Thursday, November 09, 2006

What s ‘creativity’ gotta do with advertising?

“Everything!” insist its ardent champions. “Sweet damn –all!” declare its fire –eating detractors. So what gives? 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri endeavours to decode planet earth’s most misused “C” word and place it in its right perspective.

Mohammed Khan, the distinguished, classy and brilliant Chairman of Bates-Enterprise has a hilarious take on creativity, which (he swears) took place in Act one of his illustrious advertising career. “It was” says the flamboyant and engaging raconteur par excellence, “While I was doing a stint in provincial England, where (with my gifted and spaced-out art partner) I was busy honing my skills as a copy writer and simultaneously, energetically, celebrating the good life!”.

Khan paints the scene beautifully. “The sequence was unfailingly the same. Before an important client would toddle across to our agency, we would be forewarned and quickly, get set to do our number… me, atop the cupboard, sitting, closed eyes in the lotus position and repeatedly chanting OM... with my art buddy, standing on his head. At this point, our Boss-man would enter with the client and whisper in awe-stricken fashion… ‘Creative people…trained in London…thinking …shhhhh, let’s not disturb them’ before ushering them out. It seemed to have worked amazingly well back then in the innocent sixties…” Khan’s booming laughter, recollecting those zany moments, is infectious.

Does creativity-in year 2006-still mean doing freako stuff to impress your clients, or have we matured as an industry to decode this loosely-flung “C” Word, recognise it for what it’s worth and leverage it to value-add to the job at hand?

“While I am greatly tempted to say that we haven’t really made any revolutionary turnaround from Mohammed’s blissful era, I’ll quickly avoid a tsunami and cut to the chase!” Adlands enfant terrible Prahlad Kakkar warms up before laying it on the line. “Creativity is unquestionably the Big O that drives all exciting, memorable and effective advertising. No two ways about it buddy.” The reason, he explains, is because it’s the only sure-fire way of cutting through the ‘dreaded clutter’ of soulless crap. “Cutting edge creativity decimates, destroys and renders instantly forgettable all boring stuff through the sheer power, freshness and energy of its idea. It vagaries the zombied reader/ listener / viewer into action and threatens to convert him/her into an excited and responsive customer.” Kakkar confidently asserts that creativity “guarantees a bigger bang for smaller bucks. Even, the mammoth, strategy-driven, suit-centred JWT appears to have woken up to inject a new creative temper to its blueprint. This is bound to augur well considering their overall srength.”
Leo Burnett’s National Creative Director, Sridhar agrees. “Creativity is critical because it provides solutions to complex problems through fresh and meaningful insights that go to make a difference.” He is quick to point out that it should not be confused with high art and culture – the rarefied Shantiniketan types – but something that functions in the commercial area of the problem-solution (DHISHOOM-DHISHOOM, COLGATE?) process focusing on the ability to deliver an exciting, memorable and effective message fusing imagination with intellect that both powers and influences the purchasing intent.

Hi-profile script-writer, poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar brings his own amazing spin to the subject. “Let’s please not put a halo around the C word or moralise! To me, creativity is old bones with a new combination. Anything that is fresh, path-breaking and original is creative and most certainly need not be wedded only to the ghisa-pita perception of high art- poetry, music, painting, dance, sculpture etc. A housewife chained to household chores can be extraordinarily creative in the way she orchestrates her daily routine. Remember, creating chaos or joy is both part of the very same creative process. Ultimately, it’s the intent that makes it soar or sink”.

Vikas Godbole however, insists on pooh-poohing the ra-ra to play Killjoy and devil’s advocate with determined vigour. “I find this whole idea of creativity in advertising ridiculous, ludicrous, pretentious… generally hilarious! It’s a delusion of grandeur at its infantile best! It’s a comforting garb however for the clever-in-halves insecure types!” The consultant to several top-flight organisations explains. “Lets face it. Forget the jargon crap for a moment-isn’t advertising about hustling through emotional manipulation murdering the C word straight away? At best, one can call it terminal cleverness- that’s not creativity by a zillion miles! Where’s the path breaking idiom that is truly Indian rooted irrevocably in the Indian psyche to create communication that resonates with the Indian sensibility alone? Where’s the empowering insight to see the consumer as a human being first, in a specific social and cultural context, allowing for the entry to his deepest motivation graph? Finally where’s the magical connect between a brand and peoples lives to make a difference? This blind and fashionable Abbeys and Cannes driven advertising is not creativity but conformity…”

Phew! Time to blow the whistle, guys. If creativity is the ability to make connections between two or more seemingly unconnected ideas where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts… if the true creative animal is one who accepts no boundaries, (self created or imposed) & encourages cataclysmic evolutionary change only to swiftly demolish it for more exciting frontiers ahead; is certainly not a person in equilibrium but defiant ferment; loathes deadlines and passionately believes that the creative juices cannot be made to flow at will but only to the sound of distant and exotic drums… the advertising industry has enough candidates to qualify. So, on the one hand ,while fakes and phonies energetically play out the “ hey, I am creative” game, there are gods’s chosen few who exhibit examples of outstanding creativity that charm Cannes, client and consumers in one (magical) fell swoop… Now, go ahead and dispute that!


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