Benita Chacko

In its 17th edition now, a relook at the origins of Goafest

Conducted for the first time in 2006, it was conducted for all of Rs 1.70 crore.

18 years ago, Goafest, India’s premier advertising awards and event, was conducted with a budget of just Rs 1.70 crore. Today, it is hard to imagine holding even one of the three days with this meagre sum. 

Such comparisons are fun to read and imagine, but they shine light on an important fact: despite inflation, the event has remained a constant in the Indian advertising calendar year. 

Hosted by the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and The Ad Club, Goafest is the annual industry meet-up which every ad folk must attend at least once in their career. But how did it all begin?

Conducted for the first time in 2006, it is the result of a desire of SK Swamy, then president of AAAI, to establish the most prestigious advertising award in India. Back then, the AAAI awards competed with two other national advertising awards – The Abbys and CAG. 

Speaking about the origin of the festival, Swamy, chairman and managing director, R K Swamy, says, “I was elected president of AAAI in 2004. At that time, the AAAI Awards, while notable, were not considered the most prestigious in India. As president, I aimed to elevate the status of these awards. We believed that to achieve this, we needed to revamp the awards process and create a new standard of excellence.”

The AAAI decided to transform the awards ceremony into a major event. This led to the conception of a festival, eventually settling on hosting it in Goa. “We chose Goa for its proximity to Mumbai and it’s also well-connected to other cities. Also, there is a romantic vibe to the city- everyone wants to be in Goa,” he says.

The idea evolved into a three-day event. The festival was designed to combine awards, knowledge sessions, seminars, and entertainment, turning it into a carnival-like celebration on the beaches of Goa, near Hyatt Regency.

“To encourage participation from young professionals, we offered a special package for Rs 4,500. Anyone under 30 could attend, which included flight tickets, accommodation for two nights, food, and drinks. For senior professionals, the cost was Rs 9,000, covering their expenses for travel and stay. This initiative ensured broad participation and helped establish the festival as a prestigious and highly anticipated event in the industry,” he adds.

In its very first year, the event attracted over 1,000 delegates and ensured robust participation from various agencies. Star also got onboard as the title sponsor, paying Rs 50 lacs. 

Ramesh Narayan, former president of The Ad Club, recalls visiting Goa with SK Swamy and Arvind Sharma, former Goafest chairman, as part of a recce. They also went to meet then CM Pratapsingh Rane seeking his support for the event and got funding of Rs 10-15 lacs. 

“I think they took me along to pick my brains about it,” he shares.

In the first two editions, the Ad Club stayed away from the event. However, in 2008, it buried the hatchet and Abby Awards was integrated into Goafest. The two organisations reached an agreement: The Ad Club, which owns the Abby Awards, was responsible for appointing the jury and judging the awards. The awards would then be presented at Goafest. This event, featuring days of seminars and nightly award ceremonies, would be organised by the AAAI. This collaboration has been successful, and both organisations continue to work together harmoniously.

The rest, as they say, is history. 

Now in its 17th edition, Goafest is taking place in Mumbai this year from May 29 to 31. This year, 50 brands and platforms, including Tata Motors, Mondelez, ITC Foods, Britannia, Guinness World Records, NoBroker, and MakeMyTrip, as well as platforms such as ShareChat, Sony Liv, Flipkart Ads, Amazon Ads, Spotify, MiQ, The Trade Desk and Whisper Media, have partnered with Goafest. It is co-presented by Snapchat along with WhatsApp as the ‘Technology Partner’, and Hindustan Times as the ‘Digital Partner’.

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