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|ADOI Has a Face To Face with Kancils Boss SP Lee!|
|Wednesday, 16 September 2009 11:49|
You've stayed away from awards for some 6 years, so how come you accepted the invite be Jury Chairman?
Tony Savarimuthu called and he's too nice a guy to say no to. We met up with Datuk Vincent, and my first reaction was that I don't qualify as I'd not been active in awards, not listed in Campaign Brief (CB) rankings, and so on.
I felt many creative heads would object, and that there are many ECDs better suited for the role. Tony and Datuk Vincent said that they had gotten feedback from enough creatives to suggest otherwise. They said they were looking more at my experience as jury chair and as a juror in other awards shows
I said, ok thanks, and anyway it might be a chance to meet people I'd not seen for a while. But as the weeks passed and the politics started, I think I might have cursed them a few times (lol).
Will you be voting?
No. I'll just moderate and keep the peace.
What was the brief from the 4As?
The general tone was that our awards must start to encourage more real work. Many awards have or have had this credibility problem. On the one hand scams have allowed creativity to shine. On the other, it has taken the lustre and credibility when too many scams win and very good real work wins zilch. Datuk Vincent and Tony agreed this is a problem that will take a few years to fix.
Jeff Goodby put it very well here, please have a read:http://www.iwishididit.com/2009/06/cannes-cannes-a-comment-by-jeff-goodby/
What's the first thing you did?
I had meetings with a dozen-odd RCDs and the three previous jury chairmen, Ted, Hwa and Ronald. I had to balance their views with the brief from Datuk Vincent and Tony Savarimuthu, on everything from process to categories. We started with a broad list of over a hundred creatives. Over the weeks I heard from lots of people with suggestions, on how to make the judging more efficient and the whole award more relevant. I approached this with an open mind, trying to understand what people wanted. I also spoke to Yasmin about leading the broadcast panel. She and Yew Leong made fun of the CB rankings. Sadly I did not know that was the last time we'd have coffee and a laugh. God bless you, Min.
Does having 10 Golden Kancils dilute the value of a Golden Kancil?
Much like Cannes, it rewards the best work in its discipline. You can't compare digital with a toilet sticker, that we all know. Szu Hung gets credit for suggesting we ditch a single best of show in one of the first meetings, and almost everyone immediately agreed.
Has the economic slowdown impacted the Kancils this year? Entries? Sponsorship? Scaled-down the affair?
Entries to international shows are down 20-30%. That's understandable as many networks have mandates to reduce award budgets or cut altogether. Yes it's a scaled-down affair compared with 2008 which was the 30th anniversary and the economy hadn't tanked yet. The good thing is that some 50 agencies have submitted - double that of last year's.
Isn't it a pity not to have two of the most awarded Malaysian agencies entering the Kancils this year?
I had some conversations with Ronald Ng (BBDO) and Adrian Miller (Saatchi & Saatchi) and they want to adhere strictly to CB. I think they reacted too fast; and they over-reacted. They had gotten hold of the yet unfinished, unpublished jury list, which they should not have done. Next, we were accused of picking a jury with no merit or having no system of all, which is not true.
We took part of the old system, but also evolved it. Every award tweaks its system as it goes along to address issues. And the issues are: the 4As saw a need to address credibility, by having have wider representation, taking a larger view, inviting more senior judges, and encouraging more real work from big clients and so on. I think that's fair.
Whom on the jury did they object to?
Their criteria is that you got to be among the top in the last 12 months or something like that, which means quite many don't make the cut in their eyes.
But the fact is there are several creatives who've won some seriously big awards at some time or other. Just because they've not won recently or even entered awards shouldn't be reason to leave them out. Many senior creatives don't have time for awards. And some agencies just don't put too much money in awards as the entry fees are exorbitant. Any agency head will tell you this, but it doesn't mean their creatives are sub-standard.
There's criticism the 2009 jury is oversized. Well, some people also think it was really odd that only 5 creatives from 4 agencies were on the 2008 main panel. There is no right answer here.
Can you please explain the system?
The 4As has over 130 member agencies. So it's only logical we need a wide representation. It doesn't make sense that only a tiny minority judge the entire industry. That's not reflective of the reality.
So this jury now includes:
1. The top 13 CB-ranked agencies. (15 were invited).
2. Senior judges with impeccable credentials but no recent wins.
3. There was a request to have good independent judges. So we added that to the list.
4. There was a request to invite top design shops. Though they are not 4A's, their work have earned worldwide acclaim.
5. Foreign judges - we initially had budget for only three. But later the 4As said we have money for maybe one or two more. So we did - we got Andy Blood. We invited both Edmund Choe and Craig Davis but both declined due to other commitments.
All these guys, however they are ranked on CB etc., current or ancient, have won some serious awards sometime or other. My view is, some of the judges may not have won in years but sure know a strong idea when they see one.
What's the feedback to this panel?
