Flutter dear mind
Flutter and fly
From the rapidly narrowing streamMutter
Mutter all you want
In my ears, on my face
From a slow fading dream
Walk near as much u can
Find the highest u can fall
From what depths your fears scream
Exhale the poison fruit
Sticky roads stick ur wings
From here to gather steam
Burn them demons out
Let those ashes become your coat
From one to the other extreme.
I come to you in humility, knowing that I come from you. I come to you in awe of all the beautiful places you hold and the rich diverse culture you once helped achieve. But mostly, I come to you with a request. PLEASE LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.
I know you have your claim on me, but please stop suffocating me, stop trying to dress me up like you, stop telling me who I should hang out with, and what time I should be back home. I know that you think you know better, but please listen to my voice of reason and know that your tools don’t fit into our grooves anymore.
We are like those kids who came out of smaller towns and decided we won’t be what we left behind. We decided to be reach out to the world, something you never could, because you were too underexposed to know how the microphone works. But we do. We don’t just farm, we organic farm. We have twenty different kinds of coffee flavours to go with our hash brownies. We have crowded passports and glowing screens. Glowing screens that connect us to the world, and the world to us. Because we are equally important now, unlike your times when we were the beggars at the door of the World Bank. We don’t just use computers, we make them. We don’t just work in foreign companies anymore, we buy them. We have friends in other genders, and we have sex, lots of it, before, during and after; hetero, homo and bi. We are not asking you to do what we are doing, stop asking us to do what you think we should. We really don’t give a shit. So when you stand up and tell us that it was our fault you raped us, or that we should not look, live and breathe global, you are not convincing us to step back, you are aggravating us to pace faster, in a direction away from you. And BTW, you are behaving like that old illiterate neighbour who even you hated when you were young.
Young, it seems you have forgotten how it is like to be young. Because being young means learning, changing with the times, trying on new things to see what fits better. Youth is about dreaming, about being attractive and be attracted. It’s about breaking away and moving forward; going out, not sitting in. It’s about possibilities and equal opportunities. It is about looking at others and taking in what feels right. It is about being free and understand everyone’s need to be so. It is about realizing how important it is to be respectful of personal space, and to have a voice.
And lastly, you will have to stop forcing yourself on us. Mentally and physically. You will have to stop telling us what to wear, you will have to keep your hands away from us, you will have to stop ruining our parties, you will have to stop peeping in whenever you want, you will have to stop shoving the culture dick down our throats, and lastly, you will have to listen when we say NO. Especially when our girls say NO. They mean it, and we mean it. But it seems you have completely forgotten how to be a gentleman. Because if girls are afraid of you, every woman around you feels threatened, then you are nothing more than a social embarrassment.
See, we are used to girls, they are in our schools, colleges, workplaces, malls; literally everywhere that we are. And they are there to be wooed, not scared away; they are to be spoken to, not screamed at; to be admired, not annihilated, they are to be shared voices with, not gag. I don’t know how justify what you are doing. I don’t know why is it that you can’t keep your genitals, your tongue and your eyeballs to yourself every time you see a female, no matter what the age. And I really don’t know why you are opening your mouth at the time when you should use your brain, and SHUT THE FUCK UP. Because every time you let that trap of yours open, you are falling down a bit more in our eyes. So whether you say it was chowmein, or western culture, or say it was our fault that we got raped, or that the clothes our girls wear lead you on; what you are saying to us is that you really are not willing to change, and that our ties are at an end. Trust me, we have no issues walking away, NONE.WHAT.SO.EVER.
I know you are scared that you will be deemed redundant in this world sooner than you expected. That is why you are holding on to whatever shred of past is left with you, something you think validates your existence, like an addict to the drug. I also know that you really don’t get us at all, so stop pretending that know the solution; you cant help the cause till the time you realize that the problem is YOU. Mostly, know one thing, you are old and we are young, we WILL inherit you, and when we do, we will make sure we correct your mistakes. So if you still want to be part of our system, stop acting like a sickness. And for god’s sake, stop raping us of our freedom.
