Monday, December 31, 2007

Inspired, perspired or conspired?

I remember an ad written by a friend for a motorbike. It said 'Go from unknown to well known in 5 seconds flat'. This one takes even less - just 2 words. And it rides on a stolen vehicle.

Leads me to think that the presence of 'copy' in copywriter is not entirely unjustified.

The original by Ravi Eshwar

Inspired, perspired or conspired?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Very funny ad!

I haven't been around these parts for a few days. The city of Mumbai had taken me hostage and was demanding a huge sum for my return. There was work to be done, and till then I stayed put.

I was going back from work one night. The clock was halfway between the 9th and 10th hour, and its fastest hand ticked along at that constant speed it is famous for. The traffic just about kept pace. My eyes wandered around, looking for things that might eventually end up here. I'd been in the car for an hour already, and there was still an equal distance to be covered.

I then saw it. High above the road. Brightly lit. A billboard for a long, luxury car. It said, "The road is calling. Play". I looked out, and I promise you, there wasn't any trace of road around me. Just vehicles for as far as I could see. Here was an advertiser who couldn't find a humorous way to say his thing, so he was saying funny things instead. I loved it. I said a word of gratitude for his sense of humour. It had made my ride a lot less boring.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Running back for a kite

I've often found my literary considerations thrown awry by what I've heard being discussed in arty-farty circles.

The ones that go, "Ooh, have you read this book? It's such powerful writing you know. It opens your mind. You'd never imagine someone could write so well. Oh, the twists and turns. It's an emotional extravaganza. I must read it again. The author? Khaled something. I believe it's the same person who sang Didi... "

Today I will go back to a page I thus missed. The Kite Runner.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Where exactly are the roads in Chennai going?

Take a ride/walk down the Old Mahabalipuram Road or the IT Corridor as it is has more recently been called, and you will for a moment forget that you are in Chennai.

No overflowing drains and garbage bins that appear more frequently than a politician's mug.

No stinky sidewalks that mask your body odour and the deodorant you've showered in.

No wet patches on walls that remind you that shamelessness is a way of life.

No spine crunching potholes that are the pride of Chennai.

All gone. Vanished without a trace. It must be David Copperfield. Or is it P. James, the city's very own?

So I ask myself. If one road in the city can be free of potholes (even if it is to fool foreign investors), why not every other? I couldn't find a logical answer. So I arrived at a conspiracy theory which was offered up by that half of my brain which loves Cartoon Network.

Here goes.

It's a nexus between the Govt. and tyre, shock absorber manufacturers. If all roads were as smooth as a baby's bum, tyres would last a lot longer. As would the shocks. So they make less money. Which is a lot less than a good thing. So let's make more potholes must be the unanimous decision. If the elements don't do it, just send someone along to dig up a drain.

On that bumpy note, I leave you. To come up with your own theory. Do keep me posted.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

When it rains, Chennai continues to pour

Yesterday I got an SMS from a friend in Bangalore.

"I hear it's raining heavily in Chennai. Guess you won't need Cauvery water this year."

What he hasn't heard is that it's not just the rains that's contributing to the increased levels of ground water. The local male populace, not to be discouraged by a rainy day, have been unzipping and shooting their hearts out with gay abandon. In public places. So I'd still like to have my drinking water from the Cauvery.

Lend me your ears, and I will pay you back in EMIs

The mobile rings. "Tring, tring"


"Good morning sir. Am I speaking to Mr. Chintamani Chidambaram?"

"Shouldn't you know?"

"Thank you sir. This is Arakonnam Aravind calling on behalf of ABCXYZ Bank."

"For what?"

"Thank you for asking sir. I will tell you. You are one of our privileged customers chosen for a pre-approved loan of Rs 10 lakhs which you can repay in 3 years, 5 years or 10 years in Easy Monthly Instalments."


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Modern times

And around him, state-of-the-art Hondas, Toyotas, Suzukis, Nissans, Kawasakis, Mitsubishis, Chevrolets, Hyundais, BMWs, Fiats, Mercedes, Renaults...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kicking the bucket

5 star hotels seem to work on a different caste system from the rest of the country. There are those who wash and there are those who wipe. I think it's a carefully planned strategy to divide society on 'ablutionary' lines. How else can you explain the absence of a mug and bucket from otherwise outstandingly well stocked bathrooms, and the abundance of that famous Chinese invention from 705AD?

The conclusion? It's upper class to wipe. It's middle class or lower to wash.

So Mr. Ass Kisser. On which side of this societal divide have you been puckering up?

Monday, December 17, 2007

White, white, dirty fellow

I have noticed that people who thrive on corruption and everything that's not in line with the law, often sport the whitest of whites. Odd coincidence?

Just for a laugh, here are a few meanings listed at for the word white.

(Slang.) decent, honorable, or dependable: That's very white of you.

auspicious or fortunate.

morally pure; innocent.

without malice; harmless.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Piercings in politically incorrect places?

I started with the premise that society is madly, crazily obsessed with jewellery. Ears, nose, lips, eye brows. Several sets for each.

Where else?

