Sanjeev Kotnala:Destination #1 for ad,media & mktng pros

13 Apr,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Since its inception in 2006, Goafest been something of an annual pilgrimage for me. Its birth had all the excitement of a baby being born in the extended family of advertisers, media and advertising agencies. It was an event everyone was looking forward to.


It took off in style at Cavelossim beach. My own introduction to Goafest was nothing short of shocking. When I checked into the hotel room at the venue in 2006, I found a mystery pouch from one of the sponsors (I think it was MTV). The pouch, kept next to the pillow, claimed to have the three most essential items one might need at the fest – a mouth freshener for managing foul, beer breath; an antacid to deal with the next day’s hangover, and a condom for the opportunities that may come. That was a trend being set. Since then, Goafest has evolved in many ways, but somehow the ‘beer and rain dance’ have continued as its brand identity.


This three-day fiesta has fought many a battle, but lived to create its own niche. Goafest started as an independent property of the AAAI with an aptly-designed Dolphin trophy, to remind people about its roots. It got a boost when, in 2008, when ‘Ad Club’ came on board and the Abby moved to Goafest. The Dolphin trophy, sadly, became history.


In the eyes of the industry, the Creative and Media Abby became the main attraction of Goafest. It survived the 2014 boycott of the awards by some agencies. It withstood the high-decibel complaints about jury bias, internal awards trading and scam ads, like the JWT fiasco with Ford, the withdrawal of radio spots by Leo Burnett or the local politics. It outlasted the controversy of a business daily publishing the names of the winners ahead of the awards ceremony. Goafest has only emerged stronger after all these challenges.


The beer had started flowing from the very first year. Indeed, Kingfisher has remained the one, stable sponsor for the event. Initially, with free beer being served between 10 am and 4 pm, the beach would be littered with empty bottles the following day. When people complained about too much beer being consumed, a Tughluq-like decision was implemented offering the beverage only with coupons. Fortunately, good sense has prevailed and the fizz is back at Goafest, though the beer is no longer as easily or widely available.


The knowledge seminars have experimented with Indian speakers as well as speakers – legends in their field – from abroad. Now the fest seems to have acquired a touch of ‘spirituality’ and contemporaneity: The young start-up icons are now also invited to the seminars, alongside tried-and-tested creative and media speakers.


To engage both the young and energetic, as well as the young-at-heart, water sports were introduced. An unfortunate incident in 2010 when a delegate plummeted 200 feet during a parasailing event has made the organisers stop this. In its new avatar, Goafest offers sailing and kayaking instead.


The late-night parties at Cavelossim beach were one of the most happening, raucous and full of energy. But the heat, the need to set up hangers on the beach every year and some obliquely-referenced local issues have forced Goafest to move to a hotel instead. Parties now take place in relatively cramped halls, but they go for much longer.


The move to relocate Goafest indoors took away the discomfort of walking in the blazing sun, but it also brought the curtains down on the lively, though informal, fashion and glamour quotient of the delegates that held a charm for some participants.


One year, the India chapter of the International Advertising Association joined the Goafest gang. It held its debate and the first Olive Crown awards here.


The industry conclave, which started out as an ‘invitee only’ event, has evolved into a more democratic meeting today, being now open to all delegates. But one might argue that that has made it lose some of its seriousness and importance. Goafest also experimented with a two-and- three-day delegate registration, but then reverted to the single-registration package. Thankfully, the hugely-successful ISA-associated, and the hugely-subsidised young advertiser registration packages continue.


The awards have increased with Digital and Activation being added. In 2014, the Public Relations, Publisher and Broadcasting category was also added.


Transport arrangements for the delegates, with buses plying between the main hotels, is a boon. It is well-managed and adds to the success of the fest. But when you sometimes see empty halls, it raises questions about whether there is a mismatch between the selection of speakers of what they would speak on, and what the delegates actually want.


An industry event like Goafest is possible only because of its sponsors. Media companies have always acted as the prime sponsors. Hopefully, we will soon see brands taking on that role, and thereby showing their willingness to reach out to this hugely-influential prosumer population. Meanwhile, Goafest will keep evolving and remain a useful platform for media, advertising and marketing professionals to come together.


Sanjeev Kotnala is a leading marketing and brand consultant and trainer. He is founder of Intradia. The views expressed here are his own. A shorter version of this appeared in ‘dna of brands’ dated April 13, 2015


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