end of the bluff

In this video, P&G’s ‘chief brand officer’ talks about P&G’s efforts in ‘draining the swamp’ (as trump would have said) of digital fraud, unverified stats, dubious practices by publishers and agencies.

This is great, because this comes from one of the biggest advertisers in the world. And it is a positive step – one that is towards transparency and common sense that does not entertain exceptionalism every time some one conjures up a shiny new .com.

How would that affect agencies?

I want to be cheerful and hopeful that the greater scrutiny and transparency will force agencies to grow a spine and start asking for the rightful fee it deserves.
But I shouldn’t be too hopeful. Internecine competition takes up way too much time and efforts of an agency with awards, new biz pitches etc. Agencies typically are way too dependent on a few key clients for survival. Fear of losing them and prospect of winning new ones, keeps them forever running on the hamster wheel of survival.
So this is what is going to happen: simple erosion of margins. Agencies will start working at even smaller margins. Which means, even crappier talent will get hired at cheaper costs. Which means, bye bye to competent people.

How would it affect facebook/ snapchat/ etc.

Its amazing how such large companies like facebook can so shamelessly deceit people about their performances. This is a product of the ‘fake it till you make it‘ mentality of the morally vacuous people who see business as a game of bluff.
These digital-advertising-revenue-based companies will definitely be shaken up. Largely, because they are still in the phase where they have to prove their business models. Their valuations are still in need of correction. Their valuations are still based on the assumption of the great payoff that awaits for winner in a ‘winner takes all’ game. They need all the confidence of investors until the ‘winner takes all’ game is over/ or they learn to become profitable.

Hi5 for reasonable people who vote with their money. 🙂

 

Travel Travel, Adopt a Camel

Travel Travel, Adopt a Camel

ac9299da7bead52cd2171f44274c9d69

Travel as a personal narrative

There are two things that give sense to our lives. One is the ‘anchor’ and the other is ‘change’. These two are the yin-yang of our personal narratives. ‘Anchor’ is things/ people/ places that gives you a sense of solidity about your identity. You perhaps are a Delhite. You perhaps are from the family of proud fishermen. You perhaps are child of very kind parents who have always been there for you. All these things ‘anchor’ us, about our sense of self.

And then you become a teenager. And you must ‘find’ an unique identity.  In an age when you can be anything, often we remain paralysed unable to let go of the possibilities. We are simply unable to kill all the rest of possibilities by choosing one direction. Instead we stay poised at that frozen moment in our personal narrative. We seek change, but are unable to make up our minds. And that is the ‘post-modern’ we. Modernity of 2oth century was about optimistic ideas of future and our roles in it. Post-modern 21st century is about a profound confusion and skepticism about our future and our role in it.

Hence we travel.

The avid travelers of today travels either because he/she needs an escape or because of the promise of bountiful enjoyment or  for its potential for changing ‘something’ in him/her. The first kind of traveler – the escapist – is at least acknowledging the reality that he/ she is escaping from. The second variety – is a sheep following herd, content with the ritualistic excess he forces on himself. It is a sad existence, but wedded to a ritualized fetish, it is anchored in some measure. The third variety – people who call themselves travelers and wanderers – they are the ones I am talking about now. I am talking about the people like me and you, who travel in search of meaning, in search of profound happiness, in search of a direction that is chosen for us. And if facebook walls and instagram feeds are to be believed, everyone today is this very traveler.

“It changed my life”

“It changed my life”, says your friend after his latest trip. And perhaps you should wonder how. Instead you are excited along with him. “Oh, I must do this trip”, you decide. You consult him and online blogs to chart out a pilgrimage taken up by hundreds of others before you. Like you would, they too took selfies with hills in the background. Like you would, they too obsessed over certain dish in a certain restaurant. Like you would, they too perhaps felt somewhat empty when sitting somewhere – thinking.. “this was supposed to be profound. Is this (stinging loneliness/ confusion/ ‘disappointment at the ordinariness of the supposed greatness of the scene before your eyes’)  it?” And before you could complete your train of thought, you take out your DSLR/ cell phone and take a ‘profound’ picture. Your friends on facebook get to know instantaneously about your nirvana. #nirvanaunlocked.

