Extra bleed

After 11 long years in advertising, I have finally identified a list of senseless activities that we so vehemently indulge in, like as if we are on a mission to save the world.

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Long term strategy

It’s funny how we still cling on to this one, very well knowing that it is probably the most foolish thing to do.

The client who’s engaged you on this one is definitely not going to stay for long. Your boss is searching for opportunities abroad. Your flunk is making plans to the Himalayas with a latest SLR to build a portfolio that promises him a job outside advertising. The client’s flunk disagrees with his boss. And is only waiting for a chance to speak, or his boss to leave. The consumer cares a rat’s ass as to what you said in the last ad or what you are going to say next. The product you are about to advertise is going to undergo a plastic surgery in a few months from now. The servicing dude is negotiating his prospects to join the client’s rival company. The planner on the brand has 12 unused archetypes that he is dying to explore. The art director is going to stumble upon 17 new looks that’ll give him a hard on between this campaign and the next. The studio comps will crash. The supplier who stores the hi-resolution images is about to upgrade. The only person who knows where it’s stored is getting a job in Dubai. The model in the ad is becoming fatter or older. The celeb is either going to get more famous to a point where you can’t afford him or hit rock bottom where you wouldn’t want to use him anymore. The baseline will be rattled away away as many times that it will be nauseating to even utter it again. The producer will hold on to the rushes for a handsome ransom.

What long term!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why is it that we all meet every six months to discuss a long term idea. What happened to the idea that was declared long term six months ago.

360 degrees

It is 359 degrees of effort to sell one damn wobbler. It is invented to keep the overenthusiastic trainee busy during a pitch. It is invented to redirect internally rejected press ads to obscure mediums like ambient, direct mailer, internet, posters in gyms, beauty parlours, cinema theatres and the all time favorite push-pull sticker. The push-pull sticker somehow completes the package.

Films that make no sense to the strategy are bundled into viral. 

And then bizarre ideas that include park benches, buses, trains and other properties governed by government. Ha ha…..ok assume that the idea is approved, now can someone please tell me where does this government exactly sit, so that we can seek its permission?

The other purpose is for the sadistic pleasures of clearing your coffee cup from the table just when you are about to sip it, and empty out the dozen brown packets on the client’s table. And of course it’s evidence for that special guest who’s flown down to give the “We are a complete agency” speech. All this wobbling for that one wobbler.

Animatics

After months of power point slides, we then move on to a slide of a different kind. Puppets that slide from the side. It’s one versatile face that can take on many get-ups. Give it a bob-cut and salwaar and it becomes a young modern housewife. Lengthen hair and add bindi…wow it’s now a traditional obedient housewife sipping tea. Make the hair fall on the eyes and voila!!!! You’ve made her naughty. Cut the hair really short, strip it to mini skirts and add an ink blotch on its arm, it’s a tattoo sporting chicklet.

Now pick the relevant music…If you are confused follow these golden rules…..

Crows cawing as ambient sound…if it is dialogues.
Trance music ………if it is a look and feel film for the youth.
Elevator music followed by an aalaap…… if it is emotional.

And send the newcomer who just joined for the dubbing. And the junior planning for the research group. Load it with dialogues and narration as you have 2 odd minutes in hand. Fool proof it from all angles. And once you have it approved, squeeze all those dialogues in the final 20 second commercial.

Brand Seed/ Root/ Tree/ Plant/ Sapling whatever

Simply put, it is a comprehensive list of things you cannot do. In the sense, if anything manages to evade through this massive list of parameters, it is automatically given the status of an idea. The list is a collective effort of many people who know what they don’t want. Some idiot in advertising said that you can only say one thing in an ad. How boring!! Meetings would then last for just a minute. After so many years of education, you cannot now expect people to only say what they want to say. How about giving them an opportunity to say what they don’t want to say? That way, they can speak more and also get a sense of contribution. Let us take a stand that our briefs will not end up being mere creative catalysts. Let’s make it into an exciting scientific puzzle.

bewildered

It would be foolish to reinvent the wheel. A change in the system would mean rewriting the course material of MBA. After all, common sense and gut feel are too unacademic and fragile to place mighty brands on them.

