A Son’s Father


FullSizeRender-2

Often the phrases, ‘A father’s son’ or ‘like father, like son’ have been heard, each defining how a son grows up to emulate and be like his father. In the world of conventionalities, this is a conventional virtue – ‘being like your father’. We will meet many who are their father’s son’, but today on the occasion of Father’s Day, I take the road less travelled and introduce you to – ‘A son’s father’. Sounds quite odd right, but in this oddity we come across a Father who let his kids be rebels, who instead of thinking on behalf of them, provided them with the ability to think for themselves, who taught them to explore and then choose, who fashioned himself to be a Father that a Son truly needs!

The father I talk about was a sportsman; football and hockey player. He has five sons, who turned out to be diagonally opposite to him. Often just to ignite the interest in sports amongst his sons he would fill the house with varied sports gears, but the only time his sons would touch them would be when their friends wanted to play. He also used to take his sons for practice matches of football and hockey thinking may be this could work, but his sons would join in only for the goodies and mouth-watering street food they would get after the matches are over. All this while he had a secret longing that his sons embrace sports but this longing never morphed into a vocal expectation or pressure. Even though he had to retire from his own sports career prematurely owing to a severe injury where he lost his collar bone while playing hockey, he still did not force his dreams onto his sons. His five sons would often hear their father’s friends advising, cajoling and reasoning with them to join sports, ‘Now that your father can’t play, you should take up sports and in 5-6 years you can play for national teams and you father can be your manager.’ They would say. But his sons never took these nudges seriously, neither did he make it a compulsion of any kind. He just wished but never insisted, all he did was just introduce the five brothers to the possibility of sports as a career. What his sons embraced were different form of arts! Painting, acting, dancing and when they made a choice he enthusiastically gave each of them a push. And it is because of this ‘let them be, what they want to be’ fatherhood, his five sons are what they are today!

IMG_4918

The five sons, being my four brothers and me and the father being – Goli Venkateshwara Rao (Goli is his nick name as he was a goal keeper and his real name is K Venkateshwara Rao). Our father, ‘A son’s father’. I vividly remember the day when I decided I want to Paint, my father who knew nothing about Painting as a career, consulted one of his office colleagues. His colleague approached their government office union, who in those days for educational and awareness purposes used to put up huge posters and boards which were painted and from their he got half a dozen chart-papers, colours, brushes and gave them to my father. And my father brought this task back home to me and said I have to paint these awareness campaigns on the huge chart-papers. As a small kid I was a bit overwhelmed looking at this herculean task, because back then we were just used to small drawing books and colour pencils. This task contributed to my being as an artist, it made me a bolder artist. As a kid I was very timid, but when I used to paint my work was really bold. This little act of my dad with the spirit to encourage me liberated me from the typical start to a drawing/painting career. A little later in life my father got me yet another amusing painting job. He had a friend who owned a film distribution company and advertising billboard company, he went and spoke to him about me. His friend asked him to get me to him, so we went and my father and me initially both were a bit shocked looking at the status-quo of this job. Drunken painters, painting huge billboards mounted on crazy heights, the mess and it was an overnight job. My father gave me a simple advice, if you think you can learn something from this job then stay and if you think there is nothing to learn then come back. The choice was mine! In a confused state of mind, I somehow stayed back and what I earned was my second instalment of boldness.

Such was his modus-operandi hurl us into a situation and see if we like it, adapt to it, and how do we find our way. In our childhood when we were clueless about our lives he simply used to force us to explore. For instance, one day he took all five of us to a huge well in which people used to actually swim. With a life vest he just threw all five of us into the water! Out of us five two started to swim and enjoy like a fish in water. And the other three were scared to death, I being one of them. Ever since he never forced us three to swim he simply gave us an environment to explore what we want or don’t want. The only thing he has ever insisted in his entire life was for us is to get a college degree. He never stressed on scoring great marks, he simply said pursue what you want to but also go to college and get a degree. Because college would expose us to a whole new real world experience. It will make us meet different people, different experiences like politics, elections in college, sports. This experience would make us ready for life, because it would dole out life skills. And we adhered to this insistence.

Yet! Another interesting quality of ‘a son’s father’ is that he is always your friend. To us he was never a father, a figure of authority, he was a friend with whom we shared a candid, honest relationship. When we were 13-14 he encouraged us to ogle at good looking girls, he used to say, ‘It’s natural you should get attracted’. He once caught me smoking and out of fear I threw the cigarette, all he said was ‘you just wasted 20 paise’. I was even more petrified because he did not react and shared the incidence with my Mother, who simply said you were smoking not from your money but his and he just wants to teach you the value of someone else’s money. He wants you to know that you have no right to burn away someone else’s money like this. He used to treat us like adults, if someone came and complained about us, he would first take us aside and ask us if it was our fault. If we denied being defaulters he would in fact support us and if we accepted it was our fault, then he would reprimand us.

He never preached, he had his unique ways to teach us varied values. To teach us the value of money he had constructed an interesting practice. Every month when he got his salary he would give the entire amount to us five brothers and ask us to segregate it in varied envelopes, each envelope would be a fixed monthly expense, like the milkman’s bill, kirana bill and so on. This way we became aware of the expenses a household went through. Then whatever was left would go into a savings box, which had a book placed next to it. Whenever anybody makes a withdrawal from the box he/she has to write why, when and how much money was taken. Every month this book was read out loudly just so that everyone knows, when this happened we used to realize the pointless withdrawals we had made. With this practice we learnt, value of money, honesty, integrity and transparency.

One of the most valuable lesson he has taught us is to respect Women, we had no sisters and thus he insisted each one of us learn at least two skills that a girl is expected to know. So I learnt cooking and making rangoli, similarly my brothers learnt what they wanted. Thus when my mother wasn’t well each one of us was equipped to run the house and help her get better. He taught us through experience!

And this experience he has lived it all through. 27 years back when I got my first credit card, out of the sense of pride and the sense of giving something back to my father, I got an add on credit card for him as a gift. I gifted him but he politely denied it. After some months I insisted he keeps the card, because now I was capable enough to do something for him. He took it, but ever since he hasn’t used the card. Every year I renew it but he never uses it, once my mother told me, ‘He accepted the card to honour your pride and feelings but he will never use it!’

Although he was never a father, he was more like a sixth brother! I still attempt to be ‘a father’s son’ by trying to be ‘a daughter’s/son’s father’. I also thank him for being him, because that is the sole reason why I am what I am today!

Happy Father’s day!

A billion rapists.


 

A muted billion

 

Each time a criminal been elected

A nation is been raped.

 

Each time a businessman extend a bribe

A nation is been raped.

 

Each time a commuter in a metro becomes a mute spectator to eve teasing

A nation is been raped.

 

Each time a biker jumps a red signal

A nation been raped.

 

Each time you employ a sixteen-year-old maidservant

A nation is been raped.

 

Each time you let a goonda vote for you

A nation is been raped.

 

Each time you state your caste

A nation is been raped.

 

Each time you visit a charted accountant to fudge a tax rule

A nation been raped.

 

Each time you wish you had a son

A nation is been raped.

 

Each time you silently loath a wrong by a government silently

A nation is been raped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.