Journeys are always symbolic. Sometimes we travel physically to cover emotional distances, and sometimes we walk away in our minds to set our hearts free. Whatever the reasons be, we are all travelling, all of the time. Either towards or away from something, but we are all passengers in this journey to find ourselves, and our pieces. This is such a story. Of three tiny specks of sand, who took on a journey not knowing where they will end up, or who they will end up being.
When I look back at life, it seems that everything has a way of sorting itself out, that everything happened for the best. But that’s the beauty of nostalgia, isn’t it? To make everything seems alright, colourful and nice. For example, our childhood.
When we were kids, most of us wanted to grow up, and fast. Not because of anything else, but because being a kid just plain sucked. We wanted to dress better, have a career, walk-in walk-out any time any hour, take calls on life, smoke without fear, and drink with social acceptance. We forever wanted to get out of childhood as soon as possible.
There was no money, no power, no freedom to do the stuff we actually wanted to do and definitely no sex. On top of that, there was a constant running routine of school, homework, peer pressure, puberty and expectations from the parents. We hated waking up in the morning, hated doing homework, hated having a ban on TV during exams, and to the least detested the idea of getting the bag ready according to the time-table of the next day. Ah! It all comes screaming back, isn’t it?
The only saving grace was the fact that you had your friends, who would agree to the fact that life sucked big time. Nothing has changed still. You still wake up grudgingly, get dressed, leave for your job, and forever crib about it to your present friends. Only, now you have the examples of how great it was when you were a kid. Sun coloured days and shit. But the fact is, twenty years from now, when you will have no challenge left in your job, no youth, and no sex drive left in your mind. You will look back to today and say the same things. You will suddenly be talking to your equally menopausal friends about how exciting it was to do whatever shit you did at work. And how so much money can never count for the crowded bus-rides to your office. You will also criticize the way the people of the future are not remotely professional as you were. But the fact is, you will forget that you actually were looking forward, and working your ass off towards earning lots of money, so that you can leave your shitty job and ass of a boss for a better life. And also, that you spent most of the time in the office Facebook-ing, and reading stupid blogs like these. Trust me, you will forget. And conveniently so.
This very deception is what all these words are about. Nostalgia is a switch that makes every remotely nice incident in the past turn golden and beautiful. You know why? It’s because we ask it to. We want to believe that we had a good childhood, that our teachers and parents loved us dearly. We want to believe that we were great as professionals. We want to believe that we made a difference. That we had a good life. So that when we die, we don’t die in regret of a wasted life. We die thinking that we actually were happy.
And you know why I am writing this? I am writing this, so that I can come back here twenty years from now and know that all that is not true. But I have a lurking feeling that by then, I will forget why I wrote this in the first place 🙂
Most of us were rebels when we were teens. And most of the time it was without a cause. In retrospection, we can blame in on the hormones, and move on with our set life & lifestyles.
But what do you say when a guy, who’s speeding head-first towards mid-life crisis, suddenly turns rebel. A rebel against almost everything in his life. When he starts questioning every basic thread holding his ‘culture’ & ‘society’ together. When everything that he has worked for, for the last 7-8 years seems worthless & unimportant, and when he knows in his heart that it’s time for a radical shift in his personality, profession & outlook to life. What do you say to such a person who just can’t f**king care less.
That person is me. And I’m bloody pissed at everything right now. And I want a change. A radical change, and NOW. I want a dictator who can put things right in this country. I want a joint entrance exam for politicians to enter and run this country. I want quotas to be ‘Financial Status’ based & not ‘Caste’ based. I want hardliners to be shot dead, and I want me to be a part of the shooting squad. I want people to wake up to the RTI rule & start using their rights. I want men to start feeling scared of women and know what we have been doing to them for this long. I want cricket to give way, and people to honk less. I want people to give way to ambulances, and dogs to have a better life.