Even successful brands that have stayed clear of these methodical approaches and innocently followed their gut, have now been postmortemized and made into structured case-studies, to prove that how unknowingly they have followed a chapter out of the voluminous theories of brand building. Only to make sure that a stray exception doesn’t end up defeating the efforts of a hard-earned degree. To make sure that freely available emotions don’t overpower expensive reasoning. To make sure that experiences of life do not demean exercises of the classroom. To make sure that common sense doesn’t end up retracing complex theories to fundamental human truths, that these theories were originally based on.

I read recently, that some fan took a Kotler’s best seller and went up to him, to ask him for an autograph. Kotler took the book and ripped it to pieces and chucked it in a bin and told him ‘Don’t bother, it doesn’t make sense anymore’.

Even Kotler realised that the prescription has become the epidemic.

It would be far worthwhile if we stopped reinventing brands, and put our efforts on the discoveries we stumble upon. But unfortunately, problems and opportunities bloody well queue up in a disciplined manner to follow this strict assembly line. Because the solution is fixed. We only now need to search for problems that match it. 

The list of these moronic practices is endless.

And it is so because, it’s a stupid formula that preserves this insanity.

Add all the members of the circus to one colander and then sift out the ones who have the ideas. And give the decision making powers to the ones above.

And enjoy the prolonged agony that keeps an entire industry alive. Advertising.

Disclaimer: This is a summary of my observations gathered from my total experience in the industry. The only reason I still manage to survive is that not all of them are true at the same time. 

Chandni chowk to china

Wow!! Finally here is a movie where you can take your two year old toddler along and chase him with a cerelac bowl in the aisle. Where you can speak non-stop on the cellphone without anyone complaining. You can suddenly whistle and it wont be out of turn, because nobody knows when is the right time to do so. You can actually go through the entire list of snacks at the cafeteria, and the guy behind won’t make a fuss.

It’s like watching a rerun of a 0-0 football match where you already know that noone is going to score anyway.

The director has put together a series of jokes of different varieties, so that you might end up liking at least some of them.

Let’s begin with the story.

Akshay kumar works as a vegetable cutter in a dhaba at Chandni Chowk .

Akshay Kumar is mistaken as a reincarnation of a chinese warrior.

Akshay kumar lands in China.

Deepika Padukone is an Indian who wants to go to china. She has a twin sister who is a chinese working for a goon who has murdered her mom and she doesn’t know that and she ends up chasing akshay kumar because he is suppose to be a warrior and then something something something……and mithun lands up and gets angry and something something something. Some singing, some dancing and romance and jumping on china wall and some kung fu hustle……..Kailash kher sings sidhu sidhu sidhu…ranvir runs around in a crazy hairdo…..and your popcorn spills and the baby beside screams and you get an sms and you respond and mithun dies.

INTERVAL

Akshay takes training in a special kung fu that combines his roti making skills and vegetable cutting skills and something something something.
dam….dim…..daka..phuku…..dishhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…
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The experience of watching this movie is unexplainable. Writing a blog on it is more like a challenge.

When it comes to judging movies, I have the lowest standards in the universe. I’ve enjoyed movies so horrible that it could make people doubt my character, personality and judgement.

But this movie takes a new skill to appreciate it.

A fan of Rajni said this when someone asked him just after he saw Sivaji.

Interviewer: “How was the story?”

Fan “We’ll worry about that after the seventh viewing.”

Unfortunately, unlike Rajni, Akshay is not in a stage where he can do anything without questions popping up in your mind.

It’s not our inability to suspend disbelief.

This movie is suspension of anything that your brain questions innocently. Where you have to suspend things like why is there no continuity? Why is there no story? Why did this scene jump all of a sudden? Why is he here? Why is this happening? Who is this dude? What is he doing? What happened to that chap? Why is this Chinese speaking hindi?

Questions that are more than what a paranoid client would ask at a
disastrous PPM.

At least when I watched it, there was not a single moment in the film where the audience roared with laughter in chorus. It was I liked one joke. The person beside me liked the next. It’s like a bundle of jokes hurled at you and you decide when you want to laugh depending on upto what level you are willing to expose your stupidity.

Moreover the silly jokes force you to not take them sillily, because they are shot so well. It’s like packaging Pacman into Playstation. When Goundamani kicks Senthil you laugh. But if the same were to happen with hi-tech special effects, you are left cold.

