Vampires. Werewolves. A self-sale ad. Eklavya Theory. Michael Corvin. 4000 dollars: Pandemonium@Adfest 2018
Pranav Harihar Sharma shares his experience of speaking at AdFest 2018
By Pranav Harihar Sharma, Mumbai | In Advertising | April 11, 2018
"An award festival doesn't know that the speaker they have invited to conduct a session has actually put them (along with himself) on sale on an e-commerce website."
"A speaker who is trying to fund his travel and stay accidentally struck a gold mine in the form of a billion dollar idea."
"A global audience who thinks of the session as 'just another advertising speaker session', during the session, found themselves immersed in the stories of Mahabharata and Hollywood."
The above quotes are just glimpses of the series of events which started off on Feb 5 2018, a day that marks my birthday too.
On Feb 5, 2018, at around 9:30 am, when I checked my inbox I spotted a mail from AdFest saying that I've been invited to AdFest 2018 as a speaker, to conduct a session.
What a perfect birthday gift, I thought.
Little did I know that this won't be a just another 'speaking session'. And for that, I have no one to blame but myself.
So, while going through the requirements for the session, one point caught my eye. And that point wasn't in the 'Requirements' section at all, but in the 'Conditions' section; the famous, the notorious, the brother of the advertising fraternity (especially mutual funds) - the great asterisk. The great asterisk (which has the word' risk' built in) was looking right into my eyes and warning me - *AdFest will not provide travel and stay to the speaker, that has to be borne by the speaker himself.
My eyes turned into a dollar symbol (like Uncle Scrooge's eyes in 'Duck Tales'; only his become that way when he is about to make money, in my case, I was about to lose some. Nevertheless at least the symbol was the same) for the imminent monetary loss in exchange of fame and exposure.
The only breather is the fact that at least the entry pass was provided to the speaker. But an afterthought spoilt that thought too. "Isn't it obvious, to speak at AdFest, one should be allowed to enter the venue of AdFest!"
My subconscious mind reprimanded me. I nodded in agreement and with a heavy heart, I started thinking about the session topic, totally unaware that 'The Great Asterisk' will soon be transformed into a 'greater idea'.
I was speaking on:-
Be Michael Corvin (from the Underworld movies): Hybrid Creatives
The idea here is to figure out a transformation process through which traditional creative roles can be transformed into more dynamic, versatile and 'future-ready' avatars. Sound Pompous? It is. But it's easy.
I know that currently, the country's climate is political, but here, right and left have no political hue, only one colour - grey. Grey-matter, to be precise. The conflict which I'm talking about here is not outside but inside my own brain.
While the right brain was busy exploring the 'Michael Corvin - Hybrid Creative' kind of future and related things, the left brain was pushing me to figure out the more rational and practical of things; related to the present or a very near future, like my travel and stay for AdFest.
So, I instructed my innocent right brain to keep working on the session topic and with his selfish brother i.e. the left brain, I went to the office. There, when I broke the news of me being invited to speak at AdFest for a session, it brought huge (but anticipated by me) cheers, as well as the offer from the agency to fund this pleasure trip.
My left brain screamed so loud inside my skull that my right ear went deaf for a second.
I went back to home and broke the news to my right brain. It was the first time I was rebuked by him. He called me names - selfish, self-centred, a parasite that thrives on the company's money blah... blah... blah... I felt so ashamed that I decided to refuse the offer. My left brain looked at me with burning eyes.
I decided to sleep on it.
But I didn't, as someone (left or right, I don't know) gave me an idea; an idea of putting the session on sale in exchange for money. The thousand-year-old barter idea.
At 3:45 am I put myself, as a speaker, on sale on e-bay. Any brand, big or small, can sponsor my session for just Rs 1, 00,000. In return, the brand will have a presence on an international stage in the form of a logo, on a larger than life screen, for a full 40 minutes, in addition to a mention in the session.
After doing this I felt good. My right and left brains gave me a thumbs-up and I went to sleep.
Once I was done with this, both halves started concentrating on the content of the session. I'm mixing Hollywood, Indian mythology and management to come up with a 'Transformative process' that will change a 'Vampire' or 'Werewolf' creative into a 'Hybrid' future-ready killing machine.
But the thought process was disturbed by a couple of 'pings' on my phone ('No wonder there have been no bigger inventions after the mobile,' I thought in frustration).
These were the messages in response to my 'self-sale' ad. Some people wanted to sponsor. I was about to reply to them, but then I held myself back. Old wisdom says, 'Never act in a hurry'.
I'm glad I listened to that.
I refused the sponsorships. In time, I realized the bigness of the idea of 'Monetizing the sponsor-session at ad festivals.' It's a business idea bro! My left and right brains screamed in chorus. It's a sign, I said to myself.
But I had to pay for these refusals (refusal No. 1 to an agency; refusal No. 2 to sponsors).
4000 dollars, to be precise, for may travel and stay.
I included this 'Monetisation of speaker session' as a starting slide in my session. In fact, I designed it in a way that the session topic of 'Hybrid Creatives' floated from this 'self-sale ad'. The media carried this act and the conversation on social media happened.
Post this act, both parts of my brain worked in tandem and 'never-before ad session content' was made. The content has theories like 'Michael Corvin from Hollywood flicks', Eklavya Theory from Indian mythology like Mahabharata and their amalgamation with management and advertising philosophies.
This was certainly not expected by the audiences at AdFest and hopefully, it was a pleasant surprise for them.
On March 23, 2018 at 4:40 pm, when I finished speaking on the platform, I was light by 4000 dollars, but I was lighter in my brain as well as both brothers - right and left were smiling at me. They were happy that the pandemonium of my brain was out right there on the AdFest 2018 stage, in all its glory.
Spending those 4000 dollars was worth it, they said.
(The author is the executive creative director at Leo Burnett India)