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”,

 

 

 

Gandhi vs. Anna.


Anna is a simple man, so was Gandhi.

Anna started by changing himself and then his village so did Gandhi.

Anna preaches non-violence, so has Gandhi.

Anna is a stubborn man, so was Gandhi.

Anna rallied young India, so did Gandhi.

Unfortunately the comparisons stop here.

Anna is a Gandhian but not a Gandhi. I respect Anna for his honesty, simplicity, his stubbornness, intent and his peaceful methods. Leaders are always born out of adversity, when India is going through her worst leadership integrity crisis, Anna took upon himself to rally people against corrupt politics and society, a simple, quite Gandhian turned into an agent of people’s conscience.

Anna’s success came because of young India taking to streets, a movement fueled by anger and helplessness of young men and women, who silently witnessed the powerful leaders and businessmen shamelessly looting their treasury.

When corruption reached parliament, when policemen started to rape and molest little girls, when army men stoop to steal wealth, when politicians blatantly amass disproportionate wealth, When educated entrepreneurs cook-up account books, when Baba’s hide rooms full of gold and silver and when temple incomes bulge more then a state’s. You know it’s only a matter of time for a catharsis and indeed Anna became the fountainhead of this revolt.

After Jaiprakash Narayan no other leader mustered as much support as Anna. Jaiprakash Narayan succeeded in changing the government because he supported a newly formed cleaner party with leaders of intent and integrity. The agenda before the nation was clear: vote out the Nazist congress party, people understood and implemented. When people empathize with issues they need an action point and Jaiprakash Narayan provided one.

Mahatma Gandhi too understands this human truth like any other successful leaders in the history, Gandhi always gave an action point, be it making salt or burning British made cloths or asking the mighty British to “Quite India”. Any mass movement should have an actionable end. Even the recent “Occupy Wall Street” had a definitive action point to just occupy Wall Street. Simple enough for people to understand and execute.

Anna should go beyond appealing to people to come onto the streets to protest. He must give an action point, if one were to say “ Vote for Lokpal or Quit parliament” and if one were to give the agenda of pushing every local MP to vote or resign, there would have been an action plan for restless young Indians to execute.

I believe Anna will become a true heir of Gandhiji, if he becomes as shrewd thinker and as clear visionary as Mahatma is.

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.

“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.

“Anna” the ultimate HumanKind brand.


How did this 74 year old caught the imagination of Indian youth and made them rally around a 60-year-old bill and a 5000-year-old issue?

Why did loads of tweet-support flood every nano-second of the agitation?

Why did the most powerful television channel go on a record 240 hours of non-stop coverage almost converting news as a reality channel?

Why did I change my Facebook profile picture?

Why did the opposition party go numb?

What made the seasoned politicians make such political blunders?

The answer is simple. “Anna found a purpose to his existence.”

It took years even for Mahatma Gandhi to find a purpose to his existence; lesser mortals like us may not even find one in our lifetime.

Anna discovery of his purpose and mission took the country by surprise, his timing was flawless, scams and toothless actions paved way for his massive and historic modern-day civilian movement in the world’s largest democracy.

People were angry to see the audacity of the corrupt politicians, businessmen, and religious leaders and shameless public display of money in building mansions. A trillion dollars locked in the locker rooms of Swiss banks and toilets of government quarters’, the economic progress stopped to start an economic exploitation.

Clearly someone crossed the line.

Anna’s purpose of “fighting against corruption” caught the imagination of a billion victims. And his stubborn Gandhian and his humble & honest ways attracted people like little iron fillings to a magnet. He was a mere catalyst to a huge chemical reaction destine to happen.

Now what can brands learn from this? Like great human beings find a purpose to their lives, even brands must find a human purpose to find a place in people’s lives as Anna’s life is governed by his purpose to serve the nation, even brands must be governed by its purpose. And finally must walk the talk.

As Mahatma Gandhi says “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

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?


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.

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.