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.

“Purposeful Inventions”


A purposeful invention will always find a place in people’s lives. History endorses this view; there are many great inventions like the Q-Drum, which never found a place not because the invention is not great but because it did not solve the complete problem of the people it intend to solve.

I believe there are three kinds of inventions: 1. Stems out of the inventors intuition, which will be awarded and hailed by the scientific community. 2. Stems out of a perceived need by the inventors, which may or may not find a place in people’s lives but will be appreciated nevertheless.  3. Stems out of deep understanding of a human need, this not only solves the problem it often changes peoples lives.

Forgetting inventions for a while lets look at some new brands and their appeal; lets travel back and look at Air Deccan, what went right? Why a self-proclaimed cheap airline succeeded when a cheap car like Nano failed? Why Go Air is considered an efficient airline not a cheap one? Why pundits are excited about Bajaj’s RE60? Why supersonic Concord failed?

All enterprises start with people and end with people, if you view complex business or marketing problems through human lens, you’ll see a more realistic, relatable human problems and to solve them you need to understand the basic human need not greed, for instance human greed says more people want to fly faster at higher price thus born Concord, whilst human need says more people want to fly for lesser cost thus born Airbus. Now it’s obvious, who was successful? Therefore the moral of this story is Airbus was a purposeful invention and Concord was an intuitive assumption of an inventor.

Lets take Captain Gopinath’s Air Deccan, which was positioned against train travel and spoke to aspiring middle-class millions to experience flying versus post takeover of Deccan by kingfisher to form Kingfisher Red spoke to regular flyers and offered a cheaper and restrictive service offering, which was rejected by the regular flyers as they did not want to feel as deprived passengers suffering from poverty and the attempt took the pride and prestige of flying away. Captain Gopi’s invention was purposeful as it made millions on train travelers realize the dream of flying. Taking a leaf out of this experiment Indigo did not use cheap flying instead spoke about efficiency and made people who secretly want a cheaper option argue for efficiency in service and on time arrivals. In fact on-time arrival is a fantastic rationale to shift from an expensive luxurious full service airlines especially in an era of austerity.

Now to my favorite Nano versus RE60. Tata’s took the engineering challenge of building a one hundred thousand rupee car and managed to deliver close to one hundred and twenty thousand rupee car. Fantastic Invention “The cheapest car in the world” Bravo. World applauded Auto shows went gaga. But the brand failed miserably, reason: no one ever asked the Indian consumer weather he wants to spend an hundred and twenty thousand hard earned rupees on a cheap car, which does not give him any status in the society? How could the brand find a place in peoples lives if it or its inventors does not understand people’s needs? People wanted a Santro, an Alto and an Indica with all the luxuries, however small they were. Indian middle class was seeking stature and pride of luxurious living, which both Maruti and Hyundai understood completely and Tata Motors with Indica to some extent.

The case of RE60 is completely different, Rajiv Bajaj is a very passionate and a smart inventor, who believes in engineering solving problems of people therefore a purposeful inventor, whose invention of DTSI technology solved an unique problem of Indian bikers who want maximum power with minimum fuel, he solved this issue with a simple invention of two spark plugs in the combustion chambers instead of conventional norm of one, which increased the combustion efficiency to give more mileage and power, people lapped-it-up and put Bajaj on a technological pedestal.

Coming to RE60. He took the challenge of solving mass transportation in urban and rural India, the current mode of transport of auto rickshaws is unsafe and relies on old technology all parties acknowledges that, be the RTO’s, Auto Rickshaw owners and the commuters, they all seek an up gradation of technology, Bajaj found a purpose. Single mindedly concentrated on Auto Rickshaws and its drivers and found a meaningful purpose in up grading the technology by adding another wheel to make a four wheeler and the life of the driver by giving him a car to drive and an extra capacity of seating and to the commuter a safer option of commuting. Thereby extending an undisputed offering to the administrators.  Bajaj kept the eye on their consumers and never let it weaver toward competing with Nano or pleasing Nissan.

Wonder why companies run by people fail to understand people.

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.

What’s in a logo? Ask GAP.


After a public outcry on the social media, “GAP” withdrew its modern logo and brought back classic blue box.  Couple of days back Airtel launched its new logo and again it’s the social media, which has been critical, harsh and unkind, before we get into merits and demerits of the opinions, lets look at what goes behind designing a logo and how to judge one. Because consumer outcry is one thing industry peers is another thing.

To be fair I just want to gently remind our tweeting and status-updating judges the parameters to judge a good logo and view the design in the context of a telecom brand. Iconic logos have a simple yet magical qualities of evoking an emotional response in you for instance when you look at the golden arches of McDonalds you feel happy and hungry at the same time. Ever thought why this happens? It’s the colors, which does the trick. Yellow arches make you smile while the red McDonald’s background makes you feel hungry. It’s unbelievably true that the color red makes your blood pressure soar and also makes you feel hungry.


When you judge a logo you need to keep five simple things in mind:

Symbolism:  The symbol used should signify and communicate something about the brand’s ambition or vision in a clearly identifiable way while keeping the historic, cultural and category relevance in mind.

Style: The style should communicate the personality or functionality or special attributes of the brand like: indoor, outdoors, cleanly, orderly, open, friendly or a closet.

Typography: Type should communicate certain feel and vision of the brand. Type should tell you weather the brand is stiff or flexible, bold or fragile, feminine or masculine and so on in an instant way.

