Sunday, April 30, 2006

A creative brief and a baby walker

I got my 6 month old son a walker, complete with some music which gets him going. It was quite an experience putting Anirudhha on the walker for the first time. When I did so, I could first see that Anirudhha was not a happy baby. He didn’t seem to like getting confined to a small frame with wheels which had a padded seat and backrest to support him. His defense mechanism worked to the fullest, he wouldn’t leave my shirt as he was getting dropped in his walker for the first time. When I did manage to wriggle out of his hold and stepped back with anxiety as to how my baby son would respond. He did with a kind of a war cry, he didn’t seem to like his new walker.

I pulled Anirudhha off the walker puzzled thinking what I should be doing, to make him enjoy sitting in there. Then stepped in my wife, she was quite confident that he would start liking his walker and he would be comfortable in it.

Roopa first took Anirudhha for a guided tour of his walker, she first made him hear the musical sounds from the walker. He was smiling, that was an improvement. She then took Anirudhha’s finger near the buttons that would teach him Cat, Hen, Cow, Dog etc. My son was amused to hear different sounds, he slowly started moving his hands trying to make his own musical sounds. He was happy, slowly he was getting to know his new friend, the walker.

And now Roopa makes him sit in the walker, he seems happy. He kept pressing different buttons for his dose of music and also started to move slowly. Wow what a sight it was to see my baby son trying to take his first steps using a walker.

It was then I was remembered about the creative briefs we write, it has quite a few similarities to my sons walker.

Similarity in terms of acceptance by the creative folks… The story is similar to putting my son on the walker, here it is putting a brief on my creative team.

When I walk into my creative teams room with a brief in hand, the first thing I would face is rejection.

I wouldn’t take any brief now, we loaded.

This brief is a cliché, it sucks as usual

Hey you have just cut paste your previous brief, given it a new name and got it here

I am not taking any of your briefs now

Here I take Roopa’s approach. Try show my creative team the colorful carrot my brief would buy them, in terms of awards & accolades, a raise and how interesting life is going to be after they finish working on this wonder brief from me.

Once I finish doing this first round, I would see some kind of an acceptance. And now I sit down with them and try take them through my brief.

Here they go, this product wouldn’t sell.
It doesn’t make any sense

Now, I try show them the other support I have to prove that this indeed is a good product and it would sell. I barely manage to convince them.

Now the discussion veers to the proposition.

We can’t take this, this is rubbish
Now the third and final round of convincing them starts. This time to prove how interesting the proposition is. And I do manage to sell my brief and I would have my work ready in a couple of days. What a life getting kids and creative folks on the walker!!

Cut the crap

“Why don’t you ‘cut the crap’ and say only what you want to?”

“Cut the crap” - A very commonly used term when we want to shut someone off, when we don’t like something said.

I use it, you use it and, we use this phrase quite very often. Somewhere, somehow I feel that this usage wrong. By saying “cut the crap” we don’t quite express what we actually want to. To put it simply it is a misusage.

Now let me explain why.

What happens when you cut the crap? Even thinking about it makes you feel sick, Is is not?

It still is crap. But in smaller quantities or to be a bit gross, present in portions. But that crap isn’t done away. You barely manage to reduce the amount.

The result – Crap is crap, whatever quantities you might find it in. It still stinks.

So what should be the correct usage.

You should do away with crap / nonsense.

Which is “Cut the crap off”

So next time you use this phrase say “Cut the crap off” in full. It would only then make sense.

And now I would cut this crap off.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

When an event planner fails – India Vs. Pakistan in Abu Dhabi

India is playing Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, it is a two match series. This series is aimed at helping the victims of the deadly earthquake that happened in Pakistan a couple of months ago. The matches, dubbed as the DLF Cup happen on 18.04.2006 and 19.04.2006, a Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. Both are day-night contests starting 3.30p Abu Dhabi time.

Well that was information we know. Now moving on to something else we might have missed out on…

Traditionally if you remember the days when matches in Sharjah used to be played. If it were an India, Pakistan fixture the match would be scheduled for either a Thursday evening, if it was a day-night or a Friday. The reason being, Thursdays are half working days in this part of the world and Fridays, as one might know a holiday. Thursdays and Fridays are considered weekends here.

Now try refresh your memory and remember the crowd composition. We had only two kinds of crowds. One the affluent crowd, which included the Anju Mahendru’s, Mandakini’s and others plus Abdul Rahman Bukhatir. This crowd would also include some known faces and names in terms of politicians, actors and others.

The second was the laborer crowd, these are people who come to the UAE to do some skilled labor work, including your mason, carpenter, mechanics and construction workers. This class constituted the largest chunk of the crowd, both Indians and Pakistanis.

You would seldom see people like me and you among the crowd. Unless we are given a free pass to watch the match from one of the vantage stands we wouldn’t even care to go near the over crowded stadium.

