Create. Collaborate and Compete.


 

Advertising has become more complex today then ever before, there was a time when all channels of communications were controlled by advertising agencies but today advertising has gone through a significant change today we have more then two dozen specialist agencies specialized from creative planning to digital executions. Apart from loads of channels to communicate to the consumers have changed, people themselves have changed.

A recent study published in Times of India points the average age of the consumer had dropped dramatically, for instance an average car buyers age had come down from 45 to below 30. This change not only affects the target for marketing but it also changes the media planning. Hence one needs to look at the content of communication in the context of message consumption therefore it is extremely important for the communication content creators to understand the contextual targeting. The moral of this story is if the creative and media planning or digital planning agencies do not collaborate then how the hell are they going to create a relevant campaign?

 

 

 

In this ever-evolving complex world everything is linked to everything and not everyone can be experts in everything. Super specializations are hear to stay and the intelligence lies in learning from each other and working as a team even if the team you are supposed to work with, belongs to a competing holding company. If a creative agency can collaborate with a film production company, which also works with competing agencies can happen with out any hesitation, then why not collaborate with another competing small agency on a project in the interest of a brand?

Bigger and traditional creative agencies can learn a thing or two from modern design companies which have learned to co-create and collaborate with technology companies for starters take a look at the design winners from Cannes this year. Small and nimble agencies have realized this early enough and are raking in now. Now it’s the turn of the biggies.

We all are witnessing the results of coalition government with out any collaboration. I urge all the communications channels to come together and get to learn from each other and march ahead into the new age communication era.

After all the solo sulking days have gone, as my friend Agnello puts it “jo tera hai wo mera hai”,

 

 

 

Power shifts in advertising.


The recent ranking of the most influential people by Brand Equity raised eyebrows and sent shockwaves thru the ranks of the industry. The veteran blackberry boys were giving way to apple tribes.

Two decades back armed with management degrees from the top institutes the double-breasted blue blazer brigade took firm control of the business from the erstwhile “angrezi hangover babu’s” of the post independent India. And the blazer brigade were the most powerful lot as they controlled the business of the businesses by working as strategic and marketing extensions of huge corporations.

What made this successful brigade to take a back seat? Why the suits were marginalized? What made creative guys to rise?

Well the answer lies partly in the changing business model and partly in the egoist reluctant to change CEO’s.  Why do I blame them?  Three decades ago when I started work in advertising as an untrained commercial artist, stumbled upon a book in a second hand bookstore titled  “12 benevolent dictators of advertising” the book dealt with how the legends of the industry were thrown out of their own shops unceremoniously.

And the moral of the story being: ownership does not give power, real power in advertising is the influence you have on the Brands business and how indispensible you become to the biggest brands of the agency. Most often the owners and the MBA managers mistake power to money control and designations therefore they spend all the time in managing money and holding control meeting. Before they even realize the power starts to shift to enterprising business heads or creative heads.

Its not surprising to see some of the legendary CEO’s being marginalized post de-bundling of creative agencies. When you had 15 channels to manage a general manager was more powerful today there is just creative and only products to be managed are Ideas.

With INS accreditation out of the window and monthly remuneration system is in, there is hardly any complex management is needed therefore more creatives are taking charge to manage ideas and agencies.

Hope one day the management schools will add this section of Idea management to their curriculum.

“Why advertising should be governed by principles and not by rules?”


Image

Creativity governed by rules would lead to the death of entertainment. Daily soaps, movies and ads would be like power point presentations using excel sheets. Exaggeration and imagination are the cornerstones of creativity and story telling. Can you imagine a story without a metaphor, vivid demonstration, fantasy or a hyperbolic demonstration of human greed? Be it Axe or Avatar if the underlining moral were not be exaggerated, it would never sink in.

Having said the above now imagine a state without any legislature to govern, a society without any norms, a family with out any principles. We all can imagine the mayhem.

What is moral and what is legal is an eternal debate, in spite of a legal definition, because we all would like to be governed by morals rather than legislature if given a choice. Why should this be any different for the brands that are behaving  as human as real as our siblings? Why do 99.999% of disputes is resolved without ever had to go to courts or lawyers?

As civilized beings we know when to cross the line and when not to. If we argue modern day brands are like humans who find a purposeful existence in people’s life than why don’t they behave themselves by not crossing the line? The state bestowed faith on the industry to conduct itself by allowing “Self governed code of conduct” and a body to monitor “Advertising Standard Council of India “ and all we do as a community is to find legal ways to beat the system. If the law says you need to have a support to your claim, we produce one from an unheard research institute, as insiders we all know what game we have been playing.

