Thursday, December 04, 2008


4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri attempts a checkout on a time-tested ‘war’ that frequently invades the ‘creative’ space of most ad agencies!

As every moron knows, an ad comprises of words and pictures. The word component is the domain of the Copywriter and the visuals, the Art person. Interestingly, although their combined creativity, skills and craft went into the making/creation of the ad, they functioned separately. This meant that the Copywriter wrote his stuff and handed it over to the Art person – usually with some guidelines – who then proceeded to visualise it in an appropriately meaningful manner. The duo also (frequently) came from different ‘social’ stratospheres. The Copywriter, usually, came from a Convent/Public School background, was fluent in English and totally comfortable with both the command and nuances of the language. He was also heavily into what this world offered – theatre, poetry, literature, cinema, cocktail parties… this invariably made him the ‘spokesperson’ of the creative team and the front guy during briefing, interaction and presentations. The Art guy, a hugely gifted person, normally was an Art School/College product, not terribly comfortable either with the English language or its fancy manifestations. He/she was happy to do the work assigned to the best of his/her ability and go home, quite content to live in the shadows…

In the year 2008, does the Art-Copy divide still exist – in any form? Does the subliminal khunnas in the Art guys still remain with the Copy brats for constantly stealing their thunder, unfairly? Do the Copy-hotties still luxuriate in the old smugness… or in this new world-order, is all that a thing of the past with convergence finally replacing conflict?

Ogilvy’s talented Delhi-based Creative Director, Titus Upputuru takes first strike. “Weird as it may sound today, this kind of crazy division of labour did exist, once! Three things slammed it out. One, the concept of ideation [replacing the earlier juvenile words and pictures ying-yang] that demanded collaboration, shared thinking and brainstorming. Two, the tacit recognition by the Art guys that there is a world of difference between Art [aesthetics and design by-the-book] and Art Direction [creating powerful seductive communication that will sell in the market place] putting an end to the dreaded, old-fashioned Art College syndrome! Lastly, the entry and popularity of Design Yatra – an art-specific fest held every year, where hot-shot globally acclaimed Art and Design Gurus come down to India [Goa?] every year to conduct workshops with our art guys.”

Redifussion Y&R’s brilliant NCD, Sagar Mahabaleshwkar agrees. He remembers the time when there was a distinct LOC between the Copy and Art guys and believes that the globally renowned Young & Rubicam were the ones who demolished this divide and got them together. “In India, I think, Ogilvy followed this model early on with the Piyush Pandey-Sonal Dobral team leading the way. They were brilliant and successful all the way. Soon, others followed.” The creative honcho believes that this had to happen in response to the paradigm shift and changing contours of the new consumerscape as also the direction in which communication was headed.
“The era of smart words and pretty visuals were over. In a fiercely competitive market place, ads that were clutter-busting and powered with solid persuasion-quotient were the ones that were most likely to make a difference. Hence, joint brainstorming was the obvious solution. This resulted in the Art-College type Art guys recognising the significance of a well-argued, convincing communication capsule and the Copy guys recognising the fact that, many times, a powerful visual with minimum copy could do the trick. It was a learning curve for both providing a win-win situation for all concerned.” He cites the hilarious example of the globally revered creative Guru, Neil French, who once asked him if he knew why Art Directors went bonkers… and Copywriters didn’t! “Seeing my blank expression, he explained, that unlike writers who leveraged reason, argument and logic in their work, the Art person just freaked out on imagination, with all cylinders firing. This put so much pressure on one side of the brain that at one point, they flip their lid!” Ogilvy’s poster-boy Creative Director [impishly?] chooses to rain on this parade! Sumanto Chatopadhaya reckons that while the scary teller-system approach of Copywriters passing on copy to the Art person through a cubby-hole for visuals is over, the Copywriter still remains the public face of the team. “The reasons are obvious. English is the language of business communication and the writer is, mostly, more articulate and confident in that language than his Art partner. This allows for a higher degree of comfort level during interaction with clients. Also, for TVCs, usually script ideas emanate from the writer. Of course there are exceptions like my colleague Rajiv Rao, an Art person, who is brilliant and sufficiently articulate when he chooses to make a point. But then exceptions prove the rule, right? Hey, I hope my Art Director colleagues and associates don’t kill me after this sound byte!”

The last words, fittingly, must come from Adworld’s new super cat Paddy of Leo Burnett, whose Luxor ad created a sensation at Cannes. “I think the divide is history with Art Colleges themselves taking the initiative of making the students more savvy in the verbal area. They are now totally clued-in into articulating, explaining and defending their work in selling-mode instead of just letting their work do the talking.” He also believes that global exposure has played a huge part in this turnaround with art people realising that collaboration will only add value to the end product.


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