The first 20 minutes of the film actually define that it’s a ‘leave your brains home’ comedy. But then they are spoilt by some emotional scenes that are shot with such sincerity and performances that it leaves you confused as to how to exactly react to it.

The fights in the movie are pathetic. They build you up till you are on the edge of your seat and just when it’s about to start, it looks like the stunt director went on leave.

And it also seems like that after cutting flight tickets for the entire crew to China, the production ran out of money for local travel. The only location that you get to see is the Great wall of china.

Deepika Padukone is best thing to happen to this film. She looks fab in her Chinese avtaar. Her make-up artist and costume designer deserve an Oscar for that.

The chap from 36 chambers of Shaolin is the villain named Hojo. The previous sentence is all that I gathered about him in the entire film. I think the Chinese interpreter they engaged to co-ordinate between him and the director was playing pranks. The lines he speaks and the emotion attached are as mismatched as the audio and video of any Chinese movie.

Akshay Kumar is totally relatable. He represents the state of mind that the entire audience is going through, on screen. He’s perpetually confused as to what is happening.

Mithun was smart. He figured out that this film is going nowhere so decided to kill his character with about 10 minutes of screen presence.

Ranvir is superbly convincing in his role. A role that is designed to make absolutely no sense to the script.

Overall, it’s like any ‘Made in China’ maal. It’s got lots packed in it, but nothing works.

The only danger is that this review might actually end up making this film seem interestingly nonsensical.

So, go enjoy.

What’s in IT for me?

I have a lot of friends in IT.
They have a single friend they lost out to advertising.

Over the years, we’ve lost touch. And when we meet, we don’t know what to speak. While, that may the difference of ‘Information’ and ‘Communication’.

They would like me to just inform them about what I’m doing.
I would like to communicate to them what I’m doing.

Click on an IT guy’s profile on Facebook. You’ll only find people he has lost touch with.
Click on an Advertising guy’s profile on Facebook. You’ll find people he’d like to be in touch with.

They are on Facebook, coz they have no time to waste.
We are on Facebook, coz we want to waste time.

Our Facebook friends list totals up the number of guys we know in the universe.
Their Facebook friends list totals up the number of people they’ve not been in touch with.

That’s only my starting point of differences. The rest is a mindless rambling of my thoughts of our universe v/s theirs. There is no constructive conclusion to this post. It’s just me typing away any garbage thats on my mind right now. No argument. No flow. No nothing. Just meandering with my thoughts without Ctrl z.

OK. It was about the IT dudes. They atleast make taller and greater claims only in their annual reports to cover up.
We are employed to do that on a daily basis in every ad.
They do it financially. We do it creatively.
Guys from overseas pay them. Guys who oversee pay us.

They get paid to debug. We get paid to bug.

In bad times they get laid off, we get laid. They are expected to only simplify complicated matters. Here we are expected to do both, first complicate it before simplifying it.

It’s easy, ask a software dude what he does and he’ll try and simplify the explanation.

Layman: ‘What do you do?’
Software dude: ‘Well, have you ever booked a ticket online?’
Layman: ‘yes’
Software dude: ‘Ok, we make programs that enable it.’
Layman: ‘wow!!’

On the other hand

Layman: “What do you do?’
Ad man: ‘I create touchpoints where a consumer can interact and have a dialogue with a brand’
Layman: ‘What do you do?’
Ad man: ‘We decide if Lux should be a man or a woman.’
Layman: “So, what do you do?’
Ad man: ‘We ladder up brand offerings to emotional spaces’
Layman: ‘Do you make ads?’
Ad man: “We dont make ads. We create brand personalities. We convert inanimate objects and intangible services to human beings.”
Layman: “Uhh!! Looks my drink is over. I’ll be right back.”

The problem is everyone knows advertising, so we try and make it larger than what it is.

The problem is nobody knows programming, so they try and make it seem smaller than what it is.

They die to bring it to a familiar space. We try and take it to an unfamiliar zone.

They have the money. We have the plans.

