'May the right brain win' went the Goafest 2009 theme. But in Adland, under stacks of briefs, unreasonable deadlines, sleepless nights and coffee breaks, one wonders if the right brain (read: creative folk) is allowed the free reign that it 'rightfully' should have.
To inject a breather in the Goan air after several seminars and serious discussions, afaqs! caught hold of some senior level creative heads, firing a volley of questions at them, rapid fire style. We didn't give them time to rehearse, rephrase nor rethink, and before long, amusing wisecracks were pouring out.
afaqs! spoke to six individuals: Ashish Khazanchi and Prasanna Sankhe, national creative directors at Publicis Ambience; Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman and regional creative director, APAC, McCann Erickson; Rahul Jauhari, head, creative, Pickle Advertising; Emmanuel Upputuru, national creative director, Publicis India and V Sunil, global partner and chief creative, W+K India. To know more, read on:
afaqs!: Take a look around. Do you see a slowdown?
Ashish: Yes, of course there is - in the turnout, the number of finalists and in spirit. It's not like last year.
Prasanna (grins): Yes, as you can see, the bar is empty. You can get your drinks in the first try itself.
Rahul: Yes, the turnout is less. But there's no less enthusiasm amongst the lot that has turned up.
V Sunil: No, I don't think there's a slowdown here at all. The Adfest and Dubai Lynx apparently had some 30 per cent drop in entries this year. At the Goafest, entries have gone up this year! Massive black money in this country, I tell you!
Emmanuel: Yes - less people this time. Last year, whole agencies attended; this time only certain selected people were allowed to attend.
afaqs!: Scams - good for creativity, disgusting or necessary evil?
Prasanna: Necessary evil.
Rahul: Disgusting. And I say that being a part of this industry. If it's a craft call, I agree with it as it allows you to test the limit of your creativity. But to win for it?
V Sunil: Good for creativity but only if it is in the right spirit. It is good for agencies doing bad work throughout the year.
Emmanuel: Good for creativity. I love scam. Some may argue that it's unfair that we're making scam compete with genuinely published work. But unless you have a race, you won't know how far you can run. And unless you have a horse, the buffalo won't pull itself up to run smarter. Scams are a measure of how creative one can be.
afaqs!: One word that comes to your mind when we say 'scams winning golds'.
Prasanna: That's ok. When you're judging creative standards, whichever is the best way your idea comes out should be awarded.
V Sunil: The word would have to be 'Bullshit'. It brings a lack of respect to the industry.
Emmanuel: I'm okay with it.
afaqs!: Choosing foreign locales for ad shoots - actual work or paid holiday?
Prasoon: Actual work. It's genuine.
Ashish: I have shot abroad when it was a rainy season in Mumbai, for instance, and there was no way I could shoot here. The deadlines make it unavoidable, so sometimes we have to.
Prasanna: I think it's necessary sometimes. Often, I find that when you drive from here to Kochi and when you go to Cape Town, it's the same thing.
Rahul: Depends on the film. But I think mostly it's honest work that happens.
V Sunil: I think directors are more to be blamed than agencies. Instead of concentrating on the idea, they unnecessarily look for fancy ways of doing it.
Emmanuel: People don't believe you're doing work in any case. Even right now, if I tell my friends I'm in Goa, they won't believe it's for work.
afaqs: Which is the best celebrity-brand fit in recent times?
Prasoon: Aamir Khan in the recent voter's campaign for Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an NGO.
Ashish: Aamir Khan in Tata Sky and Coca-Cola.
Prasanna: Aamir Khan in Coca-Cola.
Rahul: Vidya Balan and Airtel.
V Sunil: Nike, with all its sports personalities.
Emmanuel: Aamir and Tata Sky, and the Saif Ali Khan-SRK fit for Airtel Voice SMS.
afaqs!: The biggest wastage of resources in advertising?
Prasoon: People working on fake ads.
Ashish (quips): Air conditioning. Actually - no comments.
Prasanna: The time it takes to get into offices for meetings. I wish we weren't wasting time travelling to client offices!
