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.