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

Apart-mental meetings part 3

After looking at her timer for a few seconds, Princi Face decided that it was now time for her to speak up. She unfolded her hands and cleared her throat.

Riverdale closed her Archie, put it beside and folded her hands, and took on her mom’s pose, relieving Princi Face to freely express her views.

“The Secretary recently replaced the fused bulb on the 2nd floor landing. I appreciate that….” She paused.

I had no clue why she referred to me in third person, even when I was sitting right there. Was it respect for the title, or was it because she hated even mentioning my name? This doubt was cleared in the next few seconds.

“….But I think The Secretary has been very unfair. While the first and third floor landing have ordinary 60 watt bulbs, why did The Secretary have to replace it with a fancy CFL bulb on the second landing?”

I gulped and meditated for a little while, to pick the right emotion before I answered that question.

One of The Four Ladies hated the delay, and decided to confront it herself.

“Why, atleast let one floor have good lighting. Let the bulb in your landing fuse, and then we’ll put a CFL bulb even in your floor…if that will make you happy.” She flared. It was obvious that she belonged to the second floor.
“…I think The Secretary has done something good. We must thank him for that” she ended, and looked at me like a victorious mother hen.

I felt like a coward to have engaged a spokeswoman.

Suddenly, in a fit of rage, Riverdale sprung up violently, flung her comic to one corner. “Oh okay!! If that’s the case, I’ll just go and break that damn bulb on our floor right away” and was all set to storm out and enact the scene.

But the proceedings were spoilt by the Oriya Stud, who was quick and responsive with his out-of-the-box solutions. He volunteered to donate the two spare CFL bulbs that were lying unused in his attic ever since he had moved in here.

The Smiley played his role of a cheer mascot by rotating his head in slow motion.

The Princi Face called a truce by folding her hands and returning back to her initial pose.

Riverdale was visibly upset that her dramatics was nipped by this Gandhian settlement. She sat back on her chair and furiously punched the shortcut keys to Snake Level 5 on her Nokia.

It was 9 pm now. I was hungry, and I made some feeble attempts to disperse the crowd.

“Looks like your kid is feeling sleepy”
“Isn’t sa re ga ma finals today?”
“The neighbour must be wanting her dining chair back”

The hints were conveniently ignored. The audience wore a determined look, that they would not budge till they got their full share of entertainment. Also, they had just been deprived of some explosive action by the Oriya, and this had to compensated.

The meeting gained an inevitable extension, when a new entrant walked in with fresh enthusiasm. All hopes of fulfilling any unfulfilled entertainment now rested on this new messiah – A short middle aged man with an irritating looking moustache. A spiky one that automatically gave his pesky looking face an authoritarian edge.

He leaned across to the elderly man and got himself a quick update on all the points discussed. He shrunk his lips till the spiky hair of his moustache fanned out, and nodded his head in introspection with a ‘hmmmm…’.

A ‘hmmmmm’ that bundled all the matters discussed, to futility. And arrived at a subject of paramount importance, that could possibly make up for the lack of substance, during his absence.

“What about the calling bell? I heard that a new one was installed, and now even that one is spoilt?” he said in an accusing tone, looking at a wall hanging situated right next to where I was sitting.

(OK, a little background on the calling bell….. At Kumbha, the watchman’s room was a furlong away from the gate. And Kumbha residents had made it a point that the gate be locked sharp at 10pm. So anyone who arrived after that, had to wake up the watchman by ringing the calling bell, the switch of which was next to the gate. No, It was not expected that the watchman remains awake at that time. The calling bell had not been working ever since I moved in. And nobody found the need for it, as everyone got home before 9pm. So, after many unsuccessful attempts of trying to wake up Bahadur without waking up the others, I finally decided to change the calling bell. A decision I bravely took without consulting the others. To my dismay, the new one stopped working, within a month.)

The others hung their heads as if they had been put to shame by my careless act. They obviously knew something that I didn’t.

“I put a new one….and ya, it conked….so i’ll replace it now.” I said trying to dismiss it frivolously.

Mr Moustache gave a half grin, stared at a particular tile on the floor and said in a menacing tone “How much did you pay for the calling bell?”

“250 bucks” I said.

Mr Moustache shifted his grin to the other half of his face, and stared at another tile on the floor.

“250 bucks. Hmmmm….What a waste!”

He placed his chin on the hand, curled his upper lip inward, bit a few strands of his moustache hair, and continued looking at the tile on the floor. And waited for adequate silence to prepare ground for the point he was about to make.

I was fed up. I had made up my mind that I will trash any remark of his to pieces.

Without moving his head, he lifted his eyebrows and looked at his wife who was One among The Four Ladies, gesturing her to state the point that I was so idiotically missing. She clasped her hands and broke the suspense.

“Mr Rajesh, don’t you know that he deals in calling bells?”

The Elderly Man moved back into his chair, to clear the path of vision between Me and Mr. Moustache.

“For 11 years, I’ve been working in the sales department of a calling bell factory. We manufacture all kinds of calling bells. And also thermos flasks.” continued Mr. Moustache adding finer details to emphasise his point.

His voice quivered. He was absolutely shattered and betrayed that noone bothered to consult his expertise in this area. One of his rare chances of offering advice had been impetuously neglected.

“If only you had asked me, I could have given you the latest in the market at cost price.” he regretted.

Riverdale observed silence by dogearing her comic. The Princi Face passed her judgement by letting out a loud sigh. The earrings of The Four Ladies shook in tandem. The Elderly Man jutted out his lower lip and folded his notes. The Elderly Aunty munched her potato chips noiselessly. The Oriya wore a look of condemn, hoping that I would pick it up. The Smiley’s smile relaxed, giving me a glimpse of how he looked otherwise.

The pressure in the room forced me to not be amused by it. I had answers firmed up in my head for everything. Not this one. I was at a loss of words. I had never met anyone, even remotely, who had anything to do with calling bells.

I was forced to shamefulness, for taking the wrong call.

Rather the wrong calling bell.

My thoughts were interrupted with a ‘Ting tong’.

The neighbour wanted her dining chairs back.