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?