Monday, December 29, 2008

Amir Khan – the newest advertising medium

In my opinion, Amir Khan is the biggest marketing guru. I want to know what his educational background is. Think about this, while all celebrities are still endorsing products, Amir has turned himself into the new-age movie advertising medium.

Sign a film with the guy, and the advertising and promotion are taken care of without any marketing consultants. What bigger medium do you need than the man himself?

This guy is creative director, strategic planner and marketing manager all rolled into one.

Even before the film industry turned into an organised market, Mr. Khan knew the exact value of things like brand identity, the look-feel of the brand, and the art of breaking clutter.

And there’s no question of media space – he does the bloody layout on his own face!

I say forget press conferences, even if he’s on a morning jog (or probably peeing at the airport), the people around think exactly of the film he’s doing at that time.

King khan vagairah theek hai, but look at SRK and you have no clue which film the pic is from. On the contrary look at Amir.

But you know the best part? In order to learn about creativity, strategy, branding and marketing, you no more have to go to a school. All thanks to this Khan. This guy single-handedly beats the IIM of A!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa Clause

My little one is three now. So the hubby and I decided it’s time to introduce him to Christmas, and therefore, to Santa.

So we told him about baby Jesus, which he wasn’t interested in. He doesn’t like babies because his mother holds them and coos to them. Which is his sole right, never to be shared. So that’s that about baby Jesus.

Then we introduced him to the Christmas carols. He liked ‘Jingle bells’ and made an attempt to sing along. I think they must have taught him this one at school too.

The last weekend we were at the mall and we showed him Christmas trees complete with ornaments and all. We told him all about the stockings and gifts.

And then we saw this guy dressed as Santa at one end of the mall. The father and I held his hands and made a dash. Both of were so excited and, with twinkling eyes, we said, “Look, this is Santa!”

Completely exuberant, we looked at the li’l one for a reaction. And what do we see? He’s horrified. He shrieks at this hideous creature in red with a long white beard and a mask on his face.

Slowly, we explain him that this is the guy who brings gifts to children. And that he’s quite harmless. We shook hands with Santa to prove it but that didn’t pacify the kid.

Only when Santa fished out a candy did the kid somewhat warm up to him.

More candies followed and he shook hands with Santa.

“Nice Santa?” I ask, eager for approval.

He looks nonchalantly. “Okay.”

“Can he come home to give you a Christmas gift?”

Pat comes the reply, ‘Only if he promises not to come inside.’

“But he has to put it in the stocking, sweetie.”

“Hang the stocking outside the window.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A brand to die for

Haven’t you ever thought of Religion as a brand with the greatest equity?

It’s a product nobody has seen, but it sells like hot cakes. It has multiple brand ambassadors and enjoys complete monopoly. Talk about early indoctrination and catching them young – no other brand has managed such a good job.

Strong brand personality, ardent following – we have it all. They teach us you can’t sell a brand by scaring your TG or by shoving them into the throes of guilt. Well?

Come to think of it. They’ve created an invisible entity that’s supposed to govern all life. And to make sure you believe in it, they’ve created another invisible entity that screws your life and after-life if you don’t believe.

You’ll go to hell if you don’t pray!

Sure, whatever.

And they tell me a brand can’t have a menacing tone of voice.

David Ogilvy said something, na? Ki you keep hammering the brand name so people just go pick up a pack.

Aren’t all the prayers some sort of a brand strategy?

All the prayers I know keep making you repeat stuff like, ‘Lord I believe in you’.

You keep saying it till you actually start believing.

You know how wearing a Nike makes you feel like you’re just gonna do it. And that you’re a winner etc. Maybe Brand religion does that to you in a temple or whatever place of worship. I got a darshan, a glimpse of god. Wowee! I’m a step closer to moksha.

I just sprinkled water all over the home. Yay, it’s pure now!

Religion is a best-seller.

Brand personality? Protector. Protects from er… invisible entity.

There’s no questioning the efficacy. It’s selling bigtime. Don’t we all know about the filthy rich… err.. sorry… rich religious institutions? The sales graphs are sky-rocketing.

Check the benefit. Redemption! And to think we make such feeble attempts at redemption offers.

This one even comes with a brand manual. In print, etched in stone, we have it all.

We’re also talking huge market share here. Maybe 99%. How many atheists do you know?

