Veda's Blog:

Veda's Blog: How about a nice big cup of coherent?
By vedashree khambete on 09-Jun-11, 09:44 in Advertising |

I don’t know why it happens, but it seems that the more time people spend in advertising, the more they begin to oppose the idea of clarity. Exceptions exist, of course (what, you think I’m stupid? I still want to work in this industry tomorrow), but they aren’t as common as one would like.

See, when you’re a junior writer (or visualiser or account executive or planner), you usually use words people can understand. Not always, especially if you’re an English Lit graduate, but most of the times. Short words (four letters, starts with f) or longish words (abbr. PPT, often occurs in dark conference rooms), but words that for most part everybody in the room will understand.

Then a few years down the line, something weird happens.

Planners and VPs begin to feel the need to use jargon in everyday conversation. Like ‘modularize’ or ‘synergistic’. What the hell is ‘synergistic’? Are we really saying that the client, an Ahmedabad-based wholesale industrial glass manufacturer, knows or cares about something that’s ‘synergistic’? Does anybody else in the room, for that matter, except the poor sod operating the PPT?

No, sir, they do not.

They don’t give a tiny rat’s ass about all the abbreviations either. Nobody is going to wait for the CTA till EOD or give you an ETA for the ISD. They can’t, see? Because the whole the time the only thought in their head is WTF.

And we creatives are no better, by the way.

“Our campaign is going to revolutionarize the category and create a comfortable brand space in the consumer’s mind because its essence lies in its seamless blend of East-West aesthetics, which completely relate to our core values and help us adopt a holistic approach to our communication so that we can really go after the demographics in terms of need-based want-fulfillment.”

Oh, for shame. To what MBA demon did you sell your soul to?

Look, I completely understand that a little bullshit goes a long way in selling campaigns. Hell, I can’t talk, I’ve done it myself. All I’m saying is, let the bullshit be cloaked in words you don’t have to look up a management manual for.

Planners, servicing guys: if not your presentations to the client, then keep at least your briefing clear. Avoid the use of ‘functionalities’. And please, for the love of god, do NOT use ‘macro’ as a prefix for anything. Unless you want the creative team to sit for a month on the brief and then come up with something that has no relevance to the product, the brand or sanity.

Likewise, creative people: sell your idea, your campaign, without resorting to ridiculous words that pretend to be strategy, but are secretly copy-pasted from thesaurus.com. It’s serving no purpose and honestly, clients are not that dumb. Also, just so you know, talking about ‘feminine evolution’ in a conversation about shampoo is just plain wrong and has the added bonus of making you look like a complete twat.

Bottomline: this madness needs to stop. Otherwise, we’ll simply keep on having to schedule more face- time to extemporize on the dynamics and paradigm-shifts that energise our critical need to disambiguate our macro-content for our core competencies.

Whatever that means.

Vedashree Khambete is an ACD with Mudra, a writer at heart and a coffee-addict by vocation.

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Veda’s Blog: So Long And Thanks For All The S**T
By vedashree khambete on 12-May-11, 12:19 in Advertising |

General knowledge question: What’s the most blissful period of an advertising professional’s life?

That afterglow of a Cannes win, you’re thinking. Maybe those two and a quarter days of annual leave you manage to wrangle. The day just after a pitch. The day just after a brand launch. The day just after the Friday night spent binging at Ambience (the bar, I meant the bar, I swear).

Yeah, not really.

The correct answer lies in two simple, everyday words which collectively create a strange sort of magic. One of them is ‘period’. The other is ‘notice’.

Together, they spell the thirty day phase between putting in your papers and waving a merry goodbye to the agency you’ve called home for the past few years / months/ weeks/ days.

Paid leave, some call it. These are usually the people who spend their last month in an agency sauntering in at noon and strolling out at 4:00 pm, with a smirk on their faces and a spring in their step. They crib about their bosses, their brands and the agency to anyone who’ll listen. Because they don’t care anymore.

Does that make them carefree? Sure. Suicidal? Also.

