ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 02, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40
Financial Times  

Chillies: 'Change' or Controversy?

By Natasha Gunaratne

The theme at the 2008 Chillies held last Saturday was 'change.' The awards started off with a stirring rendition of 'Winds of Change', performed to entertain the crowd but controversy over scam, not change, still dogged the results and the fall out has left many in the industry crying foul.

While Nalin Karunaratne, Chairman of the Chillies Steering Committee, called the awards exciting and eventful, it was also steeped in controversy for a second successive year. One of the notable mentions of the evening was the 200% Scam Free banner that the winning teams from BatesAsia Strategic Alliance paraded on stage when accepting their awards.

Some agencies such as Masters DDB which took away one bronze, stayed away from the entire ceremony.

Triad Advertising was adjudged the Agency of the Year by taking the only gold awarded in the entire awards in the Ambient category for 'The Makeup' campaign despite earning three metals in total, the other two bronze. Leo Burnett Solutions Inc. came in second in the metal tally with four silvers and 12 bronzes. The top three was rounded off by BatesAsia with three silvers and eight bronzes including Campaign of the Year for Hutch, titled 'Where It Matters to me.'

At a press conference on Monday, a day after the 2008 Chillies awards which were created to celebrate and honour the finest in the local advertising industry, Leo Burnett Solutions was a noticeable absentee although the managing directors from Triad and BatesAsia were present. Leo Burnett issued a press release regarding their absence, saying they 'declined the invitation extended at very short notice by SMS and later by telephone call' to attend the media briefing. Furthermore, Leo Burnett stated they have been made to understand that 'there have been several violations of the blue print pertaining to the jury, judgments and judging procedure' which have been highlighted to the Presidents of the 4A's and the IAA who in turn addressed it with the steering committee.

Managing Director of Leo Burnett, Ranil De Silva said he could not comment on the specifics of the violations because there is a method of recourse which has to be followed.

He did say that leading up to the awards, the issues were raised with the two Presidents of the Associations, Imal Fonseka of the International Advertising Agency (IAA) and Laila Gunasekera of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies (4A's), but there was no rectification.

He also said that he did not attend the press conference because after being told that he would not be able to speak about the issue. Leo Burnett will now take the issues up with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

In addition, the Leo Burnett press release said the agency is once again, by far, the most awarded agency at The Sri Lanka Advertising Awards, having been awarded 30 awards which included 16 metals, accounting for 30 percent of the awards presented with an additional 14 finalist recognitions at the Chillies.

Karunaratne said the agencies are working towards a world class advertising industry and said the international jury had been pleased to see the level of creativity. He described the judging criteria as tough which could explain the solitary gold metal despite the 975 entries received. The number of entries also marks a decrease from last year's 1100. Furthermore, a total of 52 metals were awarded this year, down from the 72 awarded the previous year.

Addressing the issue of scams which initially created at furore at last year's awards, Karunaratne said this was the first year and the first attempt made to implement a process and criteria to deal with the issue. Of the 975 advertisements submitted, some agencies were asked for further clarification after which some entries were withdrawn.

If even after further clarifications and advertisements are deemed to be scam, Karunaratne explained that the agency will be publicly named and subsequently banned from next year's Chillies.

Joint Managing Director of Triad, Varuni Amunugama Fernando said it is not a coincidence that Triad was named Agency of the Year over the past three years.

She said Triad had a plan and a strategy go to after the gold but in an ethical way. Fernando said Triad is not a part of the petty squabbles and narrow-mindedness and that the entire Triad team and spirit made the win possible.

She also said Triad wants to share their win with everyone in the advertising industry. Triad's Joint Managing Director, Dilith Jayaweera added that the agency has always been ethical in the way they do business and should be raising the bar and the creative standards of the industry instead of fighting on petty things.

BatesAsia Managing Director, Nimal Gunawardena said the Chillies were designed to meet the aspirations of the advertising industry and as such, he has been somewhat of a 'pressure point' who has wanted to make sure the industry is on the right path. He said the Steering Committee has, to some extent, taken steps to eliminate scam and level the playing field but said more work has to be done.

Asked for his comments on the Chillies, Irvin Weerackody, Chairman/Managing Director of Phoenix O&M (Pvt) Ltd., described it as a “Pus Wedilla (faux pas).”


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