season is here, bringing with it the expected truckload of scams yet again. It isn't a secret that both at the domestic and international level, ads are often created purely for winning award trophies, which in turn serve as visiting cards for ad folk. In the case of scams, agency persons convince themselves (and juries) with the knowledge that the ad appeared in some medium or the other, while the truth stares back at them in the form of a trophy - not necessarily a bad thing, provided the hypocrisy (of the ad having worked for the client) had been left out.
agencyfaqs! spoke to some key advertisers to uncover what they really feel about ad awards and scams. Kishore Biyani, managing director, Pantaloon Retail (India), is merciless: "Ad guys have been in a self-congratulatory mode for as long as I can remember. Ads that tend to win at these awards shows have nothing to do with clients." To him, the solution is the abolishment of all ad awards shows, and the creation of a system in which consumers in the marketplace are the judges of a brand/ad's performance. "All awards are sham, and media hype has a lot to do with it," Biyani says.
Pota is a little poetic when he says that awards definitely have a role to play - but in the larger scheme of things, they have a smaller role to play. On whether awards really help build brands, Pota is in two minds: "From a client perspective, it may or may not further the brand's business agenda."
Mayank Pareek, executive officer, marketing and sales, Maruti, isn't quite so diplomatic; to him, awards most definitely don't add value to a brand or company in any way. "Consumers don't buy a product because it got an award; these are for creative people to feel good about themselves after slogging," he says.
An advertiser even goes so far as to say that his/her agencies in the past have approached him/her with scam ideas, which the advertiser shot down (name of the advertiser withheld on request).
Sameer Suneja, chief executive officer, Perfetti Van Melle, is of the view that a scam totally depends on the relationship that the client and agency share. "Many clients wouldn't want to give permission for these," he says, stating the obvious.
Sanjay Behl, head, brand and marketing, Reliance Communications, gives the benefit of the doubt to the ad industry. As there are separate effectiveness awards (the Effies) already in place, Behl doesn't see any harm in a celebration of creativity.
"Of course, creative folk should have a platform to showcase their best work and get recognised among their peers," he says, "and agencies are mature enough to understand where to draw the line." On further probing, Behl allows for the theory that creative folk do tend to go overboard sometimes when displaying their creativity. "But I'm okay with it," he asserts.
Bharat Patel, chairman, Procter & Gamble, is objective. To him, awards make a lot of sense as great work deserves to be awarded. However, scams are a strict no-no. "Over 20 years ago, Shunu Sen of Hindustan Unilever remarked that if his agency wins an award for his brand, then it's a cause for worry as the brand isn't being built," smiles Patel. So, would Patel agree with the late Sen? "If you ask me, the policies for entries need to be revised," he says.
Echoing his thoughts is Suneja of Perfetti, who says there should be a strict system in place which evaluates the minimum reach, frequency and GRPs of the concerned ad. "Only after an ad meets certain criteria should it be allowed," Patel asserts. "An ad that has just appeared once or twice must be disregarded; it should have enjoyed a longish run in the chosen medium." Patel applauds ads such as Nike's Traffic, which was not only creatively entertaining, but also rated high on visibility. He also admits to preferring the Effies over the Abbys because the former gives equal weight to ad effectiveness.
Anisha Motwani, senior vice-president, marketing, Max New York Life, looks at the brighter side of things. "Creative work which is awarded reiterates the fact that good work eventually sells in the marketplace," she says.
Nadia Chauhan, director, marketing, Parle Agro, is the eternal optimist. "I was at the Cannes Ad Festival a few years ago, and I noticed that the simplest ideas, executed fantastically, ended up winning lions," she says. "Work like that inspires me as a client to push my agency to do better."
Chauhan is in favour of celebrating creativity and thinking differently, but instead of resorting to December advertising, creative guys should try and convince clients to run those ads all the year round. "Our consumers are more intelligent than we think, and are ready for the next level of creativity," she iterates. Her mantra for the 'scamomania' debate? "Resist wasteful impulses, but don't be too conservative either."