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Guest Column: Thank God, I am in advertising: Bodhisatwa Dasgupta

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Guest Column: Thank God, I am in advertising: Bodhisatwa Dasgupta

A few days back, I was fortunate enough to meet someone I have immense respect for, a writer I grew up on. Half an hour after meeting him, I was even more fortunate to watch him speak.

I had the fortune to laugh along with the many who laughed, when he said he was glad he wasn’t in advertising anymore. I had the fortune of giving the planners in the audience a snide glance when he talked about planners lacking imagination and exposure. I had the fortune of giving one of the greatest men in our advertising time a standing ovation.

But then I came home.

And as I poured myself a drink, I started thinking. I started thinking about all the things he said, about how glad he was to be out of advertising. And I asked myself if I was happy doing what I did.

And I was.

And not just because advertising is perhaps the only thing I can do. But because the way advertising constantly evolves.

There are so many new things that are happening around us, newer ways to tell stories, more engaging ways for brands to connect, un-heard of things for companies to do.

Advertising has changed since the last 30 years. And in 10 years, it won’t be the same as it is today. And it’s all very romantic to begin sentences with “In the good old days…”. But truth be told, 10 years later, we’ll all be dinosaurs, struggling to come to terms with what advertising is then.

And there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that. Things change. People change. Roles change. Brands change. Agencies change. Technology changes. It’s hard to keep up.

The essence of advertising, however, still stays the same. It is, from my limited knowledge, mostly about relationships between people. Not even between clients and agencies – but between one client and one advertising person.

It is still about creating great advertising. Or trying to, at any rate. And here’s the thing. I don’t believe that the great advertising has to come from a writer. Or an art director. And not anyone else. The great thing with ideas is that it can come from anyone, regardless of discipline, degree or designation.

I don’t believe account planners lack in imagination and exposure. Some of them are twats, of course. But then so are most of us, in the creative department.

I have had the fortune of working with many account planners who have hit the insight spot on. And that’s what advertising is all about, isn’t it? Saying something that everyone else empathizes with?

Account planners have made our lives easier, if anything. In the “good old days”, writers had to research a brand thoroughly before they wrote a campaign. They had to test drive cars, lie down beneath them, write with the pens they advertised, sell life insurance to talk about it.

Now we have someone else to do all that and come and tell us, so we may tell a nice little story around it.

Is that good? Bad?

I haven’t a clue, but 10 years from now, we’ll have a separate discipline in agencies that are in charge of just writing baselines. Or jingles.

We’ll probably have a separate discipline that’s in charge of thinking which celebrity should be endorsed with what brand too. And as much as I hate celebrity endorsement, and as much as I think that it’s a colossal waste of money, the fact is Indians love idol worship.

It’s in our damn genes. Sachin isn’t a man who plays good cricket. He’s a God. Shahrukh isn’t a good(?) actor. He’s a God. And if Mango Frooty is good enough for God, then it sure as hell is good enough for us.

And Amitabh Bachhan? Don’t get me started.

The point is, there are many things we can’t explain in advertising. Like why a product that doesn’t do any advertising sometimes does much, much better than a product that spends millions on it.

Like why we come home cribbing about advertising, and how we promise to quit it every day. Only to return the next morning to our offices and secretly feel happy. Only to go home that night and promise to quit it again.

Is it because somewhere in that cynical mind of ours, we’re proud of what we’re doing? Is it because in spite of clients sometimes extracting the last drop of blood from us, that last drop happens to be pure gold? Is it because in spite of not making any money in it at all, we’re still leaving something behind every day?

Or is it simply because there’s nowhere else we’d rather be?

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta (popularly known as Bodhi) is Creative Director, Grey Worldwide

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