Need for wit, imagination, patience, originality stressed at AAAI workshop

MUMBAI: "Being the creative director of an ad agency is like combining Mahatma Gandhi and Mickey Mouse. There is no brain surgery involved just common sense. The worst thing you can do to your career is to emulate someone else's style. Respect the clients that you are communicating for and you will find that the job can be a lot of fun."

These were some of the anecdotes put forth by O&M executive chairman Piyush Pandey. He spoke on the qualities that make a great creative director of an ad agency at the third session of The Block. This is a series of creative workshops being conducted by the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) in the city.

He told the ad people assembled that they should first try to be very good if not great team players. "This is not a one man show. Keep your eyes and ears open because ideas are found in life not in black note books." He went on to stress the importance of not

giving in to pressure. He offered the example of the Cadbury's commercial where a woman runs onto the cricket field as an example. At that time O&M was on a pitch after having been with Cadbury's for years. The FMCG was angry at the time.

However the O&M team did not play safe and dived head in. The result was a series of ads that rejuvenated the brand. "Those who succumb do mediocre work. Those who view pressure as an opportunity rather than a threat will make it."

He also said that a creative director must stand by the people who work with him. He must remember that it is not a bad thing to argue with a client when you are

sure that you are on the right track. "Sometimes I have gone to the extent of taking the client aside and telling him that if he continues to argue in this fashion then his company's advertising programme will definitely get fed up."

He also stressed the need for patience among creative directors. "If you think that an idea is initially bad at least sleep over it before chucking it out. Initially I thought that the ad for the cigarette hazards, which said 'Cancer cures smoking' would not work. I was skeptical at first as it seemed so simple."

"Creative directors also need to be gentle with ideas while at the same time sifting the good ones from those which are lousy. They must be careful not to dampen the enthusiasm of young people who have recently joined the agency."

On the originality front he said that if a creative director develops a unique style the people working under him would respect him. That according to him was much better than trying to be the clone of someone famous. He admitted to having made people creative directors in the past when they did not command the respect of their peers.

Another way for a creative director to make a mark is to work on a concept that others are afraid to touch.

He gave the example of taking on Fevicol in the 1980s when nobody wanted to touch it. The result was the tug of war ad.

He showed visuals comprising of four creative directors who had words of advice. As a warning one of them said that creative directors should be wary of those who create out of fear or out of a sense of insecurity. "It is important for a creative director to lead by demonstration. You should at least be able to give the seed of an idea to your team. When dealing with ideas you need to be stern and ruthless. There is nothing worse than creative director letting a lousy idea run its course because he does not have the gumption to put a stop to it."

To give an illustration of teamwork, talent and patience Pandey gave the example of the animated movie Alladin. Inspiration can sometimes come from weird sources. Therefore it is important to keep your eyes and ears open. For instance the rap singer MC Hammer

was the inspiration for the opening sequence of the film.

The patience came from the writers who had to convert their storyboards into cinema language. He also said that creative directors should have passion and find joy in the work they do. The body language of the singers who composed and sang tunes like 'A Whole New World' for the film exuded just that Pandey said.

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