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Ashish Bhasin, Ramesh Narayan, Nakul Chopra on the Goafest 2017 experience

It’s that time of the year when thousands of advertising, media and marketing professionals are all set, some still prepping up to be a part of the industry’s biggest event, Goafest 2017, now in its 12th year. With a record number of entries, the three-day event is going to have an awards night on each of the days, as well as knowledge seminars, leadership seminars and industry conclaves. 

Organized by the AAAI and The Advertising Club, Goafest 2017 is set to elevate the festival experience through recognizing successful brand stories, facilitating a progressive speaker line-up launching meaningful initiatives and curating an enhanced awards experience. The 12th edition of the renowned festival will be held from April 6th to April 8th, 2017 at The Grand Hyatt, Bambolim.  

With the launch of two campaigns, ‘Gods of Advertising’ for Goafest and ‘Made Of Abbys’ for the Abby Awards, the Goafest 2017 Committee is leaving no stone unturned to promote the biggest festival of advertising in India on a grand scale this year. A week ahead of the annual advertising festival, Adgully caught up with Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, Goafest 2017; Ramesh Narayan, Chairman, Awards Governing Council, Abby Awards; and Nakul Chopra, President, AAAI, who are at the helm of the festival to know more about industry enthusiasm, speaker line-up, new elements to look forward to and much more. 

This year is going be a lot more digital focussed: Ashish Bhasin 

When asked how challenging it is to maintain relevance and sustain industry enthusiasm for a big advertising event like Goafest year after year, Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, Goafest 2017, replied, “It is not challenging at all, because the industry in many ways looks forward to it and particularly in the last few years, the scale and excitement around it has been growing in a big way. Of course, the challenge really is that every year you have to build upon and add value to what had happened in the past. So, every year we make an effort to bring a different and more relevant set of speakers based on feedback that we get and introduce new things, much of which will be happening this year as well. This time we have taken a big digital initiative, hence, you are seeing Goafest much more digitally active than ever before. So it’s not a challenge actually, but a lot of enthusiasm. The challenge really is how do you keep adding more and more value year on year.” 

Throwing some light on the new and key elements to look forward to at this year’s Goafest, Bhasin remarked, “There are 4-5 areas. One is the speakers – we kind of crowdsourced it. We asked everybody what are the kind of areas that they would like to listen to. So, it’s not only about advertising people talking to advertising people, because we will have achievers from different industries and creative fields, for example, the Phogat sisters are going to be there. Spiritual leaders as well as the best in class global experts across media and creative mediums will all be in attendance. We have a very young tech speaker for the first time as part of the event. A film star who has had a very unique career will be there. We have a very different set of people and you will be surprised to notice all of these. Even if you look at the clients, who sometimes come and speak at the conclave, we are looking at not just MNC clients, but Indian brands as well, who have built themselves up over the years and have become even larger success stories in their respective fields.” 

Speaking further, he informed that there would be a Masterclass for a limited number of people, including a session on creativity by an expert from Israel. This will be on a first come first serve basis. So people have to pre-register for that. There is a different level of interactive learning that comes with that, Bhasin said, adding, “The look and feel would be more of Goa. While the sessions will have to be held indoors, but at the same time you want to retain Goa. So, you will find that there is a general feel of Goa in a different way and adding onto what we have done in the past. For example, the sun downers will not have a backdrop but will be held in the open air, where you will have local bands performing. So, there is a lot more interactive and entertaining stuff to look forward to. Generally, there are many contests and other activities happening on social media.” 

Elaborating on the Goafest theme for this year, Bhasin said, “It is not actually the theme, but the campaign that has been conceptualised by FCB Ulka for Goafest this year. There are two campaigns that have been running – ‘Gods of Advertising’ and #MadeOfAbby, which is to promote the Abby Awards. These are two parallel campaigns running for different purposes. This apart, we will be promoting our speakers, events, Masterclasses, etc. There is also an attempt this year to go green as part of the whole event – such as adopting water conservation measures, serving meals on certain days on biodegradable plates, avoiding wastage, etc. Then there is the Gender Sensitivity contest, which is run via campaigns and judged by some of the biggest names in the industry. The winners will be felicitated by Minister Maneka Gandhi. The association between AAAI and The Ad Club are going to fund the production of winning campaigns and work through our members with publications and media owners who actually run the campaigns.” 

He admitted that there was a worry factor initially as the Government had announced its demonetisation drive the same day (on November 8, 2016) that the marketing initiatives for Goafest 2017 were started. “But we were pleasantly surprised when we received the highest number of creative and media entries ever, even though the entry fees were higher this year owing to the rise in inflation. Over 128 agencies and companies have participated in both the Abbys and Goafest this year. So, it’s an unprecedented thing. In fact, this might be the first year when we might have to put up a ‘House Full’ board. We usually announce a last date and then keep extending it to accommodate people. This time we actually might have to shut down because there is a physical constraint. To be honest, I hope it doesn’t happen because I will be heartbroken to turn back any of the members. So, we will try to accommodate as many as possible. We are already working with the hotel to increase the capacity in various ways – both for meals and the hall capacity. And the fact that we have the highest number of sponsors on board despite the demonetisation is also very encouraging,” Bhasin continued.

The Abbys has been the pioneer in Indian creative awards: Nakul Chopra 

Shedding more light on the digital initiatives this year, Nakul Chopra, President, AAAI, said, “There are many ways in which the festival is engaging the audience digitally as well. The festival has to keep pace with technology in the way it interfaces with its participants. Last year, we had made the festival a free WiFi zone and there is an app to interface with the fest. Also, there are a lot of incentives for people who participate and keep pace with the changing environment, have a great exposure to the sessions and also interact with the speakers.” 

Sharing his thoughts on the speakers and sessions that people can look forward to the most at Goafest this year, Chopra pointed out that Goafest has got all excellent speakers this time as well. “We have the Phogat sisters, Sanjay Dutt, speaker from Facebook and many more. I can assure you that our endeavour is that every speaker session is fulfilling in its own way. So, it’s not a question about a specific star speaker, some are stars by popular appeal and others are stars in their respective specialisation. All the speakers who come here are from the industry, from allied creative and technology related fields, who speak about things for our young people to be inspired,” he said. 

The Abby Awards have been an integral part of Goafest since last many years. The iconic award has been the pioneer in Indian creative awards and has played a molecular role in building the creative reputation of the Indian advertising industry.

The awards have set another benchmark in transparency and efficacy this year, with the shortlist being available for review after receiving the highest ever number of creative entries. The shortlists selected by the jury panels have been progressively uploaded on www.abbyshortlist.com.  

Goafest is a complete learning, entertainment & meaningful experience: Ramesh Narayan 

On the decision to open the Abby shortlist for review, Ramesh Narayan, Chariman, Awards Governing Council, Abby Awards, said, “The decision to display the shortlist is not new. This time we just ensured two things. The point that shortlists would be displayed was published prominently. Also, we planned jury sessions in a way that there was an average of seven days between the shortlist going up and the commencement of Round 2 of judging. This was to ensure that objections of any kind could be screened and placed before the jury in Round 2. This was to ensure complete transparency in the process.”

When asked to comment on how some quarter of the ad industry felt that Goafest is becoming more of a platform for the Abby awards than a platform for sharing views and knowledge, Narayan maintained that GoaFest is home to the Abbys. But the Awards are only every evening. Throughout the day there are interesting and meaningful sessions that make the Goafest a complete learning, entertainment and meaningful experience, he pointed out.

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