Balki: Adland lacks a credible awards show



The advertising industry has yet to create a credible awards shows, one of the region’s top creative directors has said.

R. Balakrishnan, better known as Balki, the chairman and chief creative officer of one of India’s biggest ad agencies, Lowe Lintas & Partners, said in an interview with Mumbrella that his agency does not enter awards because he does not approve of how awards are judged.

“We don’t enter awards. If the global team thinks our work is worth entering, then they’ll do it on our behalf. But we don’t enter awards. We don’t approve of how awards are judged. The advertising industry needs a credible awards show, but hasn’t cracked it yet,” he said.

Creativity should have a “purpose and judges should award work that works in the “real world” and solves genuine marketing problems, Balki said.

“You may love an idea, but it might be completely wrong for the problem you’re trying to tackle. An idea should make a difference to a client’s business.”

“It [an awards entry] shouldn’t be a solution for someone else’s brand. If you see an ad on TV or on YouTube, you know who’s behind that idea, and so do clients, who by the way don’t care about awards,” he said.

Balki said that agencies should produce work that brings commercial rewards for their clients.

“No clients want bad work,” he said. “But agencies should not try to do work they think is good, but makes no commercial sense to the client.”

“Some advertising people want to be recognised by their peers for their work. But most are wary of people who want to do good work without really understanding what the client really needs. The idea of what an agency wants and what a client wants is too often completely different.”

Balki also called on India’s ad industry to rethink how it remunerates young people coming into the industry. The entry-level pay for a creative in India is roughly US$4,000, he said, and “nobody can realistically start work in India on less than US$10,000 a year.”

In a wide-ranging interview, he agreed with comments made by BBH co-founder John Hegarty, who in an interview with Mumbrella called Big Data “nonsense”.

“Good creative people have an instinctive understanding of the world they live in. The job of advertising is to lead a consumer, not to follow him,” he said.

“We should be setting consumer trends and persuading people to follow them, not the other way around. But I don’t fight data, nor do I question its value. People will use the comfort of data to arrive at a thought and reassure them that a creative idea works, and that’s fine. Sometimes it’s useful. Most often it is not.”

Balki was named creative agency head of the year by the International Advertising Association’s India chapter in March.


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