Saturday, December 23, 2006

Choosing the right blog service

A couple of months back, I began parallel publishing my blog here, and on wordpress.

I planned to use both for a while to see which would be more comfortable to use.

I also wanted to know whether the same content gets different traffic on different locations/environments - ie - blogger versus wordpress.

There was a difference:

1. Wordpress is far simpler to use, with most inputs being click, drag and drop. Including what I find most convenient - "open in new window" for links. In blogger, I needed to go into the html of each link and add the relevant code to open in new window.

2. I believe the new blogger (no more beta) has this function, and I can shift to the new look. But I believe I will lose all my customisations - links, counters, banners, etc and I would have to redo all of them in the new format. I don't have the time or energy to do that.

3. Tracking? Wordpress has a built in stat counter and traffic tracker, although quite basic. Since this is not a professional venture blog, basic stats are good enough for me. So score one more for wordpress.

4. Visitors? They're more or less the same on both locations - although search engines will rank my pages lower as they will discover duplicate content in two different locations (why? how? I'm not sure, but this is a fact I am told).

I now also have my own domain name so you can simply type that in (and bookmark it) to arrive at my blog.

At the moment you will automatically get redirected to my wordpress blog. Until I can figure out which specific software to use.

I'm just thinking aloud. I wrote it down, just in case it helps anyone out there who has a similar debate going on in your head!

Fighting the "Keyhole View" of Advertising & Public Relations

When I "left advertising" last year, to "broaden my horizons and find new ways of communicating to the new world of consumers", most advertising folk I knew didn't have a clue as to what I was talking about.

Admittedly, even I wasn't sure what was out there, and what all I would have to learn (and unlearn), after being in the business of communication for 16 years!

The only thing I knew for sure, is that there is life beyond the 30 second TVC, the 100cc print ad, and the use of cricket instead of a real strategy.

I also knew that 'service industry' doesn't mean providing lip service, but means providing professionally thought out solutions the brand needs, not necessarily what the client personally wants.

In the 16 months since, I have quite literally gone back to school. Learning all about new consumers, new media, and new and exciting ways of communication.

I believe I have learn't a lot more 'new things' in the last 16 months, than I perhaps did in 16 years inside some of the largest agencies in the country!

Meanwhile my contemporaries in advertising, can at best describe my work as "doing his own thing" still not having a clue as to what I'm talking about.

  • When I say I work with new media - the reaction is "oh, you make websites"

  • When I say I am an independent consultant - they say "oh, you do freelance advertising"

  • When I say I give clients a 360 degree perspective, it's "oh, you do below the line, DM and stuff??"

Well, I am "doing my own thing", which is actually a combination of all of the above, plus and a lot more! Minus of course, the late nights, messy meal times, working weekends, and minus pandering to the egos of amateur 'professionals' and clueless 'know-it-alls'.

The last two categories above of course, make up the bulk of the business today, and unfortunately drive the perception of advertising.

So what drove me up the wall? What drives senior people like me and even much higher ups to either put up their hands and walk away in disgust, or set out on their own to try and do things the way they believe it should be done?

I believe, there are four things the advertising industry in general needs to address/lacks:

  1. Perception

  2. Perspective

  3. Planning

  4. Processes

While these elements exist in clusters - among certain individuals, among certain agencies, and among certain clients - the numbers aren't enough, and don't have the critical mass to make a difference. At least, not yet.


First and foremost, in order for our business to "grow up" and change the perceptions people have of us as 'overpaid, overhyped yarn spinners' we need to change our own perceptions about ourselves.

Yes, we have to stop reducing our importance by calling ourselves 'advertising professionals'. Or just 'PR professionals'. Because then we will be just that - a cog in the wheel of the overall marketing and communication machinery.

We need to see ourselves, and project ourselves, as overall strategic and communication professionals. And provide overall comprehensive solutions, which are unbiased by the kind of talent we have on our payroll, even if it means we have to find a third party to implement a program. (It's better to earn a referral fee, than earn a fee from something that isn't required in the first place).

