Sunday, December 31, 2006

Logo showgo #7: 5/10

Clumsy. For a depository of better Google holiday logos, check this. Good fun.

People are comics

Ultimatum Marketing

If you're looking for a spike in the sales of a product connected with a famous person, encourage that person to commit suicide. It's the ultimate move in marketing. Research points to it.

Logo showgo #6: 7/10

Fight at the museum

Human beings are so interesting. I was surfing through the message boards for the movie 'Night at the Museum' on the IMDB when I came across a 200 message argument on why Robin Williams' comment about evolution should be expunged from the movie. It amazes me how something so insignificant can get so many people so steamed up. Pray, what on earth does this have to do with advertising? Well, if you don't find human beings interesting, in an objective sort of way, you won't do very well in advertising. And why do some people have a problem with evolution? The same reason Windows has a problem with Macs? Hmm.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Logo showgo #5: 7/10

A colourless logo for a company that's all about colour. Great idea.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Logo showgo #4: 5/10

There's something clumsy about this logo. And something nice. It could have been so much nicer. When you have a product like the Burn Foundation, there's so much more you can do.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Blog of mouth

Blogs feed off one and other. Here are some ways to make your blog more widely read:

1. Take on a big name.
2. Take pot shots at big media.
3. Scratch a big blogger's back.
4. Keep scratching a big blogger's back.
5. Link. Link. Link.
6. Go blocal. (That's blog+local)

Speaking of point number 6, is that why this list of marketing and related blogs put out by The Godin has no blogs from one of the two biggest markets in the world? What gives? I guess a marketing blog from India just cannot make much sense to the people who gave the world Marketing. Sorry.

The funny side of advertising. Sad.

People in advertising

Monday, December 25, 2006

Cases in point #7: Tirupathi hair salon

The practice of Hindu pilgrims shaving their heads has created a £3.7m business for temple that sells tons of hair to Westerners. Now this is what you call an interesting business model and a wonderful brand extension of the Über brand that is religion. To cut a short story long, dissect.

Things we buy #10: Christmas card

Now what kind of person would buy a card like this? This Christmas card, dated 1895, might be the oddest ever.

Cases in point #6: James Brown

It's no fun doing boring case studies. Duh! What's the point in stating the obvious? Fine. Here's a case study that's not so obvious. James Brown was/will remain one of the biggest brands in Soul. Apart from the fact that like all good brands the man had a whole lotta soul, what else made him such a big brand? James Brown is dead. Long will live James Brown. But whyyy? Timing. Colour. Smarts. Formula. Hmm? Did I just say colour? That's right.

Kid rocks

Just a reminder that if you want to be in advertising, you must never forget the child in you. Just don't let him/her control you. (Just a reminder.)

Deja boo!

The problem with movies like Deja vu is what makes for successful advertising. Given a choice, movies like this will always plump for the safer option. It's what makes them successful. If and when you watch Deja vu, think about the way it ends - happily. It'll teach you a lot about what advertising looks for.

Note how the 'mainstream-ness' of the movie also reflects in the 'standard issue' style of the poster.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

30-second Spot Na-na

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes - the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing that you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things." More from Timothy L. O'Brien

Logo showgo #3: 7/10

In a film, the poster is the logo. Is it?

The human side of advertising

If you are in advertising or want to get into advertising or wish to understanding advertising or just want to connect with humans, something which advertising endevours to do, watch Babel. It'll teach you how to talk to people no matter which language you're trying to communicate in. And yes, don't just watch it.

The inhuman side of advertising

I think the reason a film like Apocalypto works is because the Director understands how much human beings love watching fellow humans suffer. We're a perverted race and the sooner we, the practitioners of advertising, understand it, the better we will be at offering redemption. Through advertising.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Things we buy #9: Organic cigarettes

5 things about me

There's a cybertag doing the rounds of the blogosphere which hasn't, and probably never will, get to me. And that's what got to me.

1. I wish I were an Art Director.

2. I wish I could be celibate.

3. I wish I am what I'm not.

4. I wish I didn't wish.

5. I'm glad I got that off my chest.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Newtail #6: Pow!

Give yourself a surprise. Daily. It's good for your head. Maybe it's not so good for your heart. Or for that matter your ego. But then, if your head is in the right place, your heart will follow. I think. Pow!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Brand new

Brandbaja is a neologism coined out of the words brand and baja (a Hindi word that means band/noise/music). It's a new little fun spot where I focus on something else that interests me just as much as some of the other things that interest me just as much: Radio.

Stop start

Perhaps the only person who regularly visits these pages, my very patient girlfriend, asked me why I discontinued this blog? Here's your take on it.

The way I see it, everything you need to know to help you create good advertising is on the pages of this blog. Exercises to help you think more creatively. Ways to write more effectively. Links to regularly updated ad sights and tools to help you create. I didn't stop this blog. I just decided to stop adding my two bits to it.

This blog is not just about what I write here. It's also a gateway to some fabulous raw material for advertising that I have linked you to. At the end of the day, it's not what I put out, but what you put in that will help you create good advertising.

All you need to do now is practice the fundamentals I have tried to lay down for you here. Or, wait for my book.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Press stop

If you want to do create good advertising, you must know when to stop. It's time to stop.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Logo showgo #2: 7/10

Is it the name or is it the logo? The question is, what is the question? You tell me. It's how discussions are born. It's how knowledge is created. It's how advertising works. And this logo? I think it's the name that makes the logo. That said...

Disruption #9

Advertising is all about creating a disruption with words and pictures. Here's a term that's designed to create a disruption. What does it mean when something decides to 'Go Baghdad' on you? Thanks Scott Adams for that one. And for my daily dose of disruption.

Wii love it

Proof that Nintendo is likely to win the numbers in the gaming wars and that it has taken the gaming experience to the next level. Don't just take my word for it, look at the picture and tell me why not. We'll take it from there.

Things we buy #8: Dans le noir

Men, the next time you want to wow your girlfriend take her out for a french meal, in the dark. The latest fad in eating out has gone truly outre. Dans le noir, is encouraging patrons to experience the pleasures of dining in the dark. I'm thinking I'll go back to my country and start a chain of restaurants in the back of the beyond where we get no electricity. Maybe then, I too, will get written about in the fine pages of The Guardian.

Name call#10: The Hold all

When I was growing up, I was exposed to a term called 'hold all'. It's a uniquely Indian moniker for a bed roll with enough space to carry a matress, blanket, pillow, bathroom slippers, toothpaste, big feet, massive egos and then some. When rolled up, it looked a bit cumbersome, but was very useful for uncomfortable train journeys on the back-breaking wooden berths that used to be the norm before the Indian Railways introduced cushioned berths. Right, now why on earth did I launch into that mini-treatise on the odd ball that is the 'hold all'? Because I'm quite shocked nobody has found a better way to use it as a brand name. (A quick google yielded only one site that sells all kinds of sports equipment. Not good enough for me.)

I think 'hold all' is a helluva brand name waiting to be built. For now, though, there's a nice little blog that has bought into it. The name says it all. Appropriately enough, the namer of the said blog has a blog on the craft of naming brands.

Logo showgo #1: 7/10

Introducing an interactive way to understand logos. For starters, here's a logo for the Open Rights Group. I like it. If you don't, tell me why. After which, I'll tell you why.

Old Mac?

Apparently the Mac's core audience is older than we think it is. Much older. A new study shows that nearly half of Apple's users are 55 or older. Does that mean most of Apple's users are old? Let's look at that line again: When it comes to home computers, nearly half (46%) of Apple's U.S. user base is 55 or older. That's compared with only 25.2% of home PC users who are in that age category, reports MetaFacts Inc., a national market research firm. It's not what you think.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Picture start #11

I promised I wouldn't go on. And then, I just couldn't stop. When you see something like this, can you? The day when I stop blogging will have to wait another day. Here's something to start you up. It certainly got me restarted.

Rohinton's mystery

I'm reading Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters. Once again, it's a book about the things Rohinton knows best: Parsis and their idisyncratic ways. It's a lesson brand builders would be well advised to make a note of. When you know something well, mine it.

Name call#9: Asimo

Honda's new robot, featured in their new commercial, is called Asimo. Do you think they're trying to riff off the name of the best known science fiction writer of the Honda generation? (Yep, the same guy.) If so, a good choice and a good move. (I think.) If not, a good name. (I think.)

Disruption #8

Why has W+K, London, chosen to call their blog Optimism? Doesn't that go against the prevailing zeitgeist? Ah, that word again. This time though, not just for effect.

