A confederacy of dunces by Ravi Eshwar

I believe advertising awards are a pox. They strip us of all perspective. They have the buffoon vanity of nail salon technicians entering the Annual Podiatry Awards. (“And the award for best varnishing in the left pinkie category goes to…”) To advance this podiatric comparison, we in the ad business, are at best Commerce’s pedicurists. Sure, we can all drink the Kool Aid and profess to be the data-drenched insight-givers, the ideological partners of Big Business but really people, let’s jettison our folie de grandeur. It’s the puffery of pipsqueaks. Our area of influence relative to the surface area of Commerce is toenail-sized. Wake up and smell the acetone. Or the budgets, if you will. See, Business comes in to our salons, dusty and tired from its daylong march and puts its feet up, telling us it has 15 minutes before it takes its ten little piggies back to the market. And so our primary task is to scramble. To soak, scrub, slough the dead cells, smoothen the edges, lay on a fresh c…

Those were indeed the days

In the late 1990s, Ogilvy & Mather was by some distance the hottest agency in Bangalore. Though things have cooled off significantly since then, in those days it was very much 'the agency' to work at.
Every creative person in the city wanted a job at O&M, and that included me. As luck would have it, Ogilvy was desperately looking for a Junior Copywriter, which I quite fortunately happened to be in ample measure. And as fate would have it, two months, three interviews and competition from close to 60 other candidates later, I was hired to this pivotal position. 
It was June 1998, and I was officially Junior Copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather. I had been assigned to the IBM account. We were a very large team. In all there were four of us. Two writers - my boss and I. And 2 art directors of corresponding vintage.
I got all the work my boss didn't want to dirty his hands with. And that included direct mailers, posters, banners, standees, stickers and body copy for some of …

The Line King

It's a golden yellow liquid. A popular drink among Indian men. With an advertising tag line that makes you wonder why. 
"Mera No. 1"
Now I also wonder what might have led the ad agency down this odorous route. What insight could have emerged from the underwear of the Indian male that resulted in this wondrous positioning?
The medicinal qualities of what flows down under?
Now given the rather sensitive nature of the area under discussion, I'm sure I'm better off not knowing. I'm not a whisky drinker either. So I'll let this sleeping dog lie.

The Great Indian Card Trick

Twenty years ago I landed my first job in advertising. As a junior writer. Or so I thought. On my first day at work, I was introduced around by another junior writer. "Sub-junior" writer he stated emphatically, claiming credit for the three months he had over me. I thought that was funny.

My first unofficial designation never made it to the ad agency ranks, but let's take a look at what did.

Trainee Copywriter.

Junior Copywriter.


Senior Copywriter.

Creative Group Head.

Associate Creative Director.

Creative Director.

Senior Creative Director.

Associate Vice President & Senior Creative Director.

Executive Creative Director.

Senior Vice President & Executive Creative Director.

National Creative Director (North).

National Creative Director (South).

National Creative Director (East).

National Creative Director (West).

National Creative Director (2 directions).

National Creative Director (3 directions).

National Creative Director (all directions).

Chief Creative Officer.

And th…

Swalpa adjust madi.

Earlier this evening, the quiet of the night was shattered by the sounds of firecrackers going off. So I rushed to the window and saw beautiful patterns of light in motion against an ink black background. I glanced up at the clock and saw it was 9.30 pm. And as the decibel levels went higher and higher, my thoughts went to my sleeping 9-month-old. The church across the road was celebrating a day of some significance, and chose this obnoxiously loud manner to let the thickly populated residential neighbourhood know how happy they were.

It irked me that with a police station just 100 metres away, the neighbourhood was being robbed of its peace and quiet, and several toddlers of their much needed sleep.

Well in their defence, it's just a couple of days in the year, and surely I could 'adjust'. Well, why not.

Then I started counting the number of occasions on which I, a common citizen, was inconvenienced. 

Politician visits, road repair, bandhs, festival celebrations that spill ou…

Whose brand are they building anyway?

It was early in my advertising years. I was at an interview with a celebrated Creative Director at one of the big agencies in Bangalore. Eager as I was to put my best foot forward, I started talking him through the ads. He stopped me and told me something I still remember. "You won't be there to explain the ad to every reader of a newspaper." Things have changed much since then. We now have social media. Ads are created, and if you haven't caught it on TV or in the papers, there is the grand release on Facebook. 
Now there's absolutely nothing wrong in putting your work out on Facebook for people to see, and all would be well if it stopped there.
But no.
The talking up begins shortly thereafter. The ad is explained. The “idea” is put on a pedestal. It's called a game changer. The agency chief pats the team on their backs. The team gushes over the big man's attention, but insist they couldn't have done it without their ACD, SCD, ECD and OCD, not to mention…

The big agency talent hunt

Today we look at hiring methods in big advertising agencies. First stop, the account management department.

In the not so recent past, account management was by and large populated by people with a management degree. Now that didn't guarantee any level of management expertise, but there was an above average chance of the occurrence of above average intelligence.

Then one day, clients started to cut the remuneration they paid the ad agency. The 15% agency commission was the first to go. It went down and down and then disappeared altogether. This obviously impacted ad agencies, where starting salaries started to compare with pocket money and increments became a five year plan. 

So the formally dressed fraternity started to look for greener pastures. Some of them found their way into client offices from where they realised they could pay back the agency for all the hard times they'd endured. Others who weren't as fortunate found a more elevated perch for themselves at the agency…