I do believe advertising and public relations have to work together, not independently. It's apalling for me to think that most of the time the ad agency doesn't know what the PR firm is doing and vice versa for most shared clients. And you can forget them working together on a campaign!

The point is, when we can advise and recommend solutions to our clients, irrespective of whether we ourselves implement them or not, respect and trust for us will naturally grow.


In order for the business to grow intellectually and effectively, rather than just financially, we definately need to broaden our perspectives.

We need to know more about the new age consumers, around new age media, and about the constantly emerging technologies that constantly change the aspirations, habits, and goal posts of both consumers and their media.

We need to have a perspective on these things today, as well as how it will and can evolve as soon as 3 months down the line, as well as a whole 2 years on.

Traditional SEC categorisation, TRP and Reach to my mind are just lame crutches of the intellectually challenged. And ass-covering excuses for mediocre performance.

We need to wake up to hits, eyeballs, word of mouth, peer to peer influencers, user generated media, and motivating factors beyond food, clothing and shelter.

We need to recognise that the internet, radio and peer to peer media are not "innovations" but a way of life today, and should be a part of every good communication program!


It's amazing how unplanned our business it. Right from work flow within the office, to programs executed across audiences. Not surprisingly, we tend to be ad hoc and project demanded, rather than productivity driven.

With the right perspectives and perceptions (insights) we need to balance out current sales needs versus constant brand needs.

We need to plan, because quite simply as a studio manager used to tell us - if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

This point is no rocket science, simply a reminder service :)


This is usually the bane of every creative person, and account executive, and client. This is a "creative" business, isn't it? How can innovation be processed??

And how can we follow process when everything is needed yesterday?? Right?

Wrong! Because creativity and innovation are not something that will come fall in your lap. They are things that have to be pursued, nurtured and polished.

Creativity and Innovation are a science as well as an art.

And since there is no formal training, or text books for us in the business, each one of us comes with our own brand of thinking and way of working. Not surprisingly, we have the maximum issues around subjectivity, we keep the most bizarre working hours, and deadlines are like traffic lights on New Delhi roads - meant to be ignored.

Processes can help bring some order to our disorder, action instead of anarchy, and satisfaction of results instead of surrender to rubbish.

Process makes life easier - for those who know their jobs, and especially for those who don't. Don't fight process, harness it.

Processes also weed out the weeds in our fields of talent. A VP I once worked it, was a great proponent of 'chaos theory'. Only this was his cover for not knowing his job, not doing any work, and his inability to define roles and responsibilities. Chaos helped him pit people against people, and hence keep anyone from noticing that he was all crap!

So beware of those who fight process!


If we as an industry don't want to be seen as 'narrow minded' and with "keyhole vision", we need to unlock our minds and open our doors to change.

We need to get out of our independent silos of advertising and public relations and discover how to blend the power of the two - where paid communication and unpaid-for hype work together.

We need to constantly and consistently find whatever it takes to give our clients greater impact. In whichever medium we think relevant. Targetting whoever we think is important, including those within client's organisations!

We need to aspire to a stage where we're not depreciated as a commoditised service provider, but instead appreciated as a specialist solutions partners.

Is that so hard to see?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Santosh Desai, Advertising, and The Way We Are!

A couple of days back I read that Santosh Desai was leaving hardcore advertising. Not surprising I thought, for a man of his thinking and abilities, he probably felt stifled at McCann. And he probably would have felt the same in any other agency.

Then this morning I read an interview with him in AgencyFaqs, where he vented his frustrations on what he called the "narrow and one-track mindedness" of the industry he's spent 20 years in (a large part of it, where he was the boss!)

Not surprisingly, the interview was flooded with comments in the last 10 hours (16 comments until the writing of this post). While most commentors praised his insights and commended his decision, not surprisingly some of them accused/asked Santosh what he did to change things?

While it's a valid question (and something we all should ask ourselves, when we complain)... but I was apalled by the gall of anyone to suggest that Santosh did nothing to change the business!