This is something we have seen in our TV’s and I have over my last year in the UAE heard from my friends who have been here since the hay days of Sharjah. Now let us see what the intelligent planners at the Sheikh Zayeed Stadium in Abu Dhabi have done for the DLF Cup.

A) They have scheduled the matches on working days

Even considering the fact that this is a day-night fixture starting by 3.30p. One is supposed to reach the stadium at least a couple of hours before to get a strategic position to watch the match.

Now, I am a laborer. I am a cricket buff. But when it comes to life and death I can do away with cricket. Well I guess that would how any sane human being would think. So if I were to bunk work where I get paid by the day, a peanut of a sum then I wouldn’t sacrifice work for cricket. I would rather give cricket a miss.

Now, if I was that serious a buff who didn’t want to miss work as well as work. I would at least have to sacrifice one session of the match, a strategic position and some valuable Dirhams to watch the second session and presentation. I frankly don’t know how many would want to do it.

So the planners have failed on one critical count. Now let us see what is next.

B) Pricing the tickets

The tickets have been priced at Dh. 50 for those famous grass mounds and Dh. 150 for seating. I am not even discussing the other tickets like the boxes. Now Dh. 50 is lots of money for the laborer.

May be that would make sense if he had the opportunity to watch the full match and also the glitterati from Bollywood who is going to perform and the fire works et al. But that would be a big MAY BE.

So the planners have failed in all critical aspects of staging a India – Pakistan encounter, a supposed money spinner in this part of the world.

The local newspaper just echoed my view. According to “Gulf News” there are 6000 tickets that are yet to be sold. I just got to know that the Dh. 50 mound passes are not sold in advance but sold in the venue, over the counter. The stadium seats 16,000 people. Now having not sold 6000 tickets, you expect 10,000 minus the crowd for the mounds. I don’t have a figure as to what the mounds would seat. Therefore. you would have to wait and see how much of your mounds gets filled.

To sum up, unless and until something extraordinary happens. Abu Dhabi government declares a local holiday for the matches or the laborers get a bonanza of a two day vacation, this match is going to be a failure in terms of crowd support in the venue.

Let us hope and pray the first international cricket match Abu Dhabi is staging is a success, Insha Allah. Hope I am proved wrong by the cricket crazy India & Pakistan supporters.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Reason for a riot

As I opened a regional newspaper here in Dubai this morning. On the front page, bold and blaring it read “Actors death sparks violence in India”. Yes that was the news about Rajkumar, the Kannada actor passing away. I had just finished reading this news when a colleague of mine, an English man asked me innocently “But, he died naturally right? Or was it a murder or something?”. As an Indian I felt insulted by this innocent remark made by my colleague.

I fail to understand why on earth would anyone who is in no way related to the man who passed away peacefully due to old age, pelt stones, burn vehicles and vandalize shops. What do these people who indulge in such kind of violence gain breaking and damaging public property?

Would Rajkumar wake up human from corpse because the vandals managed to burn 10 vehicles and injure 40 others?

Would god lord almighty come down straight to Bangalore and revive Rajkumar or at least apologize to these people for committing the grave sin of having to take the life of a man 77 years old?

I fail to understand why people do such kinds of drama, sullying the name of the nation – India, making the complete IT & ITES setup to come to a grinding halt for a couple of days and there by ensuring crores of Rupees worth losses. Yes, I saw in a television news channel that the call centers and IT organizations are not working and the government has declared two days of mourning for the guy who passed away – An actor.

Even accepting the greatness of the actor he was, would these organizations have declared a holiday for that merit? I doubt, they have declared this holiday because they feared for their infrastructure, the danger to the lives of their employees and their properties.

So the net result, the vandals have managed to spoil the name of a great country, the country's business interests and by doing so they also have managed to damage and erase the respect a person from these industries and the general public would have had for the great actor who passed away, Dr. Rajkumar.

Very similar was the pictures beamed from outside a Jodhpur jail where the great, Salman Khan was imprisoned till this morning. I saw people demonstrating outside the jail asking Salman to be released and all charges against him dropped.

Think about these scenarios and you would have 20 coming up. Agitation because Amar Singh’s phone was tapped, because Sonia Gandhi resigned again, because Saurav Ganguly was dropped from the Indian cricket team and so on…

God knows when some stupid people from our great nation India stop doing these kinds of cheap drama for publicity and sully the entire nations name around the world, thanks to the cameras of BBC, CNN and various other news media from around the world. And also effectively derailing the business machinery in the country and thereby loosing crores of Rupees.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Advertising – Sane and sensible

Traditionally advertising is defined as the “business of drawing public attention on goods and services”. That is the very dictionary definition of advertising, the business that helps my chimneys fuming, the trade that has been feeding me & my family for the past 7 years.

