Thursday, August 27, 2009


Attended the Cannes 09 Show Reel screening at ITC Grand Central, Parel, last evening.

Terry Savage, Chairman, Cannes Adfest, had a few interesting insights on how India has turned into an emerging creative powerhouse over the last 5 years.

From 4 Jury Members in 2004 to 11 Jury Members in 2009, India has come a long way.

Terry pointed out the direct correlation between the appointment of Jury members and the performance of their country at the awards in the recent years. "To be nominated as a Jury member at Cannes, his/ her agency should have won at least one award in the last three years in the respective category. Alternately, if the Jury member's Agency has entered work in a particular category for the last three years, he/ she becomes eligble for a nomination", he said.

[Not surprisingly, India stands at #4 in the number of entries made this year (read 4000 nos).

The recent awards tally clearly reflects the enthusiasm that the Jury members are breathing into their agencies now. From 4 Lions in 2004 to 23 Lions in 2009, India is clearly on a roll. (However, Terry pointed out that India is cleary invisible in the Digital space at the awards.)

Moving on, he opined "The increase in number of Clients and Media Agencies attending Cannes is further proof that there is tremendous enthusiasm around creating groundbreaking creative work"

Introducing Spikes Asia 09, Terry informed the audience that Times of India will be felicitated as the Advertiser of the Year at the festival. He credited TOI for setting new standards of creative excellence. While doing so, Terry also drew similarities between TOI's Lead India initiative (2008 Grand Prix Direct Winner) and the Obama Campaign (2009 Titanium and Integrated winner), pointing out how both campiagns mobilised a nation to adopt change (for good).

Of course, the much awaited Cannes 09 Show Reel followed.

Here's a
hyperlinked list of all the films that caught my eye: Miller High Life '1 second Ad' | Adidas 'Break-up Service' | Citroen C3 | Washington's Lottery 'Every bird should get to fly' | Boag's Draught 'From the pure waters of Tasmania' | Volkswagen SpaceFox 'DogFish' | British Army 'You're an accident waiting to happen' | MTV 'Choose or Lose' | Adidas 'Basketball is a Brotherhood' | Nokia N96 'Bruce Lee Ping Pong' | Nokia N96 'Bruce Lee Lighting Matches' | Thuis 'Changed Opening Credits' | TOI ' Chennai Times - Naaka Mukka' | Philips 'Carousel' |

Friday, May 22, 2009

Puli Kali

I worked on an Indian biscuit brand a couple of years ago in Sri Lanka.

The brand in discussion here was formulating a strategy to enter the Sri Lankan market.

A qualitative research agency was contracted by them to gauge consumer reactions to campaigns that were successful in the Indian market in the past.

Since testing the Hindi-led campagins wouldn't get the desired reactions, the Client instructed it's Ad Agency to get in touch with their Colombo office arrange for Sinhala translations.

In the following days, a number of print ads and TVCs made their way to my desk from India. Working overtime and encouraging the copywriters to do the same, the Agency was practically drowning in a sea of cookies and biscuits.

Time was our biggest enemy with the Research Agency and the Indian office of the Ad Agency constantly on our case. We concentrated all our efforts on delivering quality despite the constraints.

At the end of the 2 weeks, after working on a multitude of translations, the 'cracker' arrived.

The Account Manager based in the Indian office of the Ad Agency frantically called me up and said "One last request. There's one more brand you need to work on! URGENTLY!"

Curious to know more, I prodded him to share the details.

AM: "I will mail you all that, yaar!"

Me: "That's fine. At least tell me which sub-brand this one is!"

AM: "Tiger"

Me: "What?!?!? Are you kidding? You can't bring that sub-brand to Sri Lanka!"

AM: "We will definitely bring the sub-brand to SL. Who are you to stop us?"

Over the next 10 minutes, I tried all I could to convince the AM that his idea would 'bomb' for sure, in vain!

Relentless in his pursuit to 'impress' his Client/ Superiors, he mailed me the 'details' later in the day instructing us to 'immediately arrange translations for Tiger Biscuits' communication'.

With no life/medical insurance against my name and a practically non-existent bank balance, I feared the consequences I would have to face if a Sri Lankan colleague came across the communication that needed to be translated.

Since the AM was obviously ignorant of 'current affairs' and 'general knowledge', I knew there was nothing left to discuss with him. I then took the liberty of mailing the Branch Head of his office with an explanation as to why 'Tiger Biscuits' should be kept away from Sri Lanka.

If you haven't guessed by now (or if you are uninitiated), the tagline of the sub-brand in question read "X khao, Tiger ban jao!" or "Eat X and Become a Tiger!".