And it has a Brand following so ardent, people kill for it and die for it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How will protest marches and candle-lighting sessions help?

I think protest marches, lighting candles and peaceful demonstrations might just prove detrimental to the health of Mumbai.

As it is we don’t give a damn about the state of the country. If you don’t believe me go ask those women, who are angry at Naqvi’s ‘lipstick’ statement, who Naqvi is. Most of them have no clue. People who are protesting against ‘that rude Kerala CM’ don’t even know his name.

Worse, there exist people who can’t sing the complete national anthem and who don’t know the name of the current president of India. The only news most people are aware of is what is circulated on campus, office and facebook. Which is only the sensational stuff.

People, we are not a politically aware nation. And definitely not a politically conscious city.

“Stupid politicians ki wajah se we can’t guard our coasts,” is the general consensus. How many know that this is a difficult task even if we had the most righteous politicians.

Today Mumbai is angry. India is furious. We have woken up after so long and at such a huge cost. I don’t know about the rest of the country. But Mumbaikars will find a catharsis in the peace march and get back to work.

People will light a candle and think they’ve done their bit. Now back to office. That’s just what we don’t need right now.

It’s just now that people are registering to vote. The thinking people are yet not convinced that they need to quit office and get into politics if this country has to be managed. We have barely started finding out what’s happening and who’s doing what. We’ve just gotten to know the politicians by their names. We’ve just gotten sensitive to the fact that the army makes far less money than the cricket team. This was always the case. But nobody championed it.

We’re mounting so much pressure that people like Vilasrao Deshmukh are being asked to leave. This pressure, this fire remains to be alive for us to demand action in the country.

I somehow feel these silent protests will pacify us. And we’ll be back to our daily lives the very next day.

Monday, December 1, 2008

But, CM Achutanandan....

But, CM Achutanandan, Major Unnikrishnan HAS been a major and a dog DID go to his house.
Only, the father drove him away!

Getting cheap thrills out of Mumbai’s nightmare

Some people are making the most out of the terror attacks. Using them to get noticed, and how.

Like this woman I saw on TV the other day, who lost her friends to the tragedy. The channel said she’s an actor, so I’ll take their word for it. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the name was Bhairavi Goswami. She went ranting about how she was at the hotel barely an hour before the attacks, and how she’d walked out in a huff post an argument with her boyfriend.

People, I quote her, “I wish I were there at that time. I’d have saved my friends.”

Right Ms. Goswami. Exactly what stopped you from going right back in to save your friends?

The experts took some nine hours to arrive. So you had plenty of time. Maybe we’d have sent the forces back home.

Then there was ‘We – the people’ a show on TV last night. Survivors of the attack were there speaking their hearts out. Many had lost their families. Tempers were flying, heart-rending stories were being exchanged. Barkha Dutt got misty-eyed, and so did I.

Finally, at the end of the programme, she announces that Prasoon Joshi has written a poem on the tragedy. And the entire poem was shown on screen. And even read out. Just when I was such an ardent fan of his. Sigh.

This one you have to see to believe. I actually laughed when I saw the headline. And don't miss the explosive visual. Yes Sunny Advertising. You have now suddenly turned into an aspirational creative hot-shop. Let me know when you’re hiring.

But, Narendra Modi takes the cake. Standing right there amidst all the shooting. Giving speeches right at the barricade. And of course, playing the blame game. Good footage, Modi bhai!

Achha hai. Now candles will sell. If you’re enterprising enough, you could make t-shirts with messages and sell them. Cabbies will earn from all those rides to the Gateway.

And after all that dies down, Mumbai will go back into its habitual trance till another such attack shakes it awake.

God, please keep the anger alive.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The spirit of Mumbai – an advertising gimmick

You know how you feel so good and so cool in a levis or a nike?
‘Just do it’ you tell yourself.

I think the spirit of Mumbai is just a similar meaningless factor cleverly created by someone working on those Mumbai tourism/festival type campaigns. It’s just the figment of a very good planner’s imagination.

We are resilient – we tell ourselves. After every attack Mumbai gets up, dusts the seat of its trousers and gets on with life.
Resilience, my foot. We just don’t care. We see no difference between a beggars sitting at the station and bloody bodies strewn across the roads.

“Oh your dad died in the Taj firing? Sorry dude. By the way where is the so-and-so file saved on your desktop?”
Our lives go on. We have to get our promotions and admissions, meet our targets and deadlines.

