Author: abhishakedas

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The LinkedIn Epidemic of unending, incomprehensible job titles.

Let’s get this straight, if your title doesn’t fit in four letters or less, you are just peacocking. And it’s not just you, it’s pretty much every second profile on my wall, and I’m sure yours as well. 

‘Senior Resident Idea Manager, Digital First Empowered Content Curator, Chief Bullshitter of Operations, buzzword, another buzzword, followed by some more’, is not a title. It’s borderline self fellatio. Because informing people about who you are is one thing, dumping a bucket of words that you either made up, or borrowed from somewhere isn’t. You aren’t fooling anyone. Everyone knows what you are doing is fluffing up your feathers to look important, which clearly means you are not. 

Can you imagine how it would be to meet someone who just went on and on and on about their personality disclaimer on the first meeting? Wouldn’t it be a dick move? Then why do that on LinkedIn? Do you think people who are actually important walk around with a mile long ID card hanging from their neck? Do you? Does your actual business card say Mentor, Entrepreneur, Digital Evangelist, Shepard in Chief, Advisor to blah blah, This company bought my first company, That brand visited my office thrice in a week etc etc, all at one go? I know you know who you are. And i want you to understand that no one is impressed, at least not the ones you want to be. They are rolling their eyes at how needy you sound, how insecure you are about your achievements and how desperate you sound when you HAVE to tell everyone every single thing in one breath, at the first go. It’s annoying, you are annoying. 

I can go on and on, keep taking pot shots at you all, mostly because it is fun. But that’s not why I’m here, and that’s not my intent. It’s simple, if your job title has a tendency to not fit itself in that one coloumn, and is spilling over; stop. Relook at what kind of vibe you want to put out. If you have used words that sound great but mean literally nothing; stop, think about whether your professional career should hide behind a vanity tag. If you have, for some reason, given yourself a nickname; well then I’m sorry, I cannot help you because posturing is something you’ve chosen as a life decision, and that’s where I’ll leave it. 

No one wants to work with someone who seems to be either lying, or is delusional. No one wants to hire someone who is clearly over promising, and will surely underdeliver. In short, keep it simple. If you are talented, if you are important, if you are someone others will find value in; they will find you, and will be increasingly impressed as they peel your layers. Give them a chance, give yourself a chance, and most importantly stop influencing the clearly gullible who will be inspired by your profile, and the infection will stop. 

So, sit down, be humble. Or at least stop over selling yourself, no one cares for a hard sell. 

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Advertising, or why Oglivy was right about the pianist in a whorehouse. 

​Marketing spoils advertising. In fact, marketing spoils everything. Marketing is the reason your newspaper is thicker in size and thinner in its concentration on actual news. Marketing is the reason you frequently change radio channels after every other song, just to avoid another annoying jingle. Marketing is the reason women need to take off their clothes, and men need to get on steriods. Marketing is the reason the streets are littered with hoardings blocking the sky, and marketing is the reason every social media platform today is a minefield of unwanted bot messages, targetted to you in person, without your permission. And that’s not just brand marketing, it’s politics too. It’s why people start TV channels, why they are still printing glossy magazines and why YouTube is the worst place for a content creator to be today. Because marketing is a cancer that spreads with no regard for freedom or the concept of decency. Aggressively too. Marketing is why people are demographics, and sentiments are mapped. Marketing is the honey trap, and you are the fly. 

Don’t believe me? Fine. Look around you, turn on any channel on TV, go watch any video on YouTube, flip through any magazine. It’s everywhere. It’s inescapable. And that’s by design. Look at what they are selling, how they are selling it, who they use it to sell it, and what language are they using. It’s all calculated. It’s all data, which could had been used to change things, but is instead used to keep things the same. Parity, is what they want. That is why all your celebrities are from marketing heavy verticals – Movies, TV, cricket. It’s either a mummfied Bachhan still clawing his way to sell you anything between cement to white goods, or an up & coming cricketer or some such. The ones who take a different route, is because that is also strategy. This is the reason there are terms like TRP, footfalls, viewcounts etc. These are quantifying metrics developed to breed mediocrity. The absurd rise of ‘planners’ is a testimony to that. 