Monday, May 18, 2009

Handing Over

A few million frail hands outstretched skyward.

While some folded hands symbolize a prayer for an end to their ilk's misery,
the others send warning signals to their near and dear ones, to help them live this wretched life just a little longer.

"If we could tide over this for 26 years, we can definitely survive a few days more", say the mothers.

Ducking artillery and maneuvering mines, the innocent clasp each others' hands tightly and defy the cruel fate before them.

Pain and suffering are eerily omnipresent; but the near of it all is imminent.

Uncertainty looms its head large over the optimists, and the pessimists begin to see the light.

Hands that snatched babies away from cradles and conscripted them to a world of agony,
are now six feet under or charred beyond recognition.

Aged mothers, scarred inside and bruised outside,
stop beating their chests in despair and tend the survivors' wounds.

Erased forever from their minds are thoughts of ethnicity, native tongue and color of skin.

Reaching out for help, they tap the shoulders of the ever-smiling lion-hearted soldiers.

Triumphant troops, with hands that once stayed folded in the quest for peace but had to reluctantly shower bullets, now, lay down their ammunition and join hands with the mothers.

Hand in hand, they stand, make a smiling pact and take a vow to protect their motherland.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Best of Goafest

At Goafest, I was hoping to beam a number of live updates from the 'Knowledge and Learning' sessions.

And well, I did do the needful. But, I made the mistake of relying on SMS updates to Twitter. (GPRS costs being prohibitive and all that, I felt it was cheaper to do it that way.)

Airtel charged me a bomb for those SMSes. All in vain though, because, when I did get online at the end of the fest, there was no activity reflecting on my Twitter page!
(Fortunately the tweets were intact in my phone's 'sent items' folder.)

I know this is 2 weeks too late. But hey, better now than never, right?

This post has a combination of my tweets and notes (with hyperlinks) from the sessions.

Jean Marie Dru, TBWA | "Big ideas win, good ads don't" - Lee Clow | Pedigree "Dogs Rule" | In an Absolut World | Apple "Think Different" | Adidas "Impossible is Nothing" | Pepsi "Refresh Everything" | "Today, brands are not judged by their products and services alone. It's about the initiatives they take" | T-Mobile Liverpool Street Station | "TBWA Amsterdam has two teams - Anticipation and Reaction. Anticipation recommends and creates pro-active campaigns while Reaction works solely on Client Briefs" |

Neeraj Nayar, Contagious | "Radical Transparency" | Patagonia Footprint Chronicles | "Create Time. Don't buy it" | Doritos snackstrongproductions | Sprint/ Suave In the Motherhood | "Branded Utilities" | ING Android (ATM Locator) | "Brands are a network of the unacquainted" | P&G Tremor (Word of Mouth Marketing) | O2 Blueroom | | Vaseline Clinical Therapy 'Prescribe The Nation' | Cadbury's JiveBrow | IKEA 3D Cover | Twitchhiker | Guinness Rugby RFID | Topps 3D Live Baseball Cards | EA responds to 'Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 - Jesus Shot' |

"Agencies can invent products" - Sir John Hegarty |
BBH Labs | Mentos Kiss Cam |

Mahesh Narayanan, Google India | "12 hours is the average amount of time spent online by 15-24 y.o Indians" | "35% Internet users in India come from <500,000> | Rural Meets Digtial - Indian Taxi Driver | Google Ad Planner | Blendtec "Will it blend?" | Into thin Air - John Krakauer / Touching The Void - Joe Simpson |

Dan Wieden, W+K | "The more technology connects us, the more we drift away" | KAWS | W+K Twelve | "Activate Influencers . Create Mass Intrigue. Ensure Broad Awareness. Measure Success" | "Good Brand Advertising comes from a good understanding of ethos, sensibilities and core values" | "Nike's 'Just do it' was inspired by serial killer Gary Gilmore's last words: "Let's do it" |

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The End is Near

I survived the land of 'sun, sand, sea and scams!'. (Did I leave out 'scorching heat'? Darn! Too fried to remember adding that.)

I've attended The Chillies (Sri Lanka's Annual Advertising Awards) twice in the past. And I was part of the organizing team of the first edition of International Advertising Association's 'Creative Mantra'. So, I'm anything but an 'awards show virgin'. But a Goafest virgin? Yes I was! And here's my account of 'losing it'.

For starters, I must be thankful to my employer for sending me (along with the team) to the event. It was a gutsy move when a number of competitors preferred not to send delegates, in view of the current state of the economy and reduced marketing spends by Clients. There were, however, from these agencies, a number of junior executives who shelled out the dough themselves to attend Goafest 09 (and I wonder how they feel about the experience).

