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.

cart-before-horse-2

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. 

Advertisements

MBA-Master of Bullshitting Artistically

I have finally found the MDH guide on ‘How to make your agency look up to you, in spite of sucking up to you?’

Its got some really valid insights, that can fool any agency fatang, without making him feel like one.

Here are a few excerpts…

CREATIVE CHALLENGE: A very motivating phrase, that masterfully disguises the fact that there are two bosses who have different points of view, and don’t even have the time to not see eye to eye. It is usually used in situations where you would want the agency to resolve this conflict. Other usages include: Budget v/s duration of commercial, thematic v/s tactical activity, product window v/s story etc etc. This simple re-phrasing of a ‘fuck up’ cunningly motivates naive creative people to become willing victims.

PROTAGONIST: Another useful term that automatically makes you the casting director. Finally, you need some incentive for having attended all those useless research groups in Kakinada and Sahranpur. This scary jargon, when used at the right time, gives you all liberty to be able to pick the face in the audition tape that most resembles the loudest respondent in your research group.

YOU MIGHT WANT TO: It’s a simple technique. Just replace all the ‘I’s with “You”. For eg: “You might want to make this colour a little more bright’. It sounds polite and is a simple mind game. It makes it seem like you are bringing out the best in the person, before you. You are recognising the refined taste that he has. All you are doing is just pointing out a little glitch that he might have overlooked. Go ahead and make these assumptions.

THIS IS A BRILLIANT STAGE 2: This is a refined way of bombing something you don’t like. An indefinite postponement makes the innocent agency believe that they are thinking way ahead of the times. 

LET’S PARK THIS THOUGHT: Another winning phrase, that makes the agency explore within the radar of mediocrity. Never underestimate the power of this. It leaves the agency with a hint of hope, and the confidence to confide in you, all the garbage that’s hidden in their disposal bag of ideas. A simple trick to now have your pick.

BRANDING SUFFERS: ‘Make the logo bigger’ or ‘increase the duration of the product window’ are passe. The latest is ‘Branding suffers’. Take it from us. Say this, lay back and watch the fun, of an entire agency going berserk. Senior management, Planning heads, Creative heads will congregate and think up of nothing but ‘making the logo bigger’ or ‘increasing the duration of the product window’. But hey, you didn’t say those bad words.

 

Please make sure that you don’t share this with agency folks. We’ve just had a joint body meeting and frozen on these highly highly confidential techniques on improving agency efficiency.

Kurosawa Jr

We are a wonderful tribe. We open our pants, and also take the shit. 


 

For 6 long months, we battle every idiocy that the client comes up with, tackle every piece of insane comment made by research respondents who only come for the ‘Free Varun Stainless Steel Plates’ at the end of it, work our ass off till there is no coffee in the vending machine or auto willing to drop you home, finely balance between the 29 parameters of the most puzzling briefs, wait endlessly for meetings to happen in no-smoking zones, accommodate everyone’s wish list down to the liftman to come up with an approved script.

By now, you’ve reached a point where the only non-advertising life you’re left with is probably that school friend you’ve added on Facebook and sent a ‘wassup’ scrap.

But that’s ok. Now, you have with you a script that can change your fortune, an approved script. 

You’re just one man away from being a superstar…
Kurusawa’s step son ‘The Director’. (background music)

In the beginnning, it’s difficult to even talk to this man. You would have sent the script but he’ll be busy shooting another happening commercial. It’ll seem like that you are actually intruding into his award winning efforts, by wasting his time on your pathetic script, while all he’s doing is actually shooting an irritating hair cream commercial with some superstar, just because that agency head has asked him to do bloody well do it. 

But don’t blame him yet. 

The poor chap still doesn’t know the crap he’s just dished out. It’ll take the poor fellow a little while to figure that one out. 

He’ll first invite all his smoking buddies at the editing studio, to stub their ciggies and watch the masterpiece he’s just made. It’s only when, after over 7 of them run back to their ciggies, he’ll get the first stench of his own crap. 

He’ll now join back his ciggie buddies, make some quick comparisons of his shot breakdown to some world cinema, blame the illiterate agency and the client for not letting him do what he set out to, and then with a deep sigh, decide to move on to the next script. 

The crappy printout of some struggler’s script, keenly held out by the anxious producer.

He’ll make faces, ponder, and ask a few questions ‘Writer kaun hai? agency kaunsa hai? paisa hai?’. Then, then….he’ll see his share of the money in the twinkling eyes of the producer (Mr. Warner Bro)……but no,….he’s only …only going to do it, because he’s taken it upon himself to fight this noble cause of bettering the quality of Indian advertising.

Kurosawa Junior has finally agreed to stoop down and uplift your piece of crap.

He’ll ask Warner Bro to ask you to give him a call.

After that, he’ll ask you to narrate the garbage you’ve written, in your own style. You’ll put on your best voice and narrate the script with all the enthusiasm that’s still left in you. 

Silence.

‘Hmmm….lemme think and get back to you.’ is all that you’ll hear. 

Then it’s suspense time. You’ll be given a few clues here and there as to what is happening. You’ll now send him a long note on all that you forgot to tell him over that conversation. The boring product window, the longer version of the line that you just told him, the stupid client remarks on a few scenes, the kind of models you have in mind, and of course your two silly world cinema references, which are still german or french but not untapped uzbekistanese….

Its now PPM time…the time when client gets to meet the pedigree and not just the everyday barking mongrels. 

Kurosawa Jr and Warner Bro will walk in 15 mins before the event. Everything from the new far off airport to the disgusting traffic will be discussed. Anything but the script. Any queries regarding the script will be brushed off with a hollywood expression of ‘main hoon na’.

The moment has arrived. Tea in special cups and premium biscuits will arrive.

The same script will now be narrated to the client by Kurosawa jr. (It’s the same news that’s on doordarshan, but it sounds so much better on STAR TV.) The same line, where no one got the humor in the past six months will now sound doubly funny. The whole hall will be in splits except the writer. 

The client will now ask some vague questions, Kurosawa Jr will give some inane replies, servicing will masterfully jot it down to make it sound open ended and creative will decide to have a private discussion with the director later.

Time for Timeline discussions…Kurosawa Jr will step out for a smoke warning Warner Bro to speed up and Creative will step out for a leak.

And then ….all of a sudden…..KABOOOM!! See you on the day of the shoot.

It’s nothing close to what was in the script or the story board or what was discussed in the PPM or in that world cinema reference. 

Two people are specially engaged to keep you busy with yummy refreshments in a corner. Keep your mouth busy or keep it shut is the unsaid message.

Every time Kurosawa Jr screams, you feel its directed towards you, so you rather enjoy that special dhokla with imli chutney.

Any attempt to talk to K Jr. in the meanwhile will be tackled with a ‘we should have discussed that earlier’. 

Soon, you’ll be in that studio. K Jr will beam over his masterpiece, storm out and return with a few nicotine smelling buddies. They’ll watch it, smile and return in a hurry to their ciggies.

You’ll be curious. You’ll step out to only find Kurosawa Jr sitting with twinkling eyed Warner Bro. 

On another pathetic script.