I was taught about various models of advertising or rather making your advertising visible and heard. From the AIDA model to the recent Disruption theory. I have been beamed a few award winners through our b-school boardroom projectors, from the local advertising club award winners to the complex least comprehended Cannes winners. I graduated to get into the best of advertising agencies to see some of the accounts of mine getting recognized from the local levels to a Cannes and an Echo. Laurels apart I learnt about five key factors that are important to reach a message to the consumer, the way they like – the way they could assimilate.

The vehicle, timing, message, differentiation and relevance…

I have till date experienced, seen or produced advertisements that try and conquer all the five frontiers of becoming the best advertisement. The result, they are found lacking on at least one parameter and hence becoming incomplete. The products or service so advertised is still preferred by a set of consumers or jury who reward it with gold’s and grand prix. I was searching for one advertisement that fulfilled all the five parameters, that ended when I saw this small strip on a newspaper supplement here in Dubai.

I’m sure you would have your own opinion on this piece and also have your own favorites. I would agree opinions are highly subjective, views depend on eyes. To make things less complicated I’m trying to present my view on good advertising. To agree or disagree is your prerogative. That said, I would love your comments on my views. For that would help me grow and mature.

The vehicle:

This advertisement in question was published in the Entertainment Plus magazine dated 08.03.2006, a supplement with Gulfnews one of the leading newspapers in the United Arab Emirates in the bottom of the 36th page..


As I said this is a supplement in colour, it is a magazine that contrasted its parents nature – A newspaper. This supplement as its name suggests is all about entertainment, cinema, gossip and Television programming. Hence the possibility of a consumer preferring this to the parent, the newspaper is more. The baseline – this supplement is well read.


This was an advertisement for a restaurant in Dubai, to be precise a Chinese restaurant. Knowing Dubai as a city of international importance and understanding the kind of expatriate crowd in the city one could estimate the number of eateries and restaurants here. From star class to the lowest possible class. You have the spectrum available.

So it doesn’t bother where you advertise, when you advertise or why you advertise. The thing that matters the most, as usual is How you advertise – what is your differentiator.

The differentiator:

As we know Dubai is a city with diverse expatriate population. Hence you see all possible world cuisine permutations available at some place or the other. You could see the Indians living here preferring a set of restaurants. Same is the case with Chinese or a British, French or anybody else. The brave few would defy all odds to carefully select those who have the maximum “Word of mouth” and test it. But you seldom see someone transcend these borders.

Hence the differentiator should be able to break the regional barrier and give a global feel, yet be authentic to the roots.

So how about a “Indianised Chinese Cuisine”. Back in India everything is spiced up, flavored. In China it is more bland, raw and natural. So when the Chinese came to India during the pre-historic period they brought with them their recipes, these were blend with the Indian spices to give birth to a new genre of cuisine that was oriental and spicy.

As years passed by lots of the so called Chinese and fast food restaurants mushroomed in India, people started getting used to this flavor and many liked & patronized it. This spread all across the world where the Indians spread. But with limited commercial success. The reason when it was communicated it was either miscommunicated as authentic Chinese food or as the traditional Indian tandoor food. It doesn’t fit both and hence it was a flop.


Here is one “Imperial Dragon” who is brave enough to have the Indian as well as the Chinese tag here as part of his communication. So what make this communication so special for me?

The expat population in UAE is largely Indian and Pakistani, then come the Europeans. The Indians and the Pakistanis are familiar with the Indian made Chinese food, but they can’t stand the authentic Chinese variety. For they want spicy food. So tell them about a Chinese restaurant they would be apprehensive, they wouldn’t even test the food. So when you say the Indian Chinese food, you have a higher probability that they would flock.

Target two are the Europeans. These are guys who already are familiar with the “Chicken Tikka Masala”, the so called national dish of England. Many there still think it is an Indian dish, some know about its Bangladeshi origins. Everyone loves it, so the baseline – they have started liking those food that carry an Indian tag. While this thesis is not a global truth yet, you could largely claim so. Hence if you go to the European crowd and say, hey I have got a food that is Chinese but has a signature Indian taste there is a good probability that they would at least try this cuisine. As someone who has tried this, I would say the percentage dropouts would be far less compared to the hook-ons.

The net result due to the differentiation and relevance of this piece of communication – you have the Indian & Pakistani crowd coming for sure, the local UAE crowd as I know loves the Indian spicy food varieties and they are known for their experimental mentality as far as food is concerned. And you have a steady European patronage at least from those brave tester population. So that well covers the final two frontiers differentiation and relevance.

