11 Jan,2017

By Sanjeev Kotnala


There is an industry and then there are people who for reasons best known to them make every attempt to break the fragile fabric of star events. It holds true for Goafest and the Abbys too.

Are egos involved? The industry most likely will answer with a loud YES.

I believe in a simpler truth. They are like that only.

It is time we start valuing and accepting positive critique aimed at improvement and disregard all the static. It is not a MAdTech house of Bigg Boss we want here. MadTech, I like this word I read in WARC, it has the inclusiveness and reflects the growing importance of technology in advertising and marketing.

Let us stop unnecessarily raising dead questions like ‘Who is boycotting’ or not taking part. Such agencies will have their valid reasons. Why debate their open-eyed conscious decisions. Let’s celebrate creativity and the 25% growth in the number of entries.

Let’s also avoid questions like big v/s small jury. Who is and how are they nominated for jury duties?

There is ample transparency. Agency heads-nominated people are on jury duty. There is wide representation. Respected names chair the jury. There is a third party audit of the process. Discussing this is not worth spilling the free beer at Goafest. I hope we are continuing with the free beer and no one has taken my suggestions of 2016.

I appreciate Ramesh Narayan’s comment on ‘Bestmediainfo’ on this subject. He says: “I would urge all to look at last the year’s jury, which has the best people from the Indian advertising industry. If they are not fit to judge, then who are? If you have any names, then tell me.” I agree that the AGC is doing a great job. The jury selection ensures right representation. The process is transparent and fair. That’s what counts.

Ramesh Narayan

No doubt, there is enough transient damage and Ramesh Narayan is right on target when he says: “the biggest challenge for the Abby Committee is to preserve the equity of the Abby brand and grow it. It is something that has been nurtured over the years, and we owe it to the industry to enhance its cachet”.

I think we have a good team of seniors in the industry just trying to do so. “Remember, Most of the work done for industry events is from very busy people who give of their time, energy and money only to feel a satisfaction of giving back to an industry from which they have received so much. This motivation to promote an industry initiative comes from the heart”. Ramesh Narayan is again bang-on with this observation.


Ashish Bhasin

Nevertheless, as everywhere else, we too have armchair stalwarts, who find fault in every possible agenda. So, I go yeah and punch air when Ashish Bhasin says: ‘We are doing a damn good festival with a damn good award show. Our sole motto is to put up the best award show in the best possible way for India’.

We may have our own impressions of the fest. However, this is the time to leave those prejudices and celebrate the fact that, The ‘Abby’ is the only awards for the industry, by the industry and of the industry. It is also the only wholly original  “Indian” award. Judged by Indians for Indian work.

ABBY CAMPAIGN. The current ABBY (print and digital) campaign is developed by Scarecrow. Remember it is all pro-bono work. So it makes sense when Manish Bhatt of Scarecrow says: ‘My attempt has always been to generate opportunities for everyone who work’s at Scarecrow to do the most meaningful work that they are proud of in their career, during their stint at Scarecrow. Doing something meaningful for our industry is noble. And it is very Scarecrow’.

Unfortunately, the 2017 campaign is not really awe-inspiring. At a basic level, it tries to tick all the boxes. I doubt, if it wins an award for creativity, even if there was an award for such work. Manish defends the current campaign with: “Abby 2017 campaign focuses on functional / tactical aspects of Abby… it re-introduces the award in its true glory… the campaign has allowed us to highlight great people this industry gave birth to, some really important topical things or some really memorable creative work… we feel it is a unique way of paying tribute to the industry”.

Manish Bhatt

I find the campaign purely functional and not sure whether it will push entries. Manish Bhatt believes: “We need to make every piece of work hardworking but not at the cost of creativity. After all, it is for the hard-to -please creative fraternity of our industry too”. He adds: “Working with Raj Nayak and Ramesh Narayan is really inspiring… they are dynamic, sharp, fast decision makers. I cherish the liberty to bounce off ideas as soon we conceive them. And I get their reactions immediately… that helps the momentum going for the team.”

Though I am not privy to the media plan, AGC ascertains that the campaign media reach permeates into all areas where adverting emanates from. I doubt, but will play along on. Hopefully, the net is wide enough to reach Tier-II and III towns like Ahmedabad, Kochi, Madurai, Indore, Lucknow, etc

ABBY AWARDS. I have always wondered if there is a protocol on adding and deleting award categories. I am not sure, not that I really tried finding out. However, I understand that AGC reviews it every year. My point is to have clear transparent policies in addition to the review by AGC. It really offends when you hear a comment like ‘Creative awards are like cricket statistics, tomorrow you could win for launching toilet cleaner between 8 and 10 pm on TV in May’. A wide one that Ramesh Narayan rightly refused to comment upon.

Publisher ABBY is one of the such categories. Initiated in 2014, it has seen limited participation. The quality of entries has been good but can’t say that same about the number of entries. They have remained low. I have no doubt, there is good work done by many media houses and standalone publishers. Unfortunately, for some inane unknown logic, they do not enter. I hope, this year the story will be different. Otherwise, AGC should rethink.

NEW AWARDS. I welcome AGC, initiating Abby for ‘Gender-Sensitive advertising’ and the ‘Young Abby’ in 2016. This year we will see digital being split between Digital and Mobile, which makes sense. Also a relevant and deserving award: ‘CHAMPIONSHIPS OF EXCELLENCE’, established by the Advertising Club to honor clients who support great creative work, will make its mark.

Like the last year, there will be no ‘Best Agency Award’.

No bronzes will be awarded on stage, and that’s a promise Ramesh Narayan has made. I have raised this subject in the past. I am excited, as it will stop the discriminatory treatment in the last two years, where in for a few categories, bronzes were delivered in stage.

ON THE SIDE. Yes, I miss the BEACH part of the Goafest. And I know of the constraints. Not sure, what is the venue this year, but just dream that we have it indoor in a property that has a beach worth strolling? Bring in that GOANESS back in.

TRIVIA. Manish Bhatt, while he was at Contract did the Goafest 2008 campaign, including the Goafest logo and font. In 2016, he worked with AGC to sharpen the positioning to ‘For the industry/ by the industry/ of the industry…. Truly Indian Advertising Award’ and the #ThatsWhyAbby.


DISCLOSURE: I have been an ardent supporter of Goafest and Abby. And I have attended Goafest since inception. I have been there as a delegate, sponsor, gurilla marketer, enterant, winner, jury and media. I have enjoyed every moment.  I will be there this round too. Though most of my wishlist remain unfulfilled. The article draws from e-mail conversation with Ramesh Narayan (Chairperson, Abby) and Manish Bhatt of Scarecrow, the creator of Abby 2017 campaign. And few snippets from remarks that appeared in BestInfoMedia interviews of Ramesh Narayan and Ashish Bhasin (Chairperson, Goafest 2017) find their way.

Sanjeev Kotnala with 30 years of corporate experience is the founder of Intradia World; a Brand, Marketing & Management Advisory. His focus area includes Ideation and Innovation; he also conducts specialized workshops like IDEAHarvest, Liberate and InNoWait. For soft skill training, he follows SHIFT (Specific High-Intensity Frequent training), a process of continuous training with frequent shorter sessions. Email tweet @s_kotnala web: The views expressed here are his own.


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