Turn your imagination loose and it will return with wicked tidings. Of hidden opportinities.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is Indian society straight? Or is it just my twisted sense of humour?

I find it very surprising that I am more likely to see 2 men under an umbrella, than a man and a woman. What's even more peculiar is that eyebrows are likely to be raised if it's a M-F couple sharing a spot of shade. But two men in a boat? Oh, that's alright. What can two men really get up to?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Peedom of expression

Hold your nose if you're visiting Chennai. And be very careful of who you shake hands with.

Friday, December 07, 2007

FreeRice - Play and feed a hungry person

is a website that lets you play a word game on it. For every correct answer, 20 grains of rice are donated through the United Nations to fight world hunger. What's in it for you? A better vocabulary.

Who pays for the donated rice?
The rice is paid for by the advertisers whose names you see on the bottom of your vocabulary screen. This is regular advertising for these companies, but it is also something more. Through their advertising at FreeRice, these companies support both learning (free vocabulary for everyone) and reducing hunger (free rice for the hungry). We commend these companies for their participation at FreeRice.

If FreeRice has the rice to give, why not give it all away right now?
FreeRice is not sitting on a pile of rice―you are earning it 20 grains at a time. Here is how it works. When you play the game, advertisements appear on the bottom of your screen. The money generated by these advertisements is then used to buy the rice. So by playing, you generate the money that pays for the rice donated to hungry people.

Who distributes the donated rice?
The rice is distributed by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The World Food Program is the world’s largest food aid agency, working with over 1,000 other organizations in over 75 countries. In addition to providing food, the World Food Program helps hungry people to become self-reliant so that they escape hunger for good. Wherever possible, the World Food Program buys food locally to support local farmers and the local economy. We encourage you to visit the
United Nations World Food Program to learn more about their successful approach to ending hunger.

Does FreeRice make any money from this?
No, it does not. FreeRice runs the site at no profit.

Scorpions in Bangalore after America

The trains from Chennai to Bangalore are going to be full the next 2 weekends. The music buff is travelling that way. And Laloo-ji if you are listening, this is an opportunity to make a fast buck. Run a special train.

"Bangalore Raack Moosik Axepress".

And while Chennaiites sulk, and lament the absence of Chennai from all band tour schedules, Bangalore continues to remind the world, that it is the place to be in South India. (So what if you're stuck in traffic on MG Road?) I wonder if that will become the next big election promise. Ahead of colour TVs.

America, the band of Ventura Highway and Sandman fame, will be performing on a stage at the Palace Grounds in Bangalore on December 9.

The Scorpions play next. At the Palace Grounds in all likelihood. December 16 is the date you have to keep.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Staying off the hook

Copy, art and the frustration of the client not getting it : All mine

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

Chennai pubs - more bars than the local jail

Good interiors. Outstanding music. Average service. Parking for 10 cars and seating for over a 100 people. Pubs in Chennai aren't too different from one street to another. Butt for the size of the bouncers manning the door.

So when this new pub opened within walking distance of my humble home, I decided to acquaint myself with its interiors. So after a long day at work, tired of spirit and parched of throat, I ambled up to the pub with a male friend of similar disposition. And just as we reached the door, the afore introduced bouncers - 3 of them - converged on us. I don't know why all 3 came at us. Each of them was bigger than both of us put together and twice as intimidating. Perhaps it was the dawning of the mathematical reality that 3 is greater than 2, and that 1 (no matter how big a 1) is still less than 2.

They informed us that it was Ladies' Night and the male sex was allowed in only in the company of a member of the fairer sex. We decided against any attempt to pass off as bearded ladies, and moved on to another dignified watering hole.

The next time, determined to get past the door, I got my wife to tag along. Of course, I had made it a point to wear fully covered shoes, a collared shirt and bottom wear that stopped well below my ankles. I even combed my hair. It worked and they let us in.

Like I mentioned before, the interiors were nice. Quite pub like, smoky, with a sprinkling of bar stools and TV screens. The music, just the way I like it mixed - classic rock. But there was something else which had classic corked written all over it.

It was the seating.

Men in one section. Women in another. And couples in a third.

Boys' school. Girls' school. Co-ed.


I was disappointed. My optimism had been dashed to the ground and swept into the drains. Here was another pub with more restrictions than drinks on their menu. I'm off to Bangalore for the weekend.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Remember those great Volkswagen ads?

Some ads. Some storyboards. Not quite the book. Not quite not having one.

Click here.

Chennai Photowalk, version 2

Sometime last month Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan announced on his blog a photowalk from some place in Chennai to another. The plan? Just like 'photowalk' suggests, shoot pictures as you walk. Around a dozen people turned up, shot some nice pics and posted them HERE.

Much as I needed the walk, I couldn't make it. Now CCG is doing it again on December 9, 2007. The details of the second Chennai photowalk are here.

I'm going to make it this time. Add a few pics. Lose a few grams. Hmmmm.....................................

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gold from the Ravi Eshwar mint

There was a time when ads were written. Thank goodness somebody remembers. That said, I haven't, for a very long time, seen them written as well as these.