Down play

I was watching an interview down at Plan Fallon where the interviewer starts the conversation by telling people that what is to follow isn't likely to be very good. It makes me wonder, would it be so bad to start something by telling your audience what they are about to see is going to knock their socks off? I guess it would. It would raise expectations. How, when and why did optimism become naff? Zeitgeist. (Don't worry, I just threw that in for effect.)

Disruption #7

The great thing about masturbation is it makes you forget about sex. The question is what does that have to do with brand-building? If you think about it, it does. Think about it.

Good Lord!

A friend wrote to me yesterday telling me that the way to find happiness in life is to find Jesus. She's right. If you want to be happy in your job, make it your Jesus. In my experience, it's best not to make your job your Jesus. If you get so attached to your job, you're going to lose all sense of objectivity. And when you lose the ability to look at something objectively, you're better off not doing it for a living. So what does this have to do with Account Planning? A lot. A Planner is, perhaps, the only mind in the agency who's paid to look at things objectively. Poor chap, his Jesus is the brand.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Picture start #10

Mural by Chiho Aoshima. Challenge for you.

Steve Jobs would approve

So Microsoft has launched the work for Vista. Unfortunately, even with hipster comic Demetri Martin, it sucks. I'm not surprised. The Vista shouldn't be trying so hard to look cool. It should stick to what it's best at. While I'm not sure what that is, it's definitely not cool.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Newtail #5: Graph laughs

Just when I was thinking of dropping Creative Generalist from my list of raw material, he points me to a gem that makes me look like the short-sighted fool. No, it won't make you fall in love with Math, but it certainly shows you a fun way to deal with Math. Check out old bag's take on graphs for all kinds of interesting things. Careful, you might fall in love with Math.

Media that matters

The Scampblog is asking an interesting question down at his/her hangout. It goes like this: What's your favourite medium to work on? Here's my answer, for everyone, when it comes to advertising, I think creative people like to work most on TV. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. Creative people are too self-centred to choose anything less high-profile. Keep your eyes on that poll and let's see if I'm proved wrong. Personally speaking, I love radio. Why? It's personal.

Disruption #6

If you're an artist and want to be in advertising, learn to do the wrong things: Holden Caulfield complained in JD Salinger's Catcher In The Rye that if he were "a piano player or an actor or something and all those dopes thought I was terrific, I'd hate it. I wouldn't even want them to clap for me. People always clap for the wrong things." Like life, advertising too is a popularity contest.

Picture start #9

A smile to get you started. If you want to be a creative person, it's important to train your mind to see creative possibilities in many things and anything. Train your mind.

Cases in point #5: Conflict-free diamonds

When my girlfriend sent me an article about conflict-free diamonds, I did a double take. I took it as a sign that it was time to think a little more about them. And so I did. Here's what I came up with: Why are conflict-free diamonds a good idea? Because they're a good example of a product that is in tune with the times. If you don't want conflict in your love-life, go for a conflict free diamond. It's stupid enough buying a diamond, but if you must be that stupid, at least try and be smart about it.

Things we buy #7: Liberator Adventure Gear

When I got an e-mail from my girlfriend urging me to read an article about a company that makes Liberator "bedroom adventure gear," promising that its sexy line of cushions could "help a person more easily achieve and maintain a sexual position ... with less fatigue and stress," I greeted the news with a post on yet another side of the human personality we're here to explore. Explore.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Disruption #5

Says Martin Cole about what it takes to come up with great work: It's great when there's less money. Hmm, I wonder what he means. And so should you.

Planner profiled

Martin Cole, WPP, is a top musician, and a Planner. He is a part-time film-maker, and a Planner. He is a full time raconteur, and a Planner. He is an inveterate dabbler and a Planner. He is exactly what a good Planner should be. Very atypical. For a freewheeling conversation with Martin about many things, including goth-hop, head to Russell's pad. Thank you Russell, that was an absolute treat.

Disruption #4

We don't need pilots. We need instigators and navigators, rabble rousers and innovators. People who can't follow a checklist to save their life, but invent the future every day.

More lessens

I think the joke is in the first two panels of this cartoon. The third panel seems out of place. Perhaps a case of format forcing the master to end up saying more than he needed to. Reminds me of some of the constraints you will face in advertising. Don't you think panel number 3 is just a bit too much?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Disruption #3

Why do architects design rooms with sharp corners? Sharp corners hurt people. Sharp corners are not user-frindly. Sharp corners are bad, bad things. Thank god for sharp corners. Thanks to sharp corners, I did manage to scratch that itch in the middle of my back. That’s why architects design rooms with sharp corners. Apparently they have itchy backs too.

Picture start #8

Wheels within wheels. Nuts. Bolts. Patterns. Intricate. Intimate. Complex. Simple. What all can be aid about this picture. Your time starts now.

Things we buy #6: Books, one word at a time

Apparently the marketers at ICUE believe the new generation prefers to read their books on a mobile phone, one word at a time. And I thought I was someone who was in touch with the times. Sorry, this product is not for me. Is it for you? I mean, how much fun can it be to read a book without being able to read the ending first? Heh, heh. Okay, I guess that's just a very messed up way to enjoy a book. Which is not to say this isn't.

Open mined

I work in a cubicled office like many people around the world do. Now that the weather in my part of the world has become a lot more tolerable than it normally is, I say to myself, wouldn't it be fun to take the office outside the cubicle? We spend so much of our time in the agency trying to come up with different takes on the usual things that surround us. How come we don't spend more time in unusual spaces? Then it's decided, for the next three months, my thinking room is not a room. It's the park next door. What's yours?

Shawarma ink

So we were sitting around and trying to come up with a campaign for some product which isn't so important in the current scheme of things. What is important is the little discussion we got into about advertising. My partner said we're not into creating shawarmas. We're artists trying to come up with something creative, and that depended on being in the right mood and in the right space. I begged to differ. I said we're commercial artists trying to come up with one shawarma after another and making sure each shawarma is above average. Incidentally, a shawarma is a kind of pita wrap that's easy to make and quite delicious. So you tell me, is advertising about coming up with shawarmas or pieces of fine art?

Cases in point #4: Jenna Jameson

The same great boobs. The same great legs. The same blond hair. It can't be her looks. In fact, porn is perhaps the one market where looks won't help you stand out. (Unlike in most other markets.) What made Jenna Jameson the biggest porn brand in the world? Was it the alliterative name? Was it the fact that she strove to cultivate herself as an articulate pornstar? Or was it the she got written about in more mainstream publications than any other pornstar in the history of porn? I'd like to think it was a bit of all that and the fact that we live in a time where porn is no longer underground. A combination of the pervasiveness of the Internet and the crashing down of boundaries turned Jenna into brand Jenna. In other words, less product differentiation, more timing. What's your take on brand Jenna?

Picture start #7

A little information to pique your interest, get you going and come up with a good story is the story of advertising.

Things we buy #5: The pop-up book of sex

Now what in the world would someone want to do with a pop up book of sex? You tell me. And it'll tell you some very interesting things about the way we think. Which will help us find even more interesting ways to talk to the human mind.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Just shoe it

Nike has once again come up with a brilliant idea. They're running a sampling exercise that's a great example of what I call 'Just do it' thinking. They've got a van that goes around the country encouraging people to try out their shoes by going for a run in them. It doesn't take much to come up with an idea like this, but it takes balls to implement it. And that's what separates the men from the boys.

Disruption #2

What you thought about someone yesterday doesn't really matter if they have something to contribute today. There are so many ways to interpret that statement. Please do.


For once, a creative person who advocates using research to come up with ads. Then again, post-creative research is what most creative people despise. Anyway, so here's what Scampblog is saying: If you need to come up with an ad for something, play Family Fortunes. From the looks of it, it works. Then again again, most things work once they have been worked out. Check it out.

Picture start #6

Imagine how many things you could write to go with this picture. And then, write them. It's a fun way to practice coming up with ads. Stick with me and I'll show you why you don't have to be incredibly creative to be a good advertising creative. Just incredibly disciplined.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Take 3

James Surowiecki believes Nintendo is doing a smart thing by opting out of the race Sony and Microsoft find themselves locked in. He concludes: The key is to play to your strengths while recognizing your limitations. Nintendo knew that it could not compete with Microsoft and Sony in the quest to build the ultimate home-entertainment device. So it decided, with the Wii, to play a different game entirely. Some pundits are now speculating, ironically, that the simplicity of the Wii may make it a huge hit. Nintendo wouldn’t complain if that happened. But, in the meantime, third prize is looking a lot better than steak knives. Put simply, that's life.