Terrorists are flooding in Kashmir everyday. No problem.
Bangladeshi infiltration in full swing. Arre mere ghar toh nahi aaye na.
Naxalites all over the bloody place. Well, I didn’t call them.
Somebody will come and clean the shit. Yeah right.

The firing is going on even as I type.
Top officers dead. Shraddhanjali de do.
Bodies coming out. Dekh lo, apna toh koi nahin mara na?

Politicians condemn the stuff on TV and go back to their dinners.
Defence heads are helpless because of the above-mentioned.

The Taj is burning up and people are dying.
But the presentation deadline remains unchanged, and the film will be shot nevertheless.

Because most of my executive colleagues never bother to vote.
We vote for people on reality shows and song-and-dace shows.
But we don’t elect our corporators and MPs.
A lot of my friends can’t because they’re away from their hometowns.
We can do our banking over the phone, across lands and seas.
But we can’t vote if we ain’t back home.

And those who can won’t.
Same old problem. Kisko vote karein?

I ain’t here to start a ‘Vote’ campaign.
I’m here to say why the F$%^ don’t we have candidates?
So many passionate people around but nobody wants to get their hands murky.

Aggie Dias turned around a place like JWT in less than a year.
Imagine what a man like could do for the country.
Senthil started a whole ‘yellow rippers’ group on facebook.
Think of how many groups that guy can lead.
‘Hemant Karkare’ fan club anyone?
Piyush put India on the global map. You think he can’t do anything beyond advertising?

And this is only the advertising fraternity I’m talking about.
Rashmi Bansal has the youth eating out of her hands.
Sidin Vadukut is as patriotic and passionate as he’s popular.
We are surrounded by leaders, passionate, intelligent and capable.
We have great minds all around us.
Can we please have someone who’d make us feel like voting?

Friday, November 14, 2008

No solace from Quantum

This is a glaring example of why we need planning and servicing in every brand exercise.

Quantum looks like it was written hastily by a trainee writer and quickly released patli-gully style in the absence of the CD or even the sup.

Had there been at least a planner involved she’d have told Haggis n co that you can’t be different by simply doing away with the brand identity. Be different by all means, but stick to the core values.

If only this guy had first presented this script to a brand team.

Haggis: Ok guys, check this. The film opens post Casino Royale.

Servicing: Look, you can’t launch a sub-brand for no reason. Plus it’ll have the additional burden of living up to the standard of CR.

(Which, we all know, it didn’t)

H: Eh, tu chupp kar, suit. Tujhe kya pata sequel ke baare mein.

S: Shrug.

H: So then this is a very different kind of script. Pukka Cannes Gold. No ‘Bond. James Bond.’

Planner: But dude, that’s the brand identity!

H: Tum MBA types ka yehi problem hai. This is a creative script.

P: But…

H: Shaddup. So then no intro. No asking for martini etc. It’s so ‘done to death’.

P: (About to say something but shuts up)

H: No saying ‘Shaken not stirred’ etc.

S: But those are the brand values.

H: You can’t restrict creativity with brand values.

S: I want to work on another brand.

H: Go right ahead. Aage suno. No sex either.

S: This is the first time I’ve heard a Creative guy say that! Are you gay?

H: Gay hoga tera baap. So this is a Bond sloshing with emotion.

P: Bond? Emotional?

S: (Pinches P.)

P: Sorry. Go on.

H: No smart-ass funny one-liners.

P: (can’t control himself) But that’s what makes him endearing to the TG.

(on his knees) Please keep those.

H: Chal theek hai. Do chaar daal denge. You haven’t heard the best part yet.

Tada! No gadgets.

At this point, P and S, though ostensibly listening, are quickly keying in their resignation letters.

S: So you’ve told us all that won’t be there. Now tell us what actually will be there.

H: Tum log saala dispatch mein naukri karo. Aise stupid questions poochhte ho.

P: No, no. (wipes beads of sweat). We’re just asking so we know what to tell the client.

H: Hmm. It’ll have loads of action from start to end. Bond kills everybody who comes within his range of vision. Shooting, stabbing, punching and lots of gore.

P: This will look like a Bond on probation cramming in all this violence to get his confirmation.

H: Shaddup, you $%^#$%.