Advertising Agency: Republik Communications, New Zealand
Copywriter: Ravi Eshwar
Art Director: Greg Wylie


What ever happened to the lane system on Mount Road? Separate strips for 2-wheelers, cars, autos, buses etc. It did get me into several sticky situations when I moved in to Chennai last year, and tried my best to be a law abiding citizen.

And to think you're told to obey the law to stay out of trouble.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Valet 'Illatha' Parking

Take your car into a mall, movie theatre, hotel or absolutely any other business that doesn't believe in wasting space on parking for its customers, and almost immediately a new breed of service providers loom large in your windscreen.

They are called valets, though I believe that 'parking consultants' will be the norm in future. Now I'm allergic to letting some bloke with dubious driving skills have a go at my dream boat.


Do I want it driven off like the route was Paris-Dakar, as soon as my back was turned?

Do I want its gear box to croak in protest, as it is put through the paces by someone who could have been a wrestler if he weren't trying to be a driver?

Do I want to wonder where my car will be parked when clearly the lot looked stuffed to the gills?

Do I want to puzzle over what "PARKING AT OWNERS' RISK" means when somebody else has the key?

Do you?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A number of numbers

Landline number.
Mobile number.
PAN number.
Bank account number.
ATM Pin number.
Internet Pin number.
Telephone Pin number.
Credit card number.
Debit card number.
Company employee number.
Vehicle registration number.
Gas connection number.
License number.
Passport number.

And if that weren't enough, we have this.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


The band's album's out and it can be bought at itunes and cdbaby.

I strongly recommend this album. It's a haunting new sound, and all you need to do is open your ears, and perhaps your mind as well.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wall art for a cleaner city

Since the Goverment's doing sweet nothing about preventing people from peeing on every wall in sight, the Chennaiite has a few solutions of his own. If only to keep the walls of his establishment from raising a stink.

Wall art

It however doesn't help to paint senior politicians' pix on walls. Opposing parties will only welcome, with open zips, an opportunity to dirty the image of someone on the other side.

Political speak

Monday, November 19, 2007

Additional income

While the economy is booming for 20% of Indians, the rest are simply trying to add one side dish to their daily meal. Here's one example.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's coming down, and it's not the rain

The only downside of wearing a 'lungi / mundu', a popular South Indian lower body garment garment is that it is not immune to the effects of gravity. Some people do use a belt to keep the garment in place, but it's not common practice. Anyway it's great fun to see the lungi slip off an unsuspecting soul's hips. And what if the afore mentioned soul has his hands full? And worse still also happens to have a panty fetish? Did I hear you heave a sigh of relief?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Diwali

We sent this e-card our to our clients and friends in the industry.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Express your expectations

Gold and saree shops are by a very long distance, the busiest businesses in Chennai. And I've often wondered why. I found my answer on a street close to my home. And on the next. And the one after that.

Going by the number of such signboards I've spotted, I can honestly say I haven't seen a city as obsessed with marriages as Chennai.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Malayalee special

The UK isn't offering Mallus / Malls much love and affection, but this public utility building in Chennai does look like it's laying out the red carpet for my folks.

PS: I hereby confirm that I am of less than average intelligence and do not see what most people do.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Long road out of Eden

20 songs. 70 odd minutes of listening. 2 discs. The long road out of Eden. I bought it because of my faith in the Eagles. But I must say it's been shaken. I wouldn't swear by a note more than 5 tracks. And here's my favourite of them all

Sunday, November 11, 2007

kill to get crimson

November has started off on a wonderful note. I added Mark Knopfler's latest to my CD collection. kill to get crimson. Have heard it a couple of times. First impression? I like it. In a week, I'll be in a better position to voice what may be called a review. And to tell you if 'like' turns to 'love'.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Only Malayalees have humour sense.

Tourism. Banana chips. "Chaya, chaya". Soft porn. 'Gelf'. Bakeries. Toddy. Colourful lungis. Coconut oil. Sing song accents. Unions. Comrades.

There are a lot of things that are very typically Mallu.

"Know why Kerala is 100% literate? All the illiterates are in the Gulf."

"Humour sense? Endhu parayannu saarey?"

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bangalore Travels

I landed in Bangalore last weekend but I didn't go much further than that. I tried to venture out in the approximate direction of some of my favourite eating places, but auto drivers were disdainful of requests towards MG Road. One chap was kind enough to explain why.

You see there's this Metro Rail thingie that's been in the works for a while (apparently to ease traffic woes in the city). It's finally on its way now, and the road has been dug up from one end to the other to lay the tracks. Leaving very little road for the city's vehicles to conduct their business on.

As if that wasn't traffic jam enough, a few blokes from the BJP decided to put their shoulders to the wheel. They had occupied a portion of the road near the Mahatma Gandhi statue to stage a protest against President's rule in the state. Incidentally, the man who desperately wants to be the next Chief Minister of Karnataka was at the centre of this piece of action.

A friend who returned to the city after 4 years abroad had only a couple of words to say. "Bangalore sucks". Well if you look on the right streets at the wrong times, that's very possible too. Cheers.