Because like it or not, we ad guys and gals talk. A lot. About new campaigns and old warhorses, about scam ads and shitty clients, about Piyush Pandey’s CTC and whether increments will be late this year.

And about people who’re real bitches to work with.

Slackers, fakers, idea-stealers, whiners, retards and those who’re a little… weird. We talk about all of you. To our team-mates and our classmates and people from other agencies we occasionally drink with and sometimes, the barman at Toto’s.

So if you thought it was really cool the way you stormed into your boss’s office, let loose a string of expletives and threw a piece of paper on his face that said, “I quit, bitch”, boy, have you got it wrong.

Because if you’ve grown up in India, you must be familiar with the theory of karma: what goes around, comes around to bite you in the ass.

Say after you join in the new place (there’s always a new place, nobody believes the “I’m taking a break for a few months” line anymore), you spend some quality time there, doing decent work and having fun in general. Then your boss quits and his boss hires a creative hotshot in his place – “You’ve heard of him, right? I think you used to report to him in your last agency”.

Or, you really do take a break and apply to a few places in that time. One by one, they all call their friends in the industry for references and end up speaking to, you guessed it, your ex-boss. Or his best friend. Or his girlfriend. Or his wife. Or his sister. Or the guy who’s desperate to get into his good books. And then, all of a sudden, NOBODY is looking for a copywriter with four years of experience and 3 D&AD silvers to his name.

Funny old place, advertising. Tinier than a flea’s fingertip with egos big enough to form a protective covering over China. And petty too, let’s not forget. But that’s why we all fit in so nicely together. So that’s okay.

The point being, if you’re planning to leave, do it with a little dignity. And once the ink has dried on your resignation letter, curb all those stray endorphins. Yes, yes, you’re thrilled to bits that you’re finally out of *insert appropriate simile to Hell* and your heart’s doing somersaults that would put Prabhudeva to shame. Nobody needs to know. Come to work on time, do whatever work they make you and leave without bursting into a sarcastic song. People don’t like drama queens, especially if they’ve just got a pay hike and the chance to work on Nike worldwide.

And don’t assume that you’re bidding goodbye to these people, this agency, forever. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you’ll never see them again. Because there are no absolutes in this industry, see. ‘Forever’ doesn’t last forever. And ‘never’ never really had a chance.

Vedashree Khambete is an ACD with Mudra, a writer at heart and a coffee-addict by vocation.

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Veda's Blog: Buy It Because Shah Rukh Says So
By vedashree khambete on 15-Apr-11, 11:50 in Advertising |

Since the dawn of time, or the 1980s as my generation puts it, we’ve had famous faces help us pawn products. Sri Devi for Lux, Colleen Khan for Pond’s, Vinod Khanna for Cinthol – all staring out of billboards and TV screens and newspapers, urging us to buy this particular cream or soap or whatever.

Buy it, they seemed to say, so that you can be as young/beautiful/rich/famous/attractive to men/attractive to women as I am.

And then we all grew up.

Today instead of Colleen Khan there is Kareena Kapoor. Instead of Vinod Khanna, there is the sublime Hrithik Roshan. Instead of Sri Devi, there is Katrina Kaif. (Well, there is Sri Devi too, looking not a day older in a very sold-her-soul-to-stranger-with-forked-tail sort of way. ) And instead of celebrity endorsement, there is something that’s a whole different ballgame.

Coke and McCann tried it with Aamir Khan donning different roles for Coke. But if someone succeeded fabulously at it, it was Idea and Lowe with Abhishek Bachchan. From the very first ‘What an Idea, sirjee’ campaign, they used Abhishek very differently from regular celebrities. In most Idea commercials, Abhishek Bachchan isn’t an actor, a celebrity and Aishwarya Rai’s husband. He’s just a guy. Who sells tea, or is the village sarpanch or yes, sure, even a tree. The idea and consequently Idea, is bigger than Abhishek in the ad. And that makes me want to give a huge thumbs-up to everyone involved. To Lowe for changing the celeb endorsement format and creating interesting commercials time after time. To Idea, for allowing the agency to try something different. And to AB’s baby for being such a good sport about it all.

