Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dil maange more

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri ventures a close-up of the recent double-role being played out by an increasing number of gifted ad-film makers, balancing ad films with the biggest lure of ’em all – feature films!

In the beginning came the great god Ray – Satyajit to 7-stars morons! – who after doing time in the hi-profile D. J. Keymer in the fab ’50s (as a distinguished Art Director) left, for two reasons. One, as a passionate film aficionado (he started the iconic Calcutta Film Society with noted film critic Chidanand Dasgupta), he was getting increasingly drawn into the world of feature films. Two, he discovered that ‘hawking cigarettes, biscuits and tea, day in and day out isn’t really the best stimuli for creativity!’ Dry wit at its acerbic best from the master!

Over the years – Shyam Benegal, Muzaffar Ali, Robin Dharamraj, Zafar Hai, Chidanand Dasgupta, Harisadhan Dasgupta – there has been a decided shift-of-focus happening, with the to-day guys really turning on the heat. Shoojit Sarkar, a brilliant ad film maker, switched lanes a couple of years ago to give us Yahaan. Pradeep Sarkar, another renowned ad film maker and ad agency veteran took the leap with Parineeta and Laga… while Lowes hi-profile NCD Balki let loose Cheeni Kum with the customers begging for more. The brilliant Abhinay Deo – another outstanding ad film maker – threatens to join the club any moment. Some other eminent players in this ad films-to-feature game include Dipankar Banerjee (Khosla Ka Ghosla), John Mathew Matthan (Sarfarosh), Mahesh Mathai (Bhopal Express), Rakeysh Mehra (Rang De Basanti), Rajiv Menon (Sapnay), Ram Madhvani (Let’s Talk)…

What’s the problem? Why this ‘khujli’ to move towards the bigger format? Is the 30-seconder getting a bit too restrictive, limiting and tight? Over time, are these guys getting bored doing the same old stuff – after all how hot can your creativity get in this time frame? Having learnt the critical aspects of the art and craft of the discipline, are they now in the mood to embrace the real thing?

Abhinay Deo opens the batting with typical panache and starts scoring immediately. Contrary to popular belief, he does not believe that it is a “logical or automatic transition because both have their respective – special – areas of challenges and opportunities. For me, as a passionate film lover, they are both amazing avenues because they come under the common umbrella of film making.” However, he is quick to confess that the ad film-maker, sometimes, has an edge over the feature-wala because of the former’s constant, 24x7 drive towards creating, achieving and delivering a product that is fresh, unique and clutter-bustling.
“This makes innovation a part of our DNA. After all, selling products and services to a new-gen, promiscuous target-base in a way that delights and surprises, is no easy task. It demands speed with quality and provides us with a fantastic sense of perspective that certainly helps in the long run,” he explains.

Pradeep Sarkar who made his debut into the world of feature films at the “young” age of 48, has a different take. He believes that ad films and feature films are definitely inter-connected, in some fashion. Both have a product to sell and in both the disciplines, the aspect of “story-telling” is critical. Both are audio-visual mediums with their own compulsions.

Balki believes that the attraction for the big screen for most ad-film makers is natural because “once you’ve tasted blood, you want to go for the big one.” However, it’s not as easy as it sounds because from 30-60 seconds to holding audience attention for close to three hours can be very daunting.

A sharp media tracker who has seen this phenomenon grow over time believes that all these guys are suddenly and unnecessarily playing coy and cute. The real reason for this shift, he believes, is simple and two-fold. One, every creative animal, after a while, feels hemmed in by continuously doing stuff that has a limited creative bandwidth. The motivation and hunger – despite all the clich├ęs about constantly re-inventing oneself blah blah – wears thin and soon technique rather than inspiration, take over. The solution is (literally) the big picture… a canvas he can truly take-off with. Secondly, hey c’mon guys, who doesn’t want to hit the big time, rub shoulders with glamorous stars, be perceived as a successful film maker, appreciated by the media, classes and masses instead of just cranking out (as Ray rightly said) stuff hawking tea, cigarettes and biscuits… and now colas and condoms!

Beyond the incestuous and industry-specific tamasha at Cannes and ABY’s, their product gets to be seen and loved by the most significant and desired target-audience they can dream of – the hydra-headed creature called the aam junta! That is the real high – and let no one kid themselves!


Thursday, December 06, 2007



What is Pester-Power? At its simplest it means kids – from age 3 to 18 – pestering (read: nagging, whining, badgering, irritating, harassing, annoying) the living hell out of their parents to buy advertised products! This terminology was born – where else but the capital of obscene conspicuous consumption – in the USA in the late 70’s when this phenomenon first raised its ominous head. Very soon it became an uncontrollable epidemic-like reality-turned-nightmare!

