Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Wish You Had Been Here!

Updated 05 Aug, 2020 01:33pm

The experience of hosting the first-ever virtual Effie Awards.

Photo: Effie
Photo: Effie

On July 23, the Pakistan Advertisers Society (PAS) held their first-ever virtual Effie Pakistan Awards. For 52 years, the Effie Awards have been a symbol of global achievement and this was the first-ever virtual edition both for Pakistan and Effie global.

Any normal award night is a mixed bag of emotions - and the virtual awards were more like a sack of emotions. It was a huge challenge and undertaking for everyone at PAS to organise the awards as nothing like this had been done before. (Most major awards around the world were cancelled; Cannes Lions did a Cannes Week without awarding the trophies).

The Effie Awards were staged over two days. The first for rehearsing and getting novices like myself to be comfortable with the green screen and facing the cameras; the second for recording the hosts and the few guests invited to arrive on the ‘red carpet’. I was both excited and scared out of my wits at the prospect of hosting the red carpet. Traditionally red carpets are a glamour-filled event and for people like myself, who doesn’t even have her ears pierced to be acting all glamorous was frightening. I calmed myself down by consistently repeating in my head that getting out of your comfort zone is a must for creatives. In fact, the team at Samaa TV were very helpful in calming us down and holding our hand as we learnt to talk to green walls and imaginary audiences and maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols while a voice in the earpiece told us to “Look in Camera 3!”

In total, eight virtual guests joined me on the red carpet via Zoom. They were Shehryar Ahmad (Head of Communication, Byco Petroleum), Seema Jaffer, CEO, Bond Advertising, Amena Khan, CEO DreamTeam Films, Azam Jalal Khan, Managing Partner, Digitz, Farhan Khan, COO, Starcom, Fariyha Subhani, GM, Upfield South (many of whom were jury members) and Tariq Ikram, the jury chair for Effie 2020. The one guest I managed to interview in person was Afsheen Rizavi, GM, PAS and Project Lead, Effie Pakistan.

I may have imagined the audience while we were rehearsing and recording; the fact is that the whole of the advertising and marketing fraternity tuned in for the live virtual event on awards night.

Of course there were hiccoughs and a lot of “can you hear me?” throughout the night (expected knowing the internet speeds in Pakistan). Nevertheless, the usual elation among the winners, the big smiles and the teams celebrating together were clear even with bad connections. Khalid Malik, wonderful as ever, kept the audiences engaged as both local and international guests announced the winners. It was great to see gurus from around the world taking part in an award for Pakistan.

Over 20 category winners were announced with multiple Gold, Silver, Bronze and a Grand Prix winner. Ogilvy Pakistan took the honour of Agency of the Year for the second year in the row and BBDO Pakistan won the Grand Prix for the second year running. Telenor Pakistan were the Marketer of the Year with the most wins. (For the full list of winners click here).

More than the awards, the Effies are a networking event and there were countless moments during which we wished for the old days to come back… greeting colleagues, clients and friends as you walked on the actual red carpet; discussing the state of business, new wins and losses and industry gossip were all absent this time. The musical performances of yester years were remembered and may be this was the first night ever when the fraternity took no selfies!

As we finished hosting the night and went back to updating our statuses, it hit home how much we wished that this had been a real event. Maybe eventually we will have a grand Effie night like in the pre pandemic days, where people will join us on the red carpet and there will be many on and off camera discussions face to face rather than on Zoom. Real hugs and celebrations.

A wish that you could have all been there.

Atiya Zaidi is ECD, BBDO Pakistan. zaidipride@gmail.com