Superego says you must profoundly enjoy

The gaping void that you feel while traveling is not ‘your fault’. The trip was not supposed to be profoundly enjoyable/ transformative/ epiphany inducing/ crazy etc. Though you did think it would be. You thought so because, you are a product of 21st century upper class. If you were a Bangladeshi cattle smuggler, trying to enter India, you aren’t exactly wondering if ‘this journey is supposed to mean something’. The Bangladeshi cattle smuggler entering Assam knows exactly what the trip means – a certain sum of money if the trade goes through, humiliation and beating if Gau rakshak idiots find him.

You, a product of today’s society have been trained to seek enjoyment and happiness at all times. There is an ‘injunction to enjoy’ on you. Your superego, informed by the incessantly glowing and moving online feeds and walls, wants you to enjoy, be successful, be somebody.

Space-time v/s Bildungsroman

Human journey is not in space or time. Simply moving around through different places doesn’t give one intelligence or perspectives or contentment. Neither simply getting old will help one in getting wiser or feeling at peace.

We need definitive change once or twice in life. And at least one of it needs to be positive to be anchored and content in life. Traditionally one was initiated into key changes through rituals – manhood/ womanhood, marriage, birth of child, death. The only ritual guaranteed to a modern person is that of (and about) death. We have no rituals to inform us when we turn from boys to men. We might choose not to wed or have children. Even when we do, we tend to live life of another person – the ideal younger version of oneself. It is as if life for 21st century human is a rewinding spool, going back and burnishing the youth over and over again, until you snap and are forced to reckon with the reality of life. We could very possibly go through life without any real profound change to ourselves that we acknowledge and anchor ourselves with. So, a post-modern person remains in some measure – adrift – not completely being able to comprehend his/her course of life.

One of the most important skill-set that a person should be taught is about building his/her bildungsroman narrative of life.
Bildungsroman – in this context is this – Identity being built through experience one goes through while being among others. It is not the unhealthy narcissism, but a healthy self-awareness that guides one in anchoring the right things and changing the right things for one’s own well-being and growth as a human.

So what would help in building a healthy personal narrative, if not travel?

We come back to the yin-yang of ‘anchor’ and ‘change’ for the answer.

decorative-1296300_1280

What gives us an anchor through what we do? Routines do. Routines are essential to create solidity of time, to make life predictable and stable. To anchor life in your own control.

But routines must change every once in a while. We must have routines, but we must have new ones every few years. The solidity shouldn’t lead to stagnation. The routine shouldn’t imprison us. The routine is supposed to form the basis on which the life can take a flight from. The solidity of time, that a routine provides turns into a slowly accumulating cancer that works against your mental well-being if not refreshed every few years.

So if your routine is ‘not’ about planning, desiring, reading about – travels, then travel can be an immensely enriching experience. But what if travel is your routine? Not just the actual traveling part, but the whole mental state – from dreaming to doing to validating it online. The digital lifecycle of travel is now longer. and if you are living from one travel life-cycle to next, i doubt ‘travel’ can then produce moments of ‘epiphany’ for you.

To identify the right changes you need in yourself, then you need to head to everyday normality of other people. That’s where your change, your insight will come from.

What about travel that is indeed a ‘change’?

Change is about braving uncertainties. If your travel is ‘packaged’ to keep you in a bubble of comfort and expected experiences, then you are merely experiencing an amusement park experience. It’s not travel.

For travel to have an effect on you at a fundamental level, you must allow travel to be an unregulated experience. You must then step out of your bubble.

To truly travel, one must be ready for disappointments. You must be ready for uncertainty.

If you chronicle, validate your travel online, you often end up training your brain into thinking in a third person mode. While experiencing something, you train yourself to see it from the perspective of the future self – posting, applying filers, thinking of clever captions when posting… you never are traveling. you are only extending facebook/ instagram bubble that you are completely plugged into.
You can’t live in the present (or contemplative past/ future) if you live through a gadget/screen.

Must disconnect to travel. Must be willing to brave uncertainties for travel to have any meaning.

“Relatability”

“Relatability”

The context

So recently we shared two creative options for a campaign. I wish we hadn’t. But we did.

Imagine the product is a soap targeted to housewives. The product is better because it smells of pleasant cuttle fish, instead of the generic smell of sardines that all the competitor soaps have. (For the sake of argument, imagine a world where being clean, has so far, always meant smelling of sardines. So in this world, people do not take a bath if they have to engage in social functions.)