Many big agencies, both advertising and PR, have used this tool under the guise of research. They have used data points, fake vox pop, staged consumer feedback to sell their utterly mediocre ideas. And the marketing manager has bought it. Because why innovate, when you can potate? Why let the creative sell creatively, when the planner can plan it for you. Why go to the corners of an idea when everyone feels safe in the middle. Why worry about morality, ethics, values, passion when you have excel sheets to circle jerk off to? That is the reason marketing is the worst thing ever, especially in India. It’s the antithesis of everything good. It’s the reason poitically correct exists, because the channels want those marketing dollars to run themselves, and those marketing dollars insist on pleasing everyone, there by pleasing none. It’s the reason risque is bad, vanilla is good. New is scary, so why go there. Just keep using the washed up, the trending, the morally corrupt, until the research numbers show otherwise, and then drop them like the steaming bag of you know what they are, and move on to the next teet. Sex sells is a marketing line. Conditions apply is a marketing line. Targetted marketing, social profiling, behaviour targetting are all marketing lines. And if you dont understand why those are horrifying, you have never worked in and around marketing. National pride is a marketing gimmick, politics is too. So is social trending, influencer marketing, and rural optimization. It’s the opposite of good, it’s the opposite of decent and it bothers me. It bothers me because today Penguin wont let young writers put their narrative in their language, it wont let artists express out of the lines of what they consider marketable, and that is the reason they will censor your movies, your songs, your content. Bcoz marketing has no balls, just like it has no spine, or shame. Marketers will use, manipulate, milk any issue if they could get away with it. That is why everyone of them panicked at the rise of social media, but they have that under control now too. Facebooks, Youtubes, Twitters of the world could give less of an eff about you or your freedom of speech if it meant they were losing on their advertisers. 

The problem is that wherever there are people, the salesmen will reach. And turn it into a market. Amazon is literally placing its bots in your home with alexa. There is no hiding, there is no running away. And I’ve been a part of this rut for almost sixteen years now. The rush is insane, the power you weild is palpable, and it’s very easy to forget morality when dealing with demographics & Target Audiences, that at the end of the day, what one is doing is mass manipulation on a daily, hourly basis. It took me a while to course correct and want to steer my ship towards pure creative. And thus it’s astonishing to me that David Ogilvy, saw this coming so long back when he said ‘Dont tell my mother i work in Advertising, the poor woman thinks i am a pianist at a whorehouse’. Marketing can really be that disgusting a place. 
Advertising is dead. Long live advertising.

Digital, or what used to be the future of advertising

I’ve been a relentless champion of ‘digital’ in India for the last decade. I’ve championed it, I’ve propagated it, I’ve held it in high regard. It was the place i found solace from chasing 100cc ads, and 10 sec promo films as a copywriter. The digital space was where i found long form content and the freedom to marry tech with creative. I attended 4D workshops, creative technologies workshops, i lectured in fair few in my later days. Digital head, i called myself. 

There was a romance in fighting for a cause, for a change. There was an unrelenting sense of pride in breaking down the walls of traditional advertising practices, to introduce clients and brands to new platforms that were direct to customer. There was an adrenalin rush in the instant feedback for your campaigns. Everything was instant. No more half yearly campaigns, it was all about weekly content buckets, about fast churning. Mo more static imagery, it was all about the narrative in real time motion. I wrote articles after articles praising the uprising of the new creative that was not bound by the dying old format of communication that was so devoid of the real pulse of the customer that it belonged in a museum. Just like the old twisted nostalgia of Mad men, of scotch drinking and elbow patches. 

Dont get me wrong, i am still in awe of the masters. But they were masters of their time, and their time was great when it was. Their skill sets were legendary for their time. But times were changing, and a ragtag group of people within the industry were rebelling. After all, that’s what being creative was about – rebellion. It was a very hard climb to come from 2% of the media budget, being clubbed with CRM, DM & BTL marketing; to a place where i could stand in the McD board room & tell them that ‘digital’ needed to be the majority of their marketing spends, and find the client in agreement. It was amazing to come from being thrown scraps to actually be the most prominent voice in the brand dialogue. It was amazing when it lasted. 

