Well, the Chillies have come and gone and this is somewhat a long overdue postmortem.
The Chillies looked hot before the event, and the hype was good.
However, I think it was the best self-analysis that ever took place in the local ad-industry. It was an eye-opener, a reality check. A show that showed us the naked truth about local advertising standards.
There was a significant enthusiasm about the awards within the advertising crowd, and I believe there was a good number of entries as well. All, but few (like Ogilvy), participated in the event. It was a success, in terms of the number of entries received.
However, majority of the work I saw on display at TransAsia was mediocre. They lacked originality. They lacked craftsmanship. They lacked thought. There was no passion behind the work. There was no innovation.
Saddest part is that, most of the work reminded me of the Archives, the D&AD's, the New York Festivals and the One Show. I knew that I had seen the "idea" somewhere else before. Was it the imported creative director trying to recycle ideas, or was it the local talent lifting ideas off the books, or was it sheer coincidence, I wouldn't know...
I don't even want to know.
But why can't we be original? "Steal with Pride" says Unilever - when they see a great marketing idea.
We should never apply that to local advertising. Because, we are different. Sri Lankans behave differently to news. The Western theories don't work most of the time, unless and otherwise it is a simple, universal truth.
Throw a cracker on the street and we'll see hundreds of inquisitive Sri Lankans gather around. The Europeans or the Japanese don't behave in that manner. It is easy for us to gather a crowd and pass a message across. It is easier for us to manipulate the way people think.
We are great at spreading rumors. We love movies. So much so, we just watch even the Hindi ones without understanding the dialogue. Unlike the West, we are a lot more receptive to communication channels. And there are a dozen unique communication channels that are hardly being exploited by the advertising agencies. There are perhera's, gam-madu ulela's, viridu kaarayaa's, anda-bera kaarayaa's and even kelaa paththare's to tell your consumer what he wants to hear.
We don't have to work hard to bring a brand to life in the consumer's life, if ONLY we think beyond the box. That's "activation" and that's "experiential marketing" that everyone is talking about.
There are unique communications channels available and a ready listener waiting. Just be original, be different, and do something new. Win an award. Come up with an "idea" that Neil French would be jealous of.
Advertising is about ideas. It's about great ideas that win awards. Not only here, but all over the world.
I can't even imagine how Paracetol "pettha vs pottha" got a nomination for the campaign of the year. How can it be campaign-able when the idea:
a) doesn't translate to Tamil
b) doesn't translate to English
c) doesn't have any other executions (ad 2, ad 3, ad 4 and so on) in the "campaign"
d) doesn't seamlessly evolve?
And, of course, I would like to see what the follow-up ad would be like.
It was a good tactical ad, but was never a campaign.
Then there was the Surf Excel Sellam - a great activation example - which, unfortunately didn't get noticed much becuase the judges had no idea what "activation" was all about.
There are some more examples - but I guess I have made my point.
We are at the infancy of global advertising standards, but the Chillies was a good start. Let's work on the ideas, originality, craftsmanship and polish-up our work; let's be uniquely Sri Lankan. Then, and only then, shall we be able to compare ourselves with the big boys in advertising.