So the first film was a humorous take on a working woman’s dilemma of using that soap before going to the clothes retail outlet where she works. She hasn’t taken a bath in a long time and really is in pains to do so. But then the sardine smell will scare away the customers. But then she gets to know about the new cuttle fish soap and the world is alright again. (please read these scripts with a huge dollop and then a pinch of salt. I am exaggerating for benefit of no one but my kicks. Oh yes, and to not let out the brand or the category.)

The other film was a generic category film – housewives working at home scratching their backs and in need of a bath. They go get a bath with the new soap. Mother-in-law approves of the bathed daughter-in-law who surprisingly doesn’t smell as bad. End of story.

When we narrated the two scripts – clients laughed at the right time for the first film. The second film elicited familiar nods – ticked all the check boxes.

The first was potentially memorable – simple, apt yet disruptive setting; clear role of brand and need incidence. More importantly, there was a strong emotional payoff – removal of a real social anxiety. Strategically it was very sound. The client however, was concerned that in their culture, women don’t work at retail garment shops. And they don’t wear saris as much here.

And that brings us to the order of the day.

Suspension of Disbelief and Relatability

In Barjatiya films, we relate to the mansion owning, ferrari driving ‘good boy’ who follows “Indian traditions” and agonizes over minor cultural infractions. We relate to Prem, Rahul and all the other misunderstood millionaires, even though we have never stepped into mansions and ferraris. We don’t own billion dollar businesses. Yet, we not only relate to their heartaches, but we wish we could have the problems they are having.

If you could choose the problems you have to face in life, which one would you chose?

  1. Your biggest concerns are eviction, loss of livelihood, hunger, respect etc when you are poor, frail and low on self confidence.
  2. Your biggest concern is earning a ‘yes’ from the girl you love when she can see already that you are wealthy, stable, handsome and from a royal lineage.

Obviously, you will choose no.2. People who watch movies, want the problems that the hero in the film is having. When watching the film, they are playing the role of the hero in their minds. For once, life doesn’t seem as hopeless. For once, they would win a battle. For once, they will get what they want.

Here, relatability is not a problem. People, from their innermost core of being, want to relate to the heroes. There is a ‘suspension of disbelief’ because people want to believe in the story, want to live vicariously the rich life that is forever out of reach for them in real life.

So the question is, if humans have the capacity to entertain a sufficiently large gap in reality with their ‘suspension of disbelief’, what kinds of instances will break that suspension, which ones will succeed in maintaining the mirage?

The Decision

With the first script, was the setting really alien? It was not. Women do work in shops here, this is no Saudi Arabia. If you stroll through a market here, you can see at-least 30% of the shops being run by women. Secondly, though most women wear skirts, the traditional dress is the sari here too. Even if they don’t (for the sake of argument), any person (man or woman) can relate to peculiarities of choosing a shirt/ skirt/ pant/ saree to buy. The dilemmas and role of fashion is almost universal. The fabric, form and designs may differ, but the drive to appear desirable is universal.

Secondly, reality does not inspire actions – utopia (what reality can be) does.

People want to relate to people they think they can be, not people who are like themselves. That is why ads will always depict lifestyles one or two steps removed from that of the real TG. That is why, the first film also could have worked better – because for women who often work on fields and in hard labour, work in air-conditioned showrooms is aspirational. The younger ones do leave villages to work happily in fashion showrooms, don’t they?

Instead, the second script was chosen eventually by the client – because they felt it was more relatable. Death by committee. Committee goes with the safest choice -the MIL and DIL interaction, done to death by a million categories in almost all countries. The easiest way to get lost in clutter.

The way to break the clutter is to stay true to the emotional need but change the context enough to be new yet within the limits of the suspension of disbelief. But not many clients can suspend their disbelief in power of human emotions, their empathy. They resort to hackneyed concepts of “SEC” divisions and other catch phrases that mean absolutely nothing to save themselves from taking a decision to change.

The importance of knowing the unsaid objective

The importance of knowing the unsaid objective

The situation – Death by committee

So imagine an impulse purchase soap brand. (Because all brands are soap brands for the purpose of this blog.) Client wanted to do an ad because ‘it has not been advertised for a while now.’ We push. We ask, how exactly will advertising help the brand now? Some confusing slides that perhaps were rehashed from another presentation find their way into our inboxes. We ask what it means – contradictory briefs in one brief. So they try to rationalise. We don’t get a satisfactory answer. We do our own thinking. Figure out that there is a bigger potential for growth if we target certain occasions. So we need to increase occasion based TOM for brand. Client agrees – exactly what they meant apparently. So we give them beautiful ideas to solve the problem.

