One-word description of Abby’s this year would be 'game-changer': The Ad Club’s Partha Sinha & Rana Barua

One-word description of Abby’s this year would be 'game-changer': The Ad Club’s Partha Sinha & Rana Barua

Interaction with The Ad Club office bearers on what makes this year’s Abby awards so exciting.

Partha Sinha & Rana Barua

Mumbai: The stage is finally set for the annual awards hosted by The Advertising Club (TAC) to be held from 5 to 7 May at the GoaFest this year. The thirteenth edition of the Abby awards is back on ground after taking an enforced breather of two years, thanks to the pandemic. caught up with The Ad Club president Partha Sinha and Abby Awards Governing Council 2022 chairman and The Ad Club VP Rana Barua to find out what has changed at the Abbys and on the participation from agencies and industry at large at this year’s awards.

The award ceremony that celebrates the cream of the country’s advertising works and the advertising industry at large is in its thirteenth year at the GoaFest. Earlier this year, The Ad Club announced its partnership with the prestigious The One Show for Abby’s 2022, and thereafter the appointment of three International jury chairs to judge the works.

What’s different this time

“One of the key things that we wanted to do was to take Abby's to global standards and we have done precisely that. We have tied up with the world’s most credible and sought-after award program, The One Show,” says Partha Sinha, diving right into what’s different this year about the awards.

This was unimaginable, says Sinha, reminiscing about the initial days of the awards. “Abby's used to be a cottage industry- from there we have moved it to The One Show - that’s like the biggest global standard there is.” So, thanks to that a few things will be very different this year, he continues. “That is the standard of judging, the quality of jury we are getting due to the intervention of The One Show, and we also expect this to serve as a shortlist for global awards. Because here the remit maybe South Asia but the standard is global.”

"So South Asia entries will be judged in global light and my guess is that some of the works which will win here will go on to win on global platforms," Sinha adds.

The work that is being judged is from the last three years, Barua reminds while talking about the awards’ association. “It's truly now a part of an international circuit via this collaboration. So also, the quality of work is not going to be basic. I think that’s one of the biggest changes that is going to start- maybe some of it this year too but you will see it in the subsequent years- the work quality will automatically start improving.”

The quality of jury chairs that has come in because of The One Show, it’s going to become an introspective pressure on all of them because you have to raise the benchmark of work that’s coming out now, continues Barua. “That’s the exciting bit for us.”

Kind of work being received

What is the kind of work being received in the wake of the pandemic, considering that the pandemic has served as a disruptor for most industries- advertising and marketing included? To that Barua says, "We need to remember that it is three years of work that we are judging this time. So there might be a pre-pandemic, pandemic, and also post-pandemic work from last year- which is when we came out of the pandemic and more or less life was returning to normalcy.”

“Also, because of the strictness of the process, neither Rana nor me- nor anybody in the committee, for that matter, has seen the work. The work is seen and evaluated only by the jury," he emphasises, adding that, “We will get to see the work and the award only when it wins an award, and when the Abby is made. There’s a sanctity to the whole process and that is the beauty of The One Show. I’m loving it.”

Having said that, Sinha perceives that a key part of the works this time could be humane in nature “because one thing everybody has realised- whether its communication or business or anything- is that you need to have a lot of sympathy, a lot of empathy towards your audience.” Calling the pandemic the biggest teacher, he says, "The pandemic taught us that maybe ‘empathy’ is a bigger power than even ‘persuasion’ so we will get to see some reflection on that, rather than pure persuasion and selling.”

Participation from agencies

Abby’s partnership with The One Show will add credibility and raise levels of transparency to the entire selection process for the awards, which had come in for a fair share of criticism from agencies in the past over transparency in the awarding process. It also saw a few big names in agencies dropping out of the process.

On the participation from agencies this time around after a gap of two years, Barua says, “I can just tell you the participation numbers this year have beaten both 2018 and 2019’s numbers. Both on Creative and on Media we have had some outstanding contributions from all the agencies- independent as well as network agencies.” It’s probably a record-breaking year, he adds, and so next year is going to get tougher for us as the stakes are going to be higher.

Barua acknowledges that because of the timing and uncertainty due to the Omicron wave, few network agencies could not manage to participate within time. “But they have all shown equal participation because of The One Show and from next year we are going to see a maximum number of these agencies coming back.”

Sinha draws attention to another event recently held by TAC- the EMVIES, which was likely the advertising industry’s first large-scale event post the pandemic. “We saw the energy, the number of entries, the quality of entries. And I am not expecting anything lesser- this will be as big, as exciting. The number of entries has surpassed all kinds of records so we think the participation is very strong. My guess is that even the quality of work would be great, as also seen during EMVIES. And I’m expecting the quality to only go upwards from here,” he says.

“And I’m also expecting that because of this global standard jury process, some of the work which wins here will also go on to win on some global platforms,” he further adds.

Earlier this year, post its partnership announcement with the prestigious The One Show for Abby’s 2022, the Ad Club announced the appointment of three International Jury Chairs for judging Abbys this year, namely - Menno Kluin, Aricio Fortes and Myra Nussbaum, who are each stalwarts in the global advertising industry and also some of the world’s most awarded.

Additionally, the Abbys Governing Council announced the names of six advertising professionals, who will be judging Abbys 2022 along with the international judges as jury chairs.

Reaction from jury members

On the excitement from jury members, Barua says, “They were very excited to know about this entire association. For most of the global persons who have come onto the jury, India is a country that they would have loved to become a part of and play a role in this. And they are playing it either directly or indirectly through the network from some of the best agencies.”

If the time had permitted they would have got a wider range of people, says Barua. “Some of these names are absolutely the biggest in the industry. And there’s high excitement, they would love to know what's happening in the country. Some of the best juries have managed to come onboard. We gave them the right categories to manage so that it's easy for them to understand the entire thing."

To give an insight into the kind of responses they were getting from the jury chairs, Sinha read out a text from a jury chairman (whose name is not disclosed for now). “TOS judging interface is a game-changer, it made the whole process on-the-go,” he reads out. “I found the composition of the jury very refreshing and I must appreciate the TAC for being so thorough even though it’s the first year of their collaboration.”

Setting a benchmark

He further went on to say, “If there’s a one-word description of Abby’s this year, it would be ‘game-changer’. Everybody thinks it’s a game-changer. Everybody who judged thinks so too. We know it’s a game-changer. We want to make sure it is.”

Calling it a big change that the industry will always remember, Sinha says, “We spent serious money and effort doing this collaboration. And we did all of that with just one thought in mind,” He continues, “Because I think we owe it to our fellow communication people in the industry, that we do something which’s of a standard. And Abby is going to be of a standard which is going to be recognised by anybody across the globe.”

The TAC duo shared that the international collaboration has generated a lot of interest in the event amongst the global community, which was a little insulated before this. And that includes the kind of speakers the adfest is attracting. “We are getting Dan Wieden - that’s the man behind Nike's famous 'Just Do It' slogan in 1988. Then there’s Menno Kluin – he's the rockstar in the global creative world today. So suddenly the whole story is changing in a manner where people are now seeing us as a part of a circuit.”

They further add, “We have to get it to the level of those Monaco circuits, Singapore circuits. To be a part of that circuit it has to have that quality, status and stature. And that is precisely what we are doing. So our job as the ad club office bearers would be to make sure we take a very strong step towards preparing our entire circuit in such a way that it is world-class.”

“We have had enough bumps, hurdles, potholes so it's time for us to even out the entire road and raise the game,” The Ad Club duo signs off.