Monday, November 05, 2007

You miss, I hit.

I love cricket. Played serious tennis ball cricket for 15 years. Stopped when the demands of professional life knocked the middle stump out of my morning practices and weekend games. But I'm not out yet.

I still manage to catch the odd game with colleagues on weekends. I still manage to follow every ball that's bowled to and by the Indian team. And I still manage to sound fairly knowledgable when I talk about the game.

So I decided to start a cricket blog. My take on what's happening within and outside the circle. It's called You miss, I hit.

And yes, I've often wished I could be a cricket writer. So that takes care of that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The next episode

From my many calls, I’d arrived without much joy at the conclusion that big agencies only wanted people with experience. Given that, I figured that smaller agencies couldn’t afford them. This insight formed the basis of Strategy Next.

Out came the telephone directory again, and into it I went. When I surfaced, it was with a list of local agencies. Indian shops which had no MNC hang ups. And no secretaries to Creative Directors, I hoped.

The rounds started again. This time I took the bus routes. Not unexpectedly, both my journeys and my money lasted longer.

One room agencies. Two room agencies. Agencies that ran from home. Agencies that ran from a garage. Full-time agencies. Part-time agencies. I saw them all. But no sign of a job.

Also missing around this time was a social life. I didn’t expect friends to pick up the tab all the time, so I stopped picking up the phone. Incoming was free alright, but I simply couldn’t afford to go out.

It was tough and getting tougher by the day.

Here I was, having spent 4 years at engineering college and a lot of my parents' money in doing so, trying to become a copywriter; while the whole world and their young sons and daughters were writing code, and making big bucks.

Harikrishnan went to the US and became Harry, and incidentally filthy rich as well.

Murugan became Morgan.

Thomaskutty from Kottayam became Tom from Connecticut.

Sindhoori became Mrs. Owens, Mrs. Cindy Owens.

And society became an unbearable place.

The IT brigade had their noses in the air, and an American accent even before a visa interview date was confirmed by the consulate. And when the tickets did arrive, they’d turn up at home with their parents to say goodbye. And of course, to rub it in.

“My son is going to Looosiana”, said our Malayalee neighbour, when I told her I was going to Indiranagar for a job interview.

Such were the nightmares that became my bedtime companions. I wondered many a time if I’d done the right thing, and even convinced myself that I hadn’t. But I couldn’t turn back. Too many bridges had been burnt, and my pride wouldn’t allow a return trip.

My parents were disappointed. But to my good fortune, at some point, they put their frustration aside, and chose to give my advertising hopes a chance. They started asking around. Looking for the elusive contact that might be able to give their boy a break.

It worked.

On October 1, 1996, I had an appointment to meet Mr. K.K. Mathew, the Managing Director of Disha Communications, Bangalore.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cut for a short commercial break

I pause here to catch my breath. And while those mesmerizing 30-seconders play, let me take you to a far more interesting place. The mess I was in.

It was six months since I had decided to become a copywriter, and I hadn’t got a word in yet. I’d quit the agency that wasn’t, to spend my time looking for an agency that was one.

And that was all I was doing. Day after day. Week after week.

While time wasn’t the scarcest commodity on my hands, it was fast catching up with money, which was. And as I watched the beer dry up, I arrived at the conclusion that necessity was nothing but an ill tempered spinster.

It was depressing. The ‘I told you so’ voices were gaining momentum once again. Plans like climbing a drain pipe into a creative director’s cabin did creep into my mind, but came slithering down when I tried to imagine the physical probability of such an endeavor. You see, I’ve always been a growing boy. A process that happened vertically till the age of 18, and continued happily thereafter with a 90 degree change in direction. So my enthusiasm at challenging gravity with the aid of a drain pipe could at best be called a deafening silence. (I shudder to think of having to call this story BE to CU).

And one day as I sat in the company of the last beer I could afford in the near future, I got my first advertising idea.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Great Barrier Grief (Contd.)

I introduced him my life situation, and explained how important to my survival it was to exchange words with the Creative Director. I was of course a lot more eloquent than I am in this description, but it really didn’t matter. The Creative Director was out for a meeting. I thanked the secretary and promised to call again.

24 hours later, I dialed again. This time was different. He was out to lunch. I looked at my watch. 3 pm. Hmmmm… this must be the time creative people eat lunch. I made a note to make this important change to my schedule. I wondered if it deserved mention on my resume. Would that give me an edge?

Okay, thank you. I’ll call again, I told the secretary.

I called.

He’s out on a shoot.

So I called again.

He’s out of town.

And again.

He’s out to meet a client.

And again.

He’s out of his mind.

That wasn’t Mr. Secy. That was me. I’d had enough. So I called the next agency on my list. And then the next. On it went this way, till I realized that the Great Barrier Grief had its slimy tentacles across the entire coast of advertising.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Great Barrier Grief

The next volume I paid my respects to, in my efforts to further my advertsing career was the Bangalore telephone directory. In an hour I had a list of names and numbers of considerable length, which recommended very strongly a trip to a public telephone booth. Ogilvy, Lintas, McCann, Chaitra, Contract, Mudra, Ulka, Enterprise, Trikaya Grey… So right foot first, I ventured forth flexing my fingers in preparation for the task at hand.

