Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lights! Camera! Action! Now Danny Boyles strike adville?!

Suddenly a slew of phirang ad film-makers are invading our ad space! Why? Aren’t we good enough? 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri investigates...

Okay for starters, dig a load of these names, guys… Mathias Hoene. John Lennard. Adam Strange. Farouk Aljoffy. John Gwyther. Tarsem Singh. Familiar? Making sense? Clueless, right? But not to our Adville hot-shots who have invited them to do their sexy number on some of our hottest brands – Lakme, Nokia , Bajaj DTS-i, Thums Up – and boy, are they rocking it! Obviously this has evoked shock, anger, disappointment and bewilderment among many in the industry with questions like “Not another Danny Boyle routine, for chrissake!” and “Why get in these phirangs when we are perfectly capable of delivering the goods?”

Cut to some notable industry biggies for their learned observations. Sushil Pandit, The Hives head honcho, refuses to get into persecution complex mode and believes that in globalised times when networks expand, both in name and stake, this kind of cross-over collaboration is a given. “Further, with India being such a new and exciting destination, sharp, creative minds will itch to come in and grab a piece of the action.” Leo Burnett’s NCD Pops Sridhar takes the case further. In a day and age when the role of advertising is so critical to a brand’s equity, when stakes are zooming north every second in a fiercely competitive market, creative minds capable of effecting cutting-edge breakthroughs are the real heroes. “Unfortunately, like in Bollywood, there are more brands than stars, hence one has to look outside. No one dare risk mediocrity with big-ticket brands,” says Pops. Besides, foreign directors bring amazing and unique value-addition to the table, he insists, pointing to Tarsem Singh’s fabulous Bajaj DTS-i TVC as a classic example. Ogilvy’s Louella Rebello (flashing woman power) endorses this view with all cylinders firing. Her collaboration with New Zealander Adam Strange (Tata Safari – What will you remember?) was magical. “He invested rare sensitivity to the frames evoking a mood and mystique that was as enchanting and engaging as engrossing”. Also (tongue deeply embedded in cheek) she confesses that, mercifully, “they are totally nakhra-free!”

Lowe Lintas’ ECD, Nikhil Rao, however, doesn’t seem to share this collective euphoria. “All the phirang names mentioned have done both good and crappy work, so it’s not necessarily their unique, special or outstanding talent that has got them here. It has more to do with a fresh and new perspective and take that they bring to the table. That’s it.” Ace ad-film maker Abhinay Deo goes one step ahead in exploding this myth and believes that most people – who should know better – are really losing it! “Let’s get some facts straight. Not all international directors bring anything special to the table. In fact, most of them don’t! Where they score is – exposure. They bring a different perspective which gives it a global feel,” he says. Deo believes that maybe one out of ten imported directors is truly outstanding. The others get by because of hype and – hold your breath – colour of skin! “Even after 62 years of independence, despite all the progress and economic boom we keep raving about, the mind – in some manner – remains colonised. The white skin –shocking but true – still seems to enjoy solid clout!”
Ram Madhavani differs vociferously. The brilliant film-maker states his case in cool and categorical fashion. “I have representation in London, USA and France. I have done a TVC for a French production house for a French client - a lottery. I shot in Buenos Aires for that! I get scripts quite regularly from USA and UK and of late, Japan as well. That’s the way the new world operates.” Madhavani believes that ultimately its about whoever is right for the job. “It has nothing to do with geographical borders or colonised minds. We are both entrepreneurs and artists and to say we can’t operate effectively out of our country is to be really dumb. The parochial view of India being only for Indians, France only for French and so on is obsolete in today’s globalised world. I think we should have much more of this cross over collaboration. There is great learning, information and experience-exchange that is truly enriching.” McCann’s Big Boss Prasoon Joshi – stylishly and successfully straddling both the Bollywood space and Adville – provides a fitting conclusion to this debate. “There are things these guys definitely bring to the table – Hi-tech, special effects, energy, enthusiasm, perspective and very competitive prices. However, should a brand need an emotional spin, obviously our guys, with rooted Indian sensibilities, are matchless. Also, India is a huge market where TVCs – unlike the West with a zillion optional media streams – are still hot and in demand. This is tempting for those guys. Also, traditionally our country has always welcomed foreigners. Mehman Nawazi is a part of our national DNA, boss! Finally, we live in an age of confluence not conflict. Jaane Bhi Do, Yaaron…”

Any famous last words? Yup. Along with love and death, recession seems to be a real, sexy leveler!! 


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