Notes from Goa: Time to show off a bit

Writing exclusively for e4m, Pat Burns, Creative Head at BMB Madison, calls for the ad industry to be less formulaic and more spontaneous and creative while communicating within the industry.

e4m by Pat Burns
Updated: Apr 9, 2011 8:54 AM
Notes from Goa: Time to show off a bit


Lovely day, obviously.

I’ve been seeing something around the place. A noble, heartfelt message. ‘Ideas are all around us. Can you spot one?’

Let me tell you a story.

A couple of years ago, I took a holiday in Vietnam. It’s an incredible place – historic, gorgeous, fun. Go.

I was in a town called Nha Trang on the coast. It’s a sleepy seaside village-cum-giant industrialised resort. The whole place is full of streetkids, and one of their things is they sell books. The same books. Boxes full of tired old paperbacks. Kerouac, Shantaram, Che Guevara. Your standard traveller fare.

One of these kids, though, stood out. He wanted you to buy his books, but so did hundreds of other kids.

But this boy had a proposition. He pushed his books unlike anyone else. You played him at pool, and if you won, he gave you a book. If you lost, you had to buy a book from him.

He presented it in such a way that you couldn’t say no. The kid had hustle. He had charm and guile. And of course, he was the best pool player in the world. You’d never beat him. And if you did, he was just setting you up for double or quits, and then you had to buy two books.

He made me buy four, five, six books that I had no intention of buying. My brother, too. And we really didn’t mind. I’d hire him for client servicing RIGHT NOW, but he’s probably still only 14. And two years down the line, he sticks in my mind.

So. Yesterday, I watched a lot of people talking about a lot of things. They were interesting. They were relevant. They spoke a lot of truth that we’d all do very well to pay attention to, not just in India, but in England, and all over the world.

But here’s the problem. With a couple of exceptions, I don’t know who said what. The wisdom blended into one and, as it so often does, got lost.

We talk a lot about creativity. About how we should get our message across to our consumers. But then we go and talk to each other in Powerpoint slides and statistics. I’ve never known why an industry which is supposed to communicate things clearly and simply to everyone is so average at talking to itself. No worse than any other industry, granted, but hey: do we want to be like any other industry?

Ideas aren’t just for our clients. Creativity should be in every single thing we do, whether it’s a campaign or a brief or an invitation to the office party. Don’t ask me how right now. I’m one of those creatives who takes time to think, to ponder; time to get back to you. If my colleague Shoumitra was here, he’d have a hundred ideas already, but he’s in Mumbai. I can give you his number.

Let’s not be formulaic. Let’s not allow an advertising conference be a regular conference. Let it be a showcase, for us, to each other. Let’s show off a bit.

If you want someone to buy your book, offer to play them at pool. I hope you know what I mean. Difference is our most telling weapon.

Ideas are indeed there to be spotted. But let’s not rely on that. Let’s shout about them and with them, whenever we can.

Anyway, I really like what you’ve done with the place. The relaxed wandering about bit, taking in as much or as little of the work as you like, is a very agreeable way to spend your time.

I’ve spent much of today looking at your ads. As someone from foggy old London town, though, who pretty much catches fire in the sunshine, I’m having to do it in batches, scurrying back inside every now and then for a dip in the pool, which isn’t much of a hardship. I’ll scribble down what I think of them tomorrow.

Oh, and could someone turn the heating down a bit?

Also read:
Notes from Goa: The whitest man around...


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