I dialed. Precious seconds were consumed as a recorded voice whispered sweet nothings in my ear. I waited for the operator, ignoring the strain on my wallet. The list of agencies that I planned to call was starting to get shorter. And then she spoke.

“Ogilvy and Mather. Good morning”.

I prayed it would be.

“May I speak to the Creative Director please?”

“Who’s calling?” she asked sweetly.

An ‘duh’ silence followed while I pondered over the magnetic properties of my handle. I held my hand over the receiver and said it aloud. Manoj Jacob. And very quickly arrived at the conclusion that it was hardly likely to cut even the smallest portion of ice. So I started measuring my options.

A) A nondescript Malayalee with a nondescript name.
B) Aspiring copywriter. (I would have liked to try ‘perspiring’, but I wasn’t sure the receptionist would get it. And if she didn’t, neither would I.)
C) I’m the guy who’s going to make it Ogilvy, Mather and Jacob.
D) I’m good with words you see. I failed in every subject but English.
E) Manoj Jacob.

I picked E.

“Calling from?”

A) Oh I’m not calling from anywhere, but I’d like to have someplace to call from, and that’s why I’m calling.
B) A telephone booth.

“Jayanagar”, I said.

“Please hold on.”

I didn’t just hold on. I hung on for dear life.
The call was transferred. And on the phone came the Creative Director’s secretary.

Or as I was to discover, the Great Barrier Grief.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Piss, don't kiss

Thinking of taking things into your own hands in public? Then let it be your..., rather than your beloved.Kiss in public and you're likely to wind up with a bloody nose. So what if it's just a peck and the lady is your wife of several years. This is a decent society. Respectable. And it says you cannot commit indecencies in public. What example are you setting for the youth of this nation? Huh?Piss in public, on a vacant wall, and you will be felicitated for having inaugurated yet another common man's lavatory in the city. A few others will join you. And after you have left, more will continue the good work. Alas, man who drinks water is also a man who must pass water.

So citizens one and all, by the law of the land,
You can unzip quietly and take in your hand
You can do it in public, just do it on a wall,
You can do it anytime, spring, summer or fall.
You can display your phallus to an unsuspecting crowd,
And draw absolutely nothing but an indulgent frown.
But smooch in public and you'll catch one on the jaw
Our culture don't allow it, and that's the bloomin' law.
So piss, don't kiss, it's safer that way
And I don't blame you for wondering, who made us this way?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

BE to CD - Egg puffs, tea and Ogilvy on Advertising (Contd.)

It's a great first book to read in advertising - the A for Apple variety.

It threw light on the ad agency, its departments, its functions, and the position I was trying to make my own. And by the time I had read the last page, my resolve to pursue advertising as a career had been cast in stone.

Nothing to do with the book's selling powers. I just found that I had all the necessary qualifications. No degree (not mandatory). A gift of the gab. Good spelling. A way with the words I could spell. A way of avoiding those I couldn’t. A general curiosity about things that were not my business.

Not that I had other options, but I couldn’t ask for more.

The book also told me one other thing. I was working in the wrong place. An agency which asked for very little work and paid for it might sound like a dream come true, but it wasn’t going to get me my next job. There was a more important currency to be earned, my portfolio. And that wouldn’t happen without work, irrespective of how my bank account fared in a general health check.

By month two however, the alarm bells started ringing. Because the cash registers weren't. My two thousand five hundred rupee salary was coming in instalments. A thousand the first week. Another the next. The rest came sometime during what was left of the month. Was this, I wondered, what they meant by 'salary break-up'.

And then the Lord spoke to me. His words were loud and clear, and exemplary in their economy of phrasing.

“Man does not live by eye candy alone.”

Thursday, August 09, 2007

BE to CD - Egg puffs, tea and Ogilvy on Advertising

9 am. Monday morning. I stood at the bakery located around the corner from my new office. Munching an egg puff. Sipping tea. No, I wasn’t playing hooky. The office wasn’t open yet. And when the doors were thrown open, it was the office boy. Not the one bright spot I was expecting to throw light on my morning.

I looked around the office. One large room. Six workstations. A loo. Two shelves that constituted a library.

She came in by 11, as did Late Twenties. Forgive me, it was my first job. My ignorance went as far as not knowing that bosses never sauntered in with the proletariat. Smiling she came to my desk, shook my hand and welcomed me. I promised to do my best. To work as hard as I could. To stand by her through thick and thin, er… the company.

He looked less pleased. No smile. Not even a hint. Just an officious shake and a few mumbles about creating path breaking advertising (also known as rich managing directors).

Over the years I was to hear that bit over and over again. At every agency I worked. Some said clutter breaking. Others called it taking the leap (ironically that agency’s office was on the 7th floor). “We must make it to Cannes”, said a third, and I can’t say that the itch to refer him to Cox and Kings didn’t occur. Never mind. Soon after you joined, you learnt that you really weren’t expected or required to create anything better than your boss could, or had. In fact, you’d better not. Now that’s a different story, and I’ll get there in time.

