No usual suspects at IAA Silver Jubilee Summit

02 Sep,2015


President Srinivasan Swamy talks about the IAA India Silver Jubilee Summit coming up in Kochi from September 3-5 with a handpicked line-up of speakers and experts from around the globe, and the soon-to-be-held IndIAA Awards. Excerpts from an interview with Pradyuman Maheshwari


Twenty-five years of IAA India and we didn’t really know about it. A silver jubilee is a huge milestone for any industry body.

IAA is 25 from when we incorporated ourselves as a company. But technically, IAA was formed 10 years earlier, in 1981, so we’re actually 35. The early stages are not very well-recorded. So we celebrate 25 years as a company, taking it from 1991. But it has been an amazing journey. We are the only organisation which is truly international, and we’ve had all the big leaders passing through the IAA platform, both in India and globally.


Does an industry like advertising need so many associations? There are quite a few already.

Actually, there are specific associations for specific lobbies. We have an ISA for advertisers, INS for the print media, IBF for television broadcasters and the AAAI for the agency’s interests. It is the interest of advertising which is at the heart, for us, not lobbying. Therein lies a big difference.


So it’s more of a club then, right?

We don’t see ourselves as a club but as an international body which used to be involved in important aspects of advertising. The records will show that we were behind the formation of the Advertising Standard Council of India. We are actually focused on issues which are taken care of, not just by private agencies, advertisers or media, but all of them together, and make sure advertising is protected and nurtured.


What is it that gets IAA to be so active and the others are not?

I think it is probably in my DNA. In whichever body I’ve been involved in, I try and give my best. I can’t see the reason why anybody else can’t do it. It’s just that they are not passionate about doing what is required to be done on these jobs.


Coming to the Silver Jubilee summit, which is obviously a big landmark. You say it’s in the same league as Ad Asia…

It is. I don’t think we’ve seen a line-up of speakers of the kind we have [for the summit]. The president of the Global IAA, Faris Abouhamad, is coming down — not just for the inauguration, on September 3, but for all three days of the summit. The Kerala tourism minister will be there at the inauguration, as well as Amitabh Kant, who was behind the God’s Own Country, Incredible India and Make in India campaigns. He will deliver the keynote address. We have a lot of international speakers as well.


You also have people like Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan and Jaggi Vasudev to provide colour…

Sachin has been a brand ambassador and advertising icon. He is not there as a cricketer. We also have Arnab Goswami, who is another brand. We find today that at any conference, a spiritual leader connects very well with the audience. Jaggi Vasudev is going to talk about the miracle of being a good human.


Are you happy with the line-up?

We avoided the usual suspects. We could’ve approached the Chairman of IPG, Omnicom or WPP, but those are easy options to chase. The names we have are actually going to talk about newer things. Our theme is ‘What’s coming next?’ We have Cindy Gallop, founder of BBH in the US, who has done some excellent work with the websites ‘If We Ran The World’ and ‘Make love not Porn’. She is also Cannes Chairman of the Jury for The Glass Lion. We have Paul McCarthy, who has written a book called ‘Online Gravity’, a runaway success about how online impacts different aspects of our lives. Jeffery Cole will speak about the future of digital, while mobile expert Ralph Simon will talk about how mobile is going to transform the world. You won’t get these perspectives from the usual suspects.


Are you going to use your popular debate format here?

No, we will have only keynote sessions because we find people don’t come prepared for panel discussions. They answer questions put to them, which is not a structured way of taking you through your problem. So we have 18 keynote sessions and only two subjects which will have a discussion – the first, with Prasoon Joshi, after Sachin makes his presentation, and one with Sam Balsara after Darshanbhai Patel makes his opening remarks. All the presentations are of 25 minutes by the keynote speaker, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A.


Since this is a large-format event, it is obviously well sponsored…

It is sponsored. We are on track to fulfilling our obligations in terms of money. Our friends from various media support us. And we have got all the support from Kerala, like from Mathrubhumi, a Kerala publication. Different TV channels from across India are also supporting us.


Your tickets are priced very low. Would people in India value an event with low-priced compared to one that has higher priced tickets?

We deliberately kept it low because we want more people to come. For members it is Rs 4,500 while non-members pay Rs 9,000. I also want members to come with their spouses, who comes for free. Non-members pay an additional Rs 4,500 rupees for an accompanying person. I think Rs 9,000 is not low. Attendees also have to spend on air travel and hotel stay.


Kochi is an unusual venue. These events are mostly held in Goa, Delhi or Mumbai.

IAA is an unusual institution. With programmes in Bombay and Delhi, people come for one session, leave for meetings and come back for cocktails and dinner. In Kochi, there’ll be very little of such distraction, so one can focus on the content and observe as much one can. Delhi, Mumbai and Goa have been done to death.


A part of this interview first appeared in dna of brands dated August 31, 2015


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