Sohini Sen
Advertising

"If this rubs wrong people the wrong way, so be it": iCONGO's Jerry Almeida on film targetted at Cannes jurors

Do award festivals, like the upcoming Cannes Lions, turn copywriters and art directors into 'good Samaritans with an expiry date'? iCONGO - Indian Confederation of NGOs - seems to think so and says so in a video targetted at Cannes jurors. The video is becoming a rage online.

Do ad agencies have a responsibility beyond communicating an idea? Should they worry about education, unemployment or other issues affecting the country? As awards season approaches, agencies come up with brilliant ideas to not just display the features of products, but also to help the less privileged - a grouse iCONGO (Indian Confederation of NGOs) has presented in its film.

The two-and-a-half-minute-long film shows how powerful creative ideas transform the lives of people from the underprivileged sections of society. Be it about education in Lucknow's Aminabad or Delhi's Shadipur or Mumbai's Bhorgaon, the film showcases how helping hands from creative agencies are extended only during April-June, which in industry lingo is the 'awards season'. The narrator then pleads with the Cannes Lion jury to consider making it a quarterly awards ceremony, implying that even if only to win the awards, agencies continue to do the good work they do during the three months in question.

"If this rubs wrong people the wrong way, so be it": iCONGO's Jerry Almeida on film targetted at Cannes jurors
iCONGO, a citizen movement, tries to sensitise & create awareness amongst people at large about socio-political issues. It has been working for the past six years in various fields. Its website states - 'along with being good humans, we all need to be good citizens and know our responsibility towards our state and all our people'.

Released just before the awards season, (Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is slated to be held in the end of June), the timing is meant for the jurors and organisers to take notice.

"If this rubs wrong people the wrong way, so be it": iCONGO's Jerry Almeida on film targetted at Cannes jurors
According to Jeroninio Almeida, founder, iCONGO, "it was not meant to point fingers or find faults. But, we have always tried to provoke a thought process through the creative community. And looking at PSAs I have seen, some agencies do it with the right intent and some don't."

iCONGO has started with a video appeal to the Cannes Lion jury - which is considered as the biggest awards in the creative industry. But, it plans to take it forward by communicating with other advertising awards jury - from Ad Asia to Goafest. Not just that, it plans to have a roast - a disciplined and respectable one - with the creative community as the 'guest'.

So far, Josy Paul, Subramani Ramachandran, Tarun Chauhan and Sandipan Bhattacharya have confirmed. Almeida hopes to invite Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi and Dhunji Wadia for the roast as well. Considering that the people behind the campaign are also from various agencies, working pro-bono, and in their independent capacity, it shouldn't be difficult to find brave takers.

Could this backfire, we asked Almeida, who seemed rather unperturbed. The data - based on the phone calls they get from agencies in these three months - claims that it is not a far-fetched truth.

"Our motto at iCONGO is to 'make every wrong, right'. Having said that, if this rubs some wrong people the wrong way, so be it. I feel that agencies are doing such great work, if they channelise it in the right direction and do more than just lip service, we can make so much difference," he adds.

Has the video created the desired impact on the ad fraternity? Here's what folks from the ad industry have to say about the video.

"If this rubs wrong people the wrong way, so be it": iCONGO's Jerry Almeida on film targetted at Cannes jurors
"If this rubs wrong people the wrong way, so be it": iCONGO's Jerry Almeida on film targetted at Cannes jurors
"If this rubs wrong people the wrong way, so be it": iCONGO's Jerry Almeida on film targetted at Cannes jurors
Arun Iyer, national creative director, Lowe Lintas, seems to have loved it beyond words. "I feel this is exactly what happens and it shows what I feel. They have used sarcasm to let us know that, as an industry, we must wake up. Anyone who tells you otherwise, is just lying," he says.

SapientNitro's CCO, KV Sridhar (Pops), does not share Iyer's enthusiasm. According to him, it can be looked at both ways. A lot of NGOs want to get into the public eye to get funding, while agencies can benefit by winning an award.

"Even if while working for three months, an agency changes the life or mindset of even one person, then I think the job is not futile. I can use the talent I have to make a difference. And this is a win-win for both - agencies might get an award and NGOs get the funding to bring about the required changes in society," explains Pops.

Santosh Padhi (Paddy), co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot, however, feels that someone would only talk about this because it makes for a fabulous idea to talk about, not to make a change.

"What agencies do is maybe make 0.01 per cent change in the lives of the underprivileged. But, there is so much more happening. I don't know why anyone would blow it out of proportion. It is not pointing a finger at the ad community directly, but doing it through Cannes. I feel that the advertising industry is being targetted unjustly," Padhi says.

He also questions if the data can be proved in any way - that public service in the underprivileged sections happen more in the three months leading to the awards season.

"There are so many things which are done throughout the year. Not even half of them are entered in the awards. If iCONGO made this video and gave the kids in the video, say, food for a day of the shoot, then they might as well make 365 more such videos and make their lives better. But, the truth is, what we are doing is only a small part of the contribution. Many brands and corporates are also taking up social initiatives now, for things they truly believe in," Padhi adds.