Thursday, November 20, 2008

Has Our Big Bang At Cannes Rocketed Us To The Global Arena?

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri checks-out with the Adfrat

The Toast of the Fest! The Stars of the event! The Flavour of the day! India – with an unprecedented tally of 23 metals (including the first-ever Grand Prix, Integrated Lion & Cyber Lion) swept across all categories, and re-enforced by physical presence in all major juries – scored big, both at the hustings and the mind space of the global guru’s gracing the glamorous, glitzy and hi-profile ‘Oscars’ of the ad world! Accolades came thick and fast from hot-shots like Terry Savage (“They have done extraordinarily well this year”), Craig Davis (“brilliant ideas can come from anywhere. Bravo!”), Mark Gross (“Their work is beginning to stand out because they are getting to know more about the medium, its nuances and what should be done in that medium. They will now move only upwards …”), Rodney Fitch (“India has indeed scored very high!”) and Colleen DeCourcy (“India is already thinking on the new media as well and the creative talent is being groomed to think in that direction. That is a good sign. Clearly the expectations will be more, next time.”)

Looking back today, does all this indicate ad-India’s coming of age in the global platform? Or are these early days? Or is too much being read about a hyped firang awards, which has no connection with the ground realities defining India’s market space?

Siddhartha Roy (Executive Director, RESPONSE, Kolkata) fires the first salvo. He believes that in today’s globalised world, “Cannes is important and our work being awarded there demonstrates our worth in the international arena – reason enough to celebrate!” His main reason to rejoice however is “an exciting climate of creativity, powered by the new-age client’s genuine desire to buy into fresh, cutting-edge ideas is clearly visible. This augurs well for the future.” Equus Red Cell’s Swapan Seth is not so sure. He reckons that while modest jubilation is in order, too much shouldn’t be read into this scoring. Why? “Because, barring some outstanding (produced and released) work, Cannes continues to be claimed by … Scams!”

Ujjal Sinha (CEO, Genesis, Kolkata) however refuses to be so cynical. “Globally, India today is rocking! From DAVOS to IT, its Incredible India all the way! Cannes, sort of (appropriately) seemed to fall in line.” Sinha however cautions about getting carried away and emphasises that we have a long way to go before we consistently are able to deliver world-class communication slugs.
Alyque Padamsee agrees. “Without meaning to be a kill-joy or Devil’s Advocate, I have to say that this hoo-haa shouldn’t be taken with a pinch of salt!” The revered ad-guru believes that to be actually perceived, recognised and respected as a creative powerhouse, a country has to have at least ten ad agencies consistently producing cutting-edge stuff, time and time again. UK is a classic case in point. “Otherwise you are nothing more than a hyped, glamorous, flavour-of-the-day! Brazil, Spain, Australia, Japan … all these countries, at some point or other, were huge, but where are they now? Incidentally Americans aren’t too enamoured by Cannes. They view it, as an European event. For them, ONE SHOW, D&AD, CLIO, MOBILIS .. appear hotter.” The flamboyant Dorian Grey (or is it Dev Anand?!) of Indian advertising signs off with style. “At the end of the day, while being jubilant and energised about the success is fine, we must decide whether we are looking for Sprinters … or Marathon men?” The red-hot ad-land – Bollywood star Prasoon Joshi refuses to enter the fray and strikes a benign, Buddha-like pose. “Why are we always chasing labels, arrivals and departures? Has India arrived? There must be a zillion personal takes. For me, its important to enjoy this awesome journey instead of doing a paralysis through analysis! We have definitely covered significant distance and are poised to cover lots more. Lets – individually and collectively – try and contribute as much as possible to take this forward instead of hysterically trying to play judge & jury!”

TBWA’s big daddy George John warmly congratulates all the winners and believes, “it can only act as a terrific confidence-booster to set our sights even higher. Regarding going over-board, lets not play spoil-sport and rain on their parade. Savour it…” Sushil Pandit of THE HIVES adds his own spin to it. “For quite some time now, we have been doing excellent work – both in the area of ideas and execution – that has moved our markets, consumers and brands. The trend continues. The difference is that this time, it resonated there as well! If Cannes acknowledged and rewarded our stuff … then yes, it happened this time.” Pandit is convinced that the dramatic zoom in our fortunes have occurred largely due to the fact that “we have learnt to intelligently leverage the processes of Cannes … context stuff that works with these guys.” Hence to the question of whether India has finally arrived at Cannes, the answer is: ‘yes’. To the (bigger) question whether India has (generally) arrived, the answer has to be: Long Time Back!” Dentsu’s Gulu Sen agrees. “The buzz has been around for some years now, but with this, we’ve actually struck ‘big’! It’s a lot like the Olympic gold! And the Grand Prix for the brilliant Lead India campaign was most appropriate. It was a magical combination of passion, purposes and perspective.”