S: No, seriously. This won’t sell. The TG will not like it.

H: F@#$ the TG.

S: Ok. Why don’t you sell this script yourself.

H: Saala phokat ka pagaar khaata hai.

So maybe the film would still have got made. As is. But at least there would be a couple of guys smirking and nudging each other every time Haggis would pass by. At least he wouldn’t be able to even get a cup of coffee from the machine in peace.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Brand Raj Thackeray – A case study

Remember how the strategy planners talk about ‘brand personality’ and ask you stupid questions? If Mercedes were a person, who would it be, etcetera.

Well I’m thinking the other way round. If Raj Thackeray were a brand, which one would he be? Sprite, I think. MNS dilaaye naukri ki aas, baaki sab bakwaas.

No, seriously. This guy makes for the perfect case study. He entered the market as a ‘me too’ product. Shiv sena definitely had the first mover’s advantage. Enter MNS with the same positioning, same strategy, same everything. So how to gain mindshare?

I have a strong feeling he’s seen the DDB campaign for Avis. “We are no. 2 so we try harder.” We give the Marathi manoos far more than no. 1 does. We not only go after the cabbies and auto drivers but also target the railway exam candidates.

Ambush marketing. When you come in late, you have too much of marketing to catch up on. So, their flags were seen everywhere. In far greater numbers. They were even put up at signals and on the top of hoardings (a first).

Creative communication:
The layouts of their banners were far clearer and made for better visibility. The competition, on the other hand, had pictures of two personalities, a tiger and too much copy. MNS banners had only one picture. And far more compelling lines.

His speeches were far more entertaining, therefore, appealing to the masses. Endearing, maybe? Where the senior Thackeray only had issues to rake up, the younger leader had people to pick at. “Be specific,” says David Ogilvy. This young man had Amitabh and Laloo to talk about. He even made his speeches more audience-friendly by adding mimicry. He actually had the audience in splits. I’ve even see him maro double-meaning lines. Youth-friendly, perhaps?

In fact, he’s done complete 360-degree campaigns. Public transport guys, railway people, shop owners and what not. In fact he even went for on-ground activities. Can you forget the instant changes in signboards all over the city?

And when things started slowing up a bit, a promotional activity. The arrest. (Read – the violence that ensued). And the subsequent bail.

He even went viral. Check youtube if you don’t believe me.

And now; like any good brand; further acquisition, expansion, attracting a greater target audience. I’m referring to the Jet Airways thingy. And he snatched the opportunity from under the competition’s nose. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
Top-of-the-mind recall. High eyeball count. Heavy visibility. Attracting great tie-ups. Full marks on branding. Effies anyone?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fantasizing about a celebrity

Creative Directors are paid to imagine. So, the higher a CD is paid, the more bizarre the imagination is. A look at some of the celebrity ads will tell you how wild the CD is. Fantasizing about Kareena shampooing with Head n Shoulders and Priyanka Chopra bathing with Lux.

Their thinking belies their heavy pay packets. One would think they’ve never seen an affluent life. And also that they’ve never heard celebrities use mainly foreign products and shop abroad even for a pair of bathroom slippers. Here’s how these ad gurus collectively portray the lives of some of the celebrities.

Hrithik Roshan comes home every evening, takes off his John Players shirt and roams around his home in his Rupa Macroman banian. After a while, he strips even that and goes for a shower with Cinthol soap. Then he probably has a snack of Hide n Seek biscuits (dancing all the time, of course), washes it down with Coke and hits the bed.

Hema Malini wakes up every morning, washes down breakfast with water from her Kent RO purifier and straight heads to Bank of Rajasthan to withdraw cash (from her own account, silly).

Rani Mukherjee comes home from a shoot, steps out of her chevrolet aveo, pops in a munch and guzzles a fanta. After which she’s about to the hit the shower but her mom stops her. Mama dear personally hands her a bar of Margo soap and gives her some jargon about how good it is for her skin. All of which the obedient daughter follows completely. (Check the ad, I swear Rani admits all of this on screen.)

Shahrukh Khan is dressing up in the morning. We shall dwell over this procedure for a while. Dressed only in a towel, he pours a torrent of Navratan powder over himself. Then he works on his face with Emami cream (for men). That done, he dresses in a Mayur suit and finally wears his Tag Heuer watch. He then watches Dish tv, while having breakfast. Which, of course, is Sunfeast biscuits and pepsi. After that, he finally leaves for the ‘kya aap paanchvi pass se tez hain’ shoot. In a Santro, of course!