Truth is, kids (traditionally) have always nudged and pushed their parents to buy stuff, but never was it a hair-tearing, cardiac-arrest routine, right? This avtaar is a fairly new phenomenon and accurately reflects the changing contours of the child-parent relationship in a fast-altering sociological landscape. Today, thanks to an insatiable, all-pervasive consumer society, sharper kids, exposure to a 24x7 media onslaught, peer pressure, double-income families leading to more disposable income and finally the “guilt” factor, parents seem to be caving in to pester-power much more quickly. Marketers, (forever tracking which side the bread is buttered and how fast the cookie crumbles), have been quick to leap in and create a whole array of irresistible children-friendly wants and needs that get the kids really charged! Today’s kids want more and they want it now!

Fact not fiction. According to the recently released Disney’s Kidsense 2007 survey, 63% kids are discussing products that span not only conventional kiddie categories, but go across the spectrum. This means that they go beyond the traditional clothes, sweets, bicycles and toys range to embrace DVD players, cars, mobile phones… even holiday destinations! The interesting and revealing part is that many parents today actually turn to their children for information regarding hi-ticket, hi-end, techno stuff. So the age of the Alpha pup is here and kidfluence is getting bigger each day. Communication guru Santosh Desai, CEO, Future Brands believes that today more than ever before, “we are all children of the age of consumption. Kids are hotter and hipper with the new lingo jargons of this phenomenon than their elders and therefore more comfortable with it.” No wonder they are constantly tuned-in or logged on to the latest trends! In this new environ of KGOY (Kids Getting Older Younger), soft toys and board games are quickly dumped for ACs and iPods. In fact, apart from booze and condoms – insists the irrepressible Prahlad Kakkar – kids today have a say in pretty much all the purchases made at home. And boy, do they exercise it! Moon-Moon Dhar, a working mother with two kids (aged 12 & 6) has that glazed look when talking about Pester Power.
“Oh, Pester-Power has arrived in India and is a total reality! My six year old tells me that I should take Tata Sky and cable is crap! I have to spend close to two hundred bucks a strike to see Bhool Bhulaiya and not Laga Chunri Mein Daag because the kids say so. As for their own stuff – food, entertainment, clothes, toys – that’s a different (and scary) ball-game! He has his own birthday list, dictates the menu (“no samosas please. Kids hate it!”); and explains why two varieties of Pizza’s should be ordered (“there are vegetarians also and everybody doesn’t like chicken, mamma?”). Amit Sahai, Media Manager, Perfect 10 Advertising and father of a 12 year old son, categorically believes that everything is not negative about this phenomenon and it’s wrong to perceive it in that manner. “Today’s kids are smarter, savvier, powered with a stronger sense of curiosity, more exposed to the media (than us in our early years) and in every way more knowledgeable about some categories of products than us. So, if they advise – or demand – something, it might be a good idea to see it in that light instead of pester power!” Also, he believes the age of self-denial and simple living and high thinking is clearly over. Parents slog to give their kids the best. Also the parent-child equation has changed dramatically “to the extent that they go beyond information to becoming consultants in the final purchase pattern.” Sahai lays bare a very critical point. “If your child is a pampered, spoilt brat, whose fault is that? If your parenting is right then there is no fear of pester power. The decisions will be informed and mutually agreed upon. At the end of the day, if you give your kids the power of freedom, responsibility and accountability, it can work wonders.”

Designer Seema Sethi – with two daughters aged 14 & 8 – doesn’t waste any time agreeing to the trials and trauma let loose by Pester Power! She gives the example of her younger daughter dismissing locally made pencils (NATRAJ) to go for foreign makes because “they are really cool!” Also, she just had to see OSO (Om Shanti Om) ASAP, otherwise she would not be considered with it and trendy!” Journo Sapna Khanna agrees. “My seven year old daughter made me take a conducted tour of at least 3 shops before she condescended to approve of a dress! Madam certainly has definite opinions and I dare not go against it. It won’t work!” As for her 12 year old son, he is into hi-end techno stuff and luxury cares, “which frequently makes us very nervous, but in some ways forces us to work harder and raise the bar to fulfil their expectations.” However, both Seema and Sapna concede that when the crunch comes, they know where to draw the line. So, do the kids listen then? “They moan, groan, complain, sulk … but eventually get the message.”

So, eventually, what does Pester Power mean to you… an early loss of innocence or a leap of knowledge and awareness? Your call!