Another (M)ad Piece
I make a living by writing for advertising and design. This gives me valuable insights into the workings of these industries. Yes, they are industries and not exotic places where long-haired men wearing earrings hang out with short-haired women wearing navel-rings and both use phrases like, ‘out of the box’, ‘creative’, ‘disruptive’, ‘big idea’ and ‘pass me the joint b* because I paid for it’. Though I must admit I chose this profession because like most people I believed that these exotic places and characters really existed. I was sadly disappointed of course. However I have to confess that I do use the phrase, ‘out of the box’ when I am asked, “Where do you live?” and I answer, “Like all residents of Mumbai I live in a box and I look forward to holidays when I can live out of the box”. For some reason people find this funny and they compliment me on my sense of humour.
In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that most people in Mumbai get up in the morning and rush to work only to they can escape the narrow confines they call home and reach the wide open and brightly lit air-conditioned spaces of their offices. That is also the reason why the average Mumbaikar reports to work even on the day after a bomb blast, riots and on December 6, when all the followers of Dr. Ambedkar in the whole world descend on the city to observe his death anniversary.
Baby Ambedkar follower: Dad, where are we going?
Daddy Ambedkar follower: Mumbai.
BAF: Why daddy?
DAF: Because the travel, accommodation and food are free.
MomAF: Don’t teach the kid wrong things! Baby, we are going to observe our dear Dr. Ambedkar’s death anniversary.
BAF: If we all do that, will it bring him back, Ma?
All that is set to change of course. No, not the hordes of mourning FAFs (Families of Ambedkar Followers), but the matchbox sizes of Mumbai apartments. Come on, don’t tell me you haven’t seen all those ads for residential buildings with apartments big enough to accommodate a dozen FAFs and each with an attached swimming pool since they all need to take a bath very badly.
But where did this piece start? Ah yes, advertising and design. To go back to the originally planned subject – insights into advertising and design – and the totally fictitious story behind the advertising campaign that has taken the whole country by cyclone. Yeah, the correct word would be ‘storm’ and not ‘cyclone’ but the first time I saw this particular ad campaign it was in the form of a cyclone cleaning up the home page of The Times of India online edition and settling down to form the shape of the new symbol of India’s largest cellular service provider.
(Needless to say, this is not the only ad or ad campaign I have an opinion on. I have one on every ad, just like Gavaskar has one on every ball that is bowled and every ball that is hit or not hit and every run that is taken or not taken and whether the bat was grounded and why the umpire didn’t refer to the third umpire and etc. Or even Sanjay Manjrekar for that matter who went to the same school as I did but I sat in the classroom and attended lectures and he went to the playground and played cricket and look where he is reached and if you have a kid send him to the ground because there is more money and fame in playing cricket, why even just talking about it – look at that MBA bloke called Harsha. Yes, life can be Harsha even if you have an MBA.)
The alert reader, defined as the one who keeps on reading my posts in the hope that someday there will be something worthwhile to read, must have realized which logo design and ad campaign I am referring to. So here’s a malicious (defined as ‘delicious food made by ma’), and fictitious (defined as ‘all other food not made by ma and hence not delicious’), look at what transpired behind the scenes or, my version of the Radia (defined as ‘random stuff that gets leaked to the media’), tapes:
Design Firm Rep: I have just got out of the client meeting!
Design Firm Boss: Good news or Bad?
DFR: Bad! They chose the lousy logo design we had created to help us sell the good one!
DFB: That’s good news you moron!
DFB: Because they have bought a logo design and now we can collect the full and final payment and both of us can collect our bonus!
DFR: I have so much to learn from you, Boss.
Ad Firm Rep: We have got the business boss.
Ad Firm Boss: Great now let’s change everything.
AFR: Why? They are doing great. They are number one. They are growing. They are going places, like to Africa.
AFB: Because, if they changed their ad agency, they did it because they hated all the advertising they have done so far – advertising that had been created by the earlier agency! How else do we justify our creative fees or plan our bonus, dude?
AFR: I have so much to learn from you, Boss.
AFR: I have a terrific insight into our newly acquired brand! So let’s brain-cyclone.
Junior AFR: What’s the insight?
AFR: Yesterday the client was chatting about their new logo! I asked, ‘So what is it called?’ And guess what, they had no clue!
AFR: So dude, we’ve shot the expensive commercials in exotic locations, used celebrities left, right and centre, taken all online and offline media by cyclone… basically used up every trick in the book. So where do we get our next set of revenues and bonus from?
AFR: From a contest – We have a logo. It doesn’t have a name. Give it a name and win big prizes. Splashed across all online and offline media of course.
JAFR: I have so much to learn from you, Boss.
Sorry, I have to stop this piece now; a high court official is at the door and I have to hand over the tapes to him. And there is work to be done of course – my boss just called to say I have to write my next ad campaign. He is a great guy, my boss, there is so much to learn from him.