Check out pics of software dudes who go on foreign trips.
“My seattle office.”
“The park in the Microsoft campus’
“Tandoor. Yummy Indian food. Reminds me of my days in India. Swear by its tandoor chicken.’
“Bob. The funniest programmer I’ve met.”
“Ayesha, Tania and Mark. You guys rock.”
“Ayesha. Mark and Me. Pic by Tania.”
“Chang. Loved the Dimsums. Make me more.”
“Ripleys museum. Yipeeeee”

And pics of advtg flunks on a trip to Goa, Pondi, Hampi or Rajasthan.
A fakir blowing a chillum.
A stray dog in a garbage dump.
A crow.
A balloonwala.
Four kids struck by poverty.
And other macro shots if the scene around is boring.

We try and find something interesting in the boring life we lead.
They find something boring in the interesting life they lead.

Maybe because they know that they’ll be back there.
We doubt if we’ll be back there again.

Their work begins with logic.

Our work ends when we’ve found common sense….like make the logo bigger, it wont be visible on a hoarding.

Everybody screams over a cup of by two coffee ‘Don’t you have common sense?’.
But Logic is something that’s shared over a sophisticated drink.

Any day, Logic sounds so much cooler.

They find a creative way of making tickets accessibe on the net and call it logical solutions.
We find a logical reason for somebody to buy paint and call it creative solutions.

If we want to travel abroad, we need to write a film that opens there. If they want to travel abroad, all they need to do is fuck up somewhere.

They chose to study harder in school. We just postponed the agony to now.

Their companies have vague names. We have vaguer ones.

They like x,z and soft, tech, info, digi and next.
We like a,b,c and happy and orange and juice.

They have fancy numbers to back them.
All we have is that damn key number.

They are dying for everyone to know what they do.
And we hope and pray that nobody knows what we do.

While we were busy answering the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ on behalf of the lakhs of people who consume brands, some guys asked that question for themselves. “What’s in IT for me?’.

Smart chaps.

This post will be removed the minute I get sober.

Dog is a DJ – Part 3

Life moved on. My life was filled with music, even when I wasn’t behind the console. I had gone crazy grooving to imaginary music all the time. The tracks would continue reverberating in my head even after I went to bed. I would put my head below the pillow, but I could still hear Ricky Martin scream through it ‘Here we go Ole Ole…Cup of life…’.

I was on my way to the pub one evening. I stopped at the signal. A man wearing a yellow helmet and a parrot green shirt perched on a pink Lambretta stopped right beside me. Two eyes blinked at me from inside the peculiar helmet to get my attention. I looked hard but it resembled nobody I knew. The man took off his head gear to unveil the hidden emotion. It was the senior waiter at the pub, smiling end to end. I had never seen him in this fashion. His dark grey blazer had gone to the laundry for its annual wash, and he was looking liberated in this make-shift costume. His wife sitting behind him replicated his smile.

“Not coming to the pub today” I yelled.

“No. I’m taking off today….Ha ha….I know that the manager is not coming in tonight, so I’m gonna celebrate.” He yelled back speeding away in his Lambretta that rattled a celebratory tune to his freedom.

“The manager is not coming in tonight….the manager is not coming in tonight…..THE MANAGER IS NOT COMING IN TONIGHT”

This echoed in my ears till the meaning fully sunk in. It meant that the night was entirely mine. I mentally lined up all the heroes who had remained unsung in this venue. Tonight, the walls will bounce back tunes that they’ve never heard previously. Tonight, the woofers will freely kick bass till the windows rattle. Tonight, the tweeters will hiss away all their caged potential. Tonight, the bouncers will get an increment. Tonight the bartenders will ache with pain. Tonight the bar will run dry. Tonight the loo will stink. Tonight belonged to me.

It was a Wednesday. I knew that the crowd will gather in no time. I started getting ready with all the arsenal to knock them down.

‘Mother Russia’
dj

The electric guitar penetrated across the speakers in the room. At an inconsiderate volume. A guy at the snooker table missed his shot. He flung his cue in fury and walked up to me.

“Do you mind. We’re playing here.”

“Do you mind. Even I’m playing here. And that too, after a long time.”

The Nirvana chick shrieked like was struck by a bolt of lightning. She downed her tequila in less than a second and spun round and round, adding surround sound to her shriek.

I kept her spinning with Burn and Carcass and Megadeth and every other rejected request of hers, till she ran out of winding.