Other have tried to take the ‘celebrity as everyman’ road and gotten so hopelessly lost, one feels the urge to take them gently by the hand and explain in a soft voice that the ad on their hands is utter crap. It’s almost easier to watch Katrina Kaif profess her undying love for Yardley because it doesn’t pretend to be something creative. Sure, the London connect is painfully fake, but hey, it is what it is.

And what it is, is a tired old format. I’m so-and-so and I use XYZ brand. The ‘I’ could be anybody, but is usually Shah Rukh Khan. So much so that you can’t tell one SRK ad from another anymore. Toothpaste, soap, electronics, beauty products, mosquito repellent and whole-wheat atta have all blended into one celebrity face. And that’s just sad.

Because the brand that’s trying to gain mileage from a famous face, quite simply, isn’t.

One reason is that sometimes the connection between the brand and the celebrity is either mismatched or non-existent. Salman Khan for Mountain Dew, okay, maybe. Salman Khan for a diamond jewelry brand? Seriously?

And usually, the agency isn’t to be blamed for this kind of fiasco. Because enough star-struck fans on the client’s side usually means that Mr. Bachchan will be roped in to sell anything from digestive pills to insurance. Whether the audience remembers the name of the brand, the product being sold or anything except the deep baritone and stately face on screen, is somebody else’s problem.

So then why go for these Bollywood types at all, I hear people (mostly us creative types that is) ask. Let’s drop them like a shiny little hot potato and try something different already. But like the saying goes, easier said than done, isn’t it?

You see, we work out of metros, write in American-laced English and pick up D&AD annuals for a little light reading. Most of the consumers for our products, don’t. No, they live in class A and B towns and cities and use commercials during Balika Vadhu as valuable time to go turn off the gas under the dal. And when they visit their friendly neighbourhood store for their monthly supply of goods, they don’t ask for the product with the Cannes gold winning ad. No, they count the change carefully and say with a smile, “Woh Katrinawaali fairness cream dena.”

But perhaps the blame doesn’t lie only with the client or the consumer. Granted, doing a campaign with a celebrity is creatively restrictive and if he has the acting skills of Sreesanth, then probably a major pain in the backside as well. But we can at least try to not be boring. If McDonald’s Australia can push Shane Warne out of the frame with so much originality and humour, what exactly is our excuse?

Vedashree Khambete is an ACD with Mudra, a writer at heart and a coffee-addict by vocation.

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Veda's Blog: On High Ground: Do Great Ideas Grow in Grass?
By vedashree khambete on 10-Mar-11, 11:58 in Advertising |

My parents have this word they use to describe people: Hi-fi.

When I was a teenager, girls who wore shorts to college were hi-fi. Boys who smoked Marlboro Lights were hi-fi. Hi-fi people were too modern, too liberal, too rich, too… everything. They were my dad’s greatest problem with me becoming a copywriter. Because the ad industry, it seems, was full of hi-fi people. Who were into drugs and alcohol and (gasp!) casual sex. How could he possibly let his daughter enter such a brazenly depraved field?
I had pooh-poohed him at the time. What? I was at an age when you didn’t take someone seriously if they didn’t have a favourite Backstreet Boy.
And then, a few months into my first job, I heard the stories. Of coke being snorted off conference-room tables. Of client meetings attended in the company of a hangover. Of nights filled with pot smoke and headlines. It was all industry legend. And it was happening all around. Still is. And for all the wrong reasons. With all the wrong people doing it.
Exhibit A, ladies and gentlemen, twenty-year-old junior writers puffing on a joint and talking about how they need something to cut the deadline pressure. Exhibit B, kids who’re two years into the industry, going on about how hash helps them get really wild ideas.
For the deadline guys, I’d like to bring your attention to a minor detail. YOU’RE NOT PERFORMING OPEN-HEART SURGERY HERE. It’s a two-page leaflet they want you to copy-check! Get over it.
As for the idea-seekers: that reason is the biggest pile of bull-droppings I’ve heard since Rakhi Sawant last opened her mouth. If a doobie or a bottle of Old Monk was going to be the surefire way to get an idea, we’d have vending machines full of them in agencies. Sure, they’d still charge us for them, but hey, you take what you can get, right?
I can see you pursing your lips and calling me an aunty. What you or I do to get high and why (I swear, I didn’t mean to rhyme, it just happened) is nobody’s business. But if the only way you can come up with a half-decent idea is with a head full of smoke and a liver full of Smirnoff, then it becomes the business of the people you work for, with or around. Which sooner or later, given the miniscule size of our industry, will include me.
So go on, light up. Take a swig of your favourite poison. Get all the hits you want. But don’t tell me you’re doing it for the sake of the Big Idea or to make the Big Deadline. Because not even Jon Hamm in full Don Draper regalia, can sell me that load of crock.
Vedashree Khambete is an ACD with Mudra, a writer at heart and a coffee-addict by vocation.