On the outset, Goafest 09 seemed to be a collective excuse for the industry to get together and just have a good time (in many cases, at the employers' expense). The arrangements were great and indeed tempting for the ones who were there for a 'paid holiday'. The food was fabulous, the booze was in abundance, the shuttle service was a boon for many and there was non-stop action on the dance floor.

But there was more to the event and I'm not talking about the Awards yet.

The chief highlight of the event was the 'Knowledge and Learning' sessions that drew names like Jean Marie Dru (of TBWA fame), Sir John Hegarty and Dan Wieden. To be an audience to Advertising Greats such as them, should be looked upon as a privilege. But, the dominant mood among the revellers was of apathy towards the sessions. There were agencies and individuals that had their own agendas instead of being an audience to the legends. While some agencies decided to discus their 'annual plan' at alternate venues during these sessions, a number of individuals were more kicked about getting 'illegally high' (sic).

What can I even say about the award show entries? 4500 entries this year and a majority of them SCAM without doubt! (Read Sreekant Khandekar's article on afaqs about scams at Goafest 2008. It really sums up what most of us feel about the issue.)

I've despised scam from the day I was initiated into the industry, three years ago.

In past jobs, I've been in situations where I was forced by the Management to be a part of scam shoots. From donning the role of a photographer to playing a 'model' , I've even had to tweak copy for scam ads. And fortunately (in my defence), the half-hearted effort from my end showed through and none of those entries won and deservingly didn't!

How do you explain something like this coming from an Agency Head 2 weeks before the deadline for entries: "Take this ad for brand X that the client didn't buy. Now that we have Brand Y, let's tweak the earlier ad and enter it".?

These are the same guys who shun scam in interviews and encourage the 'necessary evil' (industry parlance) in their respective agencies. These are the same guys who ignore the non-advertising departments through the year and then run to them in December to request assistance in executing an Ambient/ Activation/ Media idea.

I am fine with scam as long as the name of the event itself is SCAM FEST. And I don't think any "published work" should be entered here by any agency. And no, they don't have to come up with the idea first and then find the Client. Instead, the Organizers can invite one sponsor to field a brief for each of the categories. For e.g.: XYZ Bank for Financial Services, ABC Motors for Automotive etc. All participating agencies can be given 3 months to work on the briefs and they can be judged
on the merit of the idea alone, with complete disregard to the size of the agency or their previous year's ranking.

I'm sure a lot of people will agree with me that a better way to reward fresh thinking in our industry is by making Effies THE Awards show to shine at. The Industry leaders should just ensure that 'effective ideas' are given prominence over 'effectiveness', i.e. 'idea + results' > results. And probably 'factor in' consumer response in some way? If consumers are willing to spend money on voting for singers they don't know personally or to send smses to vote for the movie stars of the year, why can't we get them excited about choosing their favorite ads?

Well before I joined the industry, I voraciously devoured all that the Ad Men of yore had to say of their experience in the business. And somehow all the work showcased in those books always had an underlying promise of 'effective creativity'.

I love the Effies because it reassures me that the Ad Legends were right. I'm a believer. I've always championed and toiled for good work. It's my dream to help an Agency win an Effie and a Cannes Lion for the same campaign some day.

I agree that times have changed and that Clients are difficult to please/ partner with these days. For every creative who wants to up the bar, there is a Client who is hell bent upon doing formulaic (read effective but no refreshingly creative) communication. But, that does not give the industry leaders and the "creatives" the right to make a mockery out of this business. What kind of a precedent is the industry setting for the juniors/ freshers in the business?

I've always wanted to be a part of the Advertising/ Marketing communication industry. I've switched career tracks to chase what I'm passionate about. I'm in this business by choice and I've been trying to give it my best shot. But with each passing day, I'm becoming increasingly disenchanted with what was once a 'magical world of limitless possibilities' to me.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


I did a little 'research' in order to make this post more interesting.

Research Finding #1 (Source: TechFuels) :

It's quite obvious that India is obsessed with adult content. Even if you're not addicted to it, you just can't seem to stop yourself from clicking on that suggestive, naughty-looking link and getting an eyeful. Although sites like YouPorn are on and off the top 100 list, voyeurism, it seems, is the order of the day. No one wants firangi porn any more, that's just boring ... Indians would rather look for scandals, and play 'peeping tom' with other Indians. Whether the poor state of sex education, our repressive laws, the so called moral-police, or even the media are responsible for causing this craving for titillation, the fact remains that it is true, because remember, statistics don't lie.

