Friday, October 25, 2013

Do Whacky Named Ad-Shops Score Over Others?

4Ps B&M investigates the growing list of OMG, new-age agency names that could prompt the conservative, old school types, to reach for their smelling salts or fast-track towards the nearest ICU!

A few months ago a close friend of mine called up, slightly hysterical and insisted he needed to see me, pronto! Alarmed, I invited him instantly. He arrived, looking like death warmed-up. I immediately enquired about his health, whether his Biwi No.1 had left him for SRK, his daughter with the tattooed dude down the road, his son with a druggie buddy ...? He appeared irritated (a good sign suggesting human feelings!) and impatient. “Don’t talk nonsense yaar, it’s nothing like that. You remember my elder daughter and that big session you had about career-avenues? She followed your advice and joined an ad agency, but ...” here he visibly ashened “but God, how can one ever utter that name in public? Will my daughter ever get a decent suitor in the matrimonial market once they hear where she is employed?” He paused, looked up towards me and croaked “Six Inches! That’s the name of the ad agency! Can you believe it?”

On the way to the bar to quickly provide my friend with the ol’ friendly life support juice, I couldn’t suppress a small smile. He was not from Adbiz and hence was clueless about the fact that there was life beyond the old, traditional names like JWT, Ogilvy, McCann, Lowe, Lintas, Grey, even Mudra, Ulka, etc. In recent times such whacked-out names like Nuts N Bolts, Scarecrow, Eggfirst Advertising, Saints & Warriors, WhatTheHell?, Cut The Crap, Fresh Lime Soda Creatives, Flaky Mellow & Grounded, From Here On, Bang In The Middle, Virus, Brand Curry, Curry-Nation, Grasshopper, Goosebumps, Taproot ... are pushing for centre-stage, with more set to, undoubtedly, follow. Wassup? Has Adville finally become – officially – a Pagalkhana?

Moon Moon Dhar, the feisty CD of the Delhi-based adshop Perfect10 – she gave the name – believes that these new-age names should provide zero reason for any progressive, sane, intelligent person to take that tip to the shrink! “Boss, isn’t effective advertising about the AIDA factor: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action? That’s what these freaky names hit. Same with Perfect10. To the true-blue movie buff of yesteryears, it could well evoke images of the sizzling Bo Derek starring in the film of the same name. To ad professionals, however, the message is simple: a benchmark, a yardstick for true, effective professionalism that delivers the goods,” she tells 4Ps B&M.

Goosebumps head honcho Ratan Kumar agrees and lets out where his unusual agency name came from. “In today’s Adville, where competition is fierce and gaining an edge anyhow and anywhere is hugely advantageous, standing out is the key. This name came from a stunning line delivered as a part of a pitch by my ex-boss in Leo Burnett. He said: We are really farmers. We raise goosebumps. I was blown! I couldn‘t dream of choosing any other name when I struck out on my own,” says Kumar.

Grasshopper Communications big boy Arjun Banerjee – whose allied services come under the name of Green Thumbs & Grownups – confesses that he never ever wanted to go the straight, boring route. “Idly, sitting over a drink one night and wondering what kind of name would best define our agency’s soul, I saw this grasshopper in my room cheerfully hopping from one spot to another. Bingo! Movement, energy, hitting new spots – isn’t that a cool way to get started? That has remained our prime focus,” Banerjee tells 4Ps B&M.

The Virus guys – Rupam & wifey Oli Bora – believe that it’s a great idea to let your ideas be contagious and infect clients with them! “That what brand Virus is all about. Also it seamlessly lends itself to brand extensions – Virus Digital, Virus Films etc. – without disturbing the soul of the desired (provocative) mandate, direction or focus.”

Head honcho of Brand Curry, Subrata Chakraborty is up next with his very own take on his shop’s spicy name! “When we opened shop in 2004, we were very sure that we didn’t want to be another Anglo-Saxon zerox! We wanted a signature that epitomized local roots with global vision. A celebration of desi designed to resonate with global clients. See Manhattan through a Meerut prism! Curry was a word that connected seemlessly with global players irrespective of whether they had been to India or not. I also – at a seminal level – suggested spice, colour, excitement. What better branding for a brand new shop determined to be different in letter, spirit ... and name?!” says Chakraborty.

Social commentator & head honcho of Future Brands, Santosh Desai believes this phenomenon is a sign of the times. “Early on Suits ran the agency business and being politically correct & dignified was part of their persona. The aberrations and freako stuff was strictly for the creative types who anyway were not meant for public consumption! This went well with the JWT, McCann, Clarion, Ogilvy, Interpub – names & shops that were firang and came with a sense of awe. Today, creative people call the shots and clients are cool interacting with them. Somewhere this loosening up and shift of focus has made a difference because what they bring to the table is something way beyond what the stodgy suit does,” he tells 4Ps B&M. The more important challenge, believes Desai, is for the start-ups. “It is a David versus Goliath scene from the word go! Irreverence and a sense of adolescence marks their persona and what better place to begin attention-grabbing than the very name. Strawberry Frog (for example) can come as cardiac-arrest material to an ad guy of the seventies whose idea of the off beat were (such tame?) second agency names like Interface (Ulka), Contract (JWT), Edge (Everest), ACIL (Clarion). These new, whacky names bring a sense of fun, energy and edginess to the business which is not always insanely focused on being only politically correct.” However, Desai warns in many cases, these agencies fizzle out because after that first big bang, the follow up can’t keep pace either with the expectations or requirements.

Gorgeous veteran Nargis Wadia – traffic stopping CEO of Interpub of the sixties and seventies – is up next. “I think it’s really an evolutionary thing. When we started out, advertising was in a nascent stage and we were self-conscious about the way we conduct business. Respectability and dignity leading to credibility were given high premium and were pursued rigorously. That manifested itself in the names of that era. Today it’s a more casual time. Creative expressions come in different garbs and clients are perfectly comfortable with it. Hence these unusual names! Also, they are clutter-busting moves ensuring noticeability & memorability in a space crammed with tons of Adshops,” says Wadia.

Hot-shot marketing honcho Lloyd Mathias believes that ad agencies are really late-bloomers compared to rock bands and design/film production outfits in the name game. “I remember in St. Xaviers College, way back, we formed a band that was instantly banned called ... OUR SOULS! The establishment didn’t see anything really spiritual and labeled it blasphemous!” Mathias is totally ra-ra about this trend because he believes it captures the flavour of both, the cool times we live in as also perfectly epitomizes – in letter and spirit – the new-age spin on this business of creativity. “Remember bizarre is the new normal in a space where imagination rules and is being reinvented everyday,” adds Mathias.

The last words must come from Delhi-based Avijit Dutt. A renowned screen, theatre & ad personality, Dutt believes that the newbies needed “to think outside the carpentry shed, forget the box! In this scenario, the first seduction is in the curiosity of the name, something that expresses uniqueness and memorability, raises a chuckle and hopefully hopes to bogey into the sunset, with their clients.” Well, why go far? Check out superstar SRK’s funky & disruptive name for his film production company: Red Chillies!