But the brand has made a problem solution commercial in another country. Someone somewhere in the client hierarchy likes that work. He wants to do something like that. But we argue that the category is impulse, problem solution will narrow its relevance down. But client persists. So we do a second round of even better and potentially very memorable problem solution ads.

But someone somewhere in the client world has woken up. Says how can we do problem solution. Says we need to just ‘tweak’ the scripts. Just focus on the solution. Not the problem. #facepalm

The reading of the situation

For any given project, no matter how effectively you suggest a strategy that is sound and reasonable, the solution will be shaped by the power dynamics at the marketer’s office. (BU wants this, boss wants that, APAC/ Global head wants something else, research team wants to save its ass by pasting these things etc).

The truth is – Power dynamics define what the brand says, not the strategy.

So, if you can ‘align’ the ‘story’ of the idea with the power-that-be’s perspective, the chance of it actually happening is higher. Hence, must always get the big guy in the conversation at the earliest stage. What exactly does the CEO/marketing director want with this campaign? What is his interest? What is his angle. Not knowing this can lead to futile waste of time, efforts and most importantly, will affect creative team’s morale when they think that the creative idea is at fault, but the reality is about the unsaid objective that they never knew of.

A junior marketing executive, no matter how ambitious and bright, will seldom have the perspective of the APAC head/ country head. From close to the ground, there are many problems that a brand faces and that the executive wants us to solve. But a 30,000 ft perspective of the leader is more illuminating – his perspective will be about existential threats to the brand  and the long term interest of the brand. This is the perspective we need to know before we begin work.

Beyond the perspective, there is power play too. There are local heads, national heads, global heads – too many heads to deal with one thing. The multiple power centers in the client company might have competing interests. They might want different things from the campaign? Now these machinations are beyond our control and view. But, it helps if we know these unsaid objectives. What is the leadership’s perspective? what do they stand to gain/ lose?  If it doesn’t concern them immediately, great! But if it does, what are their concerns?

If the agency doesn’t know the many invisible hands at play, they are rendered dumb, groping in the dark for some validation, wasting time and efforts on pitches they were never going to win, doing hard work for campaigns that will never see the light of day.

Must know what the multiple interests are, who are the players. Must know the bird’s eye’s perspective of the business as well as the perspective from the ground. Once we know these things, simple common sense will do.

There’s an idea in the soap sud

There’s an idea in the soap sud

Grooming is magical.
I am not talking about hygiene here. I am talking about the fantastic ability of our minds to groom its thoughts while we groom our bodies. It is as if there are switches on our bodies – on the scalp, on tooth, on the skin. As water falls/ razor shears/ tooth brushes on these switches, the mind wakes up an army of little switchboard operators in our heads. These little people get busy connecting all the ideas that lay flaying unconnected, unrecognised so far. And while we stare at ourselves stupidly in mirrors/ at soap suds/ at the objective zero (our own personal abyss our thoughts sometimes gets lost in), a fresh new thought bubbles out of that stupor, like a ray of sun piercing a dark cloud. And it is these thoughts that truly wake you up. They wake you up to a new reality, a new perspective, an obvious truth, a solution to problem that was grinding down our lives and we didn’t even know that it was.
Eureka!
And now you can walk confident in the day, unafraid of all the invisible hands, of invisible interests, of deceitful exchanges, of useless greetings and inane content. For every morning, the grime of the world will wash away as ideas will slowly illuminate the truth of all that was unseen so far.

The Advertising Agencies of future will be Open Sourced

The Advertising Agencies of future will be Open Sourced

The alternative ‘new normal’

The ‘new normal’ for global advertising industry is that of ‘low growth’; unless, we relook at the assumptions we hold when we think about the source of growth for advertising industry.

Think about this: 30 years ago, if I was a small restaurateur, my avenues for advertising would have been local listings, a billboard perhaps and a few mailers for special days. Today, I also might solicit reviews on Tripadvisor.com and run low-budget campaigns online for prospective customers from my area. Today, to remain competitively relevant, I must be where my potential consumers are.

What has changed in these 30 years? Increased competition and an explosion of media options – from expensive to cheap ways of reaching all sorts of potential consumers.

What has remained unchanged? Small restaurateurs’ access to advertising agencies. Agencies are still too distant/ expensive/ slow/ intimidating for most small businesses to access. They might access Amazon for buying kitchen utensils and use cloud based restaurant management app, yet they don’t have access to creative strategy and ideas for growing business on an app. There is simply no app for that. Yet.