Things we buy #4: Japanese maid cafe

Toronto now sports an authentic-esque Maid Cafe. It's a Japanese cafe where women dressed up in anime maid outfits wait on patrons with lavish attention. All good fun or an invitation for the feminist brigade to take offense? We'll have to wait and see. Do see.

First chapter

When I was a kid, my aunt introduced me to the term 'First chapter'. What the term refers to is anyone who can't stop talking about himself. Well, my coleagues are doing a campaign for a client who must not be named. Oddly enough, all the client wants to do is the first chapter. Shouldn't advertising be less about chest-beating and more about empathy?

Picture start #5

A photograph from a series of polaroid experiments Russell Davis is indulging himself in. It says some interesting things, doesn't it? Good. Now write them down.

Not rocket science

Seriously, it's great to be in advertising, but only as long as you don't take it too seriously. To put things in perspective, try living in the country. Try growing your own food. Try herding horses. You'll discover that advertising is a lot easier than breaking a horse. Quote courtesy, Maggie Entwistle, W+K, Portland.

Blog v/s Intranet

I've been trying to get the advertising agency I work for to start up a group blog. Unfortunately I can't think of too many good reasons, apart from other cool agencies have blogs, to start one. Can you? Wieden & Kennedy has a blog. Fallon has a blog. Ogilvy has a blog or four. A few other good agencies have blogs. All that said, what's the big idea behind a large agency starting up a blog? Think about it before you go around trying to champion a blog for your agency. And then, tell me. Personally, when it comes to a large agency, I believe an intranet is a better idea.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Things we buy #3: USB key CDs

Why make people buy compact discs that are going to just lie around and rot after the tracks on them have been ripped into MP3s and stored on more convenient, user-friendly, space-friendly, environment-friendly storage devices? Which is the question the Bare Naked Ladies must have asked themselves when they decided to sell their latest album Bare Naked Ladies Are Me (BLAM) on 256 MB USB key-drives. This way, not only do you get your songs in a format they will eventually end up in, you also get a re-usable storage device. Good move.

Newtail #4: Generator generator

We really love creating things on the fly, don't we? How else could a blog like this be generated? This blog is not about those machines used to change mechanical energy into electrical energy. It's about software that creates software. Software to play around and have fun with. Planners and other presentation generators will enjoy. Enjoy.

Disruption #1

I've been a tourist for a large part of my life and I hate going to the places most people like. When it comes to travelling, I prefer to go where others haven't, because I might find something new. This metaphor certainly applies to thinking about research. Of course, the disruption in this disruption is that you can go to the same places with new eyes.

Picture start #4

I got this lovely picture of the world on lights and an even nicer story connected to it from Indianomics. Look at the picture, think about what it says and then read what Nanubhai Desai has said with it.

For fans of impatience, here's what Nanubhai has done: He has written about how one look at the world at night can tell you which parts of the world are buzzing and which aren't. Along the way, he has also put together a considered analysis on the nuclear deal between India and USA. Great lateral thinking.

A recipe for better thinking

I've been meaning to post this for a while now. Why have I added a link to a food blog on a site that attempts to talk about advertising? Because if you spend a little time understanding how to cook, you're teaching yourself a lot of things that will stand you in good stead as a creative person in advertising. Cooking up a storm is all about taking seemingly disconnected elements and coming up with a yummy whole. Now that's what you call advertising, also. Individuals who wish to improve their advertising skills would be well advised to spend a little time nourishing their culinary disabilities.

Picture start #3

If you don't like advertising, you might like this. If you like advertising, you'll love this. After all, advertising a book shop is every copywriter's dream. And getting published every writer's. This one's for RK. Don't you think it makes for a great brief?

Newtail #3: Beausage

I agree, it's not a new blog. It's more like a new concept. I didn't come up with it. In fact, most of the things I come up with, I don't. They're already there, just waiting to be discovered. Much like beausage. Beausage is a neord born out of 'beauty' and 'age'. It's what you get from using a great product for a long time. It's what you don't get out of superficial things. Wisdom is a kind of beausage. Patina is not. The next time you have to write a brief, see if you can nourish it with some beausage.


In the West, Youtube's biggest audience is 35-64 year olds. In India, it's likely to be a much younger demographic. What does that say about the West and India? No, I'm not going to give you the right answers. Figure it out. It's what will make you better at advertising. Young people, I tell you, they want everything on a platter.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Some people say it's hard to make a script come to life on paper. They believe you're better off doing a scratch version of it for better comprehension. I'm not so sure about that. I believe the mind is the most imaginative place in the the world. If you give a good enough preamble, people will be able to see it. But once you give the preamble, you might be better off not narrating the script. Unless you happen to be a good talker, most good writers are not. If you write your scripts really well, they'll speak for themselves.

Things we buy #2: Dr. Laura Talking action figure

Bad little kids used to get coal in their stocking; now they'll get a Dr. Laura Talking action figure. According to, you just "Press her button" (!) and she says things like, "...proud mother of an American Soldier," "...this is the hill you want to die on?," and "Now, go do the right thing." What does that say about us? A lot. And not much, I'm afraid.

Name call #8: La-z-boy

Why do most of the people in the world hate their jobs? Seriously, why do most of the people in the world hate their jobs? I mean, why do most of the people in the world hate their jobs? I think it's because we're born to be lazy. When, where and why did we lose the plot? Obviously, La-z-boy. didn't. Isn't it a masterful brand name? Why not La-z-girl? You tell me.

Simply put

Don't be afraid to start something. Don't be afraid to end something. Don't be afraid to be afraid. If you're not afraid, you should be afraid. If you're afraid, you shouldn't be. In a world full of such conflicting messages, don't be afraid to be simple, concise and clear in your marketing communications. It might turn out to be the most creative message you have ever put out. Creative people would be well advised to make a note of it. On second thoughts, no, people who try to be creative would be well advised to make a note of it.

Surprise, surprise. Surprise.

I was surprised by the number of endings Casino Royale gave me. And then I wasn't. We live in an age of cynicism. We're used to everything. We're always looking for new things. It's a challenge more advertisers must learn to deal with. It's a challenge they haven't learnt to deal with. It's why so much of the advertising done is such a waste. So here's a not-so-surprising piece of advise: make it your business to surprise. Surprisingly enough, people love routines.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Cases in point #4: Cars

What is the single most important thing man has invented? I'd argue it's the automobile. Which throws up some intriguing questions on consumer behaviour. Why is man so much in love with cars? Some people say the thing that attracts a man to a woman is the thing that draws him to a car. I wonder, do men love cars because women love men who love cars? Why would a woman love a man who loves a car? Wouldn't it make sense to love a man who loved her more than the car? As you can see, man's love for a car can lead us to some very interesting questions. Given a chance, I could write a thesis on man's relationship with cars. And so can you. Maybe you should.

Tell me something I don't know

They say, a known devil is better than an unknown one. In my experience, that's an outdated concept. If you're going to keep going to, and with, the ideas/people you know of and are comfortable with, you're not going to come away with much more than what you have. If you want to do path-breaking stuff, you've got to get away from the experienced. Just because somebody hasn't done it before, doesn't mean the person can't do it. Just because something hasn't been done before doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. If our predecessors kept doing what they knew of, we wouldn't have come this far. Often, the people who have seen a lot have seen too much. Forget about experience. Experience the new. Often.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Things we buy #1: Barbie's crap

As if it's not interesting enough that we live in a world that has made Barbie dolls one of the biggest brands in the history of humankind, we now have Barbie doll sets that come with dogs, dog biscuits and dog crap that looks exactly like the biscuits. Trust me, if you don't take advertising seriously, it's the best profession to be in.

Name call #7: Mini

I just watched a really cool commercial for the Mini which reminded me of how much I like the car. Question is, do I like the car for the way it looks and performs or do I like the car for the name? Doesn't the name make it a car men are less likely to buy? Is it a car for women? What do I like about the name? Like all good names, it's simple, easy to say, it's small, it's descriptive, it's cute and it's unusual; much like the car. Did I prefer the name with the Cooper attached to it? I'm not sure. What do you think of the name? What do you think of the car? Does the car add to the name? Does the name devalue the car? Does it matter? It must matter - we've got a lot of people devoting a lot of time to names. Speaking of the Mini, I think it's a better car, and name, than the Beetle. I think it's the Beetle for the new generation. Sweet.

Picture start #2

A creative director I met many moons ago told me a good way to hone your copywriting skills is to try and write ads using random, interesting pictures. Interesting.

