith. At least in the way we judge the entries, in the way that we awarded what we did award and clearly establish clear-cut processes and  control systems. Not that it was missing last time but we just tightened it to a higher degree of efficiency. And I’m happy with the results.


But you couldn’t get Ogilvy back!

No, I couldn’t. Yes, but Ogilvy didn’t participated even last year. That’s a decision that they’ve taken. A lot of efforts were made to get them on board. But at the end of the day, I think you have to respect their decision.


But they spoke of some pre-conditions, issues that they had which had to be resolved and that didn’t happen.

Pre-conditions don’t work. Because you have to be empathetic to a system and a process that is for the industry.  I don’t think we’re going to bend backwards for any agency however big or however small they would be. And therefore you know if someone is coming on a negotiating table to enter awards, then I don’t think that’s something we’re gonna entertain beyond a point.


But you were willing to negotiate with them a bit. As in, hear them out..

Yes, of course. There’s no issue on listening or meeting with people.


And that didn’t happen.

Yes, the meetings did happen. I didn’t personally meet but meetings did happen with Ogilvy urging them to participate but they just stood to their earlier guns.


And are they going to come back next year?

Next year is the 10th anniversary of the Goafest. We’ve got to put a lot of effort. We’ve realized that putting a festival and bringing it up really to the glory years needs a huge amount of rethinking, a huge amount of effort on all our part (both AAAI and Ad Club) and I honestly would start working on it 6 months before the event.


When we spoke when you had just taken charge of the Ad Club, you were all set to look at the Abby but you still couldn’t get Ogilvy…

No, I think it’s not just about the awards. I think you have to look at it in various lenses. Is this an industry conclave? Is it attracting the top clients? Is it attracting people like Prakash Javadekar who we had … more and more such people who are relevant to our business? Is the judging process absolutely fair, unequivocally fair? Are the processes adhered to? Are you awarding the best pieces of work? Is the content of the festival of the highest level? So, you’ve got to improve on all of those things. You’ve also got to give back. And that’s something, we can’t judge. Only those who’ve been to the festival, experienced it, can comment.


Just one last thing about Ogilvy. Ogilvy did participate at Kyoorius. So obviously there’s something where they agreed to that philosophy & they didn’t participate here. Your comments.

I think we’re making a big issue out of that, right?


Of Ogilvy’s participation?

Yes! For example if Ogilvy didn’t participate in Spikes and participated in Adfest, would it be an issue? In my view, it wouldn’t be . They’re gonna be at a lot of award shows. It’s your prerogative. The huge amount of pressure on delivering numbers and margins, you can’t possibly enter everything. So there is a dramatic decrease and shift in the participation worldwide and not just in India. If they decide to participate in X vis-à-vis Y, that’s their decision. And we respect that decision. There are many agencies that didn’t participate in Kyoorius either. You could got to look at it very pragmatically.


No comebacks on Lowe at all? Is it a gone-case story?

I respect their decision. I think the one thing I like about Balki and Lowe is that they’ve been consistent in what they’ve said all through, And they’ve not been dilly-dallying and sitting on the fence. Having said that , I would’ve loved to have them in the Creative Awards. But that’s a decision they’ve taken not just for awards in India, but internationally also.


But they participate in the Effie.

Yes, so they’re not participating in creative awards. They’re happy to participate in awards where the client’s work is recognized in terms of the Effie’s and even globally. So Balki doesn’t enter Cannes. So generally he’s not entering creative awards. I wouldn’t like to call it a policy, but he’s taken the stand that he doesn’t want to be judged in terms of creative people, in terms of work that he does.


Goafest organizing committee chairman Srinivasan Swamy said that Goafest is a lot more than just awards.

Yes, absolutely.


But ask anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you that Goafest is all (or only) about awards

We’ve been asked that question a lot. So I’ll answer it in two ways. Goafest needs to stand for more than just awards. If you raise the level of content to such a great degree that assuming there were no awards, and you had a festival that had such an incredible standard, but if you had, say, a thousand people just for content, then I think you’re really moving in the right direction. Having said that, in the way that it’s perceived right now, people come to Goa to win the Abby. That’s because it’s been for a long, long time.


So do you think there’s an attempt to distance from the Abby because it wasn’t having enough participation this year?

There are various reasons for that. I’ve said the Abby needs to move to a platform where it recognizes everyone in the communication business. So just in the sheer number of categories and verticals we’ve expanded. And it will continue to do so. Even Cannes is doing that.


The bread and butter of an ad awards is still Creative, right?

I think that’s a perception that the media and the old blokes as I call them, have. That’s not true. I don’t buy that. When I go to Cannes, I’m interested in branded content. I’m interested in social media. I’ll be extremely interested in health this year. It’s the new categories that excite people.


If you ask this question to a true blue creative person

Well, he’ll still say it’s print, craft, radio and whatever. But I think that’s a narrow version. If you look at the number of people who’re coming to Cannes today who are expert in design just to a category, it’s an ever-evolving challenge. Design can be limitless. I personally look at it from a very wide angle lens. I’m a photographer myself. I think if you look at every part of the communication process, there’s a lot more rather than just limiting to the creative.


In terms of the reputation of the Creative, in terms of the way it’s done, do you think the reputation has gone up? If last year was 3.5 on 10, what do you think would it be this year?

Yes, considerably. But to be very honest, you know I keep saying. I think here media are just looking for spicy hot news to break in and make a big story out of it. I don’t know you must’ve heard me saying this a 100 times. When we all came to Goa last year, there was no problem when we arrived in Goa. All the problem happened when we left Goa.


Come on! It happened because of the advertising people. The media just reported it. You look at what happened at Tata Chemicals…

I’m not getting into the details. It’s not just put the brakes on. I don’t agree we were 3.5 on 10.. I don’t know. Perceptually 6 on 10 or 5 on 10. I think it’s gone up quite a few notches to about 8 on 10. But at the end of the day you must realize you’re judging the best of creative work available for that period. So I could argue that in 1993, the quality of advertising and the awards given was substantially better or worse than this year. So, you must understand one thing. Even in the biggest advertising festivals in the world, you’re limited by the number of entries you get and the quality of entries you get.


JWT was the No 1 agency this year with 40 medals. In the absence of the big guys, is it a case of, as they say in Hindi, ‘Andhon mein kaana Raja’? How will history look at their perforrmance? Five years later, obviously nobody would know that this is what happened. What’s your view?

So if you go for a Test series in the old without Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and you’ve still won it, in the record books you’ve won it, you can’t criticize the people who’ve put in their 100 per cent on the field just because stars weren’t there irrespective of the result.


So what are the takeaways from Abby 2014?

There are many. I think we’ve got to go back to the drawing board earlier well in advance. Probably October this year is when we’ve gotta really look at creating a festival. As I said earlier, this year was about getting it back on the rails especially in the way it’s judged. Irrespective of the number that’s fallen down, the process is very good, we’ve fixed that. Now we’ve really got to get the tempo up and take it back to where it should belong.


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