Time has come to take a hard look at the old approach not because laws have changed because people have changed, world has changed. Today 90% of the youth in the world are concerned about the survival of the planet, world peace, old parents and values. Never before transparency and honesty are valued as today. Leader are responding to this new order be it Obama or Anna Hazare or Nike or Apple. In fact I would go to an extent of saying leading brands have responded faster then the political leaders, to support my hypothesis let me barrow a research report which says 4 out of top 10 icons of the world are brands not people.

There is a selfish reason why brands must inculcate good values first and start to propagate them next. If the brands are governed by the principles of the values they abide by then there is very little chance of them crossing any ethical line to be punished by people or state.

Lets turn to the communicators or the creators. I believe they are two kinds of human beings in this world, those who care and those who don’t. Those who do care are the sensitive lot and are aware of sensitive issues like; gender, values, ethics, children, safety, religion and minority communities, they generally rely on honesty and integrity of the communication to connect with people. They avoid using hyperbolic gimmicks to attract the attention. These are the guys who guide a brand to success thru life insights on the other hand people who do not care for others sentiments, do create regressive communication by resorting to cheep humor, emotional black mailing or even cooked up miss-leading facts.

Brands today are like celebrities their behavior in public is been watched by live cameras 24X7, the moment Shahrukh lit a cigarette in an a stadium, hundreds of tweets went live and even some legal suits. In this transparent world you cannot close your eyes and think world is not watching you. If you show a little kid “Chotu”serving tea in a ad, no matter how light heartedly you portray the situation, people will decode you as an endorser of child labor.

Creative people and agencies also have to be sensitive towards the societal realities. No rulebook says you cannot use a “pug” in an ad. But one need to be sensitive to the fact that the desire the ad can create in people to own and love a “pug” would be enormous and the damage it can potentially create to the species would also be enormous.  If only creators were to give a little thought before depicting two boys in a family ad and the influence it can have on people to aspire for boys. When we realize a little thought could have let a girl child live we would understand our purpose in life.

Creators have an enormous power to write stories, which can influence people and their-in lays the responsibility to use the power in the right way. If the marketers and communicators ignore the responsibility and cross the line they may well face the consequence of rulebooks, which may well be written by the NGO/Govt., legal eagles.

Censorship or self-discipline, choice is ours today.

Why Piyush Pandey is the greatest Indian Ad-man ever? Why he deserves the “Clio” life time?


This is from my previous post, posted a couple of years back when Piyush was conferred “life time achievement award” by AAAI and now “Clio” announced that its going to honor our man, and I truly believe there is no person more deserving in the world advertising then him ( including Marcello Serpa.)

Excerpts from my previous post:

Piyush Pandey was recently been conferred AAAI lifetime achievement award, an honor usually reserved for retirees. Piyush is still a practicing creative person in short a working legend. He is Indian advertising’s greatest, I will place him above Subhas Ghosal, Alyque Padamsee and Mohammed Khan for simple reasons: he single-handedly changed the target audience from elite British Indians to middle class heartland bharatvasi’s. And also for putting Indian advertising amongst the global greats. (I had the privilege of working with all the above legends except Piyush.)

Above all he is one of the greatest human beings I have met in my career, what can you say? In this pseudo advertising and corporate world, where people hesitate to thank there wife for being an inspiration and support in public, this man brings his mother to the ceremony and proudly introduces her to all honchos present. I always admired people who do not hesitate to show respect for parents and family in public. I can not think of any other Ad-man doing that.

Piyush is a large-hearted man, loves his life enjoys every moment with a hearty laughter. I have never seen him crib about anything. This is what gets reflected in his work and also in his agency, always enjoys and celebrate life. As we at Burnett believe that “creativity has the power to transform human behavior” Piyush showered enough creativity to change the way common people behaved in this country, right from “Luna” finding a place in middle class India to nation celebrating the success of “Pappu” with Cadbury Dairy Milk to Railgaddi for Indian railways to celebrating real life characters in Fevicol.

He changed the way Indians looked at advertising, he had created many stars, gave new vocabulary, made people love advertising more than television programming. I can go on and on as an insider what he had done to the Industry and why he deserved the award and this blog.

“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 (rodent) 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.

Creation of Gandhi font.


Or is he a different type?

In hatred he saw love. In fear, courage. In weakness he saw strength. And in violence, truth. In cruelty he saw kindness. In anger he saw humanity. And in struggle, he saw peace. He saw things through his soul that are invisible to the eye. Yet through his eyes, we can still see the shining light of humanity. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. A different type.

