Point of View by Sandip Ghose: Huge and slick, but clients were missing

10 Apr,2017

By Sandip Ghose


Came to Goafest after a long hiatus – almost 10 years, I think. On the surface, not much has changed. As the inaugural speaker assured in his welcome address, this year too, Goafest has retained all its standard sights and fixtures. From Sam Balsara strutting around (though I did not see him in his signature shorts), Shashi Sinha in his “Dabang” avatar to the wild after-hour parties, all were in place.


However, talking for myself, this time around, I did feel like an outsider. It was probably age. The world certainly belongs to the millennials now. But, it was more than just that. It was like gatecrashing into someone else’ private party.


Let us admit: it is a closed club. The ad fraternity has been genetically incestuous. Perhaps, I was being unduly self-conscious. However, this year, it looked like a Bombay clique. That too is perfectly understandable since, Mumbai is where the action is. Gurgaon still remains a distant cousin. Folks from the other cities were conspicuously missing or I did not recognise them.


Having moved out of the advertising and media circuit for some years, in a way it was reassuring to see the old familiar faces on the dais – Raj Nayak, Vikram Sakhuja, Ashish Bhasin, Nakul Chopra, Ramesh Narayan. They all looked remarkably young and fit. Obviously, the workout regimes and diets are working. Of course, there was Srinivasan Swamy, the patron saint of Goafest. Also, one spotted the inimitable Bhaskar Das, with his latest hair-do, wafting through the crowd.  But, where were the other Gods?


Clash of the Titans is a common story. But, one had heard, the big guns had smoked the peace pipe a few years ago. Then why were the biggies so conspicuously missing?


From what I recall, there used to be a sizeable presence of the Marketing fraternity of different media houses. Other than Dainik Jagran, who were one of the sponsors and DB Corp (Dainik Bhaskar) in small measure did not see any of my old friends, whom I was expecting to meet, further adding to my loneliness.


Even the Media Buyers were under-represented, I thought. Though, some of the top honchos, who are part of the organisation committee, were present none of their second-in-command were visible. My own media buying agency must have been hugely relieved, because they could be sure that none of their competitors were around to make a pitch to me after the third drink.


The reason why Media Agencies or even the Creative Heads and Planners chose to give the fest a miss one can guess. After so many years, the attendance of Clients is negligible. So, Goafest provides very little opportunity to network for business development.


The Conference itself has become huge and slick. The big budgets (Rs 8-10 crore, we were told) and the labour of love that industry volunteers cutting across levels put in for months were clearly showing.


Moving to the Grand Hyatt from the earlier Park Hyatt gives it greater class but also makes it a more exclusive, which may not be quite conducive for a “fest”. Bambolim is a tonier part of Goa, close to Donna Paula and Panjim. No doubt a prettier location overlooking the sea. But, it lacks the ambience of Park Hyatt in Arossim with its beach, shacks and smaller hotels and bars in the vicinity. And, Martin’s Corner, without a meal there no visit to Goa can be complete, is a good 25 kilometers away.


The speaker line-up, one could say, was high on entertainment quotient (Acharya Balakrishna of Patanjali fame, Viv Richards, Sanjay Dutt) and short on depth. But, who likes to listen to boring lectures at fests?Therefore, Laura Ries struck the right balance. But, inclusion of Maneka Gandhi to launch the industry initiative on Violence against Women, seemed like a force-fit.


What was distinctive about the Awards was the invasion of the youth and the takeover by the boutique creative shops. Kids going up on stage to collect the prizes looked barely out of school and their bosses were trying hard to fit in – chopping their horns to be with the calves, as they say in Bengal.


It was heartening that Taproot and Webchutney, who made their debut, only some years ago have become part of large international groups so soon. Even a new kid on the block like Pratap Bose’s Social Street announced their coming of age blowing trumpets all the way to the stage.


Clearly the future is digital, social media and OOH (Out of Home). The days of traditional ATL media are numbered and, perhaps, it is also time for the old order to take a bow and move on.


Following my own cue, if I come to Goafest next year it will be with a nubile companion. Since, at my age, that will be a challenge, it will have to be my daughter, who is just out of an art school and planning a career in Graphic Design. Otherwise, the bright and bold young ones, bursting with talent, give us the oldies a huge complex by the time we get back.


Sandip Ghose is a roving marketer and popular blogger. He has worked extensively in FMCG, Media and other Brand categories.Twitter @SandipGhose The views expressed here are his own


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