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Goafest, 2022, the 15th edition of this much-awaited advertising and marketing event took place from May 5 to 7 at Grand Hyatt Goa. After a hiatus of two years, the Goafest returned with a series of Knowledge Seminars, Master Classes, Award Shows, and a host of entertainment. Talking about the normalcy gradually returning to the post-pandemic world might well have become a cliché for many, but this edition of the Goafest really made us realize what it means to come together, to learn, celebrate, and exchange ideas. The Goafest’s motto for this year was, ‘The Superpower Within.’

The festival saw industry bigwigs come together, as it brought in a total of twenty-eight highly accomplished, power-packed speakers who shared their insights on content, creativity, strategies and stories from the new-age mediums. From Kapil Dev, Dr. Kiran Bedi, PV Sindhu, to Vikrant Massey, and Madhuri Dixit, the Goafest had world-renowned names in attendance. These iconic personalities from Sports and Bollywood inspired the participants by sharing their insights on information, communication, and creativity. The festival had a special focus on India, and the power of Digital reach. The sessions, presentations and the prestigious Abby Awards offered a learning opportunity for young professionals.

Winning back Credibility?

Several years ago, a questionable JWT entry for Ford sort of marked the beginning of the downfall of The Abbys which was considered as India’s answer to Cannes Lions, the world’s biggest advertising awards. It led to many big advertising agencies keeping a safe distance from the awards which they claimed lacked ‘credibility’.

Some of the agencies which over the years stopped participating in the awards include Ogilvy, McCann, MullenLowe Lintas Group, Creativeland Asia etc. For several years the absence of these agencies has been a sore point for the festival and The Abbys. This year through the association with The One Show, the Goafest and The Abbys organisers made an attempt to bring back some of that credibility, also establishing the intent to make it an award show of global standing. It didn’t go unrewarded, we saw agencies like Leo Burnett, TBWA, CLA, BBH making a beeline for the awards.

However, the biggies of the game like Ogilvy, MullenLowe Lintas Group, McCann were still at an arm’s length from the awards, even Dentsu and DDB Mudra didn’t participate this year. “While we did see some show of strength, Goafest is hardly emblematic of an industry award, considering the bigger, influential chunk of the industry which makes the most number of ads, still refuses to participate in it,” says the head of an ad agency who participated this year but didn’t want to be named. But many others however feel that with The One Show and global standards of judging here, the ‘scam’ related past associated with the Goafest is now really history. We definitely saw more entries this year, but did Goafest really get an image makeover this year, well that would be an early assumption to make.”

Jaideep Gandhi, Chairman of the Goafest 2022 Organising Committee said, “This time we also sweetened the pot by bringing in many firsts to make the festival grander and inclusive. In the spirit of going green, and doing our bit towards it, we went paperless for the very first time, and also took a Digital approach for the presentation of the awards. We also celebrated Goafest’s 15th anniversary; our journey began in 2006 and we are so thrilled to be growing.”

A new logo of the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) was also unveiled at the festival. Anupriya Acharya, President of AAAI said, “Goafest 2022 was all about inclusivity and celebration. Given the Digital expansion over the last two years, we reinvented some parts of the festival in anticipation of an extensive number of new individuals and contemporary themes. Also, we brought in more mainstream work into the event to increase coverage across functions and specialisations.”

Ace Badminton player PV Sindhu in conversation with Sameer Kochchar, TV Presenter, Actor and Anchor

Yami Gautam with Rana Barua of Havas Group

Goafest was launched as India’s response to Cannes. Over the years the response from the big agencies kind of dwindled, even as this year we saw some agencies who had stayed away for more than five years return to Goafest and The Abbys. Some of them include Leo Burnett, BBH, Grey, CLA and TBWA. Adding to that Acharya said, “We have carved a niche of our own; Goafest is an identity in itself! Ever since its inception in 2006, we have come a long way. Be it organising, participating, networking, or simply celebrating, Goafest has been instrumental in fostering and honouring the A&M Industry’s talent and will continue to do so even in the coming years. I would say that the response to Goafest has diversified and grown in several different directions. I can only see Goafest becoming bigger and better, each year!”

The first day of the festival started with a live music show by Sukhbir, aka the ‘Prince of Bhangra.’ Then there was an industry conclave which was graced by a host of eminent personalities such as Actress Yami Gautam, Co- Founder & CEO, Sharechat & Moj Ankush Sachdeva, former Lt Governor Puducherry & Ex - IPS Officer, Dr. Kiran Bedi, among others. One of the speakers that the audience took a special note of was Sugar Cosmetics CEO, Vineeta Singh. Speaking on the topic of ‘The resilience of building a brand for Bharat,’ she highlighted that the growth of Digital media has given the brands of all sizes a level-playing field to reach out to consumers. She also emphasised that distribution and advertising are no longer the biggest moats for a business to flourish, and that good content can drive brand building and growth like nothing else.

