Josy Paul
Feb 01, 2013

Opinion: Searching my soul for a replacement to ‘scam’

Josy Paul is chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO India. The views are personal.

Opinion: Searching my soul for a replacement to ‘scam’

The four-letter word disturbs me. For one, it belongs to the ‘90s. We’ve come a long way since then. It no longer works. And it’s no longer relevant. Here’s why.

A lot of the guys who engage in R&D aren’t doing work that is applicable to the product today. That does not mean that R&D is irrelevant. The objective is to constantly work to explore beyond the known, for betterment of consumer experience in future. I wouldn’t call that ‘scam’.

In the world of fashion, a lot of work showcased on the ramp isn’t wearable. Yet, it has purpose. It is an inspiration for influencers. It is a look at the future of what we could  wear from where we are right now. It is a look from the edge of the present into the beyond. Is that innovation, or is that ‘scam’?

The persevering mountaineer climbs one peak after another, or the same peak thrice - once with oxygen, the next time without, and the third time without oxygen or sherpa support. Tangibly, he isn’t doing anything for mankind. But he is pushing the human spirit; he is an inspiration - through his act - for others to draw from. He’s also a inspiration for what adland can - and must  - do.
While mountaineers, fashion designers and those in R&D can work on what might be, all work that we in advertising do has to be useful to clients.

There is no better time than now for adlanders to redraw the fluid boundaries of possibilities. Any good idea is applicable today given the multiplicity of mediums. ‘Digital’ is many universes under one name. Within the ambit of a large brand idea, is there an innovation on Facebook that can help address a select audience? Is there a pan-social media interpretation of the idea that can act for the brand? Yes. And yes. And these ideas will get recognised today.

The Cannes fest has over 16 verticals today. This is a far cry from the print-TV-poster-outdoor dominated award scenario of the past. Even a single mall experiential campaign can make itself known to the world, and inspire the global audience to explore the space of shopper marketing. There is the new ‘Innovation’ category that’s being launched this year. The possibilities are endless.

‘Scams’ of yesteryears were also a product of clients’ unwillingness to look beyond the tried and tested. Today’s competitive environment demands that clients experiment, and that is good news for us creatives. I don’t mean to plug in our client and work here, but I have to say that we wouldn’t have been able to pull off people shaving on the Delhi metro in the era of ‘scams’. That campaign is a reality today, thanks to a client who is willing to push boundaries – and thanks to the Delhi metro, which didn’t exist earlier.

There was an era, I admit (and have been part of), when ‘scams’ were used as a competitive advantage to showcase the agency’s creative prowess. It was our way of saying, ‘Look... This is what we can do, even without a client’. That era is long gone. Not only does everything we think of and do have a possibility somewhere, juries around the world are also increasingly aware of ‘scams’ as they were. Juries that I have been part of in recent times can smell a ‘scam’ from a mile away, and trust me, they are treated with disdain. And please remember: everyone in the judging room has access to Google.

Piyush has been consistently recognized at international award shows for his work on Fevicol . Prasoon’s biggest recognition came for his work on Happydent, and Aggie’s for the work on The Times of India. These are real transformational ideas that changed the fortunes of these brands. So who are we kidding when we say ‘scams’ are the shortcut to fame?

Let’s do away with the word ‘scam’ to start with. And, for a better name, let’s indulge in some R&D. Or soul searching, if you will.

Campaign India

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