We now have twice as many agencies entering vs last year. Fact is, you never gonna have a panel or an award outcome that'll make everyone happy. Awards are statistically not unlike a lottery. 97% of work submitted will not win anything. That makes for a lot of unhappy people. But that's the nature of any competition. If you lose, just be happy the drinks are sponsored. But judging from the entries and feedback, it's encouraging. Now we just have to see how the judging goes.
Do you think picking a judge by Campaign Brief (CB) rankings is right?
CB is a good parameter to start with, but it has its flaws and I have said so to Kim Shaw (CB's publisher).
For one, from the 6 awards, some 80% of the jury aren't Asian. From there, the hottest Asian agencies by country, etc, are decided. That's about as relevant as asking a largely Asian jury to decide on the best ads of South America. We know nothing about South America.
There may be some truth that good ideas are universal, but there are cultural nuances that only those who understand native sensibilities will appreciate. You can't translate wit or explain a social idiosyncrasy, it just falls flat.
The other issue I have is that the rankings smell like a promotion for the 6 or so awards. Okay these are good awards but why force an agency to submit for these awards and not others?
And I don't agree with this business of attaching different points to various awards and adding them up. I don't know if in the movie industry they combine points from the Oscars, Berlin, Sundance etc, and go ta-da, here's the hottest directors and actors. Does the literary world ascribe points to the Pultizer and Booker, etc, add them up to decide on the hottest novelists?
And all this adding up leads to disparities. Someone who wins a few major metals may end up below someone who with a bigger clutch of lesser metals. It's silly and unnecessary.
The major international awards, I been told, don't even refer to CB when picking a jury.
So we can refer to CB, but use it sensibly, only as a guide, not stringently.
What's your personal view of awards?
Awards, in any industry, are important, but they are secondary to whatever your business happens to be.
What do you think of scams?
Scams are good fun. The first scams we saw were in the early 90s and they were from Singapore. This was the Loophole of the Century for creatives and soon everyone played the game.
Scams have served as an outlet for creatives to push the envelope. It's helped open the door to some very mad ideas. It's like experimental films and as such, are self-funded to make a point.
But some creatives quickly came to their senses and stopped because it was just a bit stupid and tiring. Even if one did win a gold, it was a hollow win; it was the sports equivalent of doping. Some agencies have a no-award policy.
Scams also got to a level where ideas got so cryptic, only creative directors understood them. It became increasingly insular. This is ironic because advertising is meant to reach the public, not just the DTP artist.
You can't win a Nobel for research never done, or a Pulitzer for a book never published. Or a Pritzker for architecture not executed. Or an Oscar for a film never shot.
Major awards impose stringent rules to weed out scams, and the Kancils should do likewise.
Some people think that if we stop all scams, there won't be much good work to judge…
We as an industry got to make the effort to legitimise the best ideas. Many superb ideas in international award annuals took a lot of hard effort on the part of the agency in persuading clients to run - sometimes more than a year as in the case of the classic Apple 1984 commercial. I mean as a judge you must give credit for perseverance and courage.
You said something about the difference between scams and initiatives?
Both serve the purpose of giving agencies the right to break the rules. But to initiate is to break the rules by the rules.
By initiative, we mean that the agency who did it wholeheartedly and honestly pushed the client to approve a campaign, pay and run it, ticking off all the process boxes.
Awards encourage initiatives. But we want to see risk-taking. We want to see ideas never done before. We applaud work that takes communication to courageous new levels. The Barcode job from Japan that won a Titanium at Cannes is one such idea. The Think driving campaigns from the UK is another. It's absolutely fresh thinking. And it is work that ran publicly.
I know you stayed away from awards and judging for personal reasons. Can you elaborate?
Judging is rewarding and inspiring when you're in the company of fair-minded and discerning people who ask common-sense questions. You come away a better person. That's been my experience 90% of the time. But when you're in the same room as oversized egos and despots, that just kills all the fun. They are hell-bent on winning, not on picking the best work. A few such experiences can put one off.
What's the one thing you can say about awards?
That it all matters by one vote. It's a funny thing, judging. In track and field, the fastest runner takes Gold, no disputes unless he or she flunks the dope test. In golf, the cup belongs to player with the fewest strokes.
In competitions where subjective interpretation is required, it's not so clear cut. How you fare depends on the views of a dozen people holed up in a room for 3 torrid days.
And it's never ceased to amaze me to see how an ad can rise or crumble on the strength of one person's vote. If 6 out of 11 judges like your ad and vote it all the way from finalist to Gold, good for you. Majority rules. But if only 5 of the 11 think so, then you win nothing at all.
In theory, if you change that one person, it could mean the difference between you winning or whining on awards night. So maybe you win huge in one show and nothing in the next. It's all human interpretation - and humans in general are not reliable at all. So take heart. However the vote swings, just tell yourself, it's just a show and try again next time.