Real time Creativity.


World is changing every nano second. Internet made it possible to live live. Every word you utter can spread like wildfire. Recently a tweet forced a minister resign, it takes few seconds to trend globally.

The original real-time communication was word of mouth. Religion used this form to perfection and then the kings; in the modern-day with Internet it became viral and buzz marketing. Now live is the name of the game live news in the aircrafts, live tweets from the space, live television on the mobile phones, live web cams stream videos from 2940 cities across the world from 4835 cams.

What can one possibly do with this live world today apart from tweeting and chatting? Leo Burnett Chicago came up with a creative idea: They created “David on Demand” . First ever Internet controlled human being. Take a look at the video:

We all have been talking about social media and how could one leverage this for building brands? There were theories about the possibilities but no cases to demonstrate until last year when Crispin Porter & Bogusky came up with this Cannes titanium winning idea, check the video:

Creativity has the power to change the way we consume the new technologies, above cases are shinning examples of how imaginatively one can use the Internet video streaming and twitter.

StorySelling.


Dream Merchants to storysellers, advertising creatives made the distance. As television gained popularity, it took little time to realize that viewers are interested in entertainment and not messages. This reinvention has its inspirations drawn from the human history, a simple insight of humans being exploited by religious preachers,  travellers, wise men and grand parents: People are interested in stories than preachings, events or even morals.

Epics like “Ramayan” or even “Panchatantra” amply demonstrate the apetite for stories. Take bedtime stories for example, when a kid does something wrong we wait till its bedtime to narrate a moral story. Good moral stories are like a homeopathic pills, while the sugar coating is entertainment and medicine is the moral. This enlightenment of short Panchatantra type moral stories lead to powerful 60 seconds stories in advertising.

Here is one such advertising story I love the most, This story was written by Agnello Dias while he was with Leo Burnett six years ago. Agnello has always been a story teller but he seldom used the skills in television, this time around my nagging and pushing him has resulted in this epic story for Times of India.

When DNA launched its paper in Mumbai, Times of India wanted to reiterate the paper’s rich and long association with the country, with a brief like that, one would have fallen into dramatizing rich historic events, but Agnello came up with a brilliant observation about news papers, that they bring-in good and bad news with the same emotions. True. Look at the classified columns, you’ll see an obituary ad next to celebrating birth of a child ad. These observations lead Agnello to write story of this newspaper delivering good and bad news to the same family.

Finally it’s all about telling a great story in the simplest manner with a great insight or an observation thrown in. Whether you are writing a novel, short story, feature film or even  a 60 second spot, the rules are the same: set up a conflict and resolve them in an inspiring way.

No wonder we still love homeopathic pills.

Neil French. King of good times.


Neil French. The most colorful advertising creative man the world has ever seen at least this part of the world. Pole dancers to sexist comments to brilliant writing to scam ads to bull fighting to cigars, he has given it all. Advertising’s very own bad boy quietly settled for a Dad’s post. I was fortunate enough to spend couple of days with this legend at Shanghai last year.

I have always admired his guts, audacity, cleverness and above all his craft, as an art director having worked with someone of the best Indian writers like Biwas Sen, Chax, Kersey Katrak, Mohammed Khan, Ivan Arthur, Balki and Agnello Dias, still feel some dissatisfaction of not working with Neil. At least I cherished the moments spent with him in China. I hate the sexist and blunt rude man in him at the same time love his simple frankness. He loves his live, work and women. His passion for writing and dismissiveness both are equally infectious if you listen to him long enough.

The time I spent with him was like a movie trailer , I witnessed him autographing on the breast of a young chinese ad professional to his Cigar chewing arrogant command for respect look to insights into his work to his obsession to play online monopoly to an anxious dad worried for his son being left alone at a friends place. I got to see the man up close delivering all emotions.

Talking about his sexist remarks on a fellow CD at WPP, which forced him to step down as worldwide creative director and have had the grace to accept that his sense of humour not going well with the community. Couple of years later found support in Asian creative icon Jureeporn who attributed her success to his encouragement of women creatives in Asia.

Two of my favorite campaigns:

XO Beer.