Belonging for brands

Adrian from Plan Fallon wonders about the purpose of brands. He/she raises two points of view. One, brands exist to reassure its customers with consistent experiences. Two, brands are meant to delight and surprise the people who use them. I think people buy into brands so they can belong to groups that want to belong or groups that don't want to belong. What about you?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Picture start #1

I think this is a great picture. It says a lot of things and yet, it's not ambiguous. What does this picture say to you? If you're in advertising, learn to use pictures that communicate well.

Mind the demographics

When people from all around the world don't want to act their age, it's time to say goodbye to demographics. Look around you. Young people are trying to act older. Old people are trying to get younger. Nobody wants to be what they are 'supposed' to be. The next time your creative brief says 'demographics', question it. Don't go by demographics, go by mindsets.

I'm a failure

It's what keeps me going. When you stop failing at things, it's time to get worried. Failure can help you in more ways than you can imagine. Just make sure you understand why you failed. Just don't get used to it. Think about it.

Name call #6: '3' from Hutch

The Hutchison Whampoa Group has chosen '3' as their brand name for their basket of 3G services. Is it a good choice? It's a tough one to call. While it's a simple way to get straight to the point of 3G, I don't think it says much. It doesn't talk about the wonderful things 3G offers. It doesn't say anything revolutionary. It isn't evocative. It's just a number. Admittedly, the 'Rule of 3' in marketing communication says '3' is a good choice. That said, when it comes to naming a service like 3G, I say it's not. Of course, if they promote the offerings of 3G well, the service will make up for the simplistic name. After all, a name is just an important part of the marketing mix. How important, we'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cases in point #3: Hitler

What can brands learn from one of the biggest brands in humankind? Hitler isn't someone who should be imitated, but we can learn a lot from the man. Hitler can teach us about the constructive and destructive power of an inferiority complex. The pint-sized monster from Germany tapped into the rich vein of insecurity that's so ingrained in human beings and used it to build one of the biggest brands of all time: Himself. (And Germany.) Brands promise power. Brands promise they will make us feel beter about ourselves. Brands make us feel secure. (Do you see the parallels between brands and Hitler?) When it comes to brands, you could do worse than to emulate Hitler. If you're studying brands, study Hitler. Carefully.

The bottomline on baselines

I've worked with a lot of Creative Directors (CD) who don't care much for baselines. I believe baselines are important. Very. A baseline is like an introduction and a summation of what you are. A baseline is the thing that should go in all communication when you don't have space for any other communication. Your central idea is your baseline. A logo without a baseline leaves the company open to interpretation. And for those who don't know what a baseline is, it's the 'Putting news first' that accompanies 'BBC'. It's the 'Keep walking' that goes hand in hand with 'Johnnie Walker'. Now do you see what many CDs don't?

Apple of my eye

Personally, I didn't like the last set of commercials from Apple; where they compared a Windows user to an Apple user. I found them obvious, unnecessary and silly. The commercial for the iPod Shuffle is not. It's stylish, hip and Übercool. In short, it's Apple. Point to be noted: When you're the arbiter of cool, dissing is uncool.

Au contraire

I have no idea who Mike Hughes is, but I vehemently disagree with him when he says, "Advertising is not a sprint. It's a marathon." Sorry mate, advertising is all about instant gratification. I'm sure you have your reasons for thinking so. I'd love to be enlightened on the same. For the life of me I don't get it. Do you? Do tell.
Quote pinched from

Name call #5: Trojan

What do you think of the name? For those who don't know what Trojan is, it's a brand name for a condom. (Clever, eh?) Someone I think I know mentioned something about contextual branding. (Brandnama). Think about that and then compare it to the market leader, Durex. How does it measure up? Durex sounds rather medical to me. Trojan sounds exciting, kinda naughty. When it comes to sex, I prefer to plug with naughty. What's your favourite brand name for a condom? Real or otherwise.

Briefly speaking: Rallying around Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi. Yawn. Compared to Dubai, there's not much more that can be said about it. It's small-minded, it's conservative, it's boring and it's changing. It's why the Abu Dhabi Car Rally is being organised. As part of an image revamp for Abu Dhabi, it's our job to promote it. So how do we make it shine brighter than the desert sun? How do we make it sound more interesting than just another car rally? My one line brief for the Abu Dhabi Car Rally: A rollercoaster on wheels.

I'm stupid

Instead of walking into work every morning telling yourself how stupid the people you work with are, get up every morning and remind yourself how stupid you are. It's a great way to learn something new every day. Human beings would be well advised to make a note of that.

Newtail #2: Window dressing

In keeping with my weak promise to showcase one new blog once in a while, here's my Newtail for the time being: It's Kristy Burst's 'View from my window'. Instead of leaving it at that, let me tell you why a blog like that is a good idea. It's about other people. When something is less about you, it will become popular. (After that, it can become all about you.) Stick with that insight for a while. Assuming it is some kind of insight. Or maybe it's just an epiphany. Ah well.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Font of knowledge

A font says a lot about your brand. Be very, very careful while choosing it. I was struck by this epiphany when I chanced upon a campaign for CNN. It had different words written in the 'CNN font' and said CNN, without saying it. That's how powerful a tool of communication a font is. It's the simplest of visuals in words. Please repeat after me: A font can speak for your brand without saying a word about it.

Lewis carol

Forget the unforgettable writing, but isn't the cover of Michael Lewis' latest book a visual masterpiece. If you know how the Gridiron works, you'll get what I mean. And even if you don't, I'm sure you'll enjoy the book. It's written in a style all advertising should be written in: accessible enough to make something you're not particularly interested in, engaging. Very. Buy the book. And tell me if I'm wrong.

If you can mint words, you can mint names

Along the way, you might even mint some money. Some people consider the creator of The Simpsons to be the greatest word minter of all time. (I wonder whether he ever considered a career in advertising.) Study the art of creating neologisms, and you'll be schooling yourself in the hidden art of brand-naming. Of course, you mustn't for a moment assume building a brand is as easy as coming up with a nelogism. But coming up with a good brand name is a huge step in the right direction. Assignment for the days: Come up with one neologism per day. I won't ask you to head down to the Wordmint for lessons. Then again, you wouldn't lose much if you did.

Everyone is the world's best copywriter

Think about it. The best copywriters in the world possess that special ability to make the most complex things appear simple as hell to us. The best advertising is that which allows us to see something in all its simple glory. The best ideas in the world are simple distillations. When you see the best ads in the world, you think to yourself "Wow! That's so obvious. Why didn't I think of it?" That's probably why so many clients think they know how to write better advertising. When somebody shows you how to, it's always seems so simple to. Unfortunately, the hardest thing to learn is simple.

Why the best place to be in advertising is India

When you have a combination of high growth rates and a free market running rampant, advertisers will have a heyday. Why so? Because the advertising business thrives not just on optimism, but dreams of optimism. Nothing epitomises the India of now more than her dreams. After so, so many years of seeing dream after dream after dream after Independence come to nought, the greedy Indian consumer is gobbling up every dream in sight. So if you want to be in advertising, be in India.

Cases in point #2: Religion

Which is arguably the world's biggest brand? No, think again. No, think again. Good God, it's so obvious. That's right. What makes religion the most enduring brand in the world? For an instructive journey into and a passionate offence on religion, do read devil's advocate and engaging scientist Richard Dawkins' books A Devil's Chaplain and Dawkins' God. In them, he talks about memes and how religion is one of the most powerful memes to have afflicted the human mind. Understand how religion has spread, reflect and then apply the very same techniques to branding. Speaking of which, also take the time out to read The Selfish Gene.

Pointedly speaking, it's all about the security humans find in belonging. See what I mean about branding? You will.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

The free will not

I was reading a post on the Dilbert Blog about whether free will exists and here's where my synapses took me. People say advertising is an example, a tool, an enabler a (insert choice word here) of freedom of choice, but is it? Doesn't advertising compel you to buy the things that are available? Doesn't it sell you the illusion of free will? Advertising sells dreams. And as much as we'd like to believe dreams free us, I think they bind us. Feel free to share your thoughts. Freely.

Recycled idea

Not much more to say apart from the fact that it's a great idea to make belts from recycled bicycle tyres. Why didn't somebody in India think of this? Enough said. What say?

Talk provoking

The Godin says: We would never settle for mechanical devices that work as poorly as our language does. Or do we? Can you think of machines that work as poorly as our language does? I can think of quite a few. On second thoughts, I can't. In other words, if you're writing to sell, make sure it's not ambiguous. Selling is a kind of instruction manual and you'd never follow instructions that were ambiguously worded. Unless it's your boss barking them.