Above are the words came out of Agnello Dias when I told him about my intention to create a font for Gandhi.

” There is no god higher than truth.” is what he said and is what got imprinted in my mind  ever since I was a little boy, my grand parents always told me stories of Gandhi at bedtime, I am still a vegetarian thanks to the impression he made on me. I am just a spec in billions who follow him. Once he said “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

When Indian Industrialist Vijay Mallya salvaged the pride of a nation by bringing back the priced possession of a man who owned nothing. The day New York auctioneer announced auctioning of Mahatma’s spectacles the nation put her head down in shame, as embarrassed Indian government’s  desperate attempts to stall the action failed, Mallya’s $1.8 millon came to the rescue.

His glasses has a deep significance to all Indians, when he gave away the glasses in 1930’s to an army colonel he said ” these gave me vision to free India”. Today as we live in a free India we still are slaves to violence, terrorism, untouchability, communalism and many more evils. A young nation celebrates holiday on his birthday than his wisdom as Nitesh Tiwari one of our copywriters put it.

How do we make him and his vision relevant and how do we make people try to see the world through his eyes? Than the Idea of a typeface created out of his glasses came about.

Typographers from Leo Burnett went on to create this marvelous Gandhiji font in Devanagari and the team is working overtime to launch english and other Indian languages.( an up-date:English, Devnagari, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are available ) The website went live last night http://www.gandhijifont.com

What’s the best way to keep Gandhi’s spectacles away from auctioneers than this?


iPad painting : T20 of art?


Resisting change is in human nature. Well in marketing terms I could be classified as an enthusiast or an early adopter. People take their own time to adapt to new things, because familiarity with the old gives us solace hence adoption curve will take time to climb as in the case of digital photography. Every photographer worth his salt resisted the digital formats till Hasselblad and Sinar came up with digital backs, even I resisted till Nikon D90 happened.

Purist will resist the “bastardisation” of any art form. Human talent and craft rules supreme any intervention by machines or non-human is believed to contaminate art. Each art moment faced this challenge be it Cubism, Dadaism or Expressionism. This divine Apple’s intervention will also have its fair bit of resistance from purist. Never before the digital software gave the gratification of real painting experience, where technology is invisible. Thanks to the touch screen and tablet format, suddenly one gets instant gratification of drawing or painting.

I have never tried to create art using digital technology in my life till iPhone happened a year ago, where I downloaded an app called “Fountain Pen” which allowed me to scribble on the screen, I loved it but never took it as serious art, while my friends from Twitter and Facebook insisted that indeed it was, when shared. When I picked up my iPad last December on my son’s insistence to watch You Tube Videos and ads, I discovered many silly drawing apps which did not interest me till I stumbled upon “Art Rage” which blew my mind, it was like a live TED video and magic unfolding every second. I looked at havens and adopted “Art Rage” instantaneously.

What magic did iPad and Art Rage did on me?

As I said before iPad gave me the gratification of real drawing and painting and further iPad allows me to carry my studio with me almost every where like a mobile phone. Art Rage gave a complete studio of 2000 square feet with innumerable capacity to store canvases both painted and new, hundreds of tubes of colors free with infinite shades, entire sets of hog hair and sable hair brushes, palate and painting knifes, rollers etc, etc, all this lifetime supplies for a meager $7.00.

Nothing is more tempting to a soccer player then seeing a still ball, and same is true to an artist, give an artist a white paper and ask him/her not to scribble? Materials tempted me to carry on painting especially the oils, all this without the hassle of cleaning or arranging. I painted close to 70-75 canvases in less than 40 days and did around 200 charcoal sketches, all this in normal process would have taken almost couple of years, what does this say to us? At an average time of 3 hours for each painting it make you more prolific than any one can ever imagine!

Technology is not helping art it’s just helping the artist, you still need to be a trained artist to paint even on a dame tablet. Prolific art may cause a supply surplus in the market but on the other hand artist may actually see some money while they are alive.

Had anyone ever guessed that one can score 300 runs in 20 overs?

Why do we miss our middle-class-ness?



Somewhere down the lane, without you realizing success changes your life. While success\money\technology brings lots of new excitement, experiences fulfilling newer needs and desires, it also reduces lot of joys of middle-class life to memories of the past.

