“BOSS KUCH SOLID CREATIVE BANAO JO HILA DE! GHANTI BAJA DE!”
WHAT AGENCY DO YOU CHOOSE AS THE YOUNG, INFIRM, IMPRESSIONABLE AD EXECUTIVE? WOULD YOU FALL FOR THE COMPELLING PROMISE OF MAGIC AT THE BIG BRAND AD AGENCIES? OR WOULD YOU TAKE THE PLUNGE FOR THE LUCRE LOVE AT THE SMALLER SOLE PROPRIETORSHIPS? I WAS YOUNG ONCE – AND I WAS COURAGEOUS TOO. HERE'S MY STORY – BUT TAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS.
The big, burly 'client', chewing his favourite brand of pan masala (with three rings on his right hand and four on his left, along with various coloured strings gracing his writs) dressed in a safari suit of dazzling maroon, seated on a massive, filmy, throne-like chair in a room filled with pictures of Gods, Goddesses, his late father, stared hard at the youmg, fresh-faced Account Executive from the agency they had hired. From time to time, the client sighed and nodded his head – left to right and back -indicating cosmic sorrow. Eventually, wisdom descended from those pan-masala-stained teeth. “Boss, kuch jama nahin! Kuch solid creative banao, jo hila de, ghanti baja de. Yeh sab to ghatiya, nonsense, rubbish, bakwas!!”. With these encouraging \gems, he flung the eight ads (which the agency had created in two hours, flat) towards the young man and began to speak again. “Beta, don't take it personally. I like you very much and love your English-speaking and gyan on advertising, lekin kya hai, bijness to bijness hota hai, hai naa? Your boss is my very good yaar from college days. Kammal ka tuning hai, to mana nahin kar sakta, hai naa? But you must brush up on creativity. Waise ek phone me ghumaoon to line lag jayegi Adwalon ki and you know it, lekin mind it, mein aisa nahin karna chahta hoon. Navar!” He paused for breath and an other intake of pan masala. “My 17-years-old daughter Dimple can do much better. Believe nahin karoge, by gaad, she's too creative! Angrezi poetry likhti hai, painting karti hai, aur kya GK hai, oye hoi! She only told me these designs are ghatiya, third class, not something that will hilao the junta!”
Totally shaken and bewildered at this bizarre onslaught, the young man – whose parents had invested their whole some income into making the lad what this world would call “cultured, educated, soft-spoken” - made the appropriate, polite sounds and left the office. On the way, stopping by for a 'cold drink', he reflected upon his life. Who were these strange clients – completely uninformed, coarse, totally disconnected with any thing to do with basics of good, effective advertising? Why was his agency boss always insisting on young, nubile, half naked girls to be splashed as the main focus of his ads even when all the client was selling were locks? Why did these creatures never exist six months ago in his high-profile Mumbai agency, where he trained and spent two glorious years? Why did he even shift?... The lad was now beginning to feel the stress and pressure of working in an environment that was a million light miles away from where he came... Back at the office, confusion became confounded? His boss – a proprietor who was all sugan n' spice just a few months back while begging him to join – blew his fuse! “Yaar, who told you to give him bhashan on what is good for his product? Is he a fool? Pata hai, he is one of my langoti yaars who has successfully run his Papa's business for over 20 years, making a huge profit. Also, by the way, he is the President of the Ad Club and active member of the PRSI and Press Club, samjhe?” And then, a sudden parallel track, What an excursion he organised to Amritsar and Wagah border, maja aa gaya... anyway, he called me and told me not to fire you. But yaar be dedicated to your work. What are you doing? Chal, chal get back...” This was the tipping point. It all spooled over in a millisecond – his fantastic two years at the professional agency, then the rust of blood to join this sole proprietorship of an ad agency for the so-called 'independence', and then the nightmare – bah! The young man had had it and finally exploded. “You got me here luring me with big bucks and great promises of freedom with responsibility. From an A-lister, all I've become is a Z-lister! My fault is that I didn't listen to my friends because I was dazzled by the 'seniority'. However, I've started regretting my shift more than anything I've ever done- you constantly refer to clients as Mai Baap and Bhagwan, you continuously instruct me to improve my 'setting-fitting'! What the hell are we here? Pimps? Ever-ready suppliers? Weren't we supposed to be communication consultants, solution providers?!? Or am I supposed to now always be a yes-jee, no-jee buffoon? You will never, ever understand professionalism because for you, billing is god, not quality... and that is injurious to my health?” Shocked silence followed on both sides. And then the lad blurted out, I am quitting here and no. Bye!” With that outburst that even surprised him, the young man stormed out of the office. Of course the boss was too shocked to react. No one in his 30-year stint of doing various businesses ever had had the guts to speak to him in this manner.
Readers, if you thought that you just read a fairly accurate [of course slightly doctored, for added effect] true-to-life account of the experience of a young, ambitious and enthusiastic advertising man, seduced by serious big bucks and the carrot of being allowed to effect changes when and where necessary within an agency that just refused to budge from its supplier-mode – well, you're absolutely right! This was there decaded ago, but this phenomenon is still alive and kicking, trust me! Why? The reason is simple. Like India and Bharat, there is a distinct divide between the top 20 A-listers and the ones below and although they are all – technically players of the same game, any resemblance to vision, values and modus operandi is a hysterical coincidence! When a young dude moves from a high-ticket agency to one that is hugely cash-rich, but with no name or status with people who matter, there is a 'Faustian Deal' at work. It is a conscious and tacit signing away of one's soul [read: professionalism] for filthy lucre, or in the words of our Pundits, “Mammon devouring the muse”! In these tough, competitive and inflationary times where prices soar everyday and increments happen just once year – if hyou're lucky! - the temptation to sell out is as strong as ever.
But then, what is the best choice? Should you choose to stay with the big budget Tier 1 kings or should you take the plunge and try out your deal with the devil? The choice is yours. If you chase money, your credentials become mud – but you may earn much in the short run if you hit it lucky, and who knows, even thrive. If you chase quality and excellence, chances are, good things will happen, if not soon enough, then surely in the longer run.
It is precisely here that the Big Iea is born! The one that tells you that advertising for me has never been about 'ad pass ho gaya' but about challenging the status quo, tilting at windmills, audaciously embracing both the sacrilegious and solemn, dazzling the eye, touching the heart, while reaching minds – and wallets! A pitched battle agains the maja nahi aaya vermin, marketng winbags, conceited rigid bureaucrats, research fascists, pompous, humourless, emotionless biggies slavishly wedded to “target consumers and demographic cross-sections” instead of you and I, him and her, they and them... But that's my personal fight, my individual war. It needn't be yours – or maybe it should be! Like I said, it's for you to decide.
So, for all kids wanting to sign up in this great creative calling, get your fundamentals right. Will it be magic or the honeytrap? If it's the former, the possibilities are endless for peer respect and a rewarding future. If it's quick bucks, be prepared 24*7 to hear deathless slogans like “East or West, our underwear steals the thunder and is the beast!!” [No, I'm not joking!]