My first month at my new workplace passed like a dream. There was a lot to clean my spectacle lenses for, but very little work. So I headed in the direction of the 2 shelves that was the office library, in search of some words I could munch on when I wasn’t feasting on eye candy. I found Ogilvy on Advertising.

(To be contd.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No parking

Ad 3 of the Mitsubishi Cedia campaign.
Copy: Me
Art: Mangesh Rane

Monday, July 09, 2007

BE to CD (the last stretch of the first mile)

On that joyous note I return to the newspaper ad, which prompted this flashback. Holding on to it for dear life, I dialed the number listed and sought an interview for the position of a copywriter. The gentleman at the other end asked a few questions in chaste English, and having satisfied himself of my qualifications for the job asked me to turn up in a couple of hours.

The place was around 15 km from where I lived. Following the address I had scribbled down, I made my way across the city in search of an advertising career. Yes, on the same Bajaj Super. And from experience I can tell you it’s a good vehicle to have in hand when you’re looking for a job. No maintenance, and it carried me a fair distance for the extravagant half litre I could afford. On this trusty warhorse, I made it to the interview with some minutes to spare.

There were 2 people there. A young man in his late 20s. And a woman whose age didn’t matter. She was gorgeous. The drop dead and roll over variety. And I couldn’t take my eyes off her, which I think her companion noticed because he cleared his throat.

So with one more reason to want that job, I turned to face Mr. Late Twenties. I smiled sweetly. Had to be nice to him if I wanted to spend any time in that space. So what if he was the least of my considerations. I eagerly answered all his questions, and offered him some short stories and poems I had written, as proof of my writing skills. He took the sheaf of papers from me, and just as I was hoping I could take a break to look in a more rewarding direction while he read my work, he asked me if I could step out and return in 30 minutes. Not amused at all, I smiled and answered in the affirmative. I left reluctantly, nursing a vanquished libido and a grouse against Late Twenties.

Faced with this abrupt change in scenery, the more traditional way to a man’s heart reared its head. I had, in my haste to reach the gates to my career, raced past the dining table on which a sumptuous lunch had been spread out. The situation had to be addressed in a hurry, just so I could focus on the more important things at hand. So forward I ventured in search of my favourite eatery, and easily found a Mallu bakery within peeing distance. Don’t be surprised. This was Bangalore, the Malayalee’s plan B to the ‘Gelf’. There I bought myself a couple of egg puffs, and a soft drink to wash them down. It took me all of 20 minutes and 15 rupees. I was all set now, for another helping of my favourite eye candy.

I hung around the parking area to kill just the 30 minutes Late Twenties had asked of me. Not a second more. And just as the needle ticked over, I stuck my face in. I smiled at her. She nodded back. And then I heard his voice again.

“We like your writing samples and would like you to work for us. We will pay you a salary of 2500 rupees, and want you to start on Monday.”

I’d have worked for free and started on the Sabbath, but this wasn’t the time to give my blood rush away. Two-five was a very handy reward even if I didn’t account for my daily bonus. I rose and shook hands. The lady nodded again. I turned away, then looked back once more.

She smiled.

I rode back home overjoyed. My break into advertising had arrived. It was time to party. Egg puffs anyone?

Monday, May 28, 2007

BE to CD - The first mile (Contd.)

‘Wanted copywriter.’

To understand my excitement on seeing these words in 6-point Times New Roman, I must take you back a few months. After being injured in an accident, I’d been laid up (no orgasmic connotations intended) for some months. To kill time, I started writing songs, and putting them to 3 chord tunes. Nothing terribly original. Just rhyming lines about lost love and the rock ‘n’ roll way of life. Trying to be the 6-string toting cowboy from Bangalore.

Once back on my feet, I headed straight for a studio and a recording. I even went as far as calling my effort an album. And if that wasn’t enough I made 200 copies and sold them at 50 rupees a piece. To help me on my way, I had a shark breathing up my pants for the 10K loan he’d given me at 15% a month.

Now sloppy as the recording was, the music wasn’t received badly. Between me and a partner in rhyme, we managed to palm off most of the 200 at our respective colleges. To ease my guilt, I explained to every one of my buyers that the album wasn’t worth the money they were paying. But they were sure I was a budding star. (Blooming idiot I thought was closer home.)

Some even asked me to autograph their copies. Certainly Ma’am. Though I can’t say I wouldn’t have responded with greater enthusiasm if it were a bared bosom and a permanent marker I was offered. I’d watched enough music videos to know that was a possibility, however remote. ☺

Encouraged by the confidence of my mates and helped along by fantasies of permanent markers, I began to think I could cut it as a musician. I decided to start with jingles. A friend who I discussed my career plan with gave me directions. To an ad agency on Church Street in Bangalore. Lintas he said, offering to take me there. Kind fellow. So off we went on a Saturday afternoon.

The reception area was deserted. So we stood around clearing our throats. Minutes passed, and then a head popped out. And then another.


