Abby Awards 2004: Brand India in focus

By , agencyfaqs! | In | February 11, 2004
There appears to be a fair bit of excitement in advertising agencies vis--vis the newly constituted 'Brand India' category at this year's Abby Awards


With the first round of judging for the 37th Abby Awards (Abby 2004) set to commence in a week's time, the atmosphere in advertising agencies has shifted from one of furious action - centered at sending in entries for the annual awards - to one of anticipation at the outcome of the judging. The results of the judging, of course, will be made public only at the Abby Awards function - which is scheduled to be held sometime in March - but that doesn't appear to be coming in the way of speculation over what work would claim top honours this year.

This does not, however, imply that 'Abby action' is in a state of stasis. On the contrary, there appears to be a fair bit of excitement in agencies vis--vis the newly constituted 'Brand India' category, which is still open to entry (for the record, entries for this category close on February 28). The idea behind the Brand India category, to quote the Bombay Ad Club Website, is 'to strengthen the Brand India theme that is increasingly gaining ground'. The objective, as set before agencies, is to create a piece of communication that showcases India to either an Indian or an international audience.

"There is a general sense of India having arrived on the global scene, and last year's AdAsia in Jaipur signaled Brand India's arrival on the advertising stage," explains MG 'Ambi' Parameswaran, executive director, FCB-Ulka, and president of The Advertising Club Bombay. "The thought of Brand India, which was showcased so well at AdAsia, is being taken forward this year in the form of a new category at the Abbys. We thought such a category - which had the best advertising minds showcasing an India that we are all proud of - would be a fitting finale to AdAsia." The Ad Club website mentions that the work entered under Brand India will be judged by a separate panel of judges, and Parameswaran reveals that the jury for this category is "being constituted".

Despite it being a one-off 'special category' for the 37th Abby Awards, Parameswaran attaches a lot of importance to the category. "Let me assure you that the Brand India category will be treated on par with important categories such as Best Continuing Campaign of the Year and Campaign of the Year," he says. And going by what informed sources have to say, it appears as if the points awarded to the winning entries in this category would accrue to the respective agencies. Which would, in turn, have a bearing on the overall points tally. It follows that the points won in this category could determine where an agency figures in the awards hierarchy.

That aside, it is the novelty and 'timeliness' of the category that seems to have impressed ad folk. "I think it is an interesting call to agencies to showcase their take on Brand India," says Raj Nair, associate vice-president - creative, Contract Advertising. "If AdAsia is any indication, there is a desire to showcase Brand India as an emerging force. I think the new category affords a great opportunity to do some good work, and you could have some very interesting work coming out of the exercise. It's a question of seeing how differently one can showcase India." He adds that his agency will "surely take a crack at it".

Prathap Suthan (national creative director, Grey Worldwide), who is behind the much-talked-about 'India Shining' campaign around which the Brand India brief is loosely modeled, believes a category such as this was long overdue. "Even in the past, there was work that had been created for India, the brand," he says. "But there was no place at award shows to enter such work. It was time we had such a category, and the creation of the category is most welcome. 'India Shining' is a good campaign, but I am sure there are many more campaigns out there that touch the grassroots consumer better. All that work deserves to be acknowledged." Suthan is, in fact, all for making Brand India a regular category at awards. "People will be proud to do work for the country. A category like this one is a great opportunity to express one's love for the motherland."

There is, however, some confusion over what constitutes a Brand India campaign. "I understand that there is a feel-good wave happening, and it's a good idea to have a Brand India category that rides on the prevailing mood. But what is not clear is the criteria and the requirements to enter work in this category," Anup Chitnis, senior creative director, Mudra Communications, vocalizes the confusion. Making his point, Chitnis asks whether a pan-Indian campaign that reflects the success of a brand or a product can be construed as a Brand India campaign. "You can focus on developments in the telecom sector or in infrastructure, but then it becomes a campaign for the Government of India," he argues. "I think the brief should have been more clearly defined, as it's not possible to think of Brand India in isolation. Yes, 'India Shining' becomes a starting point by virtue of being the only one of its kind, but is the objective only about bettering 'India Shining'?"

Parameswaran, for his part, clarifies that the entries in the Brand India category "should not be for any particular brand or product category." While admitting that the brief has been kept open, he adds, "The entries should celebrate the arrival of India at the world stage, and can address either an Indian audience or an international one. It's about seeing how best we can tell the world about the success of Brand India."

The fact that it's an open brief is something that should work to the advantage of agencies, feels Adrian Mendonza, vice-president & executive creative director, Rediffusion | DYR. "Because it is open to creative interpretation, it provides an area of opportunity to do anything for India," he reasons. "It could even be something that stirs the consciousness of the people and makes them think." In fact, Mendonza believes the work created for this category need not necessarily reflect the feel-good factor as showcased in 'India Shining'. "The stock market need not be the indicator for everything, and doing something based on feel-good alone will be too close to 'India Shining'."

As with Contract's Nair, Mendonza admits he'd like to make an entry in the category. "It's an interesting category, much better than having a category called 'Unpublished Work'," he says. "I think doing a campaign for Brand India is better than doing an arbitrary campaign for the sake of winning an award." He is, however, keen on knowing how the Ad Club proposes to take the award-winning work in this category forward. "Agencies will be doing the best work for Brand India. But will it stop at an award or will the Ad Club help the winning campaign or ad by putting it on air? That is something the Ad Club must look at, so that lay people actually get to see the work that gets created." © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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