So what more does an advertisement aim for, you got a majority of your audience look at you and say WOW I should try it sometime. I too would try this food sometime, for I have been enchanted by this restaurants communication strategy. It scores 5/5 from me.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Cost of creativity

I was reading a piece from one of the advertising, media & marketing magazines back here in Dubai. There I found this gentleman, creative director of a direct marketing agency who had given his opinion about direct marketing. He had actually said “Some direct marketing Ideas get squashed by clients because they have overshot the budget…”. I was thinking about this remark of this gent, it wasn’t digesting. I am here trying to contradict the statements made by the gentleman and trying to explain why I think otherwise.

The first oxymoronic thing I found in this statement was “Ideas” and “Budget”. You can’t try and mix both these things. For “Ideas” has something to do with creativity, thinking, et al. “Budgets” as we know is money, plain simple dollars. To tell why they don’t go hand in hand, I have this simple example.

Say I want to go to Paris. But everyone on earth who aspires to go there flies there, some from Europe and around drive their way through. I don’t want to do what others are doing, I want to break the clutter. And therefore I want to go to Paris biking. This is my idea. I want to be different, stand alone hence thinking a bit creative (although this is a little clichéd…) I chose the biking route.

Now having said that I would have to embark on a different task, which is costing my trip or budgeting for my adventure. Now if I have a strong will and have a good enough belief on this particular idea I have come up with, I would find budgets from somewhere to execute this idea of mine. In case, god forbid I figure I don’t have budgets to support my idea . I would think about options or other ways of executing this idea of myself of having to bike to Paris.

So if one had a good enough idea he shouldn’t worry about the budgets at all. If the client comes back with this excuse of budgets, don’t worry if you think you are armed with a whale of an idea. You would find economical ways to execute that whale of an idea of yours. Yes, you would find a way to render your idea come what may.

So the next time your client says he doesn’t have budgets to do something you propose, be sure that is not convinced enough with the IDEA of yours.

The first step to that believe in yourself, believe in your ideas, think creative. The ways, means and budgets for execution would follow.

To sum up there is nothing called “Cost of creativity” in this world. Remember even while advertising agencies, for the sake of earning a living and survival have a RATE CARD for their creative they don’t and can’t produce a RATE CARD for creativity.

They moment someone tries to come up with a RATE CARD for creativity, they are fooling you with stereotypes, something uncreative.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

10 things to remember if you aspired to be a Pizza delivery boy / girl

Believe me it is remunerating, I am seriously considering a switch in careers.

  1. Practice reading maps: That would help you get acclimatized with the city/town where you plan to work as a pizza delivery boy
  2. Learn to ride a bike or rather learn how not to ride a bike: That would help you horrify traffic, a few by standers and a couple of Jaywalkers to get your way through the maddening streets. Most of all have a valid license along. If you don’t have one, ask for your friends, take it to a colour photocopy place and get a fake done. This is most important, you never know when you would be stopped by an unfriendly policeman.
  3. Speak out don’t shy away: This would make you ask for directions from unknown people when you loose your way to a delivery, stand a better chance of asking a beautiful lady customer out for a date (in case you want a shift in jobs, though you could end up in a police station)
  4. Collect coins (only the relevant currency): This would stand you a better chance of getting bigger tips from your customers. For example if you need to pay a customer 50 bucks, pay him / her out in small change. This would force them return some as tips just because of the laziness of people to carry small change in their pockets / wallets
  5. Bathe properly, keep yourself decently groomed: This would make sure your stink doesn’t take away the sweet smell of the pizza away while you deliver.
  6. Always remember to get two good reasons as to why you were late: More often than not you end up pissing the customers off because your chef didn’t cook your pizza’s in time or the odd traffic cop stopped you for over speeding. In case of these kinds of eventualities you must have at least two proper reasons to cool your customers tempers.
  7. Learn reading / understanding faces: This would help you say the right things post you having delivered the pizza. You might ring the bell for a delivery when a husband and wife or two live-in mates are right in the middle of a good middle of the week fight, just say thank you sir or madam once you deliver and rush back. Don’t take the pain of wishing them a nice meal or a nice day / night and piss them off.
  8. Learn the art of deceiving walks: Whenever you near a door for a delivery try walking fast, pant if you could. This would create an impression that you take extra pains delivering, this would also ensure that your cold pizza is kept hot – at least in your customers minds till you leave.
  9. Practice not to spit as you speak: While may like when it rains, people don’t appreciate when it rains from some ones mouth. And if you spit as you speak as a pizza delivery boy you stand the risk of wetting up your customers face as well as his favorite pizza. You might also be fortunate enough to have a blow or two landed on your face for doing so, so don’t spit when you speak. If you can’t resist, keep your customer and the pizza you carry at a safe distance.
  10. Forget Hammurabi and his “Tit for Tat” principle: You might occasionally have some customers who would hurl some abuses, forget and forgive them. For, he or she is your company owners relative. You might painfully lose your job, if they are not related then they would make sure you and your company are well taken care of by an attorney, police or at least by his / her residential security. You might well end-up having a black eye trying to retaliate verbally.