“Do-Re-Me-Can-Ai-Com-Po-Se-Yo-Ur-Jingles”, I went. Not in so many words. But that was the gist. They got the drift, but to make sure, I also offered to write the lines. At no extra cost. Introducing, Value Added Services, from Manoj Jacob and Partners. Notes for notes and lines for free.

“Buddy”, said a red-eyed bloke. “You’ll be taking away our jobs if you do that.”

Much as I wanted to admit that I quite welcomed that situation, I held my tongue. And instead enquired about the nature of their work.

“Copywriter”, he went on. “We write ads.” (Incidentally, the bloke is now a much respected adman whose latest script is a much talked about romance of cradle snatching proportions.)

Enlightened I stepped out of Lintas, Church Street, Bangalore. With the light shining bright on a new career plan.

“Copywriter wanted?”

Friday, May 25, 2007

BE to CD - The first mile

Soon after college, I figured I had to find a way to earn a living. Especially since I came out empty handed. My first job was as a salesman. Selling UPS. Don't remember the brand, but the long hours on the road on a scooter are still quite clear. Door to door I went, politely inquiring about their need for back-up power. Some doors opened, some didn't, some politely closed and others slammed. At the end of the month I got a cheque for 1500 rupees. It wasn't anything to write home about, but at least I wasn't asking Dad to write me a cheque. 1500 covered my monthly expenses - the odd mug of beer, an Eagles audio tape, a book.

This was December 1995, and I was 22.

Three months later I resigned, when I was offered an assignment as a songwriter for an album. The studio at which I had recorded some songs I wrote, recommended me. 300 rupees per song was the deal. I didn't complain. I was writing and being paid for it. That was a start.

The unfortunate part was the songs I had to write. Or translate, as I soon discovered. The singer, a lady from Bangalore, was recording an album in 3 languages - Hindi, Kannada and English. Folk ballads identical in every aspect - tunes, arrangement, instruments used. Only the language changed from one album to the other.

They sounded fine in Hindi and Kannada, but when it came to English it sounded like a recipe for disaster. And to make matters worse, the lady, sweet as she was, had a thick South Indian accent. So when she sang 'love', I heard 'lavu'. And when she went 'heart', it broke mine. The studio sessions were a riot in pronunciation. I didn't know whether to laugh or wince.

Assignment completed, I left wishing I hadn't given them my real name. The credits on the album cover would hurt. The only solace was that these credits usually appeared in super small type tucked away in a remote corner. That would give me enough time to leave the country and change my name. So I made my plans, and waited for the announcement of the release. And thankfully, thus remain my desperate remedies to this day. On hold.

The money I earned carried me for a couple of months. At the end of which I looked for another job. I found one soon enough thanks to a helpful uncle. But nothing changed. I was still selling UPS. And being paid 1500 rupees. Yes, per month.

This time I was a little more resolute. No quitting I told myself, I had to do the long haul. This was perhaps the road to corporate success. So what if I had to ride it on an aging Bajaj Super whose engine died out every 30 km, and woke up only after the fuel jet was extricated and cleaned.

Bravely, I motored on. Only stopping every morning to go through the job pages in the newspaper, in the hope that somebody, somewhere, was looking for someone who could write a decent piece in English.

And then one day I saw it.

"Wanted Copywriter."

BE to CD (An Introduction)

I started out, in my quest of a profession, trying to affix a BE (Bachelor of Engineering) to my name. But those letters fizzled out after a horrendous accident in my final month of college. And the other alphabets came into focus. I became a copywriter. And 9 years later, a CD (Creative Director).
It's this journey that I will be trying to capture in a series of posts from here on.

We're No. 2. So we try harder.

Gate with signboards

Everyday the world's second oldest profession finds new depths to drop to. Didn't you see the hooker smirk?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The great Indian ad scam

This article is a must read for anyone in any way related to advertising - copywriters, art directors, clients, client servicing execs... It shames the parallel world that a large number of Indian advertising professionals have created to glorify itself, when unable to cut it on real work.
Click on the link below and read. It's time to do some soul searching.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

I came, I saw, I conked out!

Deccan Chronicle's new outdoor campaign in Chennai has me flummoxed. Take a look at the picture above. And if you have a clue, drop me a line.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Rats, it's a 45 crore industry in Mumbai!

I read a very interesting piece in the Mumbai Mirror yesterday. It detailed a very innovative approach to tackling the city's rat menace. The city administration has offered a 5 rupee prize for every rat brought in. Now by the city's census, there are 9 crore rats in the city, which then puts Rs. 45 crores up for grabs.

I can see entrepreneurs setting up rat breeding farms.

I can see the goons marking out rat hunting 'illakas'.

I can see the Income Tax Department sitting up - 30% of 45 crores is still a lot of crores.

Ah, what an interesting city.

Click here for the full story.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lagey raho Manno bhai...

It fetched me a handful of international awards in 2001.

Copy: Me
Art: Devesh Desai

Monday, April 23, 2007

One way traffic

"Turn the other cheek", said the Lord, "if someone were to smite you on one".