To prove a point to clients who think that print as a medium is not suited for FMCG and beer. So he went on to create a brand called “XO” which never existed in real life and even created fake packaging. He broke every beer advertising rule, no pouring shots, no drinking shots, no sexy women, no expensive cars, no mouth watering defrosted glass with froth. The campaign became a rage and people flocked to the shops and bars only to discover that the brand never existed and it was a private lesson taught in public. You need guts and audacity to think and implement a campaign like that. Hats off.

Chivas Regal.

When Johnny Walker was a market leader, Chivas considered to be cheap and therefore selling less in a status driven market. The obvious decision was to increase the price but along with it came a super confident tone of voice almost bordering on arrogance did the trick and Chivas became No:1. In case if have not read the line it says : “If you don’t recognise it, you’ve probably not ready for it” and what you see below is a bottle without the label.  Absolutely Audacious.

Lessons from this master’s life are: when you enjoy your life and live fearlessly you tend to come up with brillent ideas. True. when you are on a roll you tend to engage people in a more charming way than when you are down.

As they say “French” knows how to live life king size.

“Indian print slipped into coma a decade ago.”


Shocking but true. What is keeping print advertising art alive is the pro-active\pro-award work. Once most loved advertising medium is dying and helplessly staring into nothingness, hopelessly waiting for a miraculous recovery. Who can kindle the hope? Kindle? Or will the Apple’s of the world pad-up for the revival of written word?

Kindle and our very own Chetan Bhaghat are bringing readers back or if I may say so, bringing a newer generation of readers. My children never read “Tower of silence” or “Hobbit” or “Watership down”; they don’t look up to Ann Rand or Hermann Hesse. Only newspaper they are interested is Bombay Times.

Reading books or for that matter any printed word is becoming rarest of rare things to happen, if they do happen than, that’s the day papa’s like me celebrate. While multi-screen revolution and evolution may keep words alive and evolve, what about print advertising? Do we need to get satisfied with sale and escort services ads? Will the sleeping beauty called print resting in coma move any muscle someday? Or will it rest in the book of Eli?


Once brands and issues use to put forth compelling and persuasive arguments like the ones Agnello Dias does for “Aman ke Asha” or Mohammad Khan’s argument for a price hike of 50 paisa for Kingston cigarettes or Adrian Homes Insurance ads or Bill Bernbach’s logic for Jewish Rye. The art of writing persuasive copy is gone, most of the copy writing in print today is salesman copy written by writers with content copy mind-set.

Once a client and a media agency head in a drunken state told me that print can’t deliver emotions therefore we are using print as informative or reminder medium. Hence there are no theme ads scheduled. I almost cried “ Get your heads checked ***holes” like in dreams only I could hear my voice.

When Mohammad Khan advertised for “Vadilal” readers licked the pictures of the ice-cream, when Ajit Patel shot a Premier Padmini, thousands of cars rolled out of the shelves, Elsie Nanji went to jail for Action shoes. Passionate writers and art directors sold many emotions in print.

Chetan Bhaghat, Agnello Dias and Kindle’s of the world are the only hope to make printed word to talk again.

Sameness syndrome.


Same to same. Ditto. Copy that. Identical similarity. Monotony. Repetition. Parity. Par. Oneness. At the least sameness have more than a dozen synonyms. Will you second that?

Sameness is a modern-day disease we all suffer from. Nearly 25 years back when I started to travel aboard, each airport, each city and its taxies, signage, people, architecture, food and currency every thing use to look, feel and smell different.

There was a visible difference between a Singapore and a Shanghai and a San Jose. London cabs to Kolkata trams to Mumbai taxies to Tokyo’s bullet trains, transport had it’s own identity in the culture of the cities.

Not long ago Paris, Zürich, Bangkok, Beijing and New Delhi were free of ugly-looking glass buildings. Today, if you take a drive on the freeways of Gurgaon, New Delhi, it feels like you are driving in the downtown of San Jose. The Hyderabad, New Delhi and Beijing airports look identical all built recently.

This sameness is every where, 50 years ago there was only one denim brand called Levi’s which sported, five pockets with rivets today there are close to 100,000 brands. We all look the same, talk the same, wear the same, smell the same even feel the same in this mass production \consumption\ pirated \ keep up with Jones \ unison era.

Not just brand identities and product designs even cities, cultures and values are been cloned today.

“ Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure”

Get paid to live in the past.


Have you ever heard about a profession that pays you to relive the memories of your childhood and of  bygone days?

Well advertising does.

