Suraj Ramnath

"There is no pressure from Dentsu to win awards": Santosh Padhi, Taproot

At the recently concluded Goafest Awards, Taproot Dentsu won 40 metals (second only to JWT's 47) of which only two are Gold. That's probably why the agency didn't get written about as much; after all, when it comes to metals, type trumps number.

We spoke to Santosh Padhi, aka Paddy, co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot Dentsu, about all things Abby.

Edited Excerpts.

Edited Excerpts

What is more satisfying? A large number of awards or a Gold?

Both have their own place.

But we're not about quantity. We don't have 9,000 people or six different offices or the many verticals that big networked agencies have. We're just 40 people in one office.

Despite having the might of a network like Dentsu behind you, why do you still call Taproot small? Is it just about the numbers or also about 'that boutique-like' feel?

The reason I call us small is - giant networked agencies have six to seven different verticals each and all these verticals enter (the awards) as one (agency).

At Goafest, there are around 16 categories that you can enter in. You need to have many verticals to enter work in each. Goafest is a platform of quality and quantity but we are only playing the quality game. We don't have the support system to play the quantity game. That's where we are losing out.

Both your Golds happen to be for unconventional brands - one is a media brand (The Times of India) and the other, an industry body (Indian Outdoor Advertising Association). Isn't it more prestigious to win a Gold for a 'regular' brand campaign?

If you do something for the masses, it gets celebrated more, yes. But it is important to win.

Also, it's good to have a variety of awards, across sectors.

How has the importance of awards changed, pre and post Dentsu? As the head of Taproot, awards, we assume, brought you happiness, but as the head of Taproot Dentsu, it's probably a mixture of joy and relief, isn't it?

Luckily, we have never faced a problem from their end. Nobody ever said we need to do this or that. We can decide today that here on we are not going to enter any awards. There is no pressure from Dentsu to win awards.

We recently interviewed Nakul Chopra (CEO, Publicis South Asia, and chairman, Goafest 2016 Organising Committee) about the evolution of the Abby. After a controversy-laden phase few years back, it appears to have got part of its mojo back. Comment.

The industry was divided ten years back and many people tried to create one single local awards show (Abby and Goafest were separate, then). When I was at Leo Burnett, Arvind Sharma (former chairman and CEO, India sub-continent, Leo Burnett) took a lot of initiative to make this happen.

It was wonderful initially; Goafest became very big. Apart from Lowe, everybody entered. To me, that was the best period for Goafest; Ogilvy and JWT were there.

In 2013, it was a fiasco. Super juries were called in. Eight to ten campaigns were involved. It was unfortunate that the entire judging process was not well defined. Many agencies took a hit.

There are some agencies that have been staying away from Goafest. That's not a good sign for the industry and for the youngsters working in those agencies. When we were young, awards and creative glory were the only way for us to get recognised. Fortunately or unfortunately, it's the way a creative guy/girl gets evaluated.

I have been requesting a couple of agencies to come back. Goafest will only get better. They are all talking about problems that are 10-15 years old. We should forget the past.

We have third party auditors like KPMG to check whether the work entered is real; they call every client and check whether the work is legitimate. Such filters don't exist at Cannes or D&AD.

You're way past the stage where you view awards as a career propellant. What was that phase like?

My background is in art. When I came to this industry 20 years back, hardcore art and copy would make or break an ad. When I was a young creative, the biggest awards were the Copywriter of the Year and Art Director of the Year awards. At the end of a given year, one's entire portfolio of work through that year was evaluated for these awards.

At Mudra, I worked for the Art Director of the Year award for four years before I won it.

Leo Burnett, globally, is very pushy. They want glory. There was pressure to win awards there.

Taproot has been winning by default.

At Goafest, agencies win awards in bulk! Hand on heart, how difficult is it to win an Abby, really?

The numbers have increased because the categories have increased.

I think Goafest still has some standards. They are not giving away awards to any damn ad.

Sometimes the judges are generous and sometimes they are tough.

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