And i use past tense because the dream is dead. The old furniture has not been thrown out, and today that rut has spread beyond cure into what was once new. Today everyone with a smart phone and a Facebook account is a digital expert, without actually understanding what the basic DNA of digital was. Its change. Constant, relentless change. The platforms are and always will be tools. Digital is all encompassing, it’s NOT a segment of the marketing strategy, IT IS THE STRATEGY. If you put a social media link on your POS, your print ad, your TVC; they are all digital content. If a passerby clicks a picture of your poster on the road and rips you, thats digital content. But if you take your horribly made TV commercial, and shove it down people’s throats before they get to watch a video on YouTube, THAT IS NOT. And that’s the reason digital is dead. Because the old furniture was custom built for something else. They were made for campaigns that ran for a year. They were made and trained to tell their stories and sell their brands in 15secs or less. This is not their world, but no one told them. No one told them that the social media platforms dont matter, the inflating fanbase they bought off peddlers didnt matter, the conversations did. No one told them that running an ad before i saw the content i wanted to see is the opposite of what i wanted. No one told them this wasnt a place you hard sell, that this was a place people had total control, and when you take that away from the customer, they don’t like you much. 

Today there are people om top who know as much digital as my mom does, and she doesn’t know much. But these people take calls on the talent, the idea, the strategy of what they think is ‘digital’. That rut is why brands waste millions of dollars in misguided surefire failures. Whether it’s Kendall Jenner offering Pepsi, or literally any local campaign. There is no focus on innovation, because how will i explain Twitch to a 60yr old with technological insecurity? How will you? How will anyone make that person, who spent his or her entire life watching, selling and praising TV, to wrap their heads around influencer marketing that is not simply paid promotion dressed in fancy vocabulary. It’s not possible. Even i have gotten too old for digital. I really have. It’s a young person’s game, because it comes easy to them. Digital is dead, because the old guard never left their post; and now we are all screwed. An entire vertical, a very impressive new phase; it’s all gone to hell in a handbasket made out of that old furniture i was talking about. It’s trendspotting after the trend has already gone mainstream, it’s the unwavering dedication to riskless, idealess concepts that were already dead on arrival. Just like the prime of ‘digital’ in this country, which never got it’s due, because you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, and neither can you bring about real change if you are too scared or weak to clear the way for it. 

Digital is dead. Long live digital. 

Creative Entrepreneur: Or what it is like to self impose depression

I’ve never been a financial savvy guy. I’ve not had a keen eye on investments, or on numbers. Stockpiling money, or what the ‘smart’ people call financial robustness has always felt a bit vulgar, or selfish to put it mildly. For me its always been about people; passionate, brilliant, rebellious creative people. And they can come from any sphere of life. A chef who finds a way fight for ethical practices in an assembly line culture of fast food, a musician who is more bothered about originality instead of selling out as soon as possible, or a writer who chooses to use words as information instead of pandering. And I’ve associated with them, in work and in spirit. Because i truly believed that if five smart folks were locked in a room, they will find a way to break down the walls. In both literal and lateral terms. Its always been about the bigger, better ideas; about bigger, better brains. I truly believed that the world will see value of a great idea, and choose it over the good ones. That if i can somehow find a niche that is primed for mainstream, there will be people who will find the same enthusiasm, and share the spirit of eureka, and no, im not referring in any way the mediocre consumer goods brand. 