Not to discredit the others at McCann India, but the stature which the agency has today, hasn't just fallen out of the skies with some divine intervention... nor can you say any one person alone (as some would say perhaps Prasoon Joshi) changed the face of the agency.

Before the arrival of these two gentlemen, McCann's creativity and strategy was at best mediocre (For example, remember the atrocious work done for Coke in the early days before the Santosh-Prasoon team up?)

Then there's Account Planning. I cannot thing of too many people who brought so much respect to the function as Santosh did. He even made Creative Directors in other agencies look at their planners in new light. And even got a lot of them to consider making planners their 'equal partners' in creativity!

I think we need to give Santosh a lot more credit than he's being given.

At the same time, what gives anyone the idea, that he's done here? And that he won't make a difference to the business as "a client" - from the 'outside' that is.

Most of us won't admit it, but most agencies are completely driven by their clients' thinking. Their resistance to learn and try new things comes not from their own lack of interest, but rather what they think the client believes and would resist! As wierd and uncomfortable as it may sound, this is the reality. The more experimentative our clients, the more experimentative are their agencies.

And finally, if we simply absorb Santosh's comments with the right spirit, we may actually be able to do something positive about it. With or without our clients' help!

Note: I would like to acknowledge that we're not as bad as it may sound. There are still a whole bunch of people around here, with the balls to fight and make a difference - the folks at Ogilvy, for example... and A Advertising, The Shop, to name just a few. And a whole lot of unheard of others who are doing new and interesting things, inside and outside of their agencies.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Advertising, PR, and the art of saying "No"

The phrases "No, can't do!" or "thanks, but no thanks!" don't quite figure in the vocabulary of advertising, marketing and public relations people, do they? And I mean when it is in the context of standing up for what we believe in, or refusing business because it goes against our values, professional instincts, and the interests of our people.

Well that's the power of money, and the sad-but-true belief that "if i don't do it their way, someone else will".

I am perhaps the most flexible of professionals when it comes to listening to the other point of view (more now, as an independent). But I am also a strong believer in saying "no, can't do" (and have done so, again more as an independent).

The point is however, saying "no" for the right reasons:

  • If you're culturally mismatched or professional work styles differ, it is the obvious thing to say no.

  • If the client has a history of "bad relationships" say no, there's no way you're going to change that.

  • If there is no mutual professional trust and respect, say no. Note, personal trust and respect has nothing to do with the professional side - he/she may make you feel good at an individual level, but professionally you and your teams will suffer.

  • If anyone treats your people badly (being rude, unfair, aggressive, etc) stand up for your people. And don't work with companies who think people are transitory and meant to be used (typical lousy statement: hey, if they can't handle it, they shouldn't be in the service industry!)

  • If you cannot take on something, due to lack of resources/time/whatever, say no and state the reason honestly (leave a window open). Don't say yes, because then everyone will suffer.

I am sure everyone has good reasons to say "no", and "thanks, but no thanks!"

But it's not just about saying "no", you have to be sensitive about it, and do it right:

  • Lay out the groundrules in the very beginning of a relationship. Outline your expectations and belief systems from the beginning. Understand the other side as well.

  • If you see a crisis coming, or know you're going to say no, give the client a 'heads up' as soon as possible, so they can make alternate arrangements. It would be worse, if you leave them in the lurch.

  • Say it to the point person in the client's side, not down the line and expect them to carry the word upwards. Say it one-on-one, with dignity.

  • Don't go public with messy stories or gory details. State differences of values if you have to in press and the public at large. Take your people into confidence, make them feel proud of what you've done, but discourage them from tom-tomming the act in public.

  • Don't do it at the drop of a hat, do it after great consideration and talking to your people to know how much is too much. Let your people decide how much they will take, before they risk being broke!

And to the above, I personally work with the target that my biggest client should never exceed 30% of all my business. If it does, I am in deep shit! The point is then to build other businesses, to ensure I'm never being used, or live in the fear of having all my eggs in one basket!

And that, is the greatest support you will have, if you ever want to say "no" ...yes??

Friday, December 15, 2006

Adrant offers "fake blog apology" service to marketers!