Teaser shampaigns

I find myself in a market that's in love with teaser campaigns. And that's why I'm forced to ask myself this question: How effective are teaser campaigns? Don't you think they're a waste of money? Isn't a teaser campaign not much more than an arrogant advertiser's view that people are going to spend more than a second wondering what this amazing brand that's about to reveal itself in all it's shilly glory is? I think teaser campaigns work only when they're thought-through as much more than just plain teasers. The best teaser campaign is a thought-provoking advertising campaign. What's so great about teaser campaigns. I don't know. Tell me, do you?

Name call #4: Mad Dogs & Englishmen

Why is MD&E a good brand name? Because it can be written as MD&E. A good brand name should offer itself to a decent abbreviation, also. At least that's what I think. What a good abbreviation allows you to do is come up with a long brand name. What a long brand name allows you to do is not be limited by a short brand name. The good thing about a short brand name is that it's...well, short. But, sometimes, you don't want to sell yourself short. And that's why you go for a name like Mad Dogs & Englishmen. A good brand name MD&E most certainly is. In fact, it's so good that it has outlived itself. See what I mean.

Cases in point #1: James Bond

What is it about 007 that makes it one of the most enduring brands of this century? Let's see. It tells a jolly good story. It's exciting. It doesn't make people think too much. It's instant gratification. If you want to learn a thing or two about brand-building, study James Bond. Needless to say, it'll be the best class you'll ever take. So here's the recipe: Pretty people, fast cars, exotic locales, have a solid formula, make it fantastic, make it believable. Repeat. Don't overthink. And yes, you need a good tagline. What do you think?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The end of advertising

I'm reading a book by Tom Himpe called Advertising is dead. Long live Advertising. in which he says the future of advertising lies in fusion cuisine. What he's saying sounds yummy to me. Unfortunately, what he's saying is also going to be a bit hard to digest; but then, most new things are. Here's hoping people will stop turning to 'fast food' advertising and move towards a kind of advertising that's a more creative mix of multiple elements. If advertising agencies keep giving clients quick and dirty solutions for their communications problems, like TV commercials, double spread ads, full page splashes and more of the same old formula, they're going to die. Like advertising.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Soft rocks

Livingstones, a French company, sells cushions that look like rocks. Now that's what you call unusual thinking. The next time you have to come up with an idea, try taking things from two ends of the spectrum and putting them together. You might just end up discovering that 'A' and 'Z' are next to each other. Think about it.

Do nothing farming

I took that from Masanobu Fukoka, the father of a revolutionary kind of organic farming, to illustrate an important point that escapes most people. Instead of spending all your time doing something and trying to convince yourselves that you are doing something, sometimes, it makes a lot of sense to simply observe people doing things. It's amazing the kind of ideas you can end up harvesting from this kind of farming. Account Planners, thinkers and other un-thinkers would be well advised to make a note of it.

Name call #3: Zune

I've been thinking about brand names. Makes sense, after all, that's what brand names are supposed to make you do. Well, not exactly think about them, but remember them. When I think of Zune, more than a few negatives spring to mind. There's more than one way to say it. It's got a sleepy feeling about it. It's not as easy to pronounce as it's biggest competitor. And it's from Microsoft. As it is, Zune has picked a very tall mountain to climb, the least J. Allard and his team could have done was come up with a better name. On naming matters, the I-Pod wins hands down. It remains to be seen whether the product delivers what the name Zune doesn't.

Idea v/s Idea

How do you go and sell a really adventurous idea to a client? No, you don't ram it down his/her throat. You make the idea you're in love with sound reasonable, conservative and safe by coming up with another idea that's even more radical. When the client sees the relatively impractical idea, he/she will find the idea you love and thought hard-to-sell, easy to buy into. Got this bit of inspired thought from a chat with Steve Manning I got to via a blog on naming matters called Brandnama. And that's my Newtail blog of the week.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Old concept? Newtail

While surfing the blogosphere, I came across an interesting new concept. Okay, it's not a new concept, but the way I see it every new concept is a repackaged old concept. By that stretch of illogic, it's a new concept. Glad we got that settled. So, what is it? It's word of mouth in a new bottle. It's newtailing and here's how it unravels: Every now and then you flag a blog to your readers that you feel hasn't got the attention it deserves. Let the blogosphere do the rest. Where did we get the idea for this unusual piece of online marketing from? Zigzackly. Who got it from Confused of Calcutta. Who got it from a penchant for new-naming old ideas.

Why the term Newtail? So it gets a bit of equity from the long tail of Chris Anderson's Long Tail.

Briefly speaking: UAE National Day & Etisalat

You're in a country where 75% of the people are expatriates. Expatriates don't care about National Day. What's more, it's not even a holiday. Doing a campaign for National Day in a market such as this one is a difficult exercise. No, doing a campaign is not a difficult exercise, but doing a good campaign certainly is. You can't upset anyone and you've gotta be interesting. Well, you don't have to be interesting but it helps. After all, what's the point in doing an ad if it's not going to be interesting? For billings. Now, now, that's precisely the kind of unthinking we Planners are trying to get away from. And on that challenging note, here's my one line brief for Etisalat's initiative on UAE's National Day: Hello UAE.

The best ads are not ads

Jonathan Rigby from Love Creative poses an interesting question. He asks nobody in particular, which also means everybody, what does an ad look like? Well, if you ask me, a great ad doesn't look like an ad. An ad that looks like an ad is as ineffective as research that reeks of research. To sell, you've got to first disarm. Then again, an ad that doesn't look like an ad is likely to get lost. So what does an ad look like? Put simply, it better not look like any ole ad.

Interestingly enough, Nintendo stepped in and asked to re-shoot the ads for Wii and make them look less like documentary and more like ads. Hmm.

What does Milan Kundera have to do with Advertising?

Nothing. And everything. I'm reading 'laughable loves', a collection of short stories on love by Milan Kundera. It's a lovely book and it prompts me to do a quick post on the importance of being an ecelectic reader to be a good advertising person. Most of the readers I've met in advertising happen to be people from the creative side of things. Rarely have I met a good Account Planner who's one-dimensional. Heck, rarely have I met a good advertising person who doesn't interest himself/herself in many things.

If you want to be in advertising, you must be into a lot of things. Advertising is not about advertising. It's about life. Wannabe Account Planners/Client Servicing people would be well advised to make a note of it.

Going Zune!

Does Microsoft really think people are going to forget who the people behind Zune are? Zune is being plugged as an independent brand, minus the baggage that comes from being associated with the House of Microsoft. I don't think that's such a good move. The one thing Microsoft has going for it is brand Microsoft. If Zune turns out to be a great product, which I suspect it is, Microsoft won't look so smart trying to disassociate itself from it. Agreed, a few people might have stayed away from Zune because of the Microsoft connection, but being afraid of being Microsoft is not a sign of very smart thinking.

Zune is a new generation product and in line with J. Allard and his team's search for the next big thing. Microsoft should have stuck with it. My one line brief for J. Allard: Get away from Windows. Stay with Microsoft. If you don't believe in yourself, why should people believe in you?

Searching for sense in research

Sometime blogger and oftentime friend Anantha sends this nugget from Überplanner Russell Davis' blog to me to mull over. It's about research and it goes like this: "if you want to study a river you don't take out a bucketful of water and stare at it on the shore. A river is not its water, and by taking the water out of the river, you lose the essential quality of river, which is its motion, its activity, its flow."

The next time you try to extrapolate sense from a sample size, think about it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Briefly speaking: The Emirates Foundation

Another public service campaign. Another attempt to penetrate the cynical exterior of humanity and touch the core of the inhuman being. Let's face it, people are selfish. How do you talk to people who think about themselves above all else, and everyone else? You encourage them to think about themselves. You give them yet another way to feel good about themselves. The Emirates Foundation wants to get more people across the UAE to volunteer their free time to help the aged, the orphans, the handicapped and the helpless. My one line brief to make people help these helpless people: The helpless can help you.

Name call #2: Du

The Godin has talked more than a few times about the principles of naming. Keeping those priniciples in mind, I believe Du is a name that works. It's short. It's sweet. It's friendly. It's easy to pronounce. It has the legs for creative people to run with. It's cool. It's Dubai. It's a lot of things a telecom company should be. For those who don't know what Du is, you will. It's the Government of Dubai's telecom company. And it's in hot on Etisalat's heels. What do you think about Du? Think about it.