But I’ve realized this over the last few years that ideas don’t matter, honesty even less so. I’ve learned that people with investment capabilities can give less of an eff about passion if that was physically possible. They care about mad creative people even less so. In fact, I’ve been repeatedly told not to be honest, to never mention that im fiscally challenged or that i think money will come if the idea is great. I’ve been warned about how to dress, how to speak, when to keep quiet. I’ve been told not to come across as someone overtly passionate as to not scare off the oh so elusive VC, or seed funder or angel investor or whatever self-fellating names they want to be called as. Because they dont want passion, they dont want someone on fire, they dont want someone who is all heart. They don’t want beautifully crafted pitch decks, they dont want art, they dont want design. What they want is an excel sheet. They dont want genre bending, vertical creating ideas; they could give less of a bird’s hindside about them, irrespective of all the jargons they throw around. They want projections, numbers and lofty ideas boxed in to the smallest row & column. Logic is irrelevant, common sense is irrelevant, data is irrelevant. The only relevant thing is what they see, and how they see it. And that’s fine. That’s absolutely fine. No one cares about a mad man screaming about intangible, when the world is run and ruined by ‘smart’ people with financial skills & ‘smarter’ investment bankers. They know how to make money through the power of arithmetic, and thats all that matters. This percentage there, that percentage here; Boom! Profit. Its all a numbers game. So it’s fine. Turns out the only way a creative person can scratch their itch and go free is by saving up, using their own money and persevere to a place where the same numbers people find value in their endeavours and figure out a way to milk it to their benefit. 

If i sound extremely naive, stupid or completely impractical; that’s because i do realize that i am. But I’m not supposed to be otherwise, am i? No one expects Warren Buffet to ace cubism, or Tim Cook to write a sonnet. Then what is this insanity where a writer, an artist, a musician with a dream and a potentially brilliant idea also needs to have the financial wizadry of a retired banker? I call them wankers actually. Because through these fifteen odd years of me building brands, I’ve come across CEOs & CMOs & COOs who can’t hardly contain their smugness, or wait to instantly judge you when they realize that you arent savvy in their skills, that you actually value people more than money, or that there are actual ethical lines you wont cross. Oh the disdain; but its actually extremely motivating. It’s actually freeing to not see your team, yourself or your subordinates as more than headcounts that you need to bill the client on, to see them more than work hour multipliers, and as people. I have never understood this culture, of time sheets, of man hours; because it’s really NOT a system. A dedicated resource will work first and foremostly for themselves, and then for you. It’s immeasurable how long it takes to get to a better idea, a bigger concept. So boxing that person in to timesheets is in every way counterproductive. And the person who is happily complying to this system, is doing so because it helps them not do their job, since the quantifying nature of what they produce is quantity and not quality. 

I’m ranting and raving because it costs nothing to do so. Im sure there will be others who find themselves on the opposite end of my belief system. And thats absolutely fine. Im not here to change your opinion, i dont know you, so i could give a damn. This is to reach out to the fencesitters and the ones who disagree to turning talent into numbers. Because numbers are demeaning, numbers are void of emotions, numbers are a very biased way of looking at ideas. Mostly because numbers are quantified through the lens of today, the dreamers are always ahead of that. And finally, numbers cant predict, they can only assume; numbers cannot calculate what doesn’t exist, they can only tell you what’s already been done. I effing hate numbers, and people who box themseleves and demean others by turning people into nothing more than decimals. 

The idea is dead. Long live the idea. 

Twisted. 

Rinse me
Crush my bones
Twist my spine
Brother mine

Break in half
Across the middle
Release the ache
Play me fiddle

Too many ropes
Hope in hopes
Acid tongue
Squiggles & slopes

Trip & fall
Or not at all
Patterned wall
A cosmic crawl

Do crush my skull
Don’t make it dull
Ignore the white flag
On my hull.

 

आप कौन?

जाने दो
आज इसे बस जाने दो
सन्नाटे का ये बुखार
चढ़ता है, चढ़ जाने दो

रात को बिस्तर
खाली तो क्या
तकिये पे सर रख
मुझे अकेले बड़बड़ाने दो

जितने मिले, सब खोटे से
सबके अरमान छोटे से
हम मिले भी तो क्या ही मिले
होते होते होते से

शाम को टप टप
काम को टप टप
दिल की खाली होती टंकी
हम भरते रहे क्यों लोटे से

झूला, आँगन, चौखट छूटा
सर्दी छूटी, कम्बल छूटा
और छूट गया कंधे पर
रिश्ता एक ये टूटा फूटा

सब की फ़िक्र में लग लग के
अपनों से क्यों नाता टूटा
पराये तो फिर भी बेहतर थे
हमने खुद का आशियाँ लूटा

Old wooden ladder on a cement wall

an old wooden ladder is leaning up against a concrete wall