Marketers who create blogs and try to pass them off as genuine user blogs will more often than not get caught! Adrants now offers a customised "fake blog apology service"! Read about the service (and about some fake blogs exposed) here.


The Indian Economy: News That Caught My Eye # 2

Infosys in the Nasdaq-100 Index: On 18th December 2006 Indian IT giant Infosys (market capitalisation on nasdaq - $5.6 Billion) is set to join the likes of Adobe, Apple, Cisco, Dell, eBay, Google, and Microsoft in the Nasdaq 100 Index - becoming the first Indian company to do so!

Infosys is one of the great Indian companies (like Tata) that has a spotless reputation in India, and ranks among one of the most aspirational organisations to work for.

Business wise too, they've grown from strength to strength, and this recognition is the icing on the cake - though people at Infy insist this is just the beginning!

Meanwhile their PR machinery is working overtime, though redundantly, because most media is falling all over themselves to get soundbytes from them. Now that's what I call reputation!

Auto Industry shows 16.4% growth: In the period April to November 2006, India Inc produced 7.4 million vehicles - recording an increased production of 17.52% four wheelers, and 15.02% higher two wheelers. With domestic sales of four wheelers rising by 20.68%, and two wheelers up by 14.43% (the rest of the increase went into exports)

All this growth is good, though I'd say no thanks to advertising - because advertising in the auto sector in India (two wheelers in particular) continues to be pretentious, insightless, and should send most of the relevant creative directors into hiding (except perhaps, those doing the Tata Motors, Bajaj, and TVS work).

The US - India Nuke Deal: Last week the US congress voted overwhelmingly (330 Ayes, 59 Nays, 44 abstentions) to pass the legislation allowing nuclear trade with India, ratifying to the world India's outstanding responsible stand and record in nuclear power management.

Unlike countries like Iran, North Korea and our neighbour Pakistan, India has never postured or threatened anyone with its capabilities, but has focussed on its positive uses.

Capability proven, responsibility recognized and promised, India inc including the Tatas and Reliance Energy can now look forward to expanding their capabilities into nuclear energy in the near future.

Mobile User base crosses 14 crore (14,00,00,000): Indians love to talk. And the mobile phone providers (GSM, WLL and CDMA) have raked in the benefits, adding a whopping 6,700,000 subscribers in November alone. GSM service providers like Airtel and Hutch lead the market, not just offerring basic services but a host of value added services as well.

Not surprisingly, marketing and advertising in this industry is very active and noticeable, with brands like Hutch (courtesy Ogilvy) consistently creating fabulous slick looking and premium feeling campaigns. Airtel also has its act together, but has a more lower mass appeal.

Kerala ties up with Red Hat: The state government of the south Indian state of Kerala (which recently tried to ban Microsoft for some ideological reasons) has joined the free software bandwagon, and is officially opening its doors (blatantly aligning?) to Linux. It's trying to woo Red Hat into setting up facilites and support for the state government and state run schools in Kerala.

My only point is, when state governments are in a habit of banning companies - which literally amounts to banning growth through free trade - I would think twice before investing there.

West Bengal threatens to slip back into the red: This eastern state of India has long sufferred at the hands of communist parties who have consistently paralysed growth and chased companies out of the region, in the name of 'taking care of the interests of the common man'.

Fortunately, over the last half decade or so, we saw a positive change in attitude, stemming from the progressive thinking of the previous and current Chief Ministers - Jyoti Basu and Buddhadev Bhattacharjee respectively. We have begun to see dramatic changes in the state, which until recently looked like something time had forgotten.

New IT parks, new industry and hence new prosperity was beginning to show.

Which is why perhaps the Tata group chose West Bengal as the location for their prestigious new car project. Only to now find themselves at the mercy of archaic thinking communist forces who once again are resorting to strikes, and going on a rampage trying to stop the project from taking off!

These people have no clue as to the damage their actions will cause to the people they claim to be protecting. And how it will effect further investment in the state. Whatever their issues are, need to be resolved in a slightly less violent and more civilised manner than what they're doing right now.