30 years ago, the situation was different – much growth was yet to come from globalising markets, increasing consumptive lifestyles, proliferating capitalist economies. So agencies didn’t need the restaurateur’s business to grow. But now, as world stands (almost) completely globalised, consumptive lifestyles have maxed out and capitalist economies are struggling from one bailout to next, advertising industry is finding it much harder to grow with only big-spending corporate brands. Creative agencies are being squeezed by competitive pressures and demanding clients who prefer to work on project basis rather than on retainer basis. Agency business was never as uncertain as it is now.

But what if we embrace this uncertainty? What if we expand our horizons to embrace a wider set of branding efforts?

The long tail of advertising business

First source of growth: Small businesses

95% of enterprises across the world are SMEs. If advertising is about helping businesses grow, why don’t we help 95% of global enterprises grow? Yes, it will require a fundamental shift in the business model of advertising agencies, but would it not be worth it? Let’s look at the possible worth we can tap into. SMEs contribution to GDP varies from 16% in low income countries to 51% in high-income countries. Let us assume they spend 10% of their revenues in marketing, out of which say 2% goes in creative/ strategy services. That is the 2% not coming to organised advertising industry now. That is the 2% spent on work by either amateurs, freelancers or in-house part-timers – often inefficiently, unprofessionally and with hit and miss results. What if creative agencies could realise just 1% of the global SME revenues through largely an online algorithmic service? Is that worth going after?

Second source of growth: Personal brands

The second market to tap for growth is the rise of ‘personal brands’. People want to build brands for themselves to help them grow in their careers. This expanding pool of potential customers can only look at self-help books/ blogs and other ‘gurus’ for help as of now. They don’t have a professional service that they can access for definite and easy access to proven way of building brands.

Combine these two long tails and see the potential source of growth for global advertising agencies. The potential is huge, but no one has yet attempted to create an integrated user experience for the three broad segments of customers – Individuals, small enterprises, large corporate brands.

Change is difficult and scary for everyone, especially (it seems) for advertising leadership. Advertising industry spends a lot of time bemoaning the death of AOR, shrinking margins, frequent pitches. The sense one gets is that that everyone sees what the problem is and wishes to turn back the time to good old days. Nostalgia is a form of denial. And it doesn’t bode well when many in the industry fall back on nostalgia to make sense of their present.

The change that we need to incorporate is not a new idea, but rather a poorly understood idea. The idea is called – ‘Open Source’.

Misunderstood ‘Open’

There have been many attempts at creating ‘open marketplace of ideas’. However, attempts like adhack.com which hoped to be a ‘marketplace for ad creatives’ no longer exist. The simplistic metaphor of marketplace is problematic because, it treats ideas as commodity. When one exchanges a book for a certain sum of money, the exchange is complete, expectations met. Exchange of ideas against money is not that simple.

A business cannot share its problems openly without giving away strategic vulnerability. Even if it does, how do you judge and work together on an idea in an open marketplace? So companies like ‘Victor and Spoils’ have a certain level of ‘curation’. When decisions are made by committees (as against by individuals) it requires ‘servicing’ support, which V&S provides. This is also perhaps the reason why Adhack couldn’t succeed – it was structured for individual decision makers but the money is in companies that decide by committees.

Secondly, small businesses are wary of advertising because they see it as an expense that might payoff or not and they don’t have spare funds to experiment with. Adhack might have still survived if it had a way of guiding clients in creating solutions that work. An Adhack can’t provide the feedback loop that can improve campaigns that Google can. But even Google can’t what an Ogilvy theoretically can. If Ogilvy puts together data about the campaigns it has done across the globe over the last few decades, big data analysis can provide confidence level ‘thumb rules’ that clients can use to make decisions. That is one part of the equation. But an important one.

Some companies adapted crowdsourcing (not open source) to varying degrees of success. For example, 99designs.com solicits designs from hundreds of designers for a client. It is exploitative in the sense that a designer is not paid for her time but only if her design is selected. That way, the system is only useful for budding artists who are testing their skills, building their confidence and portfolio. It cannot sustainably scale to win bigger businesses or attract established creative talent.

V&S is essentially a normal advertising agency with a ‘plug-in’ for crowdsourced ideas. They open up some client briefs to a set of planners, creative directors across the world who have registered with them. This idea has obvious limitations of sharing strategically important projects, speed of delivery, feedback mechanism, learning curve etc. As such V&S cannot sustainably scale.