But no matter how committed a practising Christian you are, it's one piece of advice you're going to find very hard to follow, if you are an advertiser on those stretches of Chennai which have recently been deemed a one-way. It's left your billboards facing the direction of traffic and making a point behind people's backs. A unique glitch, which calls for a unique fix. So you call the grey cells at the agency, who then get together to come up with what's affectionately called a media innovation.
(Just an ounce from their pound of jargon for which you can hardly penalise them. It does take a great deal of innovation to get Mr.Client to cough up a little more than the 0.0000001% he's paying the agency.)

Now back to the problem. Oh, but that really is the problem. People now have their backs to it. So let's confront it then. Giddyup...

Option 1
Say we put a large mirror exactly opposite the billboard which is looking the wrong way. Yes, that means you repaint the billboard laterally inverted. It has to be done. You can't let a few extra bucks come in the way of creativity.

But you know Murphy's views on things that go wrong. What if, two weeks down, the city's traffic controllers decided they'd got the one-way pointing in the wrong direction, and decided to do an about turn? Leaving the mirror useless, and motorists riding straight into laterally inverted messages?

"! PLEH"

Option 2
An amplifier and speaker on the billboard, programmed to shout out a few words every 5 seconds. How about "Psssssssssssssssssst...pssssssssssssst.... blue Kinetic. Look here." (Silence) Then in our very own superstar's voice, "Naan oru vaati sonna, nooru vaati sonna madhiri".

Not a bad idea, huh? More cost effective too. Unless you count the possibility of being sued by motorists who turn to the voice and off the road into a hospital bed. Not to worry. That only happens in America.

Option 3
It's not very creative, so you can have it for free. Take down those billboards. Save the money. And make your first contribution to making Chennai a lot easier on the eye. I wonder how many agencies would put their money on this one.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Yellow fever in Chennai

It's the Gold Rush in Chennai. Or Akshaya Thritiya as it's more commonly referred to.

The newspapers are flush with ads for stores selling gold, featuring lasses covered from head to toe in the yellow metal (I kid you not Joe).

The market streets are bustling with people wanting to exchange their year’s savings for a handful of yellow metal. It’s auspicious you see - buy gold now for an ‘aurified’ future. Articles and editorials also urge people to buy gold, playing shamelessly on middle class India’s eternal hope of prosperity and a better tomorrow. And not to mention even more gold.

I’ll be out with my camera to catch some pictures of crowds in gold frenzy. And I’m going to turn down the flash before I step out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007


This guy's one helluva entertainer. The dialogues, dances, the dishum dishum... he's got it all worked out. I loved the movie. Bury the Guns 'n' Roses T-shirt. I'm going to get one with Vijay on it.

More about the movie here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

No parking

My second ad of the Mitsubishi Cedia campaign. Art directed by Mangesh Rane.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Love all...

An ad for a tennis academy by the finest writer I've known, Ravi Eshwar.

A call for help...

This ad never ran. The number is a dummy. However, the context hasn't changed much. The tsunami victims still await help (all that the government promised, unlike the tsunami, is turning up in a trickle laced with bureaucratic hurdles).

Just google 'Tsunami relief in India' to find ways in which you can contribute.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

An airplane is an airplane is an airplane?

I've written hundreds of ads for Air Deccan in the 3 years I worked on the account. This was one I enjoyed tremendously. Art director, Sagar Prajapati.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Narayana, narayana...

Is there anyone in this country who does not have an opinion on Indian cricket?

The corner paanwaala, the bus conductor, the office boy, the accountant, the waiter at my favourite restaurant... And now, guess who?

I remember a friend who walked up to me at the agency, having noticed a vein bulging in my forehead as I worked on an ad. "Chill buddy, it's only advertising", he said.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kya frame hai bhai?

No, don't ask me about aperture settings, focal lengths, filters, shutter speed... Automatic does it for me. When I see something interesting, I draw and shoot. All I get is a moment. And in these precious times, it's a good thing I'm not waiting for the camera to say cheese.

A Hindi phrase describes this one best. 'Naak mein dum.'

The back of Bimal. I was very sad to see it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

Just did it

A poster for a Chennai based multibrand shoe store.
Copy & art: Me

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Band aid for cars

Another of my own for Royal Sundaram car insurance. Art director, Vivian Rayen. At Contract Advertising, Chennai.

No Parking

Ad 1 of Mitsubishi Cedia campaign. My first national campaign at Contract Advertising, Chennai. Art directed by Mangesh Rane.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Picture post

the back of a mac

looking through a bottle of mineral water

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The truth about Dow

Paul Phare's series of artworks, A glimpse behind the mask of Dow is a personal response to Dow Chemical's "human element" advertising campaign, on which Dow has spent $30 million. Paul wishes to encourage people to download the posters and spread them widely. Post them on your websites, email them to friends, print them out, get them seen by as many people as possible. For high quality files suitable for litho or giclée printing, please email Paul at paul_phare @

Here are a few links that will tell you more about Bhopal's fight for justice post Union Carbide, and tell you about ways in which you can help.

Check out Indra Sinha's new book Animal's People