Like music, advertising demands a perfect harmony of thoughts – and creativity is at its best when the two – the visual or the designing part synchronises with the text. And in-sync creative ideas are more probable when there are two brains seasoned working in accord. That’s all about the concept of duo in advertising. It seems to be a big success with some of the highly reckoned examples spread across the Indian ad space.
The idea is that an advertising team, comprising a copywriter and an art director, will use the experience they have gained working together to produce better work than the two paired at random with others. The system has been surviving for years within the agency system as a combination to ensure better creativity and advertising.
The Bhatt and Bhat duo have been working as a team for the past eight years now. For the first time the two worked together at the Delhi outfit of Contract Advertising, but it was only when they were hired as a team at Bates India (then Bates Clarion) that the partnership got cemented. After one year at Bates, the duo moved to Ogilvy, and then in early 2001, headed for Ambience. They then began their association with McCann wherein they are working as creative consultants.
Says Manish Bhatt of McCann, “As individuals, we both stand as qualified specialists, but as a team we are 10 times more productive. In our Contract days, we were introduced by a common friend and consequently, I helped Raghu when he was working on his portfolio. That’s when we realised that we could work together extremely well, and all our ideas were in sync with each other. We worked on a couple of projects together while in Contract, but our respective bosses were not really receptive to the whole concept of a duo. When we left Contract in 1997, we took the decision to work together henceforth. And since then it’s been a long time.”
He goes on, “I think that what works for us is that our egos don’t get in the way and we always reach on a compromise of sorts. The creative process works this way – as a duo, you think of five-six concepts and you need to square on the best one. Naturally, we may not agree on what’s the pick of the bunch but clear thinking comes in handy. Also relevant is the fact that we complement each other. While I am the emotional and impulsive one, Raghu is rational and level headed. And when we are pitching on a certain idea, we present ourselves as a team. Where I leave, Raghu takes off. And vice-versa.”
Raghu adds, “I think what’s important here is that we don’t question each other’s motives. If Manish doesn’t really like a particular idea or doesn’t agree on a point, I don’t look for hidden agendas or question the integrity of his actions. We never have a kind of report card in our head, wherein we square off what motive the other might have had for a particular action. And though we compliment each other, we also share similar tastes and interests…which is why we gel this great.”
Another duo in the advertising circles that has survived for has been the V Mahesh and Rajiv Rao combo. The partners came together at Heartbeat in 1994, moved to Ambience in 1996 and finally arrived at O&M in November 1999. The long-standing creative partners best known in recent times for their work on cellular service brand Hutch/Orange are currently heading the O&M Bangalore office. V Mahesh asserts, “It makes sense for an art director and writer to pair up together and work as a team. The team must be on the same 'wavelength' in order to spark a flow of ideas and work off each other. Art directors are usually good designers, drawers or have a general eye for how an ad should look. A writer can tell a great story, write scripts and compose dialogue. They can write reams of copy or just come up with an eye-catching headline. Together, they are charged with creating something out of the ordinary and unique to make the message stand out above others in the market.”
Mahesh adds, “Us functioning as a duo, well, it wasn’t a planned move. But when we started working together in Heartbeat, we realised that we give our best output when we work as a team. I believe that we have a good thing going in the creative product but that’s because we share perfect harmony with each other as far as the ‘ideation’ process goes. Nine out of 10 times, we agree on things. The question of squabbles and ego tussles just doesn’t arise.”
Ex-Mudra, ex-McCann Erickson hands Naved Akhtar and Freddy Birdy have set up their own advertising outfit Shop, which specialises in television, print, outdoor and radio advertising including direct mail and other collaterals. Shop’s bouquet of offerings also includes design work, ranging from corporate identities and logos to merchandising and interiors. This would be yet another example of a “successful” duo in advertising. Birdy acknowledges the same and states, “Success has touched us at every step since we have started working together. Individually, would we account for the same kind of success? It’s extremely doubtful.”
Clearly two heads work better than one. And when it’s a subject as distinctive as “creativity”, it does make sense for an art director and copywriter to pair up together and work as a team. The effort does pay off in multiples.