But more than that I want to get my life in control. To make a difference, and not just by making the logo bigger. I want to get all my good men together and set them free. I want to be able to be more than a corporate stooge. I want to do good work, not just hard labour, and I want to do it at my own time. I want to have a say over my own time, and get rid of imbeciles sitting on top of my head and dictating terms. I want to keep the writer alive and kill the man-hour counting revenue chasing idiot. I want to keep the child alive, and kill the man. I want to be curious and kill the smug know-it-all jackass who keeps talking in my ear all the bloody time.
And to achieve all of the above, I am shedding my baggage and moving on. I’m letting go of the fear of failure, getting over this comfort level of a ‘JOB’, mocking the ‘it should be like this’ culture. In the worldly sense, I’m all set to be an irresponsible bum. I don’t care anymore. I want my life back, the one that inspired me to paint all afternoon long and sit by the lake watching snakes play in the water alongwith small fishies. I want my sun-coloured days back. I am done being grown-up. I wanted it, I had it and today I know that it pretty much sucked big time.
Besides, what’s the point? It’s all the same everywhere. Buildings full of handicapped faces, suffocating, dying in handicapped spaces. So, that’s it. I want my voice back, so that I can scream out loud when I want. I want my legs back, so that I quit crawling and run out whenever I want. I want my eyes back, so that I see more than a cabin space and artificial lights. I want my soul back, so that I can talk to it once more. I want my balls back, so that I can start taking calls on my terms.
This life of corporate diligence and dexterity is not for me. I am going back to being rebel. I am going back to everything nice in my life. So if you want to join me, c’mon in boys, the water is just fine :)-
We all know that much ink has been spilled on this subject. Many of our great thinkers and creative directors have commented and worked over the years towards Indianising the industry. And they all have done a fantastic job. But unfortunately, the revolution has been a wee bit partial.
While creative guys like O&M’s Piyush Pandey have single handedly infused the desi way of communication and changed the way people looked at ads, there is a very important aspect of this business that the reformers have missed out on. The print ad.
Just flip through the pages of any magazine or tabloid, and you’ll see that most of the Indian print campaigns sport firang faces rather than Indian models. May it be fashion, automobiles, cellular services or cosmetics et al. They all seem to be victims of the proverbial colonial hangover.
It is really sad that even after almost six decades of independence we still continue to look up to the Caucasians for our brand building exercises. But it’s not the use of these foreign models, but the reason behind it that amazes me. If you thought that these fair skinned lads and lasses were handpicked for their professionalism or on-camera chemistry, you are highly mistaken. Most of the time, the sole purpose of their being on the glossy pages is that they make the Indian brands look international. Yes sir, that’s the big idea.
It’s actually simple. All you have to do is to come up with a foreign sounding brand name, get hold of a model coordinator for the newest import, shoot and Lo! You have a new international brand. This strategy comes very handy with the clients who assign insanely high prices for the products made in their Ludhiana based factories. Because even in this age of information boom, majority of customers have no clue whatsoever about the origin or the background of most brands. And we are doing a fantastic job of keeping them in dark.
So let’s think for a while. On one hand our TV commercials are screaming of Indian traditional values, family ties, urban Indian youth and progressing villages. On the other hand our magazines, newspapers, outdoors, direct marketing peripheries and other printed communications are mocking their multimedia half with everything firangi that they can put their hands on. What a grave contradiction, isn’t it?
So what is the reason for this paradox? I have no definitive answer. But I have theory. If you look at this scenario from a different perspective, you’ll see that it’s mostly the FMCG, Automobiles or White Goods brands that dominate the boob tube. These brands are most time than not – foreign. But in print, it’s retail, fashion, real estate and corporate/brand identity that rules the roost. These on the other hand are mainly desi.
This is a clear trend. The international brands are coming down to the people by Indianising their communication and bringing-in a local flavour to their brand’s appeal, whereas the Indian brands are faking it with a firang look to add a global touch to their business. And in between all this is the consumer who has no clue what we’re talking about.
