By: Anil Thakraney
In a sensational, unprecedented development, India's premier advertising agency, Lowe Lintas, ranked number two in India, has decided to withdraw its entries from the Abby awards competition. Abby awards is considered India's most prestigious ad award show organised by the Ad Club of Bombay. This, shockingly, comes just days ahead of the three-day extravaganza scheduled for the end of this month.
R Balakrishnan (Balki), executive creative director of the agency, has cited unfair play by Piyush Pandey, one of the competition's judges, and the high profile creative director of rival agency Ogilvy & Mather, as the reason behind Lowe Lintas' decision.
What Balki has to say:
Balki has accused Pandey of deliberately and wrongfully sabotaging the campaign for indya.com created by Lowe Lintas, by influencing the rest of the jury against it, alleging that the said campaign had been copied directly from an international John Miller shirts campaign. He says that not only was this a lie, but such a move on Pandey's part contravenes the judging rules, as the initial round of judging needs to be carried out in silence. To quote him, "He foisted his biases and unfounded views on the rest of the judges, thus subverting the entire process of judging."
While appreciating the Ad Club's attempts at weeding out scam ads this year, Balki regrets that the Club not only did not step in to stop such active lobbying, but failed to order rejudging as requested by his agency.
In an interview, the furious Lowe Lintas director also lashed out at Pandey's agency, O&M, and accused it of repeatedly cogging work from foreign ads. He says and we quote, "I don't want the biggest coggers of the world to judge originality, it's time we did not call such people for judging."
When asked to be specific, he rattles off campaigns that according to him, had been directly copied by O&M from international ads. Such as? Pond's Blackhead remover is a copy of an international Head & Shoulders campaign, Satyam Cineplex ad has been lifted from a Bazillion ad for a cinema hall, an Asian Paints commercial is directly cogged from a Dulux ad, an Onida ad is directly lifted from an ad for Columbia Coffee, the campaign for Navbharat Times has been copied from webduniya and the list goes on.
"Ad agencies spend lakhs of rupees to enter these awards for what? A lobby table to judge their work? Well, we at Lowe Lintas have decided to withdraw our participation this year," he informs.
What Piyush Pandey has to say:
We spoke to Piyush Pandey for his version of the story. This is what he says on the issue: "Well, one must speak to people who have organised the event, the Ad Club, on this matter, as they are the ones who make the rules, not me. All I wish to say that there were nine other reputed judges apart from me, each with over ten years experience, who would hardly get influenced by me. On his accusation that we lift ads, I disagree strongly, and in fact do not want to respond to people who stoop to such petty levels. Also, I never said that the indya.com ad had been copied, I said that such an idea had been done before by John Miller and Malayala Manorama."
Reaction by the President of the Ad Club:
Kaushik Roy, President of the Ad Club is shocked at the development. He says, "It's most unfortunate that senior ad people are pointing fingers at each other in the media. We replied to Lintas explaining that there can be a whole lot of reasons why a jury does not shortlist a particular campaign. Also, it is very unethical to be speaking about confidential things like judging process in the public, I totally stand by the process and there can be no question of rejudging."
An unbiased view:
We also had a word with KS Chakraborty, creative director of Leo Burnett, another large agency, to have an unbiased view on the matter. According to him, "I agree with Balki on the matter of principle: an award is as good as the process. If the rule says you cannot let your personal bias influence others at the initial stage of the judging process, then we need to follow that. Since
Balki feels strongly on the subject, he is justified in taking this stand."
The whole issue is quite ironical since for the first time the Ad Club has invited international jurors to participate in the process and unlike in the past, this year the event is stretched over three days.
While it is obvious that the Ad Club will swing into action to control the imminent damage, a huge black mark has already blotched this year's ceremony, specially when it comes to the judging process, as the last minute withdrawal of a large agency will result in a stinking controversy, which will live on long after the show is over.