Shreyas Kulkarni

Goafest 2023 and the homecoming of McCann Worldgroup, Wunderman Thompson, and MLLG

It got more traction among people than many of the panels and awards.

Every adland professional wants to attend Goafest at least once in their lifetime. The name is enough to lull one into a sense of FOMO.

The opportunity to visit Goa, on a company-funded trip, and the opportunity to win a metal holds sway, but most people had one thing in and around their minds and speech this time – homecoming.

MullenLowe Lintas Group (MLLG), Wunderman Thompson, and McCann Worldgroup, three advertising giants, had returned to Goafest and the Abbys after years of non-existence.

This was a big coup for organisers of Goafest after it, in 2022, witnessed the return of Leo Burnett into its fold. The Publicis-owned agency won the coveted Creative Agency of the Year a few days ago, as it did in 2022.

The 2023 edition was the second year of Abby’s partnership with The One Show, one of the most aspired for and top recognitions in the field of advertising.

The Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and The Ad Club made sure to announce this return at the curtain raiser of the festival held in Mumbai over a month ago.

When asked about the conversations with the returning agencies, Ajay Kakkar, managing committee member, of The Advertising Club & Co-chair, The ABBYs Award Governing Council, said they have created a platform which they believe is world-class.

“The One Show has endorsed it by lending its name, the jury chairs have lent their name and endorsed it as world-class and the jury members have endorsed it by lending their names,” he remarks.

He makes an interesting point about agencies which have not participated in the festival at all saying many of their clients have entered work. “Imagine when a client says it's a worthy platform, and agencies are holding back, it's a good time to ask why.”

“The One Show collaboration helped because it is right up there in terms of creative advertising awards,” says Satbir Singh, founder, Thinkstr, an independent creative agency on why the three agencies chose to return.

He says a lot of backstage conversations must have helped convince these agencies to return. “It is a great thing because it's an industry event and the industry must be there; the industry must show a united face.”

It is a sentiment to which Rajdeepak Das, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett agrees. He appreciates the structure which the One Show possesses and brings to the Abbys. “... having an award show with a process is amazing, and that is why the industry wants to celebrate,” says the CCO.

He also states that every agency had gone through a bad time during Covid and feels there is nothing better than coming back to where it all started for the agencies.

McCann Worldgroup, one of the comeback agencies surprisingly did not enter work in any category except the ‘Young Maverick Abby Award’, a category exclusive to those under 30 professionals.

“We entered work in the Young Maverick Abby Award category so that our youngsters gain exposure and we are here at the festival to honour it because it is an industry event,” says Prasoon Joshi, Chairman, McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific, and CEO and CCO, McCann Worldgroup India.

The decision, as per Joshi, to stay away from the other categories comes from the agency’s creative council Manthan which decides the awards to enter be it regional, national, or international.

“It is a kind of a budgetary constraint, it is a decision of prioritising, where you will send,” says Joshi and also says, “We participate in everything as a festival but an award show is not necessarily the only yardstick.”

Amin Lakhani, CEO, Mindshare South Asia, a media agency, that won the Media Specialist of the Year and Technology Specialist Agency of the Year awards says “industry recognition is the biggest delight for our teams.”

He feels Goafest has changed over the years and that the content coming out of the panels and masterclasses excites the industry.

“It's the one unique award where creative, digital, technology, mobile, craft, everything gets celebrated, I don't think there is any other award which does this, in the country… And last, it happens in Goa, and it's an attraction for the young and the next generation. There is learning, there is bonding there is sharing, and venting.”

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