Research Finding #2:

With statistics like "produces 395 babies every five minutes" to India's credit, one might safely assume that India is the horniest nation around.

Surprise! Turns out, Vietnam is hornier than India, at least if one's to believe Google Trends.

Wish broadband penetration in India was as good as Bermuda's. There would be more men searching for sex online than performing it on ground!

(Or maybe not! Read the next finding.)

Research Finding #3:

Delhi is one helluva sex crazy city. ((As if we didn't know that already!)

The most number of searches in the world for the keyword "sex" come from India's capital.

Well, when young cricketers in Delhi turn from scoring on the field to forcibly scoring (!) off the field, you know there's a lot going wrong in the capital.

Research Finding #4:

NDTV and Indian Railways draw less traffic to their websites than debonairblog (NSFW) does!!!

Research Finding #5:

Adultfriendfinder (NSFW) is #74 on India's Top 100 websites.

Zapak (#91), which is believed to have made 'online gaming' India's favorite new pastime, fares poorly in comparison.

Apparently, Indians believe they are better off playing other games instead!

So, Tata Sky decides to poke a little fun at them!


If you did manage to take a look at and were disappointed/ pleasantly surprised/ annoyed, you have to look into what went into that viral campaign.

Scores of pot-bellied uncles and under-confident youngsters log on to the net and frantically search for the oh-so-available Ms. Katrina Kaif everyday. (On the Google Zeitgeist 2008 page , click on India if you don't want to take my word!)

When Katrina won't do, they opt for Namitha. And when she doesn't satisfy them either, they log on to the deboniarblogs and the adultfriendfinders of the world looking for some excitement.

Zillions of hours are spent on this national pastime which is all about going after what they'll never really get! (So why not, buy a few minutes of their time with a well crafted viral?)

Not surprising then that Indian brands are now titillating consumers with a simple but sound strategic insight: WYSIWYWG ( What You See Is What You WON'T Get!).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Afaqs carried an article on AdultDost today.

Impressed, I sent the link to a bunch of friends.

Reaction #1 (uncontrollable curiosity) : "What kind of links are you sending me at office, da? I'll see it from home tonight!"

Reaction #2 (plain shocked) : "Dude, what's wrong with you? I'm at work, man. You sent me some adult site n all. Are you ok?"

Check the link out. I'll post more on what I think about it, tomorrow.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Curtain Raiser

It's been a while....

I was keen on compiling an 'Adios 2008' on the lines of the magical 'Adios 2007' one. But, taking sis out on NY's Eve meant a lot more than a random blog post.

Part of the reason (besides sheer laziness) why I stayed from blogging for the second half of 2008 should be attributed to how my priorities changed during the course of the year.

A number of 'uncalled for' events showed me why Relationships (Family/ Friends/ Katty) needed more of my time/ attention than anything else.

2008 was a year with more downs than ups.

Not just for me but for this blog too. From 'a blog post a day' to 'no posts for months together', this blog slipped into an unexpected coma.

And so did I, if you go by the non-medical definition of the word.

I've always despised negative energy. And unfortunately I was full of it for a major part of the year. The last thing I would've wanted is a blog emanating negative energy. So I stayed away.

This post is an attempt to bring back this blog to life, albeit without an agenda. (Reminds me of: "If your campaign doesn't have a strategy, any campaign can get you there!". I'm confident I'll have an agenda soon :) )

2008 did a world of good for me.

I rediscovered the power of my abilities, my conviction and my voice in 2008. And I'm glad I did it in time.

I realized that there's only so much suffering I can watch someone (I love) endure.

I decided that I won't be a mute spectator ever again if it concerns the ones I love.

I convinced myself that 'to sit on the fence and watch the show', is the worst thing one can do.

I swore 'I will always stand up for the right thing even if it means I'll have to risk losing everything I have!'

I chose to be vociferous in my protests, even disrespecting one's age/ status/designation when I saw they were wrong/irrational.

I found out (unceremoniously) how I should watch my back all the time.

I bade goodbye to one of the best bosses I've ever had and still wish I didn't have to!

I crossed over to the Mediterranean briefly (after surviving a 'suspect terrorist' scare in Istanbul) just to be around the woman I am crazily in love with.

I ranted and raved about everything and found fabulous friends in a 'football crazy metalhead copywriter' and a 'soon-to-be married livewire comedian and event manager par excellence'.

I saw how the women in my life (Mum, Sis and Katty) so wonderfully and unwittingly personify 'beauty comes from within'. You are awesome :)

With y'all around, I'm confident 2009 will be fabulous.