N. Shatrujeet

Triple A Awards 2002: Judging starts today, but...

The absence of quite a few leading agencies has cast a shadow over this year’s awards, but the newly constituted International Critics Award should keep interests alive

The judging for this year's first major Indian advertising award - the Triple A Awards 2002 - commences today, with a 14-member jury putting the creative product from 2002 under the microscope. However, even as the jury gets down to the task, the eighth Triple A Awards is having to put up with dampened spirits owing to low agency participation. More than a handful of big agencies - at least those with a reputation of picking up metals - have decided to keep away from this year's event… for various reasons. More on that anon.

One interesting feature at this year's awards is the newly constituted category, International Critics Award for TV Entries. The category, cast in the ‘Grand Prix' format of international award shows, will constitute all television commercials entered at this year's awards. And to reinforce the ‘global' aspect of this category, the Triple A Awards committee has invited leading creative lights from abroad as its judges.

This international panel includes Neil Johnson, creative director, DDB, Singapore, Christopher D'Rozario, senior partner and creative director, JWT, New York, Ms Milka Pogliani, creative director, McCann, Milano (Italy), Robyn Putter, creative head, O&M, Johannesburg, Mark Fong, creative director, DY&R, Singapore, and Jeremy Craigen of DDB, London. India's Piyush Pandey (O&M) and Mohammed Khan (Enterprise Nexus) are also a part of this panel, "as they are in the same league in terms of stature", says Kaushik Roy, executive director, Mudra Communications, and chairman, AAAI Awards committee. The judging for this category will happen at an individual level, and Roy informs that the tapes will be dispatched to the panelists coming Monday.

Here's how this category would impact this year's participating agencies. Take, for instance, an agency that has entered a television commercial for, say, a washing machine brand. The 14-member Indian jury would judge the spot in the Home Electronics and Entertainment category, along with all the other commercials for consumer durables. Now, by virtue of being a television commercial, the entry automatically qualifies for the International Critics Award for TV Entries too. However, in this category, the washing machine ad could end up competing with a commercial for a chewing gum or one for a luxury car. All television commercials, across categories, would vie for the international panel's attention.

Now, for argument's sake, let us assume that the above-mentioned washing machine ad is awarded a silver (by the Indian jury) in the Home Electronics and Entertainment category. Simultaneously, the ad could also pick up a gold in the International Critics Award category. And the award-winning agency gets to keep both awards!

"What the international panel will do is look at all the television commercials entered, and decide what is worth awarding," says Roy. "It is for them to decide on the number of golds, silvers and bronzes they would want to give, so you could have five golds being awarded, or you could have none. It's something like the Best of Show."

There are quite a few reasons for constituting the new category, Roy points out. "One reason is that, in India, every advertising contest ends up with the same juries, more or less. So, every time, you have the same biases that come into play, the same judging patterns and the same results. This is an attempt to inject some newness into the judging." It can also be seen as a ‘lobbying exercise'. "We have tried to get people who are judges at festivals like Cannes," Roy continues. "We want them to see the kind of work we do in India. Chances are that if they see specimens of good creative here, they'll carry home a good impression. And the next time they hear of an entry from India at the international award shows, they'll take pains to see it."

Of course, one of the primary reasons for the category coming into being is an increasing desire among Indian agencies to be judged on global standards. "Today, most agencies see winning international awards as important, so the AAAI has provided a platform where Indian work will be judged by that yardstick," says Roy. "It's an opportunity for us to know where we stand and whether we're capable of winning abroad."

All of it sounds good, but for the fact that quite a few top-level Indian agencies haven't entered their work this year. A spot check shows that O&M, Leo Burnett India, Quadrant Communications, Lowe, Publicis Ambience, Lemon, Euro RSCG India and Contract Advertising aren't participating. Nothing new about O&M, Burnett and Ambience not participating - they abstained last year too. But the absence of Lowe, Contract and Quadrant doesn't augur well. After all, these were the three top agencies at last year's Triple A Awards, accounting for close to 50 per cent of all awards - and all golds - given away.

Quite a few reasons have been tendered for not participating in the Triple A Awards. One is the economics of participating in too many award shows. Most Indian agencies are entering their work in leading international award shows (at times because of pressure from the associated multinational networks, though everyone is loath to admitting it), which is quite a drag on the wallet. With a real need to cut down on costs, local awards are the first to get struck off the list. And if there has to be a participation in a local festival, the Abby Awards seem to have become the favoured choice. Then there is the issue of the Triple A Awards not being seen as ‘a celebration of creativity'. And lastly, the fact that some ‘creative agencies' are not participating in the awards has an effect on others - "I'd rather win a silver competing with O&M and Lowe than win a gold in their absence," says one creative director with one of this year's no-shows.

That this has taken some of the sheen out of this year's awards is obvious. "It would be wrong on my part to pretend that this non-participation wouldn't impact the show," Roy shrugs. "It does go against the purpose of the award. But we have to face it and accept it."

This has also reopened the debate on the relevance of award shows. Already, there have been strong suggestions that India should have just one advertising award festival. Roy doesn't agree. "I firmly believe that we should have two award shows," he says. "It keeps both committees on their toes." Citing the early days of the Triple A Awards, he says, "It was the Triple As that made the Bombay Ad Club sit up an take stock. The Triple As were the first to come up with innovative ideas like multiple categories at a time the Ad Club had three. My first year at the Ad Club was nightmarish trying to pull the Abby back on track. What I am saying is there is a constant need to improve, and when you have two strong contenders, it ensures value to the agencies."

Roy adds that much of the non-participation owes its genesis to the money problem at agencies. "That is the impression I got from most people," he says. "Otherwise, we have the support of everyone. Piyush (Pandey) has extended all help, and he is a part of the international panel. So is Mohammed (Khan), not someone who can be dismissed lightly. Also, after two-three years, Nexus is participating this year, so it is a gain." He also points to the composition of the Indian jury: "Nine of the 14 members are from creative, only five, including me, are not. That speaks for itself, doesn't it? All I am saying is that with a little bit of effort and some perception correction, this award can have a place in the industry."

Interestingly, this year, the AAAI has also constituted a set of ‘Marketing Awards' for brands that have performed significantly in their respective categories. These awards are essentially Brand Performance Awards, and would be given away on the basis of AC Nielsen's market data. "There would not be entries in this category, so to say," Roy explains.

With everything done, all eyes are likely to be trained on Judgement Day: February 27, the day of the awards presentation… © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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