The second day began with a discussion between ace badminton player, PV Sindhu, and TV Presenter, Actor, and Anchor, Sameer Kochchar. It was followed by Knowledge seminars and a leadership summit. In one of the seminars, legendary Indian cricketer Kapil Dev interacted with Sports Broadcaster & Entrepreneur, Charu Sharma. The two began their session by speaking on the theme, ‘Superpower Within,’ and then went on to discuss life, success, and more. Kapil Dev emphasised on the need to put in every effort in life, and also shared anecdotes from his childhood. The two then discussed leadership and the meaning of being a true leader.

Ranveer Allahbadia, Niharika NM, Raj Shamani, Madan Gowri with Viraj Sheth of Monk Entertainment

Indian Women’s Cricket Team Captain Mithali Raj in conversation with Sharlene Lobo of Mirror Now

Actor Anupam Kher in conversation with filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli

The third day started with a seminar where Indian Women’s Cricket Team Captain, Mithali Raj interacted with Sharlene Lobo, Anchor, Mirror Now. There was also a series of events such as Digital Conclave, Fireside Chat, Stand-up act and Knowledge Seminars. In the fireside chat, which was on, ‘Diversity, Equality & Inclusion,’ panellist Dheeraj Sinha, CEO, Leo Burnett - South Asia, Chairman, BBH India said, “We need to change the way we function and make the environment more welcoming for women. Little changes like putting sanitary pads in female washrooms at the office will make a big impact. Advertising has the power to bring indelible change in culture and we should be working on creating content that helps us realise this agenda.” The other panellists at the sessions were Suhela Khan, Country Program Manager, We Empower Asia, UN Women; Rohit Ohri, Chairman & CEO FCB Ulka; and Rathi Gangappa, CEO, Starcom India.

This year was also the first year when the Abby Awards Governing Council tied up with the coveted The One Show Award, the global gold standard of judging and unmatched transparency. It received more entries than 2019’s 1863 creative entries and 811 media entries and touched 2007 creative and 1014 media entries, courtesy the partnership. According to Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas Group India and Chairman of the Abby Awards Governing Council 2022, this association strengthened the relevance and purpose of The Abbys and also fuelled the spirit and ambition of the advertising world. “The Abbys are definitely bigger and better. We tied up with the globally coveted The One Show Award, the global gold standard of judging and unmatched transparency. In 2022, we introduced several new categories in The Abbys that reflected the current industry trends and new world order. The work around the new trends has inspired the young leaders and creators.” Barua said.

Echoing the same sentiment, Partha Sinha, President, Response at Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd and President of the Ad Club, said that the One Show Award added credibility, and raised levels of transparency towards the entire selection process. “If there is one word to describe Abbys’ association with The One Show this year, it would be ‘game-changer.’ One of the key things that we wanted to do this year was to raise the standard of the Abbys to a level where it becomes internationally competitive. We are really proud that we have managed to reinstate some quality into the advertising industry. This is our first year, so we are taking baby steps, but I think it is in the right direction. Along with bringing in more credibility to the awards, the collaboration will further strengthen Abbys to become a milestone for agencies to achieve success on global platforms.”

Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Consumer Affairs & Food Distribution in conversation with Piyush Pandey of Ogilvy, and Subhash Kamath of BBH India

Nutrition Expert Rujuta Diwekar in conversation with Anupriya Acharya of Publicis Groupe, South Asia

Actress Madhuri Dixit during a session with actress Tisca Chopra on Day 3 of the Goafest

Having said that we still didn’t see some of the top agencies sending entries including Ogilvy, Dentsu, DDB Mudra etc. Partha Sinha responds, “Few agencies have been unable to participate this year due to financial implications while some are waiting to see how the first year of the association unfolds. And, if they don’t participate next year, it’s their loss and not The Abbys’.”

This year at The Abbys, The Leo Burnett Group swept the awards, bagging the Creative Agency of the Year title while Famous Innovations bagged two rare Grand Prix in addition to several other awards, FCB Group India, Mindshare, Cheil India bagged multiple Specialist Agency of the Year titles. Other significant winners over the three days were Enormous, Grey Group, Early Man Films, Good Morning Films, Havas, Script Room, Creativeland Asia etc.