Briefly speaking: ADDF for life

Yay! Another public service campaign to crack. Yawn. Another public service campaign to crack. How does one bring life to the done to death public service communication scene? As always, creatively. The job is to talk about the Abu Dhabi Development Fund (ADDF) and tell people around the world how much the ADDF is doing for people around the developing world. My one line brief to communicate what ADDF is all about: The ADDF - Bringing life, back to life.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Alternative reality

Why do creative people hate doing alternatives? I think it's because they're lazy. Period. I also think it's because Client servicing people don't know how to ask for alternatives nicely. As a result, often, a request for alternatives is taken by creative people to be a life-threatening slight of their abilities. Understand this, you have to be sensitive when you ask for alternatives. You also must have a very good reason for doing so. The best reason I can think of for the need for alternatives is, very simply, people are different. There have to be multiple ways of approaching anything. Besides, there is no single answer to any problem in the world. Furthermore, the state of the market doesn't afford us the luxury of doing away with alternatives. Of course, you cannot believe there is no best way to do it. But it certainly doesn't mean there isn't another way to do it.

Ask for alternatives. Nicely. Put your weight behind one route. Passionately. The benefits of this approach are too obvious to need enumeration. Needlessly.

Who hates Account Planners?

Client servicing people who don't think anough about briefs. Creative people who think the only people in the advertising business worth thinking about are creative people. And Account Planners who don't realise that their job is to make other people look good. A good Account Planner should strive to be a good Creative Director, for Client Servicing and for Creative. Which beggars the question: What on earth is the job of the Creative Director? Good question. Probably explains why most Creative Directors hate Account Planners. Sigh, it's a dirty, dirty job, but somebody has got to do it.

Come to think of it, Account Planning seems like the worst job in advertising. And that's precisely what makes it the best job in advertising. What's life without a little challenge?

Commercial take

The best commercials are those that find a way to be commercials without being commercials. Make the commercial entertaining and it will sell. An entertaining commercial might be hard to sell to a client, but it's the perfect way to sell a brand. Find a way to plug that into your presentation when you're trying to sell a good commercial. Ask the client about the commercials he/she remembers. There's a very good chance that every one of the commercials the client remembers will be, first, entertaining, and then commercial.

A commercial is just like a good movie - it must have a story with a message that's not rammed down the audience's throat. (Remember Munnabhai's Gandhigiri?) And that's my quick take on commercials.

Media matters

I've worked in a few advertising agencies and have been briefed more than a few times for creative work. In most of these briefings, the one thing I've found wanting, apart from a good brief, is a media person. As Überplanner Jon Steel says in his interview with Überplanner Russell Davies, the single most stupid thing to have happened in advertising in the last decade has been the separation of media from the advertising agency.

Good advertising is impossible without creative media choices. Next time you have to brief a creative team, consider asking for a media planner to be present in the process. I guarantee you it'll help the team come up with better work. And in case you're already doing it, we need to talk.

Picture this

Can an image be a creative brief? An image tells a story. A picture can be inspiring. A visual says a lot. I believe an image, in itself, cannot make for a good brief. An image is too vague a stimulus. A brief cannot be vague. An image is open to interpretation, which is also how creative people look at a brief. Hmm...the issue is debatable. It's an interesting one. I wonder how a creative team would react if they were given a brief that's an image? Would an image-brief work better with a headline or a caption to go with it? I'd argue yes. Note this beta: The next time you have to write a brief, try not writing it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Reality doesn't show

Were reality shows the new black because we were becoming an increasingly cynical race? Are reality shows the old black because we're becoming an increasingly cynical race? Planners would be well advised to make a note of it. If a Planner's job is to help create engaging advertising that also sells, he/she must keep thinking of ways to get behind the cynicism. In other words, think even harder about the brief to enable the creative people to think beyond.

What's with the Wii?

Couldn't Nintendo come up with another name for their new product? Maybe they didn't want to. The Godin's comment on the name set me thinking. Perhaps it's because they're not reaching out to hardcore gamers. Maybe the name Wii sounds really dumb because it is being compared with names for products that are targetted at hardcore gamers. Maybe we're just too used to macho, aggressive sounding names for gaming products. Maybe Nintendo is not targetting hardcore gamers. I suspect they're aiming for a larger market here. I suspect Nintendo is not looking to be another Playstation/Xbox. I think they're looking for the next Gameboy, another name that didn't speak to hardcore gamers and went on to be a huge success.

Agreed, Wii doesn't sound out the Übercool. I say Wii is for a larger, much larger, group of people who want to belong. Wii is for us, a people much more valuable than the Übercool. Übercool is a segment too small for Nintendo. Thus spake Übermaniam.

Briefly speaking: P2P recharge from Etisalat

You realise you're out of calling currency. You're too lazy to go down to the grocer and buy a recharge card. You don't have an internet connection to get an e-charge. Besides, you find the online world a bit daunting. You don't even have an extra card on you. What to do you? You go in for Etisalat's P2P recharge. It's as simple as borrowing a buck or two from a friend. My one line brief for this simpliservice from Etisalat: P2P recharge, the friendly recharge.

Briefly speaking: E-list from Etisalat

The challenge is to find something interesting to say about a product everyone offers. If you don't, your creative department will skewer you - they better. A Planner who takes his/her creative people for granted is a lazy Planner. A lazy Planner will not find anything inspiring to say in a brief for a campaign advertising a service from Etisalat that gives you discounted rates on calls and SMS messages to the 3 most frequently used numbers on your list, unless the Planner is creative. My one line brief for the E-list from Etisalat: The cheapest way to show you care. And since people find it easier to remember brands, the name we came up with for the service: E-list.

Milton Friedman, Father of Advertising

I've been asked by many people who the Father of Advertising is? Some say David Ogilvy. Others say Rosser Reeves. Many say Bill Bernbach. A few might go so far as to say it was Eve. I say since free markets and advertising are inextricably linked to each other, Milton Friedman is the Father of Advertising. Planners would be well advised to spend time understanding the Economics of Friedman and Economics. As those rare animals that can process large amounts of information efficiently, it's best they do it. It's a dirty job, but somebody in advertising has got to do it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A lite look at intelligence

When you're selling beer, raunch sells. Thank God someone decided otherwise. Miller Lite has always had a different spin on beer advertising. Clearly, there's a good Planner at work on this brand. Once again, they've gone off the beaten path to sell their beer. Somebody actually gave the creative people a brief for beer that said men who drink beer think about things other than women. (Even if they don't.) Now that's what I call out of the box thinking. I say Miller Lite has got something good going here. We'll have to wait and see. You can see the results of an unusually good brief for a beer at:

Briefly speaking: Sorouh Corporate

You are a property company. How do you communicate something about yourself that's vague, unconvincing and very hard to explain unless experienced over a period of time? You stay away from property. You stay away from advertising it conventionally. You stay away from pretty pictures, lifeless facilities and page-turning imagery. You don't think property. You turn to the customer. My one life brief for Sorouh corporate: When we look at property, we look at you.

The best Planners are not Planners

They're artists, farmers, scientists, law-makers, anyone with a curious mind, someone with the ability to process large amounts of information efficiently, sensitive souls, mavericks, passionate hobbyists, writers, malcontents, anarchists and different people with the ability to think out of the box. If you're looking for a good Account Planner, don't think advertising. Think out of the box. A good Planner is always someone who can. It's why I firmly believe all good Planners are creative.

Getting ahead with a leave-behind

A leave-behind is something you leave behind, in addition to a good impression, when you walk out of a pitch presentation. The one thing you mustn't leave behind is the work. No matter what, work should be presented to whoever it has to be shown to. Work should never be shown by people who haven't helped create it. And that's why you need a leave-behind. When you don't leave your work behind, you want to leave something behind for the prospects to remember you with. Always think of something that represents your agency and carry it with you to the pitch presentation. Walk out with your work. Leave behind the leave behind. And it better be good - like your work.

The best new business pitch

You want new business? Forget new business. The best new business pitch is the work you do for your existing clients. So the next time you're thinking of how to get new business, think about how much more you can do for your current clients. Work your ass off to do great work for your existing clients and you won't ever have to work to get new clients.

Recipe for a good presentation

1 portion real life
Make it personal
Sprinkle with anecdotes
Share stories generously
Lightly flavour with jargon
Simplify carefully
Prepare passionately
Taste with a mirror
Serves everyone

Friday, November 17, 2006

Briefing method

A lot of advertising fails because it has been written for the wrong person/audience. As a communicator, I'm always trying to get as close as possible to my target audience. It's hard. So, how do you get to know your target audience better? You become the person you are trying to talk to. It's called method thinking. Robert DeNiro and Marlon Brando are known for their method acting skills. Closer home, Aamir Khan is known to use method acting to get inside the head of his characters. Isn't that what good communicators must do?

