This week's Adland Rockstar is Moosa Khan, copywriter, Shop.
How did you get into advertising?
To be honest, I didn’t intend to get into advertising at all (come to think of it, nobody does initially). In fact I’ve never really ‘intended’ to do anything in life. I just make it a point to keep on doing something new, and in the process, find out what fits. For me, advertising was the perfect fit. While studying literature during graduation, writing was something I did quite often, though I never imagined making a career out of it. I was originally interested in graphic design. I taught myself Photoshop and took any design projects that came my way. As fate would have it, before the third year of college began, I had a month to kill, so I joined Shop for a month long internship. It was here that my education in advertising began and after this, I was hooked on to it!
I decided to go to St. Xavier’s Mumbai to get a formal education in Advertising and Marketing. There, I found myself in the company of some of the most intelligent and gifted individuals – teachers and students. During this time, I interned for a month at Leo Burnett (Delhi) with some great people like Madhumita Deb. All this helped to cement my belief that advertising is the career for me. I came back to Delhi with the sole purpose of joining Shop and to work with the two people who inspired me to join advertising – Naved Akhter and Freddy Birdy. Its been more than a year now since I started working with them at Shop.
Describe your first week in advertising.
My first week wasn’t at all like what I’d imagined it to be. The scene wasn’t chaotic and buzzing like in a big agency. Instead, there was an air of calmness in the picturesque little office of Shop. It was a setting which made me feel relaxed and at home, something that I found a little surprising. For the entire first week I lapped up all the literature on advertising from the huge office library that I could. I remember reading the copy book over and over again, looking at all the great copywriters like David Abbott, Neil French and Ed Mcabe, wondering what it would take to be like them.
What was your copy test like? What were you asked to do?
I never had a formal copy test. They hired me in Shop based on my portfolio of work alone. Similarly, in Leo Burnett, they hired me based on the fact that I’d worked with Shop. The only copy test I had was in St. Xavier’s given by Cajetan Vaz during copywriting class. The questions were bizarre with one asking us to think of a print ad for brands like Polo, Rolls Royce and Sony with a mandatory pig as part of the visual! I made the Rolls Royce ad with a pig in the backseat of a Phantom, wearing a hat and a monocle and accompanied by a headline that said "For the filthy rich"...I seriously doubt whether the real client would’ve approved of it if he/she saw it.
What was the first brief you worked on?
My first brief was for Yo! China restaurant. I was supposed to write a radio spot highlighting a Schezwan combo. I wrote a spoof of the ‘tumhaare paas kya hai’ scene from Deewar. But more than writing the ad, I enjoyed seeing it being recorded. The voice-over artist was a gifted individual who deftly switched voices from Amitabh to Shashi Kapoor to his own. It was like watching magic being weaved with voices.
What's one thing you like about your job?
What I like most about being a copywriter is the fact that I can wake up every morning, and go to work with the belief that there will always be something new to do and learn, everyday.
What's one thing you don't like about your job?
The ping pong game between the client and the agency in the form of reverts, ‘minor’ changes and debriefs. This process is made even worse if there is more than one person from the client side giving individual inputs and critiques without consulting the others.
If not in advertising, what would you have been doing?
I would be a graphic artist.
One person in advertising you'd like to have dinner with?
Bill Bernbach, so that we can both sit together and critique all the current Volkswagen ads.
One person outside advertising you'd like to have dinner with?
Gulzar, because I’ve always been awestruck by his writings and lyrics, I imagine it’d be delightful to hear him speak about life in general. It’d be like watching a monologue in a stage performance.
Your favourite film-makers.
Dibakar Bannerjee, Guillermo Del Toro and Stanley Kubrick are filmmakers who I find fascinating.
Three books/ authors that are your favourites.
Anything written by Niel Gaiman, Bertrand Russel or Roald Dahl is a joy to read.
Three campaigns that you'd put in your hall of fame?
Dragon Lee’s print campaign by Freddy Birdy and Naved Akhter (One of the campaigns that inspired me to go into advertising.); the Tap water project by Droga5, for showing us that simple ideas can be powerful ideas; and the Porsche print campaign by Fallon McElligott for its astoundingly well written copy.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what would be the three things you'd want with you?
My cat, a ball point pen and a Dance Dance Revolution arcade machine.
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