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AgTalk | Working round the clock ensuring every event at the Goafest is a resounding success: Arvind Sharma

One of the biggest congregation of advertising professionals and India's biggest advertising and awards festival, the Goafest 2012 will be held in Goa this year from April 19-21. Over 2,500 professionals are expected to attend and there is a lineup of celebrated luminaries and speakers from the industry who are expected to be present. There's a lot of excitement around amongst the advertising fraternity. To know more, Adgully spoke to Arvind Sharma, Chairman Goafest. Following is the excerpts of the interview.

Adgully (AG): What are the new things initiated this year?

Arvind Sharma (AS): Before we talk of new things, it is important to remind ourselves about the vision of Goafest. It is a creative platform and a source of inspiration for advertising professionals in the country. I would say it is a chance to exchange thoughts and rub shoulders with the best in the country, South East Asia, Asia Pacific and the world. Goafest will help the industry to gauge where and how to go forward. We need make sure whether we are evolving in a situation that is consistent with the global situation.

We are looking at ways to involve clients in a meaningful way. This is because in advertising, partnering with clients is more important simply because there would be no advertising without clients. The business of advertising is about partnering with the marketers. We look at bringing in more opportunity for conversations and that's the reason why we have brought clients this time into the seminar.

There will be many international speakers and delegates at the Goafest who will speak, we have to understand how much of it is relevant in India. There will be Q& A with them and we will challenge some of the views they put forth.

Another significant segment is the Marketing Wizard programme. Each member of the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) can nominate up to two rising stars from their marketing teams under the age of 30 years to Goafest 2012. This will ensure more participation in Goafest.

From this year onwards, the Grand Prix has been extended from three verticals to nine verticals. Last year it was only in Television, Print and Integrated. Imagine a brilliant mind who till now was at the periphery in most agencies. By creating an opportunity for them to compete it will mean recognition of their special skills. It will have a significant impact on the way the offices treat them. They will evolve further and move to more specialist skills to the centre stage in agencies, in terms of their impact on managerial decisions.

AG: What is the need to extend the awards to South Asian country participants and what are the efforts taken in this regard?

AS: Yes we have taken special efforts to promote the awards to South East Asian countries. Delegates from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan will be here and we also have entries from there. In South Asia, we have different cultures but there are more similarities than differences within those cultures and we can learn a lot from each other.

We had planned a roadshow in these countries but unfortunately, our passports got stuck and this could not happen. The politics of the subcontinent is more difficult. This year we have managed it through associations in these countries, hope to go there next year and promote through roadshows.

AG: Any new promotional strategy being adopted to promote Goafest?

AS: Apart from the regular mediums, it is through Facebook, Twitter and You Tube and other social networking media.

AG: What can industry expect from Goafest 2012?

AS: Promotion to clients is an area of focus. The number of organizations participating this year is around 160 as compared to around 130 last year. We have brought in senior Indian clients to raise questions after the presentation. So there will be 30-35 minutes for the speaker followed by 10-15 minutes of Q&A led by a senior Indian client. He or she will be the voice and mind of the audience and bring in the Indian perspective to the entire presentation.

AG: A lot of international speakers will be there at Goafest this year?

AS: Yes we have Jonathan Mildenhall, Global advertising strategy and content excellence vice president, The Coca-Cola Company; Jean Yves Naouri, chief operating officer and member of management board, Publicis Groupe SA; Tim Love, vice chairman of Omnicom Group; Steve King, chief executive officer, Zenith Optimedia and Jayant Murty, director of strategy, media and integrated marketing, Asia Pacific, Intel Corporation.

We have lined up a great festival and a fabulous line up of speakers for the Conclave as well as the seminars. The list of speakers addressing the Conclave have the width of vision and experience to make us think about "Ideas for impacting the future growth' - the theme of the Conclave. I am certain that these incredible speakers will undoubtedly present to delegates a rich future-facing perspective.

AG: Why did you feel the need for bringing in Grand Prix to all verticals?

AS: As I mentioned earlier, Grand Prix, traditionally, has been awarded in Print, TV and Integrated. From this year Grand Prix will cover all the nine verticals. It is a question of evolution. Last year Goafest was successful from every angle and we thought it is time to take the next step. For a young designer who is always on the periphery of an agency, winning the Grand Prix might help in moving the same person to leadership position. We hope that in the long-term it will change the way we do advertising.

AG: Tell us a bit about conclaves and seminars that will be put together this year?

AS: We did this because we believe that it is the right time for specialists in area to move to the centre stage. The theme for the conclave is "Ideas for Impacting the Future Growth'. This year Goafest will feature names of speakers who really are worthy of listening. Jean-Yves Naouri, COO Publicis Group. He knows what is happening in the business around the world and will share his valuable insight. Tim Love has been involved with the Cannes and he played important role in the shaping of the future of Omnicom Group. Anuradha Sengupta, who loves throwing challenge, will be part of the session.

On the seminar speakers, Amir Kassaei, Chief Creative Officer, DDB Worldwide, Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, VivaKi and Prof John Philip Jones, Emeritus Professor at the Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University,New York will be speakers. From the Indian marketers side who will be part of Q&A, we have Sanjay Behl from Reliance, Kainaz Gazder from P&G, Viral Oza from Nokia, Gayatri Yadav from Star India and Hemant Bakshi from Unilever.

Experts say the future of advertising is going to be the video. Over a period of time more and more consumers will see video on the net, on the mobile. Thus brand communication is evolving and the conclave will help move in that direction.

AG: The theme that you put this year, "Magic of Ideas' ' what was the thought of coming up with this theme at Goafest 2012?

AS: Goafest is about celebrating creativity on the Indian platform. Ideas are rare and hence very important. Celebrating creativity is all about ideas for they are the definitive focus of advertising strategy. Ideas are really what converts products and services into brands that consumers are excited about. No client launches a product with the intention of not succeeding, so getting it right is important. For a product to be embraced it has to connect with people and this cannot be reduced to a formula but has to do with the magic of ideas.

AG: Goafest has always been surrounded by controversies. What are you doing to make sure that awards don't get leaked?

AS: We try our best to ensure that awards do not get leaked. The awards will not be leaked this year and we have put in place proper mechanisms. We have balanced things to ensure no leakage. Our Auditors for the whole process, KPMG have done an outstanding job this year. Judging is over so we can tell you that it is an outstanding job. I also believe that media has a key role to play. When we share information with the media beforehand, the journalist has to show responsibility by respecting embargo. On the whole, I will say that the media has been responsible.

AG: Some agencies stay away from the awards. What would you say to that?

AS: Not all agencies will participate every year for a number of reasons. Whether to participate or not is an agency's decision. We respect their decision to stay away. Hopefully they will come back next year. On our part, we have been ensuring that our job is well done.

AG: Is there a formal invite you are sending and what are you saying in that?

AS: We are expecting over 2500 delegates, it will be one of the biggest in the sub-continent and South East Asia. You will get to see the best of work and see the best creative minds judging what they think is worthy of awards. You get to interact with seniors and bright creative minds. Goafest creates the space for debate with peers and youngsters, which includes large group discussions and one-on-one interaction. It is also a place to have fun.

AG: How are you and your team looking at closing all the gaps to make Goafest more robust?

AS: We are working round the clock ensuring every event at the Goafest is a resounding success and there are no controversies. There is a big team working across agencies. There is a sense of joy and shared sense of purpose to make Goafest a success. All are positively united in their aim and realize that there are lots to be done yet. It has been a gratifying journey.

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