N. Shatrujeet

Advertising awards: A question of relevance - Part II

The second part of this story analyzes what constitutes ‘the industry’s award’, and whether the Indian ad industry should replace all the existing local awards with one relevant national award

The first question that needs to be answered is, is the Triple As truly the industry's award? To begin with, many contest the claim by pointing out that the Triple A Awards are open only to members of the AAAI (Advertising Agencies Association of India). "The Triple As are not for the full industry, so how can they call themselves the industry's award?" asks one creative director with a non-member agency.

"If the Triple As is the industry's award, what is the Ad Club (Abby)?" is a rejoinder from Piyush Pandey, group president & national creative director, O&M. "You can give as many definitions of ‘industry' as you want. And okay, the Triple As is the ‘official' award, but Cannes is a private institution, yet the most desirable. It doesn't matter which authority back an award - what makes it great is its desirability." Pandey quickly adds that he has nothing against the AAAI. "We will evaluate the Triple As every year, and if some time we think it's the best place to put our money, we'll enter."

Anand Halve of chlorophyll feels that the Triple A Award suffers from the currency problem. "Bodies cannot assume authority at will," he says. "It is the participants who accord the bodies respect and make the awards relevant. To my mind, the AAAI was constituted to ensure the professional functioning of the industry, to arbiter in the event of disputes and to address governing issues such as taxation, censorship etc. The mandate of the Triple As is not creative excellence. Whereas, the Ad Clubs were constituted to share creative thinking and recognize creative work."

In fact, one of the biggest problems that most creative folk have with the Triple As is its perceived ‘anti-creative' bias. For one, unlike in the case of the Abbys, the Triple A jury is a 50-50 ‘mandatory' mix of creative and management people. "Business measurement happens 365 days a year," says Pandey. "Awards are one time of the year when agencies want to measure their craft. And I believe that craft has to be judged by those who practice the craft and not the business."

Then there is the officious dress code that has to be adhered to at the award ceremony. "The problem with the Triple As is it is stuffy and elitist," says Chax (K.S. Chakravarthy), director, Persistence of Vision (POV). "The Abbys is more mass-oriented, and has successfully captured the spirit of the profession." Chax also points out that the Triple As has been constricted by its ‘maximum 10 judges' rule. "Every award is only as good as its jury," he says. "Now the Ad Club has tried very hard to cast a wider net and get more creative heads onto the jury. The signal that this sends is ‘You will be judged by your most successful peers.'"

Of course, not everyone thinks simply adding judges will solve the problem. "I don't believe in the Abby rule of having too many judges," says Balki (R. Balakrishnan), executive creative director, Lowe. Explaining his case, he says. "I think there are 10 or 15 people in this industry who are really qualified to judge creative work. The problem with getting 30-40 judges is that these 10-odd individuals who really matter are outvoted by the remaining mediocrity. I think it is the award committees' responsibility to find and empanel only good judges. Otherwise, the fate of your campaigns will always be decided by people with whom you would never want to associate professionally, which is atrocious." Incidentally, Balki informs that Lowe hasn't sent any entries for this year's Abbys, and a decision is yet to be taken on this.

Which basically means that even the Abbys need not necessarily constitute the ‘industry's award'. And this doesn't bode well for the assessment of creativity because, if one set of agencies does not participate in the Triple As, and another stays away from the Abbys, getting a fix on the industry standard would be tough. So, a pertinent question would be, shouldn't the Indian ad industry do away with so many awards and have one relevant national award in its place?

Almost everyone agrees that there is no point in having so many advertising awards in this country. "Every second publication has an award, and all the Ad Clubs are trying to become national… it's becoming a bit too much," says Chax. Halve agrees, "People do want awards on the shelf, which is why they participate in every award that comes along. But you cannot have too many awards. Any goon who has had a brush with advertising cannot create awards. Agencies must see if creative excellence is one of the mandates of the body before participating. Otherwise the win is irrelevant to your peer group."

Balki is quite scathing in his criticism. "Having so many awards is a waste of time. And the Ad Clubs etc are only into this to make money. It's got very little to do with creativity. I certainly think there should be one award, but for it to gain credibility, the industry must first judge whether it's worth giving the jury the opportunity to judge the industry's work." Pandey too champions a one-award system. "There is only one Ranji Trophy in India, not six… one for every zone. Similarly, we must have only one advertising trophy. I would urge the industry to have one national event that all agencies support and are a part of. Till we are divided and have so many awards, we can't put our best foot forward."

It's one thing agreeing that we need one national award. It's another sitting down and putting the process in place. And even here, there are so many conflicting opinions on what that one award should encompass in terms of rules, systems and procedures that there's enough potential for agencies to quickly take a ‘principled stand' and dissociate from the process. After all, as things stand, there is always another award to participate in.

As Balki puts it, "If there was only one award, agencies would actually lose out by not participating. But today, there are so many awards that agencies can happily stay away knowing they can win something somewhere else." © 2002 agencyfaqs!