Hear are a few middle-class moments we all deeply miss:

Sharing ill-fitted cloths of your elder brother as a kid\teenager. However much you resist it had to happen for expensive terrycot or terlene shirts or even ever lasting Bata shoes. We virtually had to drag feet on rough concrete roads to make rubber burn and make holes in the shoes to get newer one’s or to stop passing on to our younger brothers.

All the siblings to share the same design and fabric for every festival courtesy family tailor who brings a “tann” at a cheaper rate.

Advance booking of textbooks from a friendly neighborhood senior student, if you do not have an elder brother or sister studying in the same school.

How could you escape the Nepaliwalla’s sweater for winters or your mom’s ill-knitted one, which became loose and two sizes bigger to your younger brother after three months of use or abuse?

Coconut oil and Shikakai “Head-bath” is a ritual for every festival and auspicious day in our childhood. Oily head was fine since it’s done on holidays but shikakai homemade shampoo used to burn the eyes and made them red for a day at the least.

Listening to radio cricket commentary and keeping detailed scorecard, not to mention the suffering from Narotham Puri. And of course the ting tongs of “Vividh bharathi “

An excuse of stomach aches to get free taste of Unani medicine.

Homemade Kulfi, sweets and even Diwali crackers, watching adults make firecrackers at home was the most amazing sight of excitement and stealing them while drying was even more exciting.

Life on a terraces is a chapter by itself starting from combined studies to leching girls to sleeping on the terrace in summer nights to family night outs to endless “Antakshari” sessions to stealing “drying vadams & cut mango pieces.

The very best of cheap and best mentality, repair and reuse, make it at home, homemade remedies v/s specialty clinics, Mom & Dads always use to find innovative ways to fulfill needs without spending much money and this very sprits of parents is vanishing very quickly.

I thank my parents, grand parents and my brothers for giving me such a wonderful and humane middle=class-way of life.

Creative v/s Media.


 

Why creative agencies win media awards?
 
Be it Cannes or Goafest, why is it creative agencies steal the thunder from media guys? What is it about awards which brings magical enthusiasm from creative agencies? What can media brothers learn from hated separated cousins?
 
Believe me I am a neutral party here. I have worked in the same office and shared the same table and mind space with some of the media legends of today to name a few: Shashi Sinha, Ambika, Nandini Dias, George Mathai, Ashish Basin, Lynn, Hiren Pandit, Ravi Kiran and many more, I had the privilege of interacting with them every day,at leat thosedays there were no egos no fighting for credit, just partnership and respect for each other’s talent and thinking.
 
It pained me when I heard the whispers last night at Media Abby Awards, who deservers more credit or have right to enter a co-created idea. I truly believe advertising is not a solo game, it’s a large team game, often there are more than playing eleven behind the scenes who contribute most. It’s unfortunate to see them not collaborating insted confronting.
 
As the new leaders grow-up in this new collaborative and co-creative world these differences hopefully fade away soon.
 
Back to my original point of why creative agencies win more media awards than media agencies?Because of their emotional affinity and proximity to the heart of the brand and the passion for awards and most importantly ideas, media teams look at the scale and innovation while the international juries look for freshness and relavence of ideas. Added to all this is packaging and presentation of ideas make a diffence to winning, creative agencies tend to do a better job of the later.
 
No wonder Creativeland Asia stole the thunder yesterday by winning 2Golds at the media Abbies as Leo Burnett Sydney did it at Cannes last year by winning Media Agency of the year.
 

DeBundleling to ReBundleling.


Everyone needs to reinvent him or herself every now and then to make him or her relevant to the changing environment around us.  Human needs or brand needs, business needs or even nations are no different from each other.

Early nineties were the most frenziest times I have ever seen in my 33 odd years in advertising. Opening-up of economy, Microsoft & Google revolution, satellite television, Infosys vision and Ganguly’s audacity transformed a timid nation to the most ambitious one in the world today.  This change had its own impact on Indian advertising. Good old boy’s comfort zone of 15% commission had come into close scrutiny, lazy bum’s were thrown out, Microsoft and Adobe replaced proofreaders and cut-paste artist, kickbacks were officialized as negotiations and media buyers emerged as new heroes for clients and villains for traditional agencies.

In short 15% been reduced to 10% to the traditional agency and 5% went to media thereby separating media from creative. Today traditional agency is been reduced to just a creative agency for television scripts, clients buy media planning, media buying, digital planning, digital buying, mobile, events, promo, direct, PR, consumer research, insight mining, brand strategy, design even stock images and film production are bought directly.