The next time you have to write a brief, try and get one of your team members to act like the person you're trying to talk to. It'll help you understand the person better. That apart, it'll also make sure you don't think your target person is little more than a demographic.

Briefly speaking: Saraya

You are a UAE National. You belong to one of the richest countries in the world. You are not allowed to own an inch of your land. Until now. Sorouh Properties has been given large tracts of land in Abu Dhabi which they can sell to the public for personal use. How do you ensure you make the most of the land grab? You mix nationalism and insecurity. My one line brief for the Saraya land grab: Don't let anyone else own your country.

Briefly speaking: Abu Dhabi Municipality

People hate being told what to do. Often, they don't care for the things that belong to them. Worse, when your target audience is primarily expatriates, how do you make them care about something that doesn't belong to them? How do you pursuade people to keep their city clean? You use the carrot and carrot approach. You reward them for selfless acts. As popular scientist Richard Dawkins posits in his book The Selfish Gene, most selfless acts are driven by selfishness. My one line brief to help the Abu Dhabi Municipality clean up our act: Help your city shine, and we'll help you shine.

Briefly speaking: ADCB Investment Services

You can't say we'll grow your money. You can't say we'll secure your future. You can't say we'll give you returns. You can't say anything provocative. Your communication has to be more conservative than a disclaimer. Now write something inspiring enough to inspire creative to come up wth a campaign that'll make people come to you. Sometimes the briefs with the most challenges are the best briefs to write. They make you think. Harder. When you can't say anything, there's a very good chance you'll end up saying something interesting. My one line brief for ADCB investment services: When it comes to us, the last people you should talk to is us. Please talk to our customers.

Language matters

What do you do when you present good English copy and are told by the servicing team that most of the people the ad is targetted at won't understand it so why not go back to the drawing board and dumb it down a bit? You tell them to advertise to the people who won't understand it in the language these people are most comfortable with. And then, you tell them again. Because the people who told you nobody will understand it will not understand it.

It's amazing how many times an English copywriter is told that a line he/she has written for an audience that understands good English is not working because the target audience doesn't understand good English. In which case, why advertise to them in English? Umm, did I just repeat myself? Good. It's worth repeating.

A quick look at print advertising

I've said a bit about the 'less copy is more powerful' school of thinking that has swept advertising this decade. Most people say this has much to do with shortening attention spans and the overwhelming amount of information that is out there. I suspect it also has a bit to do with the falling levels of tangible product differentiation. As a result, with nothing new to say about your brand you're left with no option but to say little, packaged beautifully.

When time is short, people go for looks. Enough said.

Nostalgia bar one

Last night I was sitting with a fellow creative at this lovely big kitsch bar in Abu Dhabi called Zari Zardosi when he mentioned what a big fan of nostalgia he is. It's not the first time I've heard that. I've heard the same wistful comment/lament from many people.

It probably has a bit to do with age. If you happen to be above 30, chances are you're a fan of nostalgia. Speaking of the bar; it's all about kitsch and retro chic. I love it. A lot of people much younger than yours truly love it too. The decor harks back to a different time long gone by. Apart from cigarette smoke, there's a lot of nostalgia in the air.

The thing I find most striking about this is, if things are getting better in life, why are we such huge fans of nostalgia? Brief writers, are advised to make a note of it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Research matters

A lot of people pooh-pooh research, but I think that has much to do with the methodology followed by most researchers in the world. For research to be useful, it has to be conducted innovatively. Research that reeks of research is useless research. If you want to research something, do it in a manner that doesn't make it seem like research. Research has proved that all the research in the world will prove useless unless you find a disarming way to gather information.

When you tell the consumer he/she is being researched, you won't get insights, you'll only end up with research.

Life's a pitch

Contrary to popular belief, the work on the table is not the biggest reason agencies lose pitches.

A pitch is so much about the presentation. The greatest work in the world will not win you a pitch if you don't know how to present it. In the words of another Uberplanner Jon Steel, "In all of the successful pitches I have made, the most common reason given by a client for awarding their business to my agency was that in their opinion, we "wanted it more." They liked our ideas, but more than that they liked us, and they liked our passion for those ideas."

How can a Planner make a difference in a pitch situation? He can make sure the Account Management and the Creative teams are doing work they both believe in. The Planner is the glue which keeps them together. Once creative and client servicing are on the same page, you're invincible. Almost. Ah, now I see why Contract Advertising of old used to win most of its pitches. They were the one agency with an outstanding Account Planner in the mix.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A creative way to evaluate creative work

95% of my work has never seen light of day. For a long time, I thought the only word in the English dictionary was 'No'. Boy, am I happy for it. It has taught me how to be a good coach. So what if I'm not the best batsman in the world, I do know how to bring out the best in creative people. (I think.) And I put it all down to having worked for so many people who didn't know how to. Here's one aspect of how I try not to be like all those people. Here's an incomplete check-list on how to evaluate and help come up with good creative work. As always, when it comes to 'creative', there is no formula.

a. Start with a smile. Creative people hate to see a blank face.

b. Tell people what's right about it.

c. Continue by looking for more things that are right about it.

d. Don't tell people how you would have done.

e. Ask questions instead of coming up with answers.

f. Think of all the times your work has been rejected.

g. Go back to point 'f'.

h. Don't be flip about creative work. Creative work is hard work.

i. End with a smile. Creative people need all the encouragement they can get to go back to the drawing board.

A place for product placement

When few people have time for television and print advertising, it's time to look for another place to place those messages, subtly. Worldspace did it quite nicely in Lagey raho, Munnabhai Gandhigiri. That move, and movie, did more for Worldspace radio than any conventional advertising campaign might have been able to. It also told a few un-Gandhilike white lies along the way, but that's part of the advertising game, unfortunately. The case of Worldspace, most recently, tells me that it's time for agencies and clients to make a stronger pitch for product placement in the advertising game.

It's high time we all looked at the advertising game differently. It's time to look at product placement more closely.

Briefly speaking: 050 from Etisalat

When all you have to do is tell people that come December 15th, they'll need to dial (050) before dialling any Etisalat mobile number, what do you tell them? You tell them more.

You use it as an opportunity to build brand values. You use it as an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. You make (050) stand for everything you want to say about Etisalat. Maybe all you've been asked to do is inform people about a directive from the Telecom Regulatory Authority. I say, you do more. When you're spending over a million dollars on a campaign, you better make it work damn hard for you. Is this an example of what the Uberplanner Russell Davies calls overthinking? No, it's just smart thinking. My one line brief for the (050) exercise: (050) doesn't mean (050), it means Etisalat.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The language of a copywriter

Do you have to write in correct English to be an English copywriter? Does a brand that speaks incorrect English devalue itself? I don't know, but it's worth thinking about. There was a time when copywriting was all about flawless English. There was also a time when English was about flawless English. English, today, is not about flawless English; it's communicative English. Can a copywriter afford to get by without knowing the Queen's English? Judging by how irrelevant the Queen is, I suspect the answer is yes. The question then is, what kind of copywriter does the state of advertising today demand? With audiences so fragmented, languages so mixed up and clutter so contiguous, why bother with a copywriter who uses words like contiguous?

Don't get me wrong, it's not simple being a copywriter. Just get this right: A copywriter has to be simple. Unfortunately you can't be simple unless you know what's difficult. I guess you do need a copywriter who knows his English. Like I said, it's a tough one to call.

Campaign to end 'advertising campaigns'

Day in and day out I get briefs asking for advertising campaigns. Day in and day out I see people churning out double-spread ads, single page ads, television commercials, radio spots. What I don't see much of is out of the box thinking. So here's my question for the day: Does an advertising campaign have to be about conventional advertising? And here's my answer forever: No. Good advertising must cease to be about ads. Which reminds me, I have a request for a corporate campaign. Everyone on the team is thinking of doing lovely double-spread ads. I'm thinking of doing nothing of that sort. I'm going to suggest ambient advertising as the advertising campaign.

Note to myself: Don't expect it to go down the throat easily. Good. Path-breaking ideas are not supposed to.

Advertising for people

Our agency needs people. We need a recruitment ad. Naturally, people have been falling over each other to do these ads. I've seen a lot of ads. They're all very creative. And very dishonest. When it comes to recruitment ads, the one thing I never see is honesty. I think an honest recruitment ad would a most refreshing recruitment ad. An honest recruitment ad would also be a most creative ad. It takes a lot of balls to be honest. Just like it takes a lot of balls to be creative.