Surprisingly, there is no existing body of theoretical or practical work that explores the potential of open source in advertising. So here’s my idea.

Open source advertising agency

Open source:

‘Open’ = universally accessible and open to contributions.

‘Source’ = the proprietary logic that solves a problem uniquely.

Understanding this basic perspective about Open Source is critical. When people talk about Open source, they might think about only using open source material to create advertising. Or they might talk about projects where users and brand team co-created something. That is a small perspective. What I am talking about is Open source as an idea to inform advertising business model.

So first, what is ‘source’ in advertising’s context?

All agencies have proprietary planning tools for various branding purposes – For example, Ogilvy has its ‘Big Ideal’, ‘Fusion’, ‘Do brief’; Publicis has ‘Lead the change’, DDB had its ‘Springboards’, Saatchi & Saatchi has the ‘Lovemarks’ and so on.

These are very useful tools that guide application of common sense to solve business problems and give clarity regarding branding strategy and tactics. The more I work with clients, the more I realise how important these tools are; how easy it is to stray away from basic common sense when confronted with too much data; how easy it is to choose actions that are easy rather than actions that are right. The planning and creative tools help make the right decision for a brand. And these decision make all the difference in brand’s success or failure.
So for example, if Ogilvy becomes an Open source advertising agency, it will design ‘its interface’ such that people would be encouraged to use, adapt, and improve upon its planning and creative tools. It will make the wisdom existing in its employees and its campaigns through the years available to people to learn from and inform their decisions.

For this to work, Ogilvy will have to be cognizant of the different requirement and hence different consumer journeys for the three broad bucket of clients.

  1. Individuals seeking help with personal branding at a flat fee
  2. SMEs who need help in growing business with limited budgets
  3. Corporate owned consumer/ enterprise brands with high media spends

To be able to cater to these three different segment at the same time, the agency will require a new business model, new practices and new expectations of revenue growth. To get a glimpse of that interface, we can learn from pricing strategies of online services.

offerings

For example, Ogilvy can curate and code its tools and make it easy to use (not only accessible as it is now) to all for free. This is the difference between Google’s search interface now and a yahoo search and directory from 1996.

For individual users looking to either build personal loan or test new business ideas, we can provide algorithm based assistance in formulating strategy (programs that take in key data points to choose the right tools/ perspective). Thereafter the focused ‘brief’ at hand can help the person in finding the right ideas with the help of fellow idea seekers and creators in the open forum accessible at a small flat fee. Look at the interface of Coursera classrooms for example.

If a small restauranteur wants help with his business growth in this scenario, he can either access free tools and figure out strategy for herself; or pay a flat fee and access the community of people who might help him. Perhaps he can even find a budding creative artist in the community who could help him in designing art works informed with the ‘Do brief’ she formulated with the help of an algorithm earlier. If she is ambitious and is seeking rapid growth and doesn’t mind paying the fees for access to agency’s team, then she can do that too. She will now feel comfortable approaching Ogilvy.

With millions of people using its free tools, Ogilvy stands to create the ‘default’ language and logic of branding strategy for the planet with its Do brief, the Brand Ideal etc. The first mover in the Open Source Advertising agency game, stands to set the rules of the game in 21st century.

The change

  1. From servicing a few hundred clients at max a year, to catering to potentially a million clients a year.
  2. From being critically dependent on a few large clients for survival, to hedged bet with the long tail.
  3. From enterprise oriented to nimble orientation – adaptable to serve anybody from an individual to a fortune 100 company.
  4. From intimidating jargon to simplified tools that most people can use. Simple and obvious always trumps complicated and laborious in advertising – may it be in ads, pitches or every day work.
  5. From resource allocation per brand, to additional resources for Skype services and transition teams who would facilitate the transition of a project from online open source to inside agency (and confidential).

What does not change?

  1. The creative leap still comes from a human insight and articulated/ envisioned by a human, often an agency personnel/ community mentor.
  2. The business dynamic with the corporate brands will remain unchanged, apart from improvements in universal availability of data and tools.

The Open Source advantage for the first mover

1.      New repository of consumer insights

The agency will have access to big data and metadata about its user’s business, their preference, and their possible growth trajectories. The data will be useful in building agency intelligence, its effectiveness and its new business efforts.

2.      Mindshare leadership

First mover will set the language and logic of business growth for a million business leaders of tomorrow.

