I was having a roadside cup of chai with a colleague of mine the other day. We were generally talking about this and that and things that didn’t matter much in the macrocosm of things. In other words, advertising.
“Bodhi, my bumchum,” he said as he sipped the sweet concoction that was being paraded as tea. “Why and how is it that the only great ads you see on television and in the papers are made by the same handful of agencies?”
“Well mate”, I began to say before he cut me short and asked, “Is it only those few agencies that do good work?”
With that, he brought his cup close to his lips. Cue for me to speak, finally. “See man, I think this is how it is. Good work comes out of good agencies. The Tanishq commercial that’s doing the rounds, the 5 Star ‘no hard fillings’ series, Tata Sky – they’re all from the same few agencies, by and large. Yes, it’s not impossible to see a great piece of work coming out from a questionable agency, but for today and this conversation, we shall leave exceptions aside,” I said.
“Having said that, my friend it’s also prudent to state for the record that good agencies are made up of good people. An agency is nothing without its people; which is why they don’t let the good people go. So, when you look at which agency is doing the great work that you see, see too if you will, who in particular is responsible for it. You’ll find the same few names.”
”True for the award circuit as well. The same cluster of people keeps winning year after year after year. Putting their agencies in the spotlight once again.”
“But here comes the interesting part. Every now and then, you’ll find a strange name, someone you’ve never heard before shining in a good place. The agency stays the same in the list of credits, but there’s a new name there. This is what I like to call the Rub Off Effect.”
“The Rub Off Effect,” I said, “Is when the goodness of the agency rubs off on you. It’s a lot like Vaastu, where if you’re surrounded by good energy, you’re bound to eventually have some too.”
“Look at it this way. If you sit around like a vegetable, while the others around you keeping winning gold year after year, sooner or later it’ll pinch you. And when it does, and when you awake from your comatose state, you will in all probability do some pretty kickass work. Unless, of course, you have the hide of a rhino. In which case, it’ll bond better for you in your later years in advertising.”
“Funnily, the opposite is also true. Put a good person in a bad place, a place that’s never seen the yellow of a spotlight, the sheen of gold, the satisfaction of being their name on the coveted shortlist – and more often than not, he (or she) will fade into a mysterious oblivion of the Unknown.”
“So, when you ask what happened to that rockstar who was advertising’s darling, why you don’t see him anymore – the answer is pretty simple. He joined a bugger-all place.”
Satisfied like a cat about my well thought out theories and my lucidly simple explanations, I turned to him for some applause and a ‘biscoot’. Instead of eyes that sang of gratefulness, I saw instead eyes of horrific worry, as he started deep into his watch.
“What time was our meeting again?” he asked somewhat shakily.
I checked my watch.
“Ten minutes ago”, I softly said as I paid for the tea.
Good begets good. And this was a good time to leave.
Bodhisatwa Dasgupta (popularly known as Bodhi) is Creative Director, Grey Worldwide