Alokananda Chakraborty

AdAsia 2003: Bent on Breaking the Rules

Starting from the choice of the venue to the speakers, the much-awaited AdAsia 2003 plans to demonstrate what it takes to rewrite the rules of the game

The term ‘Break the Rules' has a very feisty, irreverent zing to it. It's just the kind of phrase one would readily associate with campus festivals and the like, but certainly not one that is likely to be sounded at apex conferences hosted for worsted-suited corporatedom. Which is why the theme for the much-awaited Asian advertising congress, AdAsia 2003 (being held in Jaipur, Rajasthan, from November 10), comes as a bit of a surprise.

Break the Rules! This is the theme that AdAsia 2003's advisory board (which comprises such names as MS Banga of Hindustan Lever; Anand Mahindra of Mahindra & Mahindra; Kurush Grant of ITC; Mike Khanna of JWT India; N Murali of the Hindu Group; Nandan Nilekani of Infosys; Gautam Rakshit of Advertising Avenues; Pradeep Guha of the Times Group; Rajeev Bakshi of PepsiCo; Rajiv Chandrashekhar of BPL Innovision; Venu Srinivasan of TVS Motor Company and Ramesh Narayan of Canco Advertising) has decided upon for the four-day congress.

Canco's Narayan - who is also chairman, Planning Committee, AdAsia 2003 - spoke to agencyfaqs! about the reasons for choosing Break the Rules! as the event theme. "The advisory board deliberated long and hard upon the theme for AdAsia 2003," he says. "The more we thought, what came to our mind is that change is the only constant, and those organisations that have been able to anticipate and manage discontinuity are best prepared to be leaders in the time to come. The concept of managing discontinuity led us to the bigger issue of complacency in the manner in which we currently manage our organisations and business models. What emerged is that managing discontinuity calls for wiping the slate clean and rewriting the rules. But at the heart of rewriting the rules lies the idea of breaking set rules. This was just the theme idea we were looking for as AdAsia 2003 will serve as a pointer for breaking rules on a wide range of issues and topics."

Narayan points out that having frozen on a theme, the advisory board was extremely selective in getting speakers for the event. "We have a range speakers - from advertising legends to marketing mavens to strategic thinkers," he says. "And we have consciously looked at people who have broken the rules in their respective fields of expertise. We have Ricardo Semmler, the author of Maverick, who has gone to the extent of saying that business structures are outdated. Then we have Charles Handy, whose book The Elephant and the Flea reflects breaking the rules. Trevor Beattie (chairman and creative director, TBWA Worldwide), Jeff Goodby (co-chairman, creative director, Goodby Silverstein & Partners), Prof CK Prahalad (University of Michigan Business School)… We have briefed all our 20-odd speakers about the theme of AdAsia 2003, and have informed them that we would like them to share their thoughts and ideas around this focal point."

Narayan also draws attention to the "non-metro, non-commercial" nature of the venue (Jaipur). "We broke a rule by selecting a not-so-obvious venue for AdAsia. Then we have an off day (November 12) in between the congress, which gives delegates a chance to take time out for sight seeing - at our expense. This is also a good example of breaking the all-work rule. We are legitimising the bunking that is bound happen from the congress," he smiles.

One very interesting example of breaking the rule can be seen in the logo that has been designed for AdAsia 2003. Instead of the usual peacock or tiger (the country's national bird and animal, respectively), the logo, designed by O&M's Piyush Pandey, shows a matchbox with a caparisoned elephant on it. While the elephant was a part of the design that Contract Advertising created four year's ago when India first bid for hosting the event, the matchbox is a new addition.

"When Piyush created the design, we, like all good clients, asked for a rationale," Narayan smiles. "Piyush explained that all the delegates for the congress were like the innocent match sticks in the box, waiting to be ignited. And the matchbox is representative of the AdAsia 2003. Striking it will create a roaring flame. The matchbox represents pent-up energy, and we plan to release a lot of that energy once the congress gets underway," Narayan promises. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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