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AFTER LAIF: THE UGLY SEMIOTICS

 
The 11th edition of the Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival (LAIF), themed “New Frontiers” has come and gone quite successfully, but leaving in its trail some knotty issues such as: the scrambling of categories, conspiracy, and most importantly: why is there no Grand Prix winner this year?
 
Truth is, the semiotics that characterized the dispositions of the LAIF jurors, even that which currently pervades the industry as a whole contributed quite significantly to what became of LAIF Awards this year. 
 
For clarity sake, semiotics deals with signs, and how they symptomize a given situation. Now let’s move on…
 
When LAIF was officially crystalized on June 26, 2006, under the leadership of Mr. Enyi Odigbo, then president of AAAN, its objective was clearly communicated thus: “To recognize creative excellence; help improve the quality of creative crafts, and promote the spirit of healthy competition.”
 
Can we wholeheartedly say the above objective of LAIF fully played out during the deliberations of the jury?  Without necessary saying that the Mr. Clement-Omemu led jurors didn’t do a good job; truth is, most of the jurors, literally speaking, came with axes and claws to hack and tear down perceived “enemies,” and competitions that won’t be favorable to the agencies they represent.  And this is quite expected since our jury system is dominantly composed of industry guys alone.
 
Rather than being genuinely objective as expected of a jury, what transpired was sheer conspiracy, bickering, bitter rivalry; a “tear-them-down to size” disposition, and gang-ups against this or that agency. This ugly development not only affected the credibility of the award itself, it largely explained why a Grand Prix win couldn’t surface this year, as the Grand Prix win would amount to such agency becoming “Nigeria’s Most Creative Agency of the year.”
“If my agency won’t win the Grand Prix, yours won’t win it too” became the unspoken mantra that fiercely drove the jurors, quite unfortunately.
 
Categories were scrambled, some names of agencies and couple of entry works were all mixed up, strange categories such as “Miscellaneous” surfaced, and quite ridiculously, 2 Golds were awarded to one agency in that same “Miscellaneous” category. 
 
Even within the industry as a whole, it now seems if an agency does something to raise its head above the parapet, one or two other competing agencies quickly get their axes out to chop off the head of such agency, all because they have to reduce the “overbearing agency” down to its miserable size. This growing animosity is utterly meaningless and very injurious to the industry as a whole.
 
And to think some of the jurors actually took this animosity mentality into the jury room! How else do you expect LAIF to turn out?
Without even trying to pry into the caliber of people that make up the jury this year, truth is, it’s about time we reviewed our jury system for a more credible award show.
 
A system where people doing the works are the same people awarding themselves is quite laughable to say the least. 
 
Can you imagine GLO rating Etisalat, or MTN rating Airtel for an award? Or, how objective can a Toyota be if it’s to rate a Volvo for an award? Can such a rating system be truly objective and totally devoid of bias? Yet, this is what we do in our ad industry: agency A rating the works of agency B for an award when in fact, both agencies are fierce competitors. 
 
At fashion shows, new designers are largely judged by independent fashion journalists and fashion critiques. At car shows, various independent safety authorities adjudge the new models. In same vein, why can’t our jury system have a mix of art scholars from credible institutions such as School of Media and Communications, Pan Atlantic University; real clients or independent advertising critiques probably made up of journalists from major ad publications? Such a jury composition will not only ensures sheer objective ratings, but also raise the value of the awards and generate more interest from the client side.
 
And as an industry, lets take lessons from Bloomberg Business Week, which quite traditionally, and in good sportsmanship, published a list of work from their rivals that had made them jealous, in other words, recognizing, encouraging and celebrating great works from competition, unlike our typical style of throwing stones at each other as if we’re a bunch of grumpy kids!
 
I’m Just Saying.