Rahul: Talent. There's too much of a hierarchy in place.
V Sunil: Salaries of some senior level people.
Emmanuel (straight face) : Client servicing and travelling by business class.
afaqs!: What do you make of camps and 'group-ism' in the industry?
Prasoon: They shouldn't be there. I hate them.
Ashish: Here, it's all about the number game. "I have to stop that guy" is the mentality. Abroad, it's never a Crispin Porter judge pulling a Mother entry down. It should be a celebration of good work.
Prasanna: The agenda is clear; we're here to celebrate advertising. So, group-ism is sad and reflects the insecurity in the industry. It's not about egos, it's about agendas. It's also ironical that everyone walks away with a metal at the Goafest!
Rahul: It'll take a long time for it to go. It's ironic how divided we are locally, and how much of a community we feel like at Cannes, simply because we feel lonely/outnumbered there.
V Sunil: Unnecessary. It doesn't serve any purpose. Even as we chat, I can see senior industry heads huddling in groups and not even saying 'Hi' to each other. No one cares.
afaqs!: The one speaker you enjoyed listening to at the Goafest this year?
Prasoon: Sir John Hegarty and Dan Wieden. I respect them a lot.
Ashish: I like Dan Wieden. I was looking forward to listening to Thanonchai Sornsrivichai, but that got cancelled.
Prasanna: I wanted to listen to Thanonchai as well. A pity.
Rahul: Frankly, I didn't attend the seminars. I had other things on my mind. I saw the galleries, some brilliant art work there.
V Sunil: Sir John Hegarty. Massive learning there.
Emmanuel: I was waiting for Thanonchai but that didn't happen. I didn't want to listen to the others so much as it would be like listening about their agencies and their agendas.
afaqs!: Complete the sentence: I admire the advertising that comes out of .... (name an agency and a region).
Prasoon: Mother, W+K, Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Country would have to be UK.
Ashish: Crispin Porter+Bogusky and Droga5. London.
Prasanna: TBWA Paris. I like the work out of Paris in general.
Rahul: I don't think it's about an agency reputation at all; it's about the work at the end of the day. In the olden days, Trikaya was known for brilliance. I don't think this applies in today's age anymore.
V Sunil: Crispin Porter+Bogusky. Country? Right now, the UK and the US.
Emmanuel: TBWA Paris, 180 Amsterdam. Country would be Argentina. Their advertising is a bit like ours.
afaqs!: A filmmaker you're comfortable working with/whose style you admire?
Prasoon: Dadu (Abhijit Chaudhuri) of Black Magic and Ram Madhvani of Equinox.
Ashish: I would love to work with Frank Budgen and Noam Murro.
Prasanna: Thanonchai Sornsrivichai of Phenomena.
Rahul: Abhinay Deo of Ramesh Deo Productions. He pitches it just right.
V Sunil: Marco Kalantari. I had a brilliant experience with him on the N-Gage gaming film.
Emmanuel: Abhinay Deo.
afaqs!: Your advice to youngsters in advertising?
Prasoon: Spend time in nurturing work. Build brands.
Ashish: Aim bigger.
Prasanna: Scams are good till a certain extent only. They won't sail you through forever.
Rahul: Ignore agency names; be true to your work.
V Sunil: Don't join advertising! (Laughs) No really, before joining, look at who is running your show, who is your boss and not the agency reputation.
Emmanuel: You're a brand. Work on your branding.
afaqs!: Your advice to CEOs in advertising?
Prasoon: They need to be more hands on, know more about advertising and understand it better.
Ashish: The same thing I said for youngsters. Aim bigger. We're underselling ourselves to clients. Do something about it.
Prasanna: Do something brave, different. Don't have knee-jerk reactions; stop being so…reactive all the time!
Rahul (exasperated): Just chill!
V Sunil: Let creative people run the show. We run our own homes, right? No one tells us how to do it. What makes people think we can't run the business as well?
Emmanuel: Chill! Don't be so serious.