So what is the end to this hogwash? Till when are we going to bear this fake identity? Will our brands ever come out of the shadows and face the audience just the way they are? They better do, because if they don’t, then it will only go on to prove that even if the Indian markets have matured, our homemade brands are still juvenile in their appeal. So as brand stewards and communication experts, let’s pull up our sleeves and drag our brands out of this hangover. Shall we?
(C) Abhishek Das
(The phone rang. We were informed that we had made it to the final three. It was time to take out the Cubans. Or was it?)
It was a marathon pitch. Many agencies were fighting for a piece of the pie. But now, it was time for the final battle. Time to burn some midnight oil. We were all elated.
Night before the D-day, as we were scrutinizing every inch of the layouts and proof checking even the finer prints, my boss came in and broke the news. Apparently, we were ten campaigns short from our nearest competitor. Agonizing as it was, we all knew that the last few days had taken their toll on us. And there was no point trying, because the best of our ideas were on paper, right in front of us. The ones that we had chosen over numerous others for the sheer reason that they were superior, both in terms of strategic and creative standards. Everything seemed to fit until ‘Ten more campaigns’ made us look insultingly inept. We all looked at each other with weary eyes, lit our smokes and went home.
That night, it got me thinking. Since when is the competence of an agency measured in numeric terms? What does it matter how many campaigns we present until we are doing justice to the brand value and client’s monies? Wasn’t this profession about quality and not quantity? Because if that’s not the case, then we are gradually turning into factories, and that ain’t good news.
Amazingly, when I discussed this issue with some of my friends in the industry, they didn’t seem very surprised. So evidently, our industry’s new acquired mantra was ‘abundance’, and I was still dwelling in the dark ages. It so happens, that every other agency is secretly trying to woo its clients by flooding their desks with bucketfuls of campaigns. The more the merrier.
But where is this leading us, as professionals and as creative individuals? What is the end result of this rat race? How do we know when to put our foot down? Because this funda is already ricocheting like crazy. Nowadays clients expect you to mass present by default. And we are obliging them by every means possible. Agencies are fighting each other not on the basis of good work but more work, and definitely, it’s not the clients who are to be blamed. It’s us, because we are the ones who’ve lost complete respect for our work.
We have to understand that we are spoiling our clients by giving them unnecessary options. They don’t need that. And we know it in our guts. Have we forgot that our salt is proven only through marvelous pieces of communication, not just a plethora of reckless layouts? I’m sure there are agencies that can actually come up with that many original campaigns at such short notices, every time, without resorting to recycling or revamping. But then, whom are we kidding?
So let’s think for a while. Are we unnecessary indulging more into mass and less into matter? Are we slow poisoning our own system? Are we giving away our own creative authority? We definitely are, and if this doesn’t stop this instance then the effects will be hazardous for the whole industry.
Why? It’s common sense! Take an example of 5 teams working on a project where each of them is briefed to create 1 mind-blowing campaign in the time frame instead of 10. This will give the teams room to think and thus help produce the best of them in the process. Because they won’t be panicking or running after unrealistic targets and thus wont land themselves into a mindless glut of mediocre campaigns. Because it is this glut that ails our business today.
To detoxify, this is what we should do. We should start giving your clients fewer but better options – you’ll love doing the good job and thus you are happy. The clients don’t get as confused when drowned & overpowered with innumerous campaigns, and choose the better ones out of the pack – It works for him (Since a good idea always does), so he’s happy. The bar is raised for others to follow; the bane of mediocrity is lifted – We all are happy.
Actually, it’s not that hard. And all we have to do is to curb our desires to impress the client through overwhelming number of campaigns and start concentrating more on quality. Let’s take a vow and put an end to this lunacy. Let’s start a revolution within us to salvage our profession. Let’s bring back the glory days. As for the client’s, let’s make them realize that we are not working for them, we are working with them. And trust me, in the long run; they will respect you for that. So let’s take a stand.