The final words – cataclysmic? – must come from Lowes’ celebrated iconoclast Balki.

“We have always believed that clients are way ahead of agencies (in their understanding of the market pulse and judgement of quality work) and consumers miles ahead of the so-called august members of international juries! They don’t deal in esoteric abracadabra or corny jargons, but material that resonates with the precise target group they are meant to address – consumers! In short, we don’t believe in awards and Cannes is most certainly not a reflection of any individual agency’s – or the ad community’s – creative prowess. Period. ‘Touche’! 


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Why Are Masscom Students Such Misfits In Ad-Land?!

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri probes this disturbing issue

They were the kids who were supposed to be the saviours of the attrition-hit adbiz; the god-sent answers to the galloping exodus of good people suddenly upping and leaving; the bright main-hoon-na brigade all charged to fill in the blanks rendered by the defectors… but guess what? Eight times out of ten, they’ve turned up turnips; well-meaning disasters who didn’t seem to have a clue about the ‘real’ world! Agency and clients continue to crib about these kids “coming from another planet and totally out-of-sync with the ground realities that govern our business.” Shouldn’t the faculty and powers-that-are initiate them into what awaits them once they are out in the battlefield? Isn’t it their responsibility to get them as industry-ready and friendly as possible?

“Actually, its one of the great tragedies of our education system that we pay a pittance to teachers, compared to people in other disciplines in other sectors. Hence the institutes – exceptions apart – attract a lot who have practically no industry experience or people who are not good enough to be absorbed in the mainstream and find it convenient to hide out as faculty in these joints.” That was Santosh Desai, the high-profile CEO of Future Brands. He is of the firm opinion that communication is a far richer, purer discipline than marketing [which borrows heavily from other empirical sciences] and at best is nothing more than a makeshift science. “The atmosphere and environment – for example – that prevails in an advertising agency with its unique work culture, demands and expectations is an entire universe apart from a traditional, conventional workplace. The result is, frequently, there is zero-connect and near non-existent value-addition. For example, Advertising being an idea-led business, is there any focus regarding the critical aspect of how to form, shape, add value, reject or react to an idea?”

Motorola’s dynamic and articulate Marketing Director, Lloyd Mathias is up next. He believes that most traditional Masscom Institutes in the country, unfortunately, choose to be [comfortably] inward looking, still concentrating on old Case Studies from Harvard Business School. “In today’s day and age, this is totally irrelevant! They need to understand that if the kids have to go out and work in an Indian environment they ‘must’ necessarily connect with the Indian reality.” Mathias then goes on to make a strong case for the biggies, the movers n’ shakers – Omnicom, WPP, Publicis – to get together and arrive at a common solution where an environment/climate is created to allow for a more enlightened faculty and sharper, industry-friendly student community.

The new Golden Boy of Indian Advertising [the soft-spoken, low-profile Agnello Dias, JWT’s NCD, whose amazing Lead India campaign fetched India her first-ever Grand Prix at the recently concluded Cannes Ad fest] adds his own evolved input. He believes that Masscom – as a discipline – is a fluid science and has to be understood in that vein, from day one, by everyone engaged with it. “The problem with most schools and institutes is that the curriculum and syllabi seldom bears any connect with the present or future … it seems to be entrenched firmly in the past! The result is that while the jargons, terminology and catch-phrases are picked up, nothing that is truly relevant is. Why? Because even between the time they’ve done the exams, got their results and started looking out for jobs, the dynamics of the business could’ve changed … and where would that lead them?” Ivan Arthur, veteran, creative, heavyweight of JWT in the sixties, seventies and eighties rounds off this debate on a truly positive and meaningful note, offering solutions that everybody [including these distinguished practitioners] are looking out for. He points towards Walter Saldhana’s Aicar Business School in Neral, Maharashtra. Its an institute, which is pragmatic, rooted to ground realities, living in the here and now. It promotes learning-by-doing as its defining philosophy. “We set up an integrated communication agency in the campus that actually handle live accounts. Students are taught the processes and costs of acquiring and managing accounts. They also have to learn the pain of losing some of them. Clients pay the institute for the work done by students, of course with close and active supervision of the faculty and mentors, all experienced ad professionals. Clients include names like Eureka Forbes, IMS Learning, Old Spice, IL&FS and Aicar B-School itself. The practical experience is supported by robust classroom sessions, which deal with diverse subjects … world literature and mythology, aesthetics, semiotics and cultural anthropology. We believe that beyond being effective managers, they should be well-rounded human beings with those softer edges of refinement and sensitivity.”

Are you listening Santosh, Lloyd, Aggi and everyone out there?

Way to go, guys…!