Gyaan Unlimited at Goafest

11 Apr,2016

By Labonita Ghosh


When you see members of your team pack floral shirts and shorts as they head to Goa, it’s hard to believe they have anything other than partying on their minds. But Goafest — organised by the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and The Advertising Club, which forms the backdrop to the ad world’s best-known creative awards, the Abby – is able to strike a great balance. There is a lot of out-of-office bonhomie and boisterousness (and more than a reasonable amount of liquids flowing), but the days are filled with interactions with industry movers and shakers, sessions by thought leaders from around the globe and an invaluable swapping of insights and tips.


Goafest 2016, in its eleventh year, upped the bar quite a bit. With some 2,400 delegates and 4,460 entries for the Creative and Media Abby, the 2016 edition was the biggest Goafest yet. Two new categories were also introduced, to keep pace with the rapidly-changing times: The Young Abby and an award for gender sensitivity. A more digitally-enabled Goafest greeted delegates who could download the app and post their questions for various speakers on it.


Ambi M G Parameshwaran, President, Advertising Agencies Association of India said: “The last three days saw some of the brightest minds from the world of media, marketing and advertising congregating to make Goafest 2016 an exciting experience for all. Undoubtedly this was the biggest Goafest and the most well balanced — over 15 seminar sessions, three award shows, two sundowner parties and three after parties — all done in one venue, both indoors and outdoors.”


According to Raj Nayak, President of The Advertising Cub: “As organisers, we tried to create a unique and wholesome experience for all the delegates attending the event to ensure that everyone had an interesting takeaway when they leave from Goa at the end of the festival.”


Indeed, the organisers had a stellar line-up of speakers from the ad and marketing world, and the tedium of industry-specific sessions was broken by talks by writer-columnist Shobhaa De, former Army man and founding-CEO of the security agency Natgrid Raghu Raman, and young writer Varun Agarwal, and an interaction former cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga and journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.


The session that really packed them in — and had everyone in splits – was a freewheeling tete-a-tete between adman-filmmaker R Balki and director-producer Karan Johar, where they chatted about marketing, the Oscars and Bollywood, of course. As for the seminars, they were divided into three industry-specific themes. Day 1 was about forging better client-agency partnerships, which was followed by better marketing of brands on the second day, while the last day was about using data and technology to leverage creativity.


Chandramouli Venkatesan, Managing Director of Mondelez India (the makers of Cadbury) opened the first day with the instantly-engaging idea that client-agency partnerships need to be like that of Jai and Veeru, the protagonists from the film Sholay. “It should be a study in contrasts. A client and an agency, who are two different entities, coming together to create magic,” he said. “Not two entities who think in a similar manner.” But no matter how different, they must have a shared purpose and passion, and a friendship that allows each to challenge the other to do better. Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior Vice President, Marketing, at United Breweries had a slightly different take when he said that agencies first need to get to know the business (almost as well as the client) if they are to offer any worthwhile solutions. Sheikhawat says he facilitates brewery visits for agency execs he works with, just as he had to – early on in his career – spend time in the offices of advertising stalwarts like Roda Mehta, to understand the agency side of things. Oliver Maletz, head of connections planning, media and international communication at Volkswagen, in his session, outlined that agencies need to be true business partners to clients, along with being innovators (though not just for the sake of innovating) and aim to deliver meaningful value to a meaningful number of people.


The second day, which was about better marketing your brand, had Benny Thomas, strategy head at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, talk about gauging a ‘return on creativity’ instead of the rather more prosaic(but financially-necessary) RoI. One way to ensure that a client accepts a brilliant idea, is to bombard it with hundreds of others. “If you give clients 200 ideas, they are bound to pick one,” Thomas said, giving the example of a campaign-turned-social initiative called Small Business Saturdays, that was spearheaded by his agency and has now become a local trade promotional in the US. Tara Marsh, global head of content at Wunderman, dealt with how neither clients nor agencies give enough importance to the behavioral aspects of consumers that make them choose one brand over another. “Your content needs to be something that users will choose to spend time with,” she added. Prakash Sangam, CEO of the RedBus and writer-filmmaker Varun Agarwal provided the ‘inspiration quotient’ for the day. Sangam, who has successfully run a bus-booking portal, talked about how the bus industry (like so many others) has been transformed by technology. Now, passengers can download apps to not only book tickets and select seats, RedBus has enabled various kinds of information conveniences to travellers.


In today’s world, much more of both data and technology is available, but advertisers and marketers are not using it enough, feels Carter Murray, Worldwide CEO of FCB. “Most marketers use data for only six per cent of their decisions,” Murray said. “Data is waiting for its [Martin] Scorsese – where marketers use data to make the creative product better, not just to drive change.” Jean Lin, Global CEO of Isobar, in her talk, outlined seven breakout things that indicate a changing landscape (e-commerce, borderless buying, programmatic videos etc) and said the future of brands is clearly brand commerce. “[Marketers] need to bring the brand inspiration closer to the point of transaction,” she said adding that ideas that reimagine that last mile are the ones that are likely to survive in an ever-changing world. While Fergus O’Hare, Director of Facebook Creative Shop, APAC, took the idea of providing creativity with a crucible of technology by giving examples of how Facebook as a platform could be used to deliver personalised marketing at scale through mobile, Alasdair Lennox, Executive Creative Director, EMEA, Fitch discussed how ‘advertising’ as a word will die out, and be replaced by the concepts of ‘experience’ and ‘conversations’.


That’s not all. Goafest also give participants a chance to view lots and lots of great advertising and hear behind-the-scenes stories about some of the most successful initiatives in the world – often from people who have been in the trenches themselves. While YouTube makes it possible to watch every ad ever aired, you’d never know about Nivea’s remarkable sunburn campaigns, or Kraft’s marketing of its healthier mac-and-cheese option without changing its packaging, or even learn how Paypal caught people’s attention by putting their faces on dollars, if it weren’t for the seminars. You would’ve heard of Burger King’s Subservient Chicken or seen Cadbury’s eyeballs-grabbing Gorilla beating a drum, but to know about the incisive decisions that shaped these seemingly-inane promos, is something else. Closer home, if you’ve ever wondered why messy chocolate-eating has become adorable on TV, you had to hear it from the people who made the Dairy Milk ads. And the thumping success of cutting-edge campaigns like Domino’s Anyware (ordering pizzas with a tweet) and Disneyland’s MagicBand (a bracelet that is park ticket, hotel key and credit card rolled into one) was brought to life by the global speakers’ analysing the social impact these have had. Indeed, Netflix’s ads have sparked a sociological phenomenon of ‘TV adultery’ (watching ahead to the next episode of a show without your spouse) in the US. This year’s Goafest had all of that. Indeed.


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