There’s one thing I really wonder. The CDs, we all agree, are letting their imagination run amok. But what are these celebrities doing to themselves? Don’t they stop to think before signing a contract?

Not surprisingly though, there’s one celebrity whose ad portrait, though painted by different CDs, absolutely matches with his real life image.

Amir Khan drinks Coke, wears a Titan watch, talks on a Samsung mobile phone, and drives away in a Toyota Innova. Everything believable. True or not, but definitely possible!

Of course, at the other end of the 'believable' spectrum is Govinda. One look at him and you know it’s perfectly natural for the guy to lagao Navratna hair oil and walk around the streets in a Rupa banian.

You wouldn’t need close scrutiny to realize that there’s a Big celebrity missing from this list. But his ad portrait would make a separate post by itself.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

“It’s all your fault”

Strange how much flack we ad people take for simply working on a brand.

“Tum saalley XXX waaley”, yelled an irate customer of the telecom brand I did ads for, “Kya ad banaate rehte ho. Tumhara network toh chalta hi nahin.”
I think I’ve faced more abuses than the brand managers of the telecom company itself.

A neighbour once called me to tea and simply took off on me. This was when I worked on a detergent brand.
“Bade aaye kapde chamkaane waale. Yeh lo tikiya, jao bathroom mein. Kapde chamka ke dikhao.”
Those who know me are aware that I no more go to anybody’s place for a cup of tea.

This elderly gentleman I met in the elevator started waving an electricity bill in my face.
“Didn’t you make the ad saying so-and-so refrigerator saves electricity? Some jargon about smaller bills. Yeh lo mera bill. Now YOU pay!”

Thankfully, I’ve learnt my lesson and never told anybody about the insurance and mutual fund ads I’ve scripted. Nowadays, whenever anyone asks me which brand I work on, I cleverly change the topic.

I was almost cornered one day, when an elderly aunt insisted on finding out.
Gearing up for yet another lecture I answered, “XYZ biscuits.”

With a wide grin she cheered me up, “Arre yeh toh sabse best biscuits hain. Humaari saari family yehi khaati hai. We love these biscuits!”

I did a collar-up and happily accepted the compliment with a gracious I’m-glad-you-like-them as if I’d made them myself. What the heck! Why not?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Celebrity Advertising

I had always waited for the day I’d write an ad involving a celebrity. What fun the shoot would be! The glamour, the awe, the casual mentions I’d get to insert in daily conversations.
So, one day the boss beckoned.
“We’re roping in a celebrity to endorse our brand of nuts and bolts.”
The heart whirrs into action.
“So, write a couple of scripts quickly.”
The heart is now beating against the incisors.

Chucking all briefs (including proofreading artworks that have to be released by the same afternoon), I sit in a lonely corner trying to create a Karan Johar kind of ad. For reasons of confidentiality (I shudder to admit openly that I have written the final ad that was aired), let’s call the celebrity, say, Banwarilal.

So I write pages and pages of scripts about Banwarilal using our nuts and bolts everywhere. The final shot would always have the celebrity screwing the final nut in place, and saying, “Gangadhar nuts and bolts – sabse badhiya.”

“Idiot!” yelled the boss, “do you think Banwarilal is a garage boy? He’s the king of romance! How on earth can you show him doing all this?”

“But don’t we have to show him using the product?” I protest.

The boss while trying to recollect why he hired me, bellows, “Who will believe The Banwarilal goes around lagaaving nuts and bolts?”

“But he’s endorsing them, isn’t he?”

The boss’ deep stare penetrates my optic nerve, “Are you trying to challenge my strategy?”

“Not at all”, I back out, “sir.”

“So how do you think we should do this?” I add for good measure.

“Just show him running around trees with a woman. Write a jingle. ON LOVE, NOT NUTS AND BOLTS!”

“Sure, sure, of course. And how do I fit in the product.”

His eyes narrow “Put it in the last shot. And for heaven’s sake don’t make him touch them. Just place them alongside.”

“So, do we just place them in a heap on the floor or something?”

The boss speaks through gritted teeth, “And show Banwarilal’s feet in the final frame!? Put them on a table next to him. In a glass bowl.”