Goafest's first line up is unnecessarily unexpected

Anant Rangaswami April 02, 2014 15:16:13 IST
Goafest's first line up is unnecessarily unexpected

"Just what you unexpected," Goafest said last year.

This year, as we get into April, less than two months before the Goafest 2014, the organizing committee releases the first list of speakers.

"Unlike in the previous years where the focus was principally on international speakers, this year the Knowledge Seminars will have a good mix of international speakers, inspirational speakers, spiritual speakers and speakers on innovative aspects. This is based on a survey among the last three years' Goafest delegates. "Based on the findings of this survey, we have put together a very special list of speakers for Goafest delegates to listen to and interact with", says Arvind Sharma, President of Advertising Agencies Association of India," says their press release.

Goafests first line up is unnecessarily unexpected

Goafest's website still promotes 2013's edition.

The initial set of names includes: Preethi Mariappan, Executive Creative Director at Razorfish, Germany; Melanie Varley, Chief Strategy Officer, Global, MEC; Norm Johnson, Chief Digital Office,Mindshare; Guy Hearn, Chief Innovation Officer, The Omnicom Media Group; Alicia Souza, illustration designer/ artist/ e-commerce entrepreneur; Shravan Kumaran and Sanjay Kumaran, the youngest app developers in India and a group known as AIB (All India Bakchod), Devdutt Pattanaik, Mythologist, Author, Leadership, DK Hema and Hema Hari, Founders, BharathGyan.

"We are delighted that we have been able to get some very inspiring speakers on a cross section of subjects which delegates are normally not exposed to," said Goafest Committee Chairman, Srinivasan Swamy.

What is interesting is the statement that "the Knowledge Seminars will have a good mix of international speakers, inspirational speakers, spiritual speakers and speakers on innovative aspects. This is based on a survey among the last three years' Goafest delegates."

I'm stunned by the list of speakers. There is no doubt that each of the speakers is a super-achiever - but what stumps me is why some of them are speaking at Goafest. According to the press release, it is the feedback from delegates of previous years that prompted the choice of speakers.

Now I'm even more stunned. When was this research conducted? I've been to many Goafest editions and I cannot recall anyone asking anyone for feedback. Did young advertising professionals (and the majority of attendees at Goafest are young advertising professionals) say that they wanted less of advertising (media, creative, design) and more of esoteric speakers?

If there was indeed some research done and if the feedback was along the lines described, there's obviously very little that I know about the professionals in adland.

You might notice that the two instances when the word 'if' appears have been italicized. Because, for me, these are two big ifs.

The Organising Committee, over the years, has lost touch with the reality - and has lost touch with the youth in this business and this first list underlines that.

There, I've said it: this list will not work. I hope, for Goafest, that the second list is loaded with the expected and not the unexpected. I hope that there is no hint of the esoteric and an abundance of the predictable and the expected.

By the end of May, we will all know whether the Goafest organizers have got it right - and in including the esoteric in this list, to my mind, they've taken a large risk. If the delegates are immediately and with certainty uninterested in a particular speaker, the seminar hall will be empty during that session - is that a risk that orgainsers want to take for multiple sessions?

It's all very well to want to be different and want to do the unexpected, but the more different and unexpected you are, the greater the risk you take. Let me spell it out clearly. What is the first thought in one's mind when asked to describe Goafest? Nine out of ten would say, "India's biggest advertising festival" or words to such effect.

The moment one defines it as such, expectations get built. When one reads the content, one expects to see all the content directly or indirectly connect to advertising.

That's because 'advertising' is the magnet that draws attention, delegates and sponsors to Goafest. The tighter the definition of the magnet, the stronger the magnet is.

If you had said that Goafest was a celebration of all creativity, and the speakers could be musicians, architects and chefs, all, without a doubt, creative professionals, the power of the magnet weakens. It suggests to the advertising professional that not all of Goafest would appeal to (and be useful to) him or her - and weakens the desire to attend.

The first list of unexpected speakers has too much of the unexpected. That's both unwise and unnecessary.

P.S. The official website www.goafest.com is still promoting last year's Goafest. Unexpected?

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