When you witness Tendulkar getting out along with Waqar Younis, Shaun Pollack, Stephen Fleming and Carl Hooper…


One of the perks of being in advertising is to be privy to some of the most intimate moments of the history; in retrospective I recollect one, as Sachin is hanging his boots in few days I owe it to myself to narrate this amazing event to the world. It was in 2002, while working on a world cup cricket campaign for LG electronics; I was shooting 36-television commercials at a breakneck speed for the world cup in South Africa. LG tied-up with ICC as the primary sponsor and was allowed by ICC to use all participating 14 team captains for publicity hence the campaign with 14 captains ( “Cricket first” was the campaign theme), we got the time for shoot allotted by ICC in Colombo Sri Lanka whist the ICC champions trophy being played in that country. We had around 6 days to shoot all 14 captains, were allowed a couple of hours a day with out upsetting the team schedules.

photo (10)

We parked ourselves at the Hilton Colombo and marked several locations in the hotel for shooting different commercials to save time, one such location was the penthouse suite; One of the days when we were set to shoot the combinations with Nasser Hussain, Waqar Younis, Shaun Pollack, Stephen Fleming and Carl Hooper, while Nasser Hussain was getting ready for his shot, I was watching India playing Zimbabwe in one of the bedrooms sitting in center of the bed, soon I was joined by the legendary bowling captains, Waqar, Pollack, Flaming and Hooper.

Soon the bowlers were glued to the TV watching the Indian “God” batting, I still remember the mesmerizing site of four bowlers watching master batsman Sachin bat,  like little kids seeing an instructor play. I was pinching myself for what I was witnessing and then all hell broke loose as Sachin gets out cheaply to Heath Streak or Henry Olongo, In unison you see all four raising hands in air and say “Shit” with utmost disgust and argue amongst themselves about, how unfair the life is; while Pollack says “ we all are always asked to bowl straight and we follow that religiously and look at this bloke bowling wide outside the off stump and the master decides to ignore all his discipline and reaches the ball to give a catching practice to the second slip.” “Why does this bowler gets “Masters” wicket so easily? And why do we have to slog for days to get him?” adds Waqar.

I can never forget how lucky I was to see the greatest bowlers of all time discussing about Sachin’s batting and putting the kind of importance to his wicket in their life is simply amazing, bowlers around the world practice relentlessly for months and years to get him out is a testimony to his greatness and being a witness to such an event makes my 34 years of advertising career worth the while.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

“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.

“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?


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?

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.)