Sprite sells more than Coke! India is full of surprises - and perhaps the only part of the world where the Coca Cola company sells more Sprite than their flagship brand Coke! This is besides the point that their largest selling brand is a third name - Thums Up - which they acquired from an Indian company many years back! The final tally of cases sold by Coca Cola India - Total, 215million; Thums Up, 50million; Sprite, 40million; Coke, 32million.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What Women Want (And Men Don't)

In the 2000 classic "What Women Want" starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt - Mel, a hotshot (but arrogant MCP) creative director comes out with brilliant advertising campaigns targeted at women because he develops the ability to read women's thoughts, and hence know "what women want!"

But when you're not Mel - and you often cannot read women's words (leave alone thoughts) how to you communicate and connect with them as a marketer and communication professional?

Well Dr Luan Brizendine offers some insights in her recently published book "The Female Mind". She conclusively (and scientifically) states that women talk more than men - an average of 20,000 words a day, against just 7,000 words spoken by men.

She also says the inherent genetic difference between men and women's brains makes women more talkative. And women love to hear their own voices - they get a buzz out of it, and devote more brain-power to chit-chat.

Don't get me wrong, I love to hear women chit-chat. It's fascinating. And as a communicator, and lover of long-copy I find women beautiful audiences to communicate with.

Men on the other hand are less patient and more action driven. Quit the talk and show me the money (or honey in many cases!)

So as a communicator in the new world and new media, what would I do?

  • Create more interactive plans when talking to women. Use great layouts with happy and soft imagery that's inviting and involving. Use chats, q & a, discussion forums, and explain all the tech stuff easily, patiently and respectfully.

  • Provide racier, more visually stimulating and action oriented programmes for men. Galleries, games, perspectives, and just lay out lots of techy stuff for men and wait for them to figure out and feel good about it.

  • Use more audio and text based communication tools for women online - podcasts, long explanatory and involving text.

  • For men, use videos, flashy imagery and interactive tools.

  • Expect that women will get involved for longer durations and will be more loyal to your programs (will stick to you through think and some thin).

  • Be prepared that men will be in and out, and remain flirtatious in nature, and need greater "what's in it for me" (men are like that only)

  • Of course, treat both with equal respect and don't treat either like an idiot.

And if you want to learn how to hold the attention of your male and female audiences in any medium, and keep them loyal for life, follow the paths of the two great masters - Jay Leno and Oprah Winfrey.

Yes, Jay with his slam-bam-shooting-from-the-hip one liner style is brilliant with men!!!

Oprah with her soft-earnest-we-are-with-you style brings out the women loyalists like no other :)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Wal-Mart, Julie Roehm, Draft-FCB - the highs and lows straightened out

I (like a whole lot of us) have been following the abovementioned story from the time Draft-FCB got the Wal-Mart business... when George Parker exposed the internal memo at Ogilvy... then when Draft-FCB 'released the lions'... right up to the discovery a couple of days back that Wal-Mart fired Julie Roehm and has put the business up for a pitch again!

Well, between comments and opinions from George Parker and (in George's words) a whole lot of other 'wankers' the story rivals any Sidney Sheldon plot, or for those familiar with India it resembles bollywood masala, minus the singing and dancing around the trees (though in this plot we do have certain cats doing it in the bushes!).

But if you're finding it tough (as I did) to figure out the real meat of the story minus the masala - then Bob Garfield is the one to bare it all for you - including the whos, whens, and insights on the whys.

As a communication professional, this plot offers plenty of learning (besides what Bob explains):

  • Business partnerships aren't any good, if you're mismatched culturally.
  • Don't hire people just because they did (or are supposed to have done) a great work elsewhere. Question if they can deliver similar results, and not just deliver similar campaigns for you.
  • And finally, as we all know - winning an account is usually easiest part of our business - keeping it and keeping it happy is the toughest part!

Read the Bob Garfield perspective here. And the George Parker perspective here.

Random Useful Thought # 002

Being a client to an advertising agency or public relations firm automatically authorises you to make changes in the campaigns they present. But it doesn't automatically qualify you to be right!