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Veda's Blog: Wake Up And Smell The Internet
By vedashree khambete on 10-Feb-11, 12:36 in Advertising |

“Hello ladies”, he said, in a voice like chocolate poured over gravel, and a hundred thousand women around the world sat up in attention. I’m talking here, of course, not about the ridiculously wantable Brad Pitt, but about the Old Spice man. The Man our men could never ever be like, even if they took a crash course.

But while the rest of my uterus-bearing kind were busy gaping at the chiseled body of Isaiah Mustafa, I was staring into space (which is not to say that I didn’t gape at him at all, come on, have you seen him?)

No, I was staring because my ears had perked up for an entirely different reason.

See, so far, I’ve had a sneaky suspicion that whenever a beauty product for women is advertised, it’s done keeping in mind a male audience. Oh, we can hem and haw and shake our heads all we want, but let’s face it. No woman in the history of the world has slathered on moisturizer slowly and sexily in the privacy of her bedroom. Particularly when she’s still damp from her bath and it’s a freezing Delhi winter morning outside. I’m sure the same can be said of soap commercials too. When you have roughly eight minutes to take a shower, get dressed and run out of your house to catch the Churchgate fast, you’re not really foaming yourself in slow motion and losing yourself in the dreamy, exotic fragrance of whatever the hell they’ve told you your soap contains. No, women do all these things in TV commercials so that guys don’t switch the channel during the break.

But with Old Spice, here at last was a commercial for a product aimed at men, which spoke to their women instead. It was funny, it was clever, it was charming. If it was a man, it would be Mr. Right. Known henceforth, of course, as the Old Spice man.

And it wasn’t just the women who noticed that. The campaign picked up the goods at Cannes and just when you thought “I’m sitting on a horse” was as good as it would get, up popped the new round of viral videos. One-set wonders the lot of them, proving to us that you don’t need to shoot in South Africa or go to London for the special effects, to make a brand message that gets people’s attention. And affection too, judging from all the tweets @oldspice is getting.

Each tweet provides the writers with material for the next customised viral video. In a nutshell then, here is a campaign that’s low budget, high on insight, entertaining, has great repeat viewing value and sustains itself entirely on the basis of user generated content. (Translation: Creatives happy, servicing happy, planners happy, client happy.) Not just that, in the new round of virals, Old Spice has also cross-promoted its sister concern Gillette and even raised the talkability bar by doing video responses to tweets from celebrities like Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan and Demi Moore. And they’ve done all that in a bathroom!

But you know what really kills me? It’s not the ‘wish-I’d-done-this’ bit. Well, yes, that too, but what’s really kicking me in the pants is that this is pure, 100% legit brand work. It’s not TV, it’s not press, it’s not proactive. But it’s brilliant, it’s working and I’d bet good money that it’ll knock the socks off everyone come awards season.

Watch the Old Spice Video here

Vedashree Khambete is an ACD with Mudra, a writer at heart and a coffee-addict by vocation.

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