Friday, July 08, 2016

The Fast Life

I don't think I believe in this myth of high energy, high productivity, high quality advertising agencies. I think all it brings is a burnout. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dear Mr. Kassai

Dear Mr. Kassai,

It’s been many a rapt audiences that I’ve been a part of listening to you talk passionately about how our business is to make brands and products relevant, and advertising is just one way of doing it. I’ve long admired your work and your rise through the industry, and also aspired to be a good copywriter, who one day might have a shot at being great.

With you at DDB’s wheel, DDB became the aspirational agency, specially given that Volkswagen was still your client after all these years since the legendary Lemon ad. As you’ve mentioned yourself, each DDB office is probably the most awarded in its region, the network having won more Grand Prixs that any other in the world.

And while I started reading your latest article titled ‘The End of False Recognitions’ with great enthusiasm, it’s hard for me to agree to what’s written without a healthy dose of salt.

I agree to your points about awards not being a yardstick for creative effectiveness. I also agree that most creatives give up our integrity without question to make fancy case videos that have nothing to do with the real world or even the client’s business, just to please a jury, as you so apt put. It’s not a sign of talent in advertising.

And then came for your call for agencies to to disinvest from the award shows madness. While you surprisingly didn’t say we won’t see any DDB in any award show - being the captain of the ship - you did say we will see DDB less and less in those lists. Can be it because hundreds of your individual agency leaders, their thousands of CDs and many thousands of creative won’t buy into this movement without some convincing? I can only guess.

While I’d like to buy into your belief and even into the vision you’ve set for DDB and the entire advertising industry as a whole, allow me to suggest what it looks like from the bottom of the food chain, from the point of view of a copywriter who this article might be targeted at.

As far as I understand, how the growth of creatives works is - we work in an agency for a few years. Most agencies hardly give us big raises irrespective of our performance. The only way to get ahead is to ‘win’ awards and switch jobs. That’s what most of my counterparts have done, who are now at cushy positions. That’s what you did once too, I’m assuming. Not that you and they didn’t make good work. Not that good work doesn’t pay. It just doesn’t pay if your conservative clients don’t buy it, or if it never gets produced because the ‘business requirements have changed’.  

And then, when you apply to agencies to get a new job and after the few initial rounds you tell them how much money you want, you’re told ‘that’s how much money creatives make here when they have five lions”. The conversation is no longer about experience, or produced work. And most sadly, it’s never about brave work that got shot down by conservative clients. (I’m not saying DDB is like this. In my country DDB doesn’t even return emails.)

All I’m saying is, when you’re a copywriter who makes less than 50k euros a year, the conversation about money without awards, and hence the choice to stay away from awards becomes very very difficult.

My question to myself would be - would I rather see most of my good ideas shot down in the real world or see at least a few of them alive in the ‘fake’ world?

And my question to you would be, isn’t your speech just another example of how we prefer making money by keeping our clients happy, over great creative work that gives us creative satisfaction in the first place?

If you want creatives to have integrity and believe in the real creative business, you have to first create a path for them to grow without having to worry about awards. You have to make their existence easier. For most of us it’s sink or swim. And we will do what it takes to survive.

And finally, winning awards is not a yardstick for creative effectiveness. No sir, it isn’t.

But that’s not to say winning awards is not a yardstick for creative capability.

To me, the award shows have always been like fashion shows. Most of the stuff you see up there isn’t what’s gonna work in the real world.

But it does showcase new trends and open new doors in the the business, and make creatives famous overnight. More often than not it’s helped me liberate my thinking and grow as a creative. It’s made me go - and I’m sure I’m not alone in this - why didn’t I think of this? It’s made me kick myself when I see someone else work on a similar brief who did something I hadn’t thought of.

At the cost of sounding grossly mistaken, I think that without award shows most agencies wouldn’t have a creative ‘lab’, most agencies would do what the client asks for, most ‘real’ work produced would be really really average, and most creatives would be frustrated misfits who would question their career choices more often than they take smoke breaks. Because I’m sure you know well enough, being a copywriter yourself, clients shooting down brave ideas doesn’t get easier with any number of years in the industry.

IMHO, it would be a real waste of real talent.

