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Digital transformation makes its presence felt at Goafest 2019

Goafest 2019 has finalised the agenda for the three days of festivities at the Grand Hyatt in Bambolim. Like the previous years, this year the Goafest line-up consists of a strong mix of advertisers, celebrities, journalists, artists, and media owners. Ahead of the festivities, Adgully spoke to Nakul Chopra, Chairman of Goafest; Ashish Bhasin, CEO, Greater South – Dentsu Aegis Network and Chairman & CEO India; and Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands, on various aspects of this year’s agenda.

What is the objective of Goafest?

Nakul Chopra: The primary focus of Goafest is to create a platform from where people can get inspiration, learning, collaboration and celebration. That is the motive behind all three days of the seminars and awards. The lens through which we see the speakers is either they are bringing the latest cutting-edge points of view of our industry from around the world or they are bring learning and inspiration for our delegates from related industries, or they are bring that from arenas like sports and life from which our young people can be inspired.

Goafest is unique in that it is the only festival of its size and scale, where over 50% of the delegates are under the age of 30. If you go to any other festival anywhere, whether at a regional level or a global level, the whole costing is such that junior people never get to go there. Even if they get to go there, they don’t get to go there in large numbers. This being a festival conceived by industry associates and not being a profit-making body, our focus has been to democratize it and we highly subsidize these younger people so that they can come in large numbers and they are our key target group for whom we try and bring this learning and inspiration.

Do you believe Goafest may rival Cannes one day?

Ashish Bhasin: The objective is not to become another Cannes. Goafest is home to the ABBYs, one of the premier advertising awards in India. However, the objective of the entire festival is to celebrate creativity. The awards are one part of it.

There are two very important things. First is learning, not just from advertising people but also from people in related fields or people in leadership positions. You get to learn from film personalities, sports personalities, authors, journalists, marketers; from their experiences and ups and downs.

The second most important thing is the camaraderie. This is the only time of the year when the entire advertising fraternity gets together, irrespective of whether you are a media agency, creative agency, media house, or brand. At Goafest, you get to interact with people from different parts of the country and from across the world.

The speaker line-up for this year is as eclectic as ever. Comment.

Nakul Chopra: This year, in the industry conclave 3 out of 4 speakers are from the e-commerce side. For some years now, starting from 2013, we have reoriented the industry conclave with the aim of making it a platform from which all the media owners and agencies can listen to the point of view of the advertiser. In the last two years, we have had people from Patanjali like Baba Ramdev, we had RS Sodhi of Amul (GCMMF), Harit Nagpal of Tata Sky and D Shivakumar, former CEO of PepsiCo India. What we try to do is always bring the people who are bringing the change on the advertiser front. Don’t forget that the grammar is changing substantially on that front as well.

Today, the largest advertisers on television are two categories – e-commerce players and smartphone players. Their needs are substantially different from the typical FMCG, Automobile and Consumer Durables players, who were traditionally the big spenders. Their (e-commerce) approach is much more tactical, more interactive, and they are far more responsive to changes in the marketplace. So, agencies have to restructure themselves to provide the speed and flexibility while considering the cost aspect to it. If you have to make 40 films a year compared to 4 films a year, the price at which you can do it is different.

This year, we thought e-commerce is a very large advertiser segment, one of the fastest growing and so we focused on that.

Ashish Bhasin: Advertising is something that is constantly evolving. Over the years, digital and technology have become an important part of advertising. This platform will be host to global thinkers and global CCOs. We are hopeful that Gordon Bowen, Founder of Mcgarrybowen and now global Chief Creative Officer of Dentsu Aegis Network, will be present.

However, it is not enough that advertising people listen only to advertising people. You have to open your hearts and minds to the learnings from other related fields. Film is a relatable profession that overlaps with our profession. There are leadership sessions, sports personalities, who face very difficult circumstances but still have to work in a team and try to solve those problems. So, it is a mix of all interconnected fields. That’s the thinking behind it.

The conclave is usually held on the first day as it is this year as well. We tend to mark the conclave with some theme or topic. Last year, it was about Indian brands and Patanjali was present. Quite clearly this year, e-commerce players have made the most significant impact on our industry. Both in terms of advertising, business and impacting the business of our traditional clients. The thinking is since e-commerce is becoming so important, it is a good opportunity for our younger people to learn from them. That will show them where the world is going in the future. You can’t just hang on to what you’ve been doing in the last 20 years, you have to see where the world is going and open your mind to that. Whether you like it or not, change is happening and it is important that you see it.

What is the mix of delegates at Goafest?

Nakul Chopra: We are equally focused towards the marketers, media and the agencies. Even if you see the delegate count, while I won’t pretend that marketers come in very strong numbers, they do come in fair numbers. If you exclude that, there is a very good balance between the media companies and agencies.

Will digital campaigns come to the forefront this Goafest 2019?

Nakul Chopra: We have seen a strong double-digit growth in entries of digital campaigns in this Goafest and we have been reporting it ever since I joined Goafest.

The number of organisations who are sending entries to Goafest has been rising by 15-20% a year. While we are all aware that a lot of the big agencies are not participating, thus all this growth is coming from the smaller agencies; many or, I would say, most of whom are digital agencies.

Ashish Bhasin: The answer is that I don’t know. I feel that the digital related work over the years has gained more prominence and will continue to gain prominence. I won’t be surprised if one of these days digital agencies start doing as well as or even better than traditional creative agencies in terms of creativity. In my view you will definitely see more contribution from the digital campaigns.

Shashi Sinha: It’s not in all categories but in some categories, you see that. For example, one of the big winners in media and one of the big winners in digital is that. But you don’t see that across the board. Creativity still rules. Traditional is still important.

What are your thoughts on the work done this year?

Shashi Sinha: Overall, there is good work. Some work was very good and some work was nice. Our Master Jury is very picky and selective and it picked up only the very good work. On the media side as well we have a Master Jury in place and they have also done a fabulous job. What we have done on creative, we have also done on the media side.

How has the participation been this year for the ABBYs?

Shashi Sinha: Our overall number of entries have remained the same. But one of the big participants didn’t come in, so that’s been made up by a lot of the smaller agencies. The independents as you call them. Year by year, Goafest is becoming a thing of the smaller agencies and democratisation due to a lot of independents participating. I know that the overall numbers are around 2,700 or so. Last year’s big participant didn’t come in, so obviously the distribution has been made up by other new companies coming in.

You had said earlier that tech has levelled the playing field between the big and small agencies? Will that reflect in the results?

Shashi Sinha: When you see the results, you will see that creativity is anyone’s capability. Technology is anyone’s game. When the results are out, you will see in categories like digital and media all kinds of companies and all kinds of winners.

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