Relationship: The graphics, icons, type and color used should have a relationship with the target group and company values, goals or aspirations.

Color: Colors used should represent and relate to the business and its aspirations. Color should communicate the intended message or emotion instantly.

Now lets keep these parameters and look at some telecom logos thru my point of view (not the creator’s):


Vodafone: Uses speech mark as a symbol to communicate about the brands ambition. Needless to say how simple it is for the people to comprehend and connect with the brand and the category. Styling of the graphics is near perfect to represent the preciseness with its orderly alignments and placements. Typography is bold, confidant yet very friendly with its lowercase usage. Red is the color of passion and action provides energy and excitement to the brand. Overall all the elements are used to perfection and a classic example of art and science of design coming together. Logo designed by Brand Union.

Uninor: Inspired by nature and its role in innovation in Scandinavian culture this propeller like symbol was designed to communicate the delicate balance of movement and change. Uses a very purposeful tranquility feeling by delicately designing the symbol and the typography. Very delicate thin san serif font used to enhance Scandinavian design esthetics. White, blue and black are used in the identity to enhance the “Inspired by nature” feel.

Docomo: Uses its name that means “every where “in Japanese (DOKOMO) this logo designed for the Indian market to communicate “Do the new” hence fun typo design keeping in line with the brand promise. Styled to perfection to connect with youth and VAS users. Graphics are designed for flexibility to be used freely. Colors are young and vibrant bring in fun and energy. This logo keeps the evolution of the consumers in mind to bring in flexibility for co-creation by the consumers. Designed by Wolff Olins of London.

Airtel: Uses alphabet “A” in lowercase in a very causal yet dynamic way, spiraling “a” almost gives you a feeling of a tornado, generating lots of kinetic energy. Styled in a vibrant youthful way to communicate to the changing Indian consumers. Typography is youthful and inviting by using lowercase and reiterating its values of friendly approachable service. Color red used for depicting energy and passion of the brand. Designed by Brand Union again.

Designing or judging logos is a very difficult task especially for telecom, which deals with more interfaces and touch points than an airline. Redesigning and implementing a new identity is a mammoth task, takes months to reach every circle leave alone the streets.  While the new Airtel logo may just have fallen short of critic’s expectations, it may well create enough excitement in the market, who cares for critics who are interested in what could have been done and in the missed opportunity? When people embrace the change with open arms.

Hope we can fill in the “GAPs”

Adman, Conman and Superman.


Sometime I feel ashamed to introduce myself as creative, Ad guys are the most pompous lot they alone title themselves as creative. Tell me who is not creative? Engineers who design innovative combustion chambers are not creative? Con men of Mumbai who run ticketless travel insurance are not creative? Mothers who invent new ways of giving concocted medicine to kids are not creative?

All of us are creative and talented in our own way but than why some succeed? What does it take to be a successful creative person in advertising? Is it the ability to write, think or connect? Or is there something above all this?

Indeed there is.

As kids all of us have painted, played some sport or other, sang songs, danced to the tunes of Jackson, made interesting faces in front of mirrors, wrote poetry to impress girlfriends\boyfriends and told cock and bull stories with innovative twist, didn’t we?

It’s all about relentless pursuit of chasing what we enjoy most, if we were to continue to paint may be if not MF Husain at least we would have become a Laxma Goud, If not Sachin at least a Parthiv Patel isn’t it?

Now coming to the point, What if didn’t chase any of the above and what if we didn’t grow-up at all? Simple. We would become a successful adman. Yes indeed “Enthusiasm” is key to success in advertising that too child like enthusiasm! At 55 can you get excited about motion control games? At 45 can you get excited about two extra spark plugs in an engine’s combustion chambers? Can you get excited about milk proteins in toilet soap?

I believe if you are excited you can excite anyone exactly the effect a kid can have on you if you are watching Powerpuff girls for the 20th time. If you don’t get a hard-on when you discover that your product is 0.3% better than the competition than you are not on.

Apart from your ability to write, visualize, tell a story, use experiences and observations from life, your zest for life is as important. If you can connect like a grand mom, posses crooked ways to find a solution and have a relentless urge to remain in the limelight like a superman than it’s your turn to be an adman.

Did I say “Chaddi-man?”

“Airwaves belong to the people”


India might be the oldest and the most successful democracy in the world but it’s really the last decade, which empowered people. As the social media and Internet revolutionized the way people lived and behaved in this country. Its media which empowered the people from Tehelka to the resent CWG exposures to Mumbai blast coverage to ugly money display in parliament to cricket scandals to reality shows to pink chaddies to meter jams, by making public opinion count, aam admi is the king today decides who can do what and when and how.

This is the beginning of  “Democracy 2.0”. Empowered by 650 million mobile phones loaded with FM radio’s and over 200 million traditional radio sets new revolution is about to begin in the real India from an unexpected medium called Radio.

What Facebook and Twitter are doing to urban India, radio can do to rural India, only if the government were to wake up and allow community radio to spread like wildfire.

Pandit Nehru put pressure on radio to help in “Social modernization” of independent India.  How true? Social modernization can only be achieved by debate and exchange of ideas between people, every revolution in the modern world used radio to propagate and influence people to their ideologies including Netaji Bose.

Linguistic diversity is never been respected as mush as it should in India, we have always looked at India as three-language nation: Hindi, English and Tamil. What can we do to a country where a dialect changes every 24 kms? Radio might just be the answer.

Can “Akashvani” become “Prajavani”?

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.