It all started when it struck us that people come around on such occasions and just stare blankly at things and go away. What if we were to give them something to do? What if we got the gathering to chant a simple message… imagine the size of the chorus! More importantly, the chant could get everyone to feel more connected —to each other and to the occasion. By chanting together we could build a monument of sound!
Which is why we decided to stand outside the Taj and chant. I had my colleague RajDeepak Das to support me along with an eager bunch of students from XIC. About 25 of us got into a huddle and with a sense of solemn purpose began to chant gently – like softly spoken magic spells “aatank se hum kabhi nahin darenge… nafrat ka saamna pyaar se karenge” (The lyrics came from Sandipan, our ECD in Delhi.) As we chanted without a pause, we could see passers-by and suspicious commandoes watching, wondering. For an hour, it was just us chanting relentlessly! Then, as if by magic, the crowd got involved! Seeing our belief and unwavering effort, they began to chant alongside us. Soon everybody in the square outside the Taj was chanting! The chanting began to take a life of its own. Three hours later, when we left the site, people were still chanting. They did not need us any more. The chant belonged to the place, the occasion and the people who embraced it. It was a humbling experience! It was more moving than moving!
This spontaneous combustion told me many things. Ideas live and grow as part of an eco system. The source of the idea may often be one or two individuals. They are sparked by passionate enthusiasts who are inspired and influenced by the environment and the people who surround them. But it is because of the collective that the idea takes shape. And only when the collective owns the idea, will the idea become truly whole!
We’ve been trying to understand and adopt this way of life within our tribe called BBDO India. We are a young agency of curious, highly talented individuals who may have little or no sense of media. Our ideas are often box-less and are difficult to categorize. They are aimed at solving a problem or seizing an opportunity rather than fixing a hole on TV or in print. We want our work to be more active and interactive. More useful and newsworthy! We are not excited by the singularity of past ideas that are passive, but the plurality of ‘actionable’ ideas that involve the community. But these ideas cannot happen in isolation. They are dependent on so many partners. People who are better than us, more specialized. So we have learnt to embrace the collective – the collaborative model. We need our PR partners and our media partners, and our colleagues from activation and the digital-interactive space.
Almost all our brand ideas are collaborative in nature. Ideas like ‘Make India Heart Healthy’ for Quaker Oats or W.A.L.S. (Women Against Lazy Stubble) for P&G Gillette or The Great Wall of Education for Aviva’s ‘Education is Insurance’. Or the 7UP Lemon Pattalam for Tamil Nadu. Or the flash mobs with Allu Arjun in Andhra for 7UP. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow. But we do everything it takes to give the idea scale! Whatever it takes! Because we are the mother!
Of course in the end, there is the issue of credit. Who owns the idea, who did what. Who walks up on stage to pick the rewards. If we are in it together, I believe we will find a way together!
I would love to stand outside the Taj once again and, with all of you, chant another mantra, “Collaborate, congratulate, celebrate!”