Advertising planners and creatives thrive and make a living by generating insights and using them judiciously and at times generously for the brands. “Insights” are nothing but homegrown truths, which people often forgotten about or truths, which are hidden deep, down their minds and you re-cognate them once reminded.

True insights, always get instant nods when heard, for instance if I were to say “daughters are the best source of learning for mothers” I would get an instant approval because this makes you to think and dig into your own life experiences and infer the truth. This rediscovery of human truth engages consumers in the context of product’s purpose in their life. This engagement creates affinity, love, bond and loyalty towards the brand.

Therefore the people who can generate and know how to use them are the richest souls in advertising.

Than the inquisitive question “ How does one get to an insight? .

Simple. Re-live your past. Sit down, relax and memorize your childhood, about that sexy aunt, nosy teacher, wicked old man next door, one-eyed police officer, peep holes, watering holes, crush on your English teacher, bikini babes or hunks (I am not a sexist), you end up with a rich source of experiences from which you can pluck relevant insights.

Here are some great insights brands\people used:

British airways: Children walk to school and run back home. (How true!)

Jureeporn Thaidumrong ECD of JEH United of Bangkok used “ Women feel safer when there is bright light” (How true!)

McDonald’s used “How painful it is to be a six-year-old.” (How true)

Linda Locke RCD Leo Burnett Singapore used for Breast cancer foundation: “Only if women were to look at their breast as often as men do”( How true)

Our very own Indian brands use: HDFC Life “Self respect” – Mc Donalds “ Bapp ka Zamane ka damm” – Complan “Latak ne se height nahi badegi” – SBI “ hera ko kya pata, pahen ne walle ki umar?” – Asian paints” Har ghar kuch kaheta hai”.

All the above insights are generated from some ones life experience, one could imagine Jureeporn being a women could have observed when husbands come home late, wife’s prefer to keep all the lights burning.

Love living in the past? Welcome home.

Why expat creative officers do not work in India?



It is not by ­­­accident that Indian advertising had very few expats or even none I must say given our size and importance of our market post liberalization. Compare this with countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines or even Japan, China or Korea all of them are equally sensitive to their culture and people. Why is that expat CD’s thrive in those countries? Why do global companies push for expats for local markets? I can understand expats doing global jobs, which are different from the local ones.

As I was saying in my earlier blogs, India is not one country, it’s several. It is extremely difficult even an Indian and a Telugu like me to understand the Punjabi and Corgi nuances, imagine a Manipuri creative director understanding the difference between a Palghat and Salem mindset. Now imagine an Australian or a half German trying to write for “chloromint alpenliebe ” or getting the “karwa chauth” sentiment right.

We may argue that good advertising is all about Ideas and universal emotions, and indeed they are. The difference I am pointing is the difference between “Slumdog” vs. “3 Idiots” vs. “Dabangg” vs. “Enthiran” vs. “Shankarabharanam”. I have not even mentioned or even aware of the relevance of Bengali, Marathi, Bhojpuri or Kannada films in the popular culture of our country. The one great thing Indian Creative leaders posses in abundance is patience. Apart from universal insights we patiently dig out local, cultural, regional, social economical, gender, ideological insights to connect with this 1.2 billion disconnected people.

My submission is simple. India is a complex country even for Indian to understand and it’s unfair to expect an expat to understand and connect with this country in an 18 months window. Even Mark Tully took many years to know this country.

Imagine a Balki or a Piyush or a Prasoon being replaced with an expat.

“Ganesh” most loved god by people. And most fascinated by artist.


Today Hindus celebrate the festival of “Ganesh Chaturti”, where Lord Ganesh was made head of all deities by his father Lord Shiva, religion apart, Ganesh the half elephant- half human, short, fat and has rat as his vehicle is the most loved god in India, he cuts across all religious and physical boundaries. In Bangkok or Barampur  no business is conducted without worshiping him, similarly there is no child in the sub-continent who can not draw Ganesha. His physical appearance and his stature as god of gods and his victory over his smart brother made him as an identifiable hero with kids. And growing up with this affinity is what makes him the favorite amongst the creative people. Like kids there is no poet, writer, painter or a caricaturist who had not dabbled with this lovable god’s image. Great painters right from Raja Ravi Varma to M F Hussain all were fascinated by him which is evident from their work.

