Business Times

Triad to sue Chillies Committee for Rs.100 mln

By Natasha Gunaratne

Triad Advertising agency said it was filing a plaint in the District Court of Colombo next week against the members of the Chillies organizing/blueprint committee, claiming damages of Rs.100 million as compensation.

According to a copy of the plaint, Triad is asking the court to declare that any significant changes to the blueprint in respect of the Chillies awards should be publicized a year prior to award entry deadlines in order to ensure a level playing field. The agency is also seeking a permanent restraining order preventing five of the 13 defendants listed in the plaint from functioning as members of the organizing/blueprint committee of the Chillies or any similar advertising awards in the future. The plaint further seeks a declaration that the 2010 Chillies awards are not entitled to be held under the 2010 blueprint.

Those five defendants include the Chairman of the 2010 organizing/blueprint committee Rohan Rajaratnam and its members, Ranil De Silva, Chalaka Gajabahu, Laila Gunasekera Martenstyn and Adrian Ferdinands. The other defendants are the trustees of the Sri Lanka Advertising Awards - Imal Fonseka, Murad Ismail, Mike Masilamani, Stanley Carvalho, Kenneth Honter and Rajiv Meewakkala. The President of the Accredited Advertising Agencies Association (4A’s) Keith Wijesuriya and the President of the International Advertising Association (IAA) Renuka Marshall have also been named as defendants.

At a media briefing held this week, Triad Joint Managing Director Dilith Jayaweera said the agency’s main contention against the Chillies is the arbitrary changes that have been inflicted to the blueprint time and time again since the inception of the awards in 2006, giving unfair advantage to those on the blueprint committee who also happen to be representatives of the advertising agency.

Mr. Jayaweera said there have been allegations against a key individual misusing power to manipulate the outcome of the first awards show in 2006 who also manipulated media articles, influenced judges in the 2007 show and interfered in the judging process in 2008. Due to this behaviour, Mr. Jayaweera said the Chillies awards has lost credibility as evidenced by the drastic reduction in the number of agencies participating in 2010 compared to 2006 and the reduction in the number of entries and the value of sponsorships. In 2010, 18 agencies participated in comparison to 36 in 2006. The number of entries this year is 500, a threefold reduction compared to 1,500 entries received in 2006. The value of sponsorships has also declined to Rs.5 million in 2010 compared to Rs.20 million in 2006.

This 2010 blueprint requires agencies participating in the Chillies to be a member of either the 4A’s or the IAA. Mr. Jayaweera said it is a fair enough request but the fact that it was maliciously introduced at the last minute did not give agencies enough time to become members. He also said the introduction of a scam penalty, left to the judgment of ‘industry people’ to deduct points from agencies prior to the awards, could be used as a tool to victimize agencies. He pointed out that an acceptable ‘scam review panel’ was already in place in 2007.

Mr. Jayaweera added that last minute changes were made in 2009, changing the ‘Olympic Tally System’ to a ‘Metal Point Tally System’ where instead of rewarding quality, the awards show was converted to one where quantity made the difference. The change puts small agencies at a disadvantage since they don’t have quantity.

He suggested that perhaps the awards should revert to the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) which prior to the Chillies, had joint awards for marketing and advertising. The Chillies were formed in 2006 by the advertising industry as the SLIM awards did not recognize creativity.

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