Business Times

Controversial Chillies Ad awards cancelled

Blocked by court order
By Natasha Gunaratne

Explosive developments this week surrounding the controversial Chillies Ad awards has resulted in the awards show being cancelled following an order handed down by the District Court of Colombo this week in response to a case filed against the Chillies organizing body by advertising agency Phoenix Ogilvy.

The District Court issued an order on Thursday preventing the organizing body of the Chillies from conducting the 2010 awards without accepting the entries submitted by Phoenix Ogilvy. Judge Mohammed Lafar, who presided over the case, also gave another order preventing the Chillies 2010 committee from evaluating or judging entries submitted from any other agency without accepting entries from Phoenix Ogilvy.

Rumblings of discontent over the Chillies, a follow up of the SLIM Ad Awards after the ad industry moved away from the SLIM process, has been reported over the years by the Business Times and industry veterans said it was inevitable that the crisis would lead to a court battle or a discontinuation of the awards. On Friday, one of the Chillies Trustees, Rajiv Meewakkala resigned while more resignations were likely from the Trustees, industry sources said.

This week’s case was filed by the advertising agency in response to a new rule in the 2010 blueprint, stipulating that advertising agencies must be members of either the International Advertising Association (IAA) or the Accredited Advertising Agencies Association (4As) to participate in the awards, a condition that is not found in any similar other ad award across the world.

Chairman of the organizing/blueprint committee Rohan Rajaratnam told the Business Times that the committee will be forced to comply with the legal requirements and will be unable to hold the awards show, scheduled to have taken place on May 16. Asked if amendments can be made to the blueprint at this time, Mr. Rajaratnam said it is not possible. Some foreign judges have arrived in Colombo for the awards show but are unaware of the current situation.

Phoenix Ogilvy is not a member of either association and has maintained that the criteria to enter the awards should be that an agency is accredited. Chairman of Phoenix Ogilvy Irvin Weerackody told the Business Times that the organizing committee did not respond to any of their communication on this issue. “Nothing came out of it so I had to go to court,” Mr. Weerackody said.He added that the intention of the enjoining order obtained was not to stop the Chillies awards but to make sure that Phoenix Ogilvy’s entries are accepted.

Mr. Weerackody said the stipulation to debar Phoenix Ogilvy from entering the Chillies was clearly an act of vengeance. “It was a high-handed act on the part of the blueprint committee. At least two trustees claim that they never saw the blueprint committee report until I brought the matter to their notice. In spite of this new condition that was enforced, Phoenix Ogilvy went ahead and submitted entries on the April 22, 2010 which were eventually rejected.”

Mr. Weerackody wrote to the awards secretariat on April 22 stating that conduct of the Chillies 2010 based on the current blueprint is wrongful and unlawful. He urged the advertising awards secretariat to refrain from conducting Chillies 2010 based on the said blueprint and to remove the arbitrary and discriminatory eligibility criteria.

Mr. Weerackody added that he does not have any worries about the anti-scam regulations introduced in the blueprint this year. “The more stringent the anti-scam regulations, the better it is.”

Romesh De Silva President’s Counsel with Sudath Caldera and Manoj Bandara instructed by Sudath Perera Associates appeared for the plaintiff Phoenix Ogilvy.

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