3.      Virtuous cycle of new business growth

Small businesses and startups would grow with us and might stay on as they grow big. Community of thousands of enthusiasts and free tools users will help establish agency brand credentials. The word of mouth due to the currency of our tools will position us favourably among business leaders.

4.      Attracting good talent

The community would become a channel for budding talent to get noticed. The transparency in helping businesses grow will excite creative talent and attract the best creative talent to the industry again. The widened pool of visible talent and the plurality of projects will help agency find, train and mentor the right talent.

5.      Increased marketing literacy among clients and agency personnel

To be frank, many of us in marketing and advertising industry could do with a basic marketing course. Even in 2017, many among us are unsure about digital marketing. Many advertisers could increase efficiency and improve quality of their efforts if they knew about concepts such as ‘insights’, ‘emotional needs’, ‘strategic choices’ in creative ideas and so on. By ‘opening up’ the culture of advertising thinking, we will help increase marketing literacy and consequently increase confidence in marketing efforts. After all, if clients understand marketing better, they will be more confident about spending money on it.

I am eager to work on this idea and bring it to reality. If anyone finds this idea interesting, let me know with comments below.

How not to be a lazy hack

I can’t think of a decent idea, so how about just using a celeb to sell the brand instead of an idea that can actually do the job better?”

That’s just one way of being a fucking lazy hack. Don’t be that person. A lazy hack writes an unoriginal idea that doesn’t exactly solve the problem at hand, but does tick the boxes in some convoluted fashion. Why be “creative” like that, when you can be creative in creating awe inspiring, award winning commercials?

Here are some handy tips to not be a Fucking Lazy Hack (FLH) of a creative person.

    1. Shifting form Open to closed mode.
      Being ‘creative’ does not mean being unreasonable. There is a time for open exploration of ideas, and then there is a time for hard look at the situation at hand and review of the work done. The latter requires an ability to listen and to argue rationally. You can’t grow professionally as a creative person unless you are able to get in and out of these two modes – open mode for ideation, closed mode for decisions.
      (More about open and closed mode in John Cleese’s video below. Excellent ideas from a genius. Must watch.)

    2. Let it go.
      As a planner, it is quite frustrating at times. A week ago, we would have agreed on feedback, on directional changes. When it is time for final review (Often too late), the idea remains unchanged apart from a few minor changes. The subpar ideas would incorporate the feedback just enough to silence the concerns – “See, the logo is bigger now”, “See the product shot is 5 second longer”. But the product or brand is still no more intrinsic to the story being told. Or there is no story to begin with, just grandiose poetry that would get an ‘F’ in a creative writing class, but that the writer refuses to let go from a million dollar campaign that has the potential to affect thousands of livelihoods – from managers to retailer.When someone points out that the copy is weak, the reply will be – “Imagine Morgan Freeman/ Amitabh Bacchhan saying it”. I say, don’t. If an idea depends on a celebrity to work, it is a bad idea.

      Your idea was beautiful, maybe. But it is time for you to grow up and accept feedback. The idea is worthless if it doesn’t solve the business problem. Too often, writers cling on to bad ideas that do service to no one. Bad ideas do not win awards, they don’t work for client, they don’t look good on portfolios. Even if a client agrees to a bad idea (perhaps, because he can’t think any better or can’t articulate his concerns, but has time pressure), he will try to make it work for him. Client interference becomes more frequent and your idea is now a bastard child of confusion and desperation. Let it go, before it gets bastardized.

    3. Persist towards originality

      All you have to do is think of an honest need, an honest yearning that is being answered by the product/ brand at hand. Think a little harder. As John Cleese narrates in this video, he came up with more original ideas than his group-mate because he stuck to pondering over the problem longer – Unlike others, he didn’t take the first creative solution that popped in his head. He persevered until he was happy with an idea that was original enough.

4. Don’t let the work-pressure define your ideas
You have too much on your plate.
You have tight deadlines.
So you agree, not to reason, but to different people – servicing, planner, client etc.
Don’t.
Listen only to reason. And reason with others, reasonably. That will save a lot of your time and effort. That saved time and effort can help you create better ideas. If you let whims and fancies of others (or even your own) guide your work, you will become no more than a mouse cursor on the app that is your agency that people use to create their ideas. Don’t lose your ‘agency’. Fight if you must for sufficient time and space for good work. Why should you be turned into a hack by work-pressure? Fight the right fights.