What a miserable last fortnight in April this has been for the industry. On Friday, April 17th, Masood Hamid, the Dawn Media Group’s Marketing Director was shot dead for, so far, unfathomable reasons. Exactly a week later and almost to the same hour, on April 24th, Sabeen Mahmud, Director T2F, was shot dead minutes after having concluded a session on Un-silencing Balochistan. Although not directly linked to the advertising profession, Mahmud wrote frequently for the media and not least for Aurora. She was a brave and fearless civil society activist and an icon for the courageous; she was also one of Pakistan’s earliest adopters of digital technology, and what a total pro she was in this field as well.
It was therefore under trying circumstances that the Pakistan Advertisers Society (PAS), went ahead with its scheduled awards on April 25th. Now in their fifth edition, the PAS Awards can be said to have become an established calendar event for the industry; arguably they can even be said to be the benchmark against which other such industry events can measure themselves.
However, the missing link is the presence of benchmark advertising. Yes, the Kenwood campaign by Arey Wah, did break the mould, with a Big Idea that has every chance of sustaining and replicating itself across multiple platforms, and in itself, it was a worthy winner of the Campaign of the Year Award. However, a glance at the other contenders for the title reveals the gap, and one is left wondering how closely fought was the competition. Without access to the judges’ scores one cannot say, yet just looking at the finalists one is left with the feeling that it was a relatively easy win. GolinHarris’ Pond’s Miracle Journey, is another good example of a Big Idea with powerful resonance and myriad storytelling opportunities. But Best in Print? Quite apart from the fact that the competition among the finalists in this category was pretty mediocre, one is left scratching one’s head as to why this campaign figured in this category.
None of this is to detract from Kenwood’s or Pond’s achievement, but it does raise questions about the overall quality of the advertising entered. At the end of the day, someone has to take home the award and going by what was shown as being in contention, it seems evident that a lot of mediocre advertising made it to the final list, if not mercifully to the award itself.
So did the judges collectively end up making poor choices or were the entries mostly poor to start with? Sadly, it seems that the problem is with the entries. It is, of course, not possible, and often simply not feasible, to produce communication with award winning potential. The issue is why then enter such advertising? Surely the prospect of entering a competition is the hope of making it all the way to the stage on the final night? Or has the bar been set so low that agencies and clients actually believe that some of their entries have a chance of winning? Or are they operating under the misguided belief that just the mere fact of sending their entries validates their efforts? Whatever the reasons, they suggest a lack of ‘wanting’ as well as utter ignorance, not only about what constitutes excellence in advertising, but about what ‘awards’ stand for – in any given field. Winning in its true expression means wanting to win, wanting to produce the best, wanting to work, fight for, and earn the win.
So, are agencies and clients taking the PAS Awards seriously? Are the PAS Awards top of their minds when they initiate a new campaign? Are they thinking about how they can raise the bar of their own communication effort by producing work that is new, special and effective? Are they putting in the effort and the investment required to do this? Or, come entry time are they quickly trawling through any advertising produced in the course of the year to find the ones that fit a category and qualify for entry? PAS prides itself on the fact that the number of entries has been increasing year-on-year and that in 2015 there were 263 entries compared to 198 in 2014. Of course, it is an excellent sign to see more and more members of the fraternity join in and compete on their own industry platform. But the fraternity must also pay due respect to this platform and the profession by entering what they truly consider to be their finest work rather that send a bunch of mediocre stuff on a ‘well, you never know’ basis.
The PAS has done its job. It has established a credible platform to showcase the best of advertising Pakistan has to offer. It is now for the industry to rise to the PAS occasion by working towards producing and then entering communication worthy to be award winning. Only then will all the winners who make it to the PAS stage on award night truly feel their win is theirs by right and not by default.