I know I have. To start with, the next morning we went ahead and presented the client with whatever we had instead of buying more time and reach the ’10 more campaigns’ mark. The presentation went well, and as far as the business is concerned, well, that’s another article in itself.
(C) Abhishek Das
I was at the brink of breakdown, when I was hit hard by the question – How mush is too mush?
Last two weeks have been grueling. To crunch the effort in numbers – precisely 117 scripts written, thousands thought. For a commended white goods client who has a taste for, you got right, MUSH. So, there I was, overlooking all the viable product attributes and benefits, consumer behavior traits and all, trying to make the audience melt through my heartwarming, tear-jerking 30-second stories. And not to forget the icing – a maudlin jingle to go along with it. Fifteen days and that many nights of overtly loving parents, excessively cute kids and dancing neighbours had made me nauseous and sick. This is when the lighting struck – How mush is too mush?
My client was undoubtedly influenced by the unending array of TVCs splashed on our boob tube in the recent times, all drenched in a similar tone. Created by the some of the most creative guys of our country’s advertising nexus, these ads seemed to sell everything with a weirdly monotonous voice – The voice of the heart (As my respected client had put it once). From FMGC products to automobiles, from electronics to financial services, even media for that matter of fact, have shared this stand. Every brand appears to have the same anthem, even the same tune. So how do you differentiate? Frankly, I don’t think you can. That day I almost mistook an energy company for a detergent and an AC for a NGO.
Being in a profession that virtually survives on the delicate balance of hyper-emotions and larger than life dreams, I’ve started to wonder that is this all we can do? Is mush our only weapon against the ever-changing conundrum that’s consumer behaviour? Because this wave doesn’t seem to mellow down. Because there seems to be an army of new-age admen and adwomen who seem to be walking the poignant path.
Parents, lovers and kids were always easy prey for the creative mind, but lately there have been additions. Indianism, old couples and underdogs have come up considerably in the chart along with even more kids. Remember a firang airlines making everyone say – Namaskar or a Yankee car manufacturer pitching for karwachauth? It doesn’t end at that. We seem to keep on repeating clichés and stereotypes over n’ over in every possible form.
For a test, just randomly watch ads for half an hour. What do you see? The ratio is so grave that ‘Sentiments’ win by an avalanche. Approximately eight out of ten ads have a similar storytelling, relative theme and almost same socio-segmentation. Take for example ‘A kid running to the parent’ visual. It stands for – A soap, an energy drink, few financial services, a car, another car, host of household durables, pharmaceuticals, foods, even a cellular service. Don’t even get me started on the oldies and fat man thingy. So my question still stands – ‘How much?’ One cannot help but think, that are we actually pumping in unnecessary emotional justifications for everything we sell? Are our brands and products so flaccid in their practical values that we constantly have to support them with the crèches of sentiments and melodrama?
Norman Douglas once said that – ‘You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements’. I know that we are very sensitive people, but does that mean that we don’t use our gray matter when we spend our monies? I think we do and do it pretty often too. Then why not quit on the feelings front & blow the expediency trumpet that’ll help breed a completely new generation of educated and aware consumers, than a crop of fickle impulsive buyers? That’ll cause market parity, you say? My answer – Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is for sure, it will create a mature market where the brands will have to testify themselves on the basis of realism rather than ‘Holier than thou’ grandeur. And as advertising gurus, honchos, gods, trainees, it’s our responsibility to make a nation of conscious audiences who can differentiate needs from desires, truth from hogwash, and look up to the advertising diaspora for knowledge and clarity, not candy coated delusions. Through this and only this can we achieve respect in the hearts of our viewers and win back our creative authourity (If you know what I mean).
Well, I’ve written enough and you’ve got better things to do, so I’ll leave you with a happy note that even though the verdict still eludes, I’m working on it.