Besides, most clients I have worked for have shown an active interest in the healthy PR they generate from winning awards as well. As far as I understand, it helps them and their business grow, and award shows open the marketers’ minds as well. I’m sure you’re not unfamiliar with studies that show the direct correlation between the number of awards a brand has won and the increase in their business.

I do agree with Mr. Bernbach though, “If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you and nobody for you.”

Well, this was me standing for the way things appear from where I’m standing.

Hope you’re having a nice day. Thanks for listening.


A bottom-of-the-food-chain Copywriter

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dad means coming home

The word that often starts at fear, but ends in relief. 
It provides protection that is invisible. 
You just always knew it
and felt it. 
It was always there.

Because when that word is spoken.
it feels like the worst things are okay.
Like every storm slows down. 
Every tornado pauses. 
Every fire mutes itself for a minute. 
And every flood drains. 

It’s words that have magic. 
“Dad!” for one. 
“Everything would be okay, son!” for another. 
that changes the ferocity of events without changing

The storm still has its fury.
The tornado still wrenches its guts. 
The fire waits to roar again and the
flood will flood any second now. 

But time has stopped. 
You’re safe. 
Shielded by something invisible. 

You can’t tell what it is
Or where it comes from
Or that it’s even there
or was there
Till it happens. 
isn’t a cry for help. 
It’s finding your way home. 
“It’s gonna be okay!”
doesn’t make everything okay. 
But it makes things okay.
When dad says it’s gonna be okay.
It isn’t always the truth. 
But it is
the truth. 

Wrote this manifesto for a project. It got shot down as too serious and heavy. Fair enough. I'm still proud of it. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Stranger's Gratitude

There are consequences to Portfolio Night that are hard to fathom before they happen. One of them is forming close bonds with people who have a heart of gold.

Recently in Miami during the craziness of the ADC festival, I realised that my German bank card wasn't working in the US. Thankfully everyone accepts credit cards in Miami - even cabs - so I wasn't left high and dry. But you can imagine my nervousness with very little cash in hand and only a credit card for the entire two weeks.

(I immediately emailed my German bank, who funnily enough, replied in perfect English, 4 days later, asking me to resend the request in German, without which they couldn't possibly activate my card for the US. I believe they call this German humour.)

On her last day, Laura Mendez​ came to me and handed me most of her remaining cash telling me that their trip had come to an end and that she'd like me to have the money, and that I could return it after I got back. She did this without me even asking, or stopping to consider if I would ever return the money. Andrew Stencil​ too, offered to help me as soon as he learnt about my situation.

The importance of this gesture I learnt only on landing in New Orleans, where trams, kiosks, Po' boy stands and even Jazz bars are cash-only. If it hadn't been for Laura's kind gesture, I would have had to face some embarrassing situations for sure.

These two, along with Zoltan, Lize-Marie, Vaibhav, Mélissa, Mars, Eva and all those who I've managed to meet me over the two years have only led to great experiences.

A big hug to these wonderful people who Portfolio Night put me in touch with. We are not just a bunch of creatives put in a room to work on ideas. Ultimately we turn into a gang of friends who don't have to hang out often to form strong bonds. Even if we've barely met twice in two years. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

India's Independence Day

Today is India's Independence Day. The day when we kicked the British ass out of India. Today was the day when Lord Mountbatten gave up the control to Nehru and Gandhi et al. Probably thinking how we won the war without firing a shot, while we were just as surprised that Mountbatten didn't notice that Nehru was fucking his wife.

The funny part is that we still take some sort of outdated pride in commemorating this even 67 years later. Also every time we beat England in Cricket. Just wanted to say - good that we don't play international soccer, or we'd have our ass beat every time. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Big Idea What?

The problem with the 'Big Idea' approach is that it is always a challenge to see how it will live or die. And more often that not, you end up getting the idea approved, and then struggling to make great ads etc. on that idea coz you didn't think of that before.

On the other hand, why not think real integrated? Think of one solid execution with a spine. Then find the line for it - which becomes the big idea. Then we find other executions.

Alternatively, if you think of a big idea, while the inspiration is fresh, figure out the one big execution with the spine. That will leave little less to be desired. Coz if you've cracked that big execution, you are sure of how the idea lives in the world. And that's when you'll be able to present it in a way that is irrefutable.

If it's truly good, that is.