The greatest contribution to Lord Ganesha came from the much celebrated Calendar art of Shivakasi a small town in Tamilnadu. Today Shivakasi is the second largest printing capital of the world only after Gutenberg of Germany what started as a backyard litho printing units of British India, developed into rich hindu calendar art/ film poster studios to present day offset.

As a child I used to make clay Ganesha for the festival celebrations, now my daughter follows the tradition.

“Famous brands make creatives famous.”


Young creative people often shy away from working on big brands, it is becoming extremely difficult to attract good talent to work on country’s biggest brands. The reason being: You have to work with-in a given box, younger ones wants the freedom to think freely and fit brands to their ideas than the other way round. The discipline of brief, research and listening to consumers/ people is too much of a bore these days to youngsters. I like the freshness and energy youth brings to the table but hate the indiscipline which tags along.

There are few reasons why young creatives should work on big brands:

  1. Piyush: Cadbury’s, Fevicol, Luna, SBI, Ponds, Asian Paints and Perfetti
  2. Balki: Pepsodent, Fair & Lovely, Surf, Idea and Bajaj
  3. Prasoon Joshi: Coca Cola, Perfetti-Happydent
  4. Agnello Dias: Rin, Thums Up, Nike, Sony, Indian Oil and Times of India
  5. Rajiv Rao: Hutch, Vodafone and Zoo zoo’s.
  6. Madhu Bhandari: Fair & Lovely, Pepsodent, J
  7. Priti Nair: Axe, Balbir Pasha, Clinic, Surf and Green Ply
  8. Ravi Deshpande : Cadbury’s, Shoppers Shop and Asian Paints
  9. Chax: Brooke Bond, J&J, Airtel, Docomo and Indian Oil
  10. Abhajit Awasti : Cadbury’s, ITC, Asian Paints, Limca, Sprite and Perfetti.

Imagine if these legends were not to work on the brands they worked. would they be as famous as they are today? Big brands give you big canvas and big bucks. What else you need to be famous?. All these humble creative people ( I have known all of them for several decades now) have given there lives and have sacrificed personal time to work on big brands and I guarantee you they have the same appetite even today.

It’s a wonderful feeling when you see the brands you worked on are the brands people love and you have a little part in making them lovable.

“5o die as a result of striking doctors and world’s largest democracy goes numb.”


Residents Doctors of PBM Hospital raise slogans during their strike in Bikaner on Tuesday. Photo: PTI

Shocking! If reports were to believed as of this minute over 50 patients died last 3 days due to striking doctors in western state of Rajasthan. And 1.2 billon strong Indian population has gone numb after handful of doctors held the nation to a ransom. If this is what is democracy than who wants it? How can any nation allow the emergency services to on strike? Who can assure public safety? Can paramedics/ fire/ rescue / army / police services be allowed to go on strike?

Of course everyone has a problem and a right to seek a solution. Can that be allowed to go to this extent of claiming innocent lives? Neither am I an activist nor an expert, my feet went numb when  I saw the news this evening on television. Only thing I could muster is some strength to write this blog.

I have faith in our democracy and government to take remedial action, but its too late for those who lost their lives. I can only extend my deepest condolences to the victims and strongest protest against the barbaric doctors who should have never opted for this profession.

This nation will take a long time to recover from this anesthesia.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Rajasthan-50-lives-lost-but-docs-continue-stir/articleshow/6511233.cms

“Bollywood the ugly caterpillar.”


Bollywood is going through a metamorphosis, what dominated in sixties was emotional melodramas and patriotic themes to seventies restlessness for social justices lead to the creation of “angry young-man” and eighties saw the emergence of romance  and optimism with new parallel cinema thrown in. Nineties saw the global settings of Bollywood reflecting the success of Indians abroad and Bollywood started setting stories rather than songs abroad. And last decade dominated by Khans and KJo ( Karan Johar) took Bollywood stories to aspirations of living the dreams in an escapist land. Reality took a nose dive, it was all about Indian sentiments set in designer ware.

Thanks to multiplex revolution in urban India, cinema took a serious U turn, powered by younger and more saner breed wanting to take Bollywood out of long hibernation. After Ray’s and Benegal’s and Marchant’s and Jabwalla’s India cinema virtually went into an hibernation till “Lagan” came along.

Today after “Udan” and “Peepli Live” one can say that the ugly caterpillar is morphing into a beautiful butterfly.