While the theory of specialization sounded good and arguments of rupee efficiencies were appreciated, clients across the world were caught in a new dilemma, while brand managers can deal with creative TV scripts and brand strategy rest needed specialists (who never existed) Today most of the clients have 10 specialist dealing with content and contact management, while stand alone performances of each vertical is spectacular, collectively they added up to nothing as far as the brand’s emotional equities are concerned hence the emergence of IMC leaders in MNC clients ( Integrated Marketing Communications) who are seeking a single point to orchestrate brand communications. Today it is not surprising to see agencies like Crispin or Droga 5, even our very own Creativeland Asia or TapRoot flourishing as they are offering integrated solutions and orchestration of ideas as opposed to TV scripts by partnering with medium specialist. If big agencies do not get it yet god help them, smaller ones will gulp them and digest them in no time.

Agencies need to go back to 20 years and get champions of ideas. Today what independent small media neutral \ new age media agencies are doing is nothing different from old agencies approach of Integrated solutions to brand communication and orchestration of brand ideas in all mediums.

DeBundeled verticals are getting bundled again in smaller integrated agencies and hope the big ones are listening.

Being Pops.


What the heck if pretty girls call me Pops? What’s the fuch if people think I was born in the same year as Zora Sehgal ? What the hell if people try to find similarities between Balki, and me thinking that I am his Pops? What the shet if Arvind Sharma’s driver introduces me as his saheb’s “papaji” ?

It’s not easy being Pops. Yes. It’s not easy to be Big B’s Popsji, Chennai’s Mr.Pops, Miss Universe Sushmita Sen’s Pops, Chiranjeevi’s Pops garu, Balki’s Pops & Tweetaratti’s kvpops. “Baap re” its difficult to take loads of affection, respect and love.

“Pops” made Kondiparthi Venkata Sridhar a brand, and proved to the world, power of naming and branding. Imagine Mr. kondiparthiji.  What did I do to deserve to be called Pops?

Simply nothing.

In early 90’s when Chax and I joined Lintas as creative heads of one of their Bombay units, Alyque Padamsee was at his wittiest best when he hired an ex- military Major as chief administrator. Now one can imagine the hierarchy and bureaucracy ruling the floors of Express towers.

In such an office there was a quite shy-ish six-foot young copywriter named Sridhar existed. Since the culture did not allow bosses to be nicknamed, poor little baby-faced Sridhar was christened as “Baby Sridhar” and me, months later by default became “Papa Sridhar” and then came a livewire called Asha Rishi an account executive who started calling me Pops.

By virtue of my personality people felt it’s an apt description of me. Chax my partner in crime need to take some blame for not resenting in fact he started a chain of jokes on Pops. Around mid 90’s advertising and marketing media suddenly became big and they took up the mission of making Pops stick in people’s heads.

In old day advertising guys used be real characters with some quirkiness, Alyque with his diction, Kersy with his suspenders, Chax with his Gandhi glass and signature beard, Piyush with his handlebar mustache, Prahlad with his cigars and hat, since I had none, “Pops” helped me to be remembered.

All jokes apart, the changes that came along with the name Pops are: made me look wiser, acquire patience, forced me to listen to people and lend my shoulder, made me stop leching at young girls once they call you Pops. Convinced me to adopt young talented kids and above all reminds me to make my bucket list every morning.

As the cliché’ goes: the rest is history.

( Written specially for Impact magazine.)

Story of a tail wagging the dog.


Advertising time dictating cricketing time.

Many years back my partner Chax used to have a poster in his office, which read as follows: ” If you do not find space on the floor then use the ash-trey.” the same sounds true to Indian cricket broadcasting  ” if you do not find ad spots then run live cricket.”

Strange isn’t it. Being an advertising person to hate ads in a cricket telecast, point is not my obsession for cricket; in fact it’s for advertising. People who watch cricket are passionate about cricket and they are mature enough to know the role of ad revenue in cricket broadcasting, it is when ad spots cross the line, it’ gets destructively irritating and broadcasters have been doing this consistently last couple of years. Who will lose in this? Viewer, broadcaster or the advertiser?

I guess you do not have to be a genius to figure out that the advertisers are going to lose out for annoying the viewers and loosing ethical and emotional stature with the viewer/ consumers therefore lose certain emotional equity of the brand advertised. It’s like an irritating pet throwing ball at you urging you to play when you are making love to a women.

I appeal to all my dear clients not to make their ads work against them by placing in an over booked slots and to my dear media planners not to get carried away by the TRP’s and OTS, please also keep in mind brand values and look at people in the context of cricket passion this session.

Leave the dog to do the rest.