Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ideation Madness. Logic… or Magic?

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri attempts a dip-stick in troubled, mysterious, unpredictable waters…

Another school of though throws up environment, ambience, atmosphere. It has to do with good people. A conducive setting is ideal for great creative advertising, a seductive aphrodisiac, the real stimuli. “Like-minded souls, bold, fearless, always poised for that astonishing creative leap do wonders for the adrenalin! Defines the basic difference between the morons, the living dead, the boring, predictable dodos from the ingenuous, innovative & intoxicating ideators!” says a free-wheeling, award-winning, hot-shot, young creative animal.

There are other “takes” too. While some feel it’s good to feel scared when in the throes of ideation “because it automatically saves you from falling into the trap of doing something that’s too pat, easy, predictable or soft”; others believe that “isolating the key idea is critical.” It comprises putting down everything you know about the product, then isolating it with the essence intact, giving it personality, projecting chemistry & making it look it fresh, new, exciting. Its not easy, but it can really be an mind-bending discovery into a whole new world of benefits, rewards and attributes… What about imagination?

Every time the word comes up, the mind races to evoke images of some of the iconic guru’s who powered those elusive magical, mystical windmills of the mind… right? Gurus like Newton, Da Vinci, Piccasso, Van Gogh, Michaelangelo, Darwin, Madam Curie, Shakespeare, Stephen Hawkins. However, the eminent social/ behavioral scientist, Jacob Bronowiski insists that “imagination is a human gift & to imagine is a characteristic, not just the fiefdom of poets painters artists & scientist, but everyone! Animals don’t possess imagination. It’s about discovering new connects between things not by deduction, but by that unpredictable blend of speculation and insight that scientists call induction, which like other forms of imagination, cannot be formalized.”

At the end of the day – in the ad domain – what distinguishes the outstanding, unique, memorable & hence effective from the mediocre, is being more “human” & less “addy.” Create communication that is not spectacular, but resonating & essential to the people addressed. The need is to be warm, believable, credible, conversational, basically human. It comes from the three simple attributes (often overlooked, ignored, neglected and devalued) that belong to all of us, but seldom touched upon with the right quantities of passion, purpose, power or perspective. These are observation, imagination and experience.

So, go for it guys. More wind beneath your wings. Your’s is the power & glory…


Thursday, February 14, 2008


4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri attempts a hard close up on a fiercely debated issue

Indra Sinha, the brilliant & celebrated British communication maverick of Indian origin (whose AMNESTY campaign re-defined public service advertising like nothing else before or after) once stated that advertising is hardly a new phenomenon. It has existed for centuries. Then, tongue firmly in cheek, let fly a zinger. “Actually, it’s the second oldest profession & arose directly from the needs of the first!”

John Hegarty, another ad guru, offers his take in terms of persona. “As an industry, it occupies only the margins; the bits in between the editorial content; and the space between the programmes. The creativity bit is really guerilla creativity! It comes in, makes a hit & zips out.” However he is quick to point out that “creativity is the very essence of humanity. Civilisation’s great leap is because of human beings creative impulse & drive. It could think, put different thoughts together and come to different conclusions. I am always blown when people come to me & say, oh you’re so creative! Does that make me special weird, different, species… what?”

However, coming to the bigger picture, creativity is often defined as the public face of an ad agency; the external manifestation of its culture. Every piece of work builds the agency’s & clients brand. Some experts believe that this brand-building exercise can be measured in 5 ways. One, by the number of clients who stay or leave. Two, the number of pitches to which the shop is invited. Three, the quality & calibre of people it attracts. Four, by what its peers, clients and competitors say about it and five, by the awards they win in major festivals… They also believe that to create truly great advertising, 3 elements are de rigeur. One, the management should genuinely want it. Two, the creative guys should have the ability and confidence to produce it. Finally – the most important – the clients must recognise, green-light and endorse the work and buy it with enthusiasm and vigour.
Another special and spot-on fact is articulated with passion by another hi-profile ad practitioner, “It’s great clients who make great agencies and great campaigns – not vice versa. Remember they are the guys who take the risks, buy the stuff and have the balls to run with the idea! When you look at some of the truly great stuff done in recent times (Apple, Absolut, Volkswagon, Nike, Fevicol, Airtel, Liril, Surf Excel, Vodafone, Perfetti, Aviva, Fair & Handsome, Dove…) chances are, you’ll find a great company behind it… and behind the great company a great visionary who challenges and stretches you as much as you stretch him. There has to be (and usually is) a tacit investment of trust and belief that is both inspirational and stimulating. It drives the process. It can never be a one-way-street.” There is also a word of caution. “The advertising should educate them with evidence. Remember clients are in the business for results – not to tilt at windmills, be courageous and brave for the sake of being perceived as courageous and brave!”

At the end of the day, creativity is a destructive, risky business engaged in tearing down to build afresh. It’s about swiftly (and seamlessly) shifting gears from logic to intuition and adjusting perspectives in line with the shifting realities. It’s about taking note of the fact that human behaviour has not changed; what has is the environment they reside in and the means we access them. For true-blue, red-hot creativity (designed to make a difference) it is crucial to ensure that you make a difference first within yourself. Kids or star-struck, glamour-driven aspirants desiring to enter this universe will be well-advised to follow the priceless words of Indra Sinha. ”It is a world blitzed with conditions and rules. You can play by them, play safe and win fame and fortune, without really stretching yourself. However, if protean creative urges rumble within and scream for release, be prepared to go it alone without any help from the industry. It is these people who follow their own instinct and fight for them who are the ground-breakers. The real creative titans… The figureheads of the future!”

The last words however must belong to the latest luminary on the block - the new Executive Chairman of Lowe, Balki, who has his very special take on Creativity. The Director of 2007’s acclaimed film Cheeni Kum – all set to put together another film, PA, starring both, the Big and Small Bachchan- strongly believes that creativity is not necessarily about humour or popular hindi street-speak, but engagement and interest-value based on basic consumer insights. “For me, creativity in advertising is anything that is interesting and engaging… anything that kills boredom. Creativity is the biggest currency that drives effective and memorable advertising. It is not strategic inputs, marketing warfare, business plans or gimmicks, but how interesting you are as a person, brand, commodity of organization. Creativity need not – as some believe – only follow the haha (entertainment) route. It can make you cry, think, be scared, anxious, romantic, nostalgic… anything that connects. The idea is to see creativity as a powerful instrument that engages the reader /audience /consumer to reach a new level of empowerment”.

Lowe and behold - Balks could well be right!