This week's Adland Rockstar is Angud, senior copywriter, Leo Burnett.
How did you get into advertising?
Growing up, I never knew what the heck I wanted to be in life. Not a clue. Except for when I was in the 7th standard, my elder brother asked me this question. With childish pride I said, an ‘Environmentalist!”. God knows why! Don’t think I could even spell the word back then. Advertising just happened to catch my fancy at some point. Maybe because I always wasted a lot of time writing odd stuff and fiddling with designs on the comp. So I “heroically” dropped out of Chemistry Honors after one year, did a bachelors in Mass Communication, and went to MICA for Crafting Creative Communications and a specialization in copywriting. My first run in an agency was actually during college, when I interned at FCB ULKA. I think that’s when I decided this is the job for me. Post MICA, I joined Leo Burnett Delhi. Been here ever since, it’s been 4 eventful years.
Any memories of your first few weeks in advertising?
When I started out I was hired by my boss to help out with jobs on the History Channel. A week later, we lost the client. That’s when it hit me how unpredictable this industry is. Things change all the time. Some days you have loads of work, others you’re up to no good the entire day. Sometimes you get great ideas and sometimes you make do with average thinking. A senior writer once told me that “Research says, advertising is one of the most stressful jobs.” I don’t much care for what research says, but this was definitely an exception. Most of my time was spent on the orientation couch, where a crowd of trainees fought for a place to sit. I remember dumping my bag on the sofa, thinking on the sofa, eating on it, once even sleeping on the sofa after a nice lunch while the branch head looked on, probably shaking her head thinking, 'kids these days'. The couch even gave me ring side seats to a fist fight between two senior guys from creative and servicing. Boy that was fun. All in all, from ideas, briefs, clients, brands, pitches to award books… I overdosed on everything that makes advertising both good and bad.
What is one thing that you like about your job?
I’d like to answer that with an example. You would know what a Happy Meal is, definitely if you have nagging brats for kids. It’s been one the most successful marketing ploys for McDonald’s over the past 30 years. The toys are too good to resist. Forget kids, even guys like you and me would love to grab some of them. I have the entire Kung-fu Panda collection. My point is, the idea for a Happy Meal didn’t exist before an advertising agency gave it to McDonald’s. A simple yet brilliant idea that’s used across thousands of McDonald’s outlets, bought by hundreds, thousands of people. That’s what advertising gives me. The power to create. And you get to have fun doing it. That’s brilliant. I mean look at what Earth Hour or a Best job in the world have achieved. That’s what I love about this job.
What is one thing that you don't like about your job?
Unruly clients who think they own the agency. But that’s an occupational hazard we have to live with. Going by the kind of radical work that’s happening the world over, you can pretty much guess my stand on the old vs. new school debate. My biggest fear is having my mind squashed by a dinosaur roaming our industry. But the thing that disturbs me the most, I think, is when great ideas don’t see the light of day. There’s always a reason why you can’t do this, can’t do that. It’s not funny the number of earth-shattering ideas people have carefully stored on a shelf, hoping someday it’ll happen. The other thing that worries me nowadays is that “Koi bhi sar utha ke copywriter banne aa jata hai”. It’s true that advertising is an open profession. But some people are just not cut out for it, and the wrong kind of people are getting in.
Who are your mentors? How different are they from each other and what have you learnt from each of them?
My first two mentors are from my post-graduation days. I belong to the tenth batch of Crafting Creative Communications, MICA. And ours was the last one to pass out under a great man named Simon Fernandes. He’d worked for Trikaya Grey and a few other agencies as a writer, and later gave up a promising career to teach the craft at MICA. He’s no more now. But he showed me, and many others who attended the course, that advertising is about being fearless and taking risks. During the course I also met Rajan Nair who inspired everyone to craft better copy and come up with ‘human’ ideas. I still remember his story about how he discovered the tagline for Raymond’s. He used to write letters to his to-be-wife, each based on a theme. One of the letters was around how he was the ‘complete man’ for her. That’s where he got the idea that has defined one of India’s best suiting brands. During my years in Burnett, I have had the privilege of learning from KV Sridhar, Santosh Padhi, and of course Sainath Saraban, who has taken pains to make me the creative individual I am today. He’s created great work on many brands, the list runs long with Thums-up right on top. He’s a great person to be around with his infectious energy and willingness to take chances. Also, I haven’t come across someone who’s better at presenting ideas than him. And that’s by a long shot. It’s one of the many things I hope to pick-up from him.
How do you cheer yourself up on a bad day?
Random destruction. Breaking things. There’s plenty of old stuff in our office to smash around. And post some extensive renovation recently, we’ve struck a gold mine of breakable leftover construction material. Other favourite stress busters include wrestling the pantry boy, and piling on unsuspecting trainees relaxing on the sofa.
Who is your favourite bouncing board for ideas?
Most ideas go ‘boing!’ in the face of my art director. That’s my first instinct. To grab the art guy and share the idea. Otherwise, if I believe the idea is a good one, I take it up with my ECD. Of course, my mom and my wife don’t have a choice but to listen. If these guys give the nod, I go berserk discussing the idea with just about anyone. Reactions are the best way to make ideas better.
Favourite books? Favourite authors?
I am comics person. If I pick up something with pages, it needs to have pictures in it. Otherwise it’s like food without salt. I gave up on Shantaram after a week. Catch22 is probably the only book I’ve ever finished, and enjoyed. I have a huge collection of Mad, that’s pretty much my favourite reading material.
One person in advertising you'd like to have dinner with?
The most celebrated individual in the history of O&M India, Mr. you know who. With all due respect to him, and believe me it’s never enough in any degree, I am itching to see how he maneuvers food around that moustache.
One person outside advertising you'd like to have dinner with?
Michael Bay. I seriously want to know how he imagined what Transformers would look like before he got down to making it.
Three advertising campaigns you'd like to put up in your hall-of-fame.
Zoo-Zoo, Whopper Virgins and Tide - Ketchup doesn’t a chance. I say Zoo-Zoo because it’s a brilliant campaign created for the masses, not for jury members.
Three advertising campaigns you've worked on, which are really special to you.
Maaza is my favourite brand because it gave me my first commercial. It’s unconditional love. Today, I have four films, all on Maaza, including the recent Aam ki Pyaas Tree house Commercial with Ranvir Shourey. This constitutes my work that has been seen, enjoyed, ignored, criticized, or hated on national television. It’s a great feeling, the fact that what I created entered so many lives and homes across the country. Apart from Maaza, me and my art partner had worked on a whole bunch of stuff on 42BELOW Vodka. Everyone in the agency loved it. I’ve had people tell me at interviews that it’s great stuff. Sadly, it never got released. Today, it’s special because I see that work and I see how it could have been so much better. It’s important to have that realization.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what would be the three things you'd want with you?
The lion, zebra and the penguins from the movie Madagascar.
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