Soon the pub was full with people jumping around like the floor was electrified.

I was waiting to unleash the incorrigible Indians on them, and get them dizzy with orgasm. The thing with Indian music is that it can accommodate any lack of dancing talent. You suffer from no embarrassment because anything you choose to shake, is already certified as a worthy move by some Bollywood character. It never demands committent to one dance movement. Fly a kite. Spin a top. Put your hands on your hips and gyrate. Flip a dosa on the tava. Tap your bum. Lift your hand and look at the ceiling. Everything is a certified Bollywood move.

It never expects rhythm. It never expects grace. It needs no technique. And above all, everyone knows the lyrics. Knowing the lyrics and singing along is a dance step by itself. Atleast the lips move in a choreographed fashion.

I was waiting till the alcohol drowned everyone’s self consciousness. And when I knew for sure that the crowd had warmed up to stupidity, Tom’s diner “ta ta da da tata da da” suddenly blended to…………”ku kuku ku kuku kuku…….hai chori………”

The waiters turned around to check if they actually heard what they heard.

“Choli ke peeche kya hai…choli ke peeche”

In one single stroke I had knocked the ‘town’ off Downtown, and replaced it with ‘market’.

This happened at a time when the song you heard at a pub or a club was not the same you heard in the car on your way back home. Bollywood was frisked right at the entrance, leaving you with a choice of music as limited as the space in that paper napkin.

This track opened up a dyke which flooded me with requests. Requests that could put a dance bar to shame.

Two young surds walked in and gleamed with joy when they were greeted by familiar sounds. They looked at this new glamorous platform to exhibit their dancing prowess, that they so far had wasted on old chachas, kakas and buas at some baraat.

They pushed their way to the centre stage and broke into a bhangra. Mid-way, one of them rushed towards me and said
“oye….yeh sab chhod yaar…kuch bhangda shangda bajaaa oye..”

I slipped in ‘Gur nalo ishq’.

And they picked a random waiter leading him to tables like he was the dulha on the horse. They shook their shoulders and bent backwards till the crowd felt tipsy.

The Mauritian entered ignorantly doing his regular step. And suddenly stopped when he found his rhythm missing. He looked up to cross check if it was the same pub. Hopes of his favorite daddy track went up in a puff. He waited till the vibrant bhangra beats submerged his cynicism.

He sent me a paper napkin.

“Screw Puff Daddy tonight. Keep this going Bro.”

Bally had prolonged this track adequately. The energy spread to every member in the hall. Soon everybody circled around the two bhangra boys clapping and urging them to go on. The Mauritian was feeling left out as his subtle grooves went unnoticed against the Bhangra boys’ thunderous moves. He realised that tonight demanded more of him. He stepped up his steps, by making suitable modifications to his hip-hop routine. And dived right in the middle to join the party.

I was enjoying myself. And was busy cuing Daler to take over from here.
Something seemed to be hindering my progression. It was a shiny metal object blurring at the corner of my eye.

I turned to shoo away the disturbance, and froze mid-way.

It was the manager pointing a gun at my head. I could see rage in his eyes, with flashes of myself as pulp. And spared one flash to the Lambretta waiter in a similar condition.

The Manager’s appearance was scary enough, and this suspect toy in his gigantic hands triggered off my involuntary functions.

Robotically, my hands reached towards the corner where Nat King Cole sat. My fingers automatically reached the cd tray button. Nat King took position and slid inside on his mission to bring this madness to a grinding halt.

“O rabba lagna kise dooja ve…..unforgettable, that’s what you are’

The manager left the scene in a huff, letting my limited imagination to predict the circumstances.

I regained consciousness with a paper napkin ball knocking me down. It was the Mauritian’s cannon ball. I looked up and saw him between two heavily panting surds. They were staring at me with their hands on their hips with Nat King moaning in the background.

In a few moments I learnt all the abuses in Punjabi. The left over ones were tutored by the second surd.

That minute, I decided to end my career before my life. I started packing up.

And just before I left, I noticed the paper ball.

I picked it up to keep this one as a memorabilia of the hundred balls hurled at me, which I had ignored all these days.

Just out of curiosity, I unfurled it to investigate further.

Inside it was a crumpled 500 Rupee note with a writing on the napkin…

“You rock, Bro”.