My one line ask to recruitment ads for self would be, how about some honesty? It could make for some very path-breaking communication. Honestly.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reading the brief

I often hear people from client servicing say what's the point in writing a brief when creative people don't read them? To which I say creative people don't read briefs because we people rarely writes briefs. Most of the time what Client Servicing does is compile briefs. Okay, let's assume for a moment that creative people don't have the decency to read a good brief and instead spend their time thinking up ideas that are way off-brief. Here's how you can use the creative instinct to serve the needs of the brand:

a. Don't, always, give written briefs.

b. Think of more interesting ways to communicate the brief.

c. Try experiential briefing.

d. Work with the creative team when you're trying to come up with the brief.

e. Ask the creative team to write the brief.

f. Think of other ways in which you can make the creative team part of the briefing process.

One more thing: Stop thinking of only 'creative' as creative and 'client servicing' as not creative. Gone are the days when you could get by in a career without being creative. We're in a time and age when everyone must to find a way to be creative. Just don't be 'creative' for the sake of being creative.

Briefly speaking: Primescapes from Sorouh

The brief was to sell blocks of land located in the heart of town. The brief was also to differentiate it from other Sorouh projects. All Sorouh projects talk about offering 'Life in Perfect balance'. The last thing we wanted was to come up with a central idea that talked about more 'Life in Perfect balance'. We realised what made this project special was that it was located in the heart of the city. The one line brief: Primescapes, find life in perfect balance without looking for it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Briefly speaking: Etisalat meets DSF

How do you find a connection between the world's largest shopping festival and the region's largest telecom provider? You think about it. What does the Dubai Shopping Festival do? It brings people together from different parts of the world to shop. What does Etisalat do? It brings people together from different parts of the world to talk. The one line brief: Etisalat and The Dubai Shopping Festival, bringing people together.

A quick case for Planners

A lot of advertising agencies have a lot of people they don't need. A lot of advertising agencies don't have the one person they do need: Account Planners. I've been waiting for Planning to come of age. I still am. For some odd reason, advertising agencies don't seem to have found much use for Planners. Maybe this will help. Here are a few reasons all good advertising agencies need a Planner in the mix:

a. Creative is too focussed on their egos and awards to salve their egos to worry too much about the left-brained side of creative thinking.

b. Creative thinking is not all right-brained thinking.

c. Client servicing is too worried about billings to spend too much time on thinking about thinking.

d. Agencies are full of people who only think with the right and left side of the brain only.

e. Good advertising is not about the two extremes. It's about finding balance. A Planner is the person who should be assigned that role.

f. The absence of a Planner is what results in creative people getting their jollies only out of doing scam advertising and Client servicing getting their jollies only out of increasing billings.

g. Advertising is more fun when you do real advertising, well. A Planner is the person who can help agencies achieve that.

h. I have already spoken about why a Planner can help improve the quality of creative briefs.

i. A Planner is not on anybody's side. Advertising agencies need a person like that. They're filled with people who are experts at polarising opinion.

There are plenty more reasons I can think of why advertising agencies need Planners. Unfortunately, I'm not a Planner. Like most people in the advertising agency business, I have deadlines to meet. I don't have much time to think about such things or for that matter most things. And that's precisely why we need Planners.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A few words on copy. Thankfully.

Is it just my imagination or has advertising gone increasingly visual? This isn't something new. The last five years or so, has been a golden age for 'visual driven' advertising. Everywhere I look, I see visual puns, I see visual tricks, I see visuals, visuals and more visuals. I also see very little copy. Copywriters seem to have stopped having fun with words. The puns have gone out of the window. The great lines are non-existent. Art Directors are becoming their own copywriters. Why? Is it because we're in an age where looks matter more? Where what you see is what you say? Where the advent of digital technology has turned us into a visual dependent people?

Where time is short and attention spans decreasing, fine copywriting will take the backseat. We want our information quickly. A visual does that better than lovingly crafted words. It isn't just my imagination. Copywriting is dead. Copysupporting rules.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In brief

Why are briefs so bad? Perhaps because few people know what a brief is. Some people think a brief is a data collection exercise. Other people think a brief is an excuse to come up with bad headlines, in the hope that these will inspire creative people to come up with better headlines. And still others think a brief is an excuse to spew jargon. Most people in advertising think a brief is a tool of paper used to assign jobs to a creative team.

I've come across few people who spend time thinking enough about briefs. Most Client Servicing people I know spend most of their time thinking about billings. Good on them. Unfortunately, somebody needs to think about briefs. The creative team cannot be given the job of coming up with ideas and thinking about briefs.

A brief is an idea-starter. It can be one word. It can be one line. It can be one page. It can be an experience. It can be a song. It can be picture. It can be a joke. It cannot be a mountain of data. It has to be a distillation of that mountain of data. A brief is what Account Management must give a Planner the freedom to come up with. Not because Account Management cannot come up with a brief, but because Account Management has more important things to do - like focus on billings.

Name call #1: Greetune

'Greetune' is a brand name for Etisalat's ringback tunes. I believe it's one of the best names I have come across for a ringback tone. As you're probably well aware, ringback tones are that thing your callers hear when they call you. They can be downloaded from the net and come in many varieties. They're usually songs from popular culture. When I had to come up with a campaign for ringback tones, one of the challenges I faced was finding a way to communicate what the product was without going into lines of explanations about it - like this. (After all, who has the time or the space for copy.) When I had to come up with a campaign for 'Greetunes', it was a cinch. The brand name described the service beautifully.

All this to say when you have to come up with a brand name for any service, try and think neologisms or compund words. They are new, memorable and familiar. And that, I believe, is the perfect recipe for a good brand name.

Tips on how to become a Creative Generalist from a Creative Generalist

a. Write a book on advertising.
b. Maintain a marketing blog.
c. Start a column in newspaper or a magazine on advertising.
d. Teach part-time in MBA institutes.
e. Pick small clients for free lance. And use them as case studies.
f. Spread the word to agencies that you can consult with them on a project basis. This way you don't burden them financially and you get to work with many agencies.
g. Once you've done this gig for a year, two paths open up for you - set up a brand consultancy with similar minds or join a big agency as a strategist.

Thank you Anantha. As you can see, there's a lot that goes into a Creative Generalist's head. So the next time you belittle your Planner, think again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Deadline headline

Deadline: That word all advertising people are haunted by. I've got a thing or two to add to the matter. In time, soon, I will. A little more on that a little later. For now, a deadline beckons.

A few quickies later: And we're back on air. I just finished an ad and a radio spot. It was yet another quickie. After so many years of doing quickies, I sometimes wonder whether less time is the best kind of time one needs to do a great ad. As a great adman I don't know, but do know of, used to say, "Given time, any fool can do a great ad. It takes a special fool to do a great ad in 24 hours." Okay, he didn't quite say exactly that, but the point is, do we really need loads of time to do a great ad? How much time is enough time? The human mind is a magical place. When pushed to deliver, it can deliver marvellous things, but when not pushed, it will wallow in mediocrity. All of which makes me wonder whether creative people ought to kvetch less about time. What creative people need is recovery time, not more time to sit on briefs.

Don't try this at home. Do try this at work. Give your creative people tight deadlines and give them time to chill out on things that have little to do with work. In other words, hold those briefs. Let your people have fun. And then, start a fire.

Radio in a spot

I've had radio on my mind. Why is it such a difficult medium to write for? From time immemorial, mankind has been receptive to aural stimulation. Why then, is radio such a neglected medium? Why do we see so much bad radio? Listening is, arguably, a better way to remember things. Why then do advertising agencies pay so much more attention to print and so little to radio? Television is, arguably, the most expensive medium to advertise on. Why then do advertising agencies pay so much more for television and so little attention to an immensely cost-effective, audio/visual medium like radio? And yes, I do believe radio is an audio/visual medium.

Briefly speaking: Sorouh

How do you advertise a real estate company that makes buildings just like every other real estate company. How do you advertising a real estate company that provides facilities just like every other real estate company does? How do you make a real estate brand stand out when it has little to stand on? You don't advertise it as a real estate company. You advertise it as a company that nurtures life. The one line brief: Sorouh, bringing life back to life.

What is 'Briefing Matters'?

Apart from underwear, which we all must wear, the brief is also an important accessory around which great advertising is built. It is the starting point for all great advertising campaigns. It is also the one thing, apart from lack of enough sex, that creative people love to kvetch endlessly about - and for good reason. Because without a good brief, there can be no great creative. Briefly speaking, how to get good creative is what this blog will be about.