Ankush Sachdeva of Sharechat & Moj in conversation with Vikram Sakhuja of Madison WorldAnkush Sachdeva of Sharechat & Moj in conversation with Vikram Sakhuja of Madison World

Among the many illuminating sessions held on the first day of the festival, a conversation between Ankush Sachdeva, Co-founder & CEO, ShareChat, and Vikram Sakhuja, Group CEO, Madison Media & OOH, started things off with a bang. In a frank, humorous exchange, Sachdeva spoke about having an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, and how his time at IIT Kanpur helped him acquire technical skills to accompany that business acumen. He also spoke about the work that went into making ShareChat an Indian unicorn, the ways in which the company spends its money, and its plans for the future. Sachdeva made a remarkable prediction for the ad industry, as he mentioned how short-video format is going to be the next big thing for advertising.

Vineeta Singh, Co-founder & CEO, Sugar Cosmetics

Speaking on day 01 of Goafest on the topic of “The resilience of building a brand for Bharat,” SUGAR Cosmetics CEO, Vineeta Singh, highlighted that the growth of Digital media has given all sizes of brands a level-playing field to reach out to consumers. Singh emphasised that distribution and advertising are no longer the biggest moats for a business to flourish, and good content can drive brand building and growth like nothing else. She attributed the growth of SUGAR to good content that aims to educate the users about the right makeup. Another aspect she talked about is SUGAR’s decision to not run discounts or cut prices to match the competition, she said, “We always think long-term and never short-term. What your consumer wants from you and what they would remember two decades later, that’s what motivates us. That’s why we are working on creating good content.”

Actors Ali Fazal & Vikrant Massey with GauTam Talwar of MX PLayer, and anchor Atika Farooqui

During a session on day two of Goafest 2022, actors Vikrant Massey, and Ali Fazal, along with Gautam Talwar, Chief Content Officer, MX Player, discussed how the emergence of OTT is giving an opportunity to creators, and has democratized storytelling. The session was moderated by Atika Farooqui, Anchor and Creative Director. While speaking about the OTT growth in India, Massey said that OTT has changed the lives of both creators and the audience. Gautam Talwar on the other hand observed that the reach to mass India is one of the greatest advantages for MX Player. He believes OTT is a writer’s medium and the audience is drawn to it because of its authenticity. During the session, Ali Fazal mentioned that theatrical releases used to follow a formula-based structure. But now OTT has changed the game.

Former Indian Cricketer Kapil Dev in conversation with Sports Broadcaster Charu Sharma

During a Knowledge Seminar, former Indian Cricket Team Captain, Kapil Dev, spoke to Sports Broadcaster and Entrepreneur, Charu Sharma. The two began their session by speaking about the ‘Superpower Within,’ which is the theme of the festival, and then went on to discuss life, success, and more. The legendary cricketer emphasised on the need to put in every effort, and shared anecdotes from his childhood. The two went on to discuss leadership, and the meaning of being a true leader. Of course, Kapil Dev went on to discuss the 1983 Cricket World Cup, India’s cricketing glory, and the importance of having different types of personalities in a team, be it in sports, or in advertising. The session was widely appreciated by the attending industry members, as the former cricketer got two standing ovations in the hall.

Suhela Khan of UN Women; Rohit Ohri of FCB Ulka; and Dheeraj Sinha of Leo Burnett

On day three of Goafest 2022, Suhela Khan, Country Program Manager, We Empower Asia, UN Women; Rohit Ohri, Chairman and Group CEO, FCB India Group; Rathi Gangappa , CEO, Starcom India and Dheeraj Sinha, CEO, Leo Burnett, South Asia; Chairman, BBH, participated in a fireside chat on, ‘Diversity, Equality & Inclusion.’ Ohri emphasised that diversity and inclusion in agencies must go above just numbers, and must be integrated as a fundamental part of the organisational structure wherein women get the right work environment and culture. During the discussion, Khan mentioned that women spend 3.5 x more time doing unpaid care work globally, and in India this number is almost ten times higher. “This eventually reflects in the workforce participation too. Right now, women are just about 20% of the workforce, and this number is continuously declining for the past few decades,” she said.

Sandeep Bhushan, Director and Head of India GMS for Meta

Sandeep Bhushan, Director and Head of India GMS for Meta, spoke on the third day of the Goafest, and allowed audiences to dive deep into the future of Digital. Bhushan said that the goal of Meta is to provide tools that will encourage the adoption of the metaverse.
“Metaverse will require a clutch of technologies and a clutch of thinking on what it means because we are actually exploring another dimension. The list of partners will include multiple players because everyone will have an idea of how to make it better. Our goal is to accelerate all the tools that are needed to bring the metaverse to life,” he said.
He pointed out that Meta has three tools that will help creators to build the metaverse. Elaborating on the same he said, “Metaspark, is a device on which any developer can create an AR for enjoyment, business, or brand. The second tool is Horizon Worlds, which is a social VR experience where one can create and explore together, while the third tool is the AR filters.”

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