When we set up Bang Bang back in 2006, Asia-Pacific was (and still is) a very heavily cross-pollinated region when it came to commercials production. So when, say, an Ogilvy Singapore put a job out to bid, they’d talk to companies in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, etc. but no one was talking to India. And the converse was true as well: Indian agencies were barely talking to directors or producers from outside the country. Main culprit: the large domestic market syndrome, an affliction we suffer from in the feature film industry as well. Although we at Bang Bang operate on a slightly different trajectory (and I’ll stop talking about Bang Bang now as I’m sure that’s not why Campaign asked me to write this piece), this is largely still the case.
A couple of years ago, I had a reporter ask why we needed to bring in international directors. “Our directors are just as good”, is what she told me, “why are you trying to spoil the industry?” I’m sure several of you reading this are thinking along the same vein. I have a strong point of view on this. Art, in the broadest sense of the word, has always benefited from external influences. And more competition is always a good thing for any industry. So whether you look at advertising as art or commerce, insularity is simply a regressive concept.
A delegation of the APA – Advertising Producers Association (of the UK), visited Bombay last week to familiarize themselves with the market and obviously with the ultimate aim of getting more business out of it. India is hot. Yes, Directors & Producers! Be worried, be very worried. Someone is coming to eat up our lunch. I’m being facetious. But only slightly. Not that the MJZs, RSAs and Independents of the world are going to be vying for the mid budget band of 50 to 80 Lac budget films that typify the industry. It’s the larger among us that need to be wary of a whole new subset of competition in our own backyard. And competition is a wonderful thing. You now have a reason to up your game.
Here’s a few thoughts on how…and some of this is stuff that some of us are already practicing…
Spread your wings. I say it again: India is hot! Go to Cannes, Pattaya (it’s Phuket this year), Singapore or any other place where global adfolk congregate periodically and see how cool it is to be Indian right now. Go reach out to the world. If the APA can come here, why can’t we go elsewhere? Hold on! When I say “we”, who am I really talking about? We don’t even have an industry body. How embarrassing! More on that later… But as I was saying, completely at the risk of increasing competition, which, as we’ve established, is a wonderful thing, we should reach out and connect more with the world at large. Take your directors to other markets, give them a larger playing field.
Build a brand. For a bunch of people operating in the advertising industry, we Indian producers do a pretty pathetic job of branding our companies. The real brands so far have been the directors. And that’s not a bad thing. But they do manage to strike a balance in other markets.Superstar directors like Tarsem, Gondry, Budgen and Ridley Scott have long shared the limelight with Radical, Partizan, Gorgeous and RSA. Make sure you share credit with the agency for the great work that you do WITH them. Far too often, I see credits for a commercial here in Campaign or in rival media, which don’t even mention the director or production company. Spend money on marketing. Buy media here in Campaign and in global media as well like shots, The Location Guide, Cannes Lions Daily, etc. and make sure your potential stakeholders know what you stand for.
Increase transparency. Meritocracy is a good thing. Stop greasing palms and stop paying kickbacks. I believe the majority of this industry –clients, agencies, and production companies- doesn’t indulge in the stuff. But we also know that there’s definitely a section that runs on ‘alternative finance’. I know. I’ve been asked for money more than once. Mail me if you’re curious to know by whom. Do we need our own Raja and Kalmadi before it stops? The difference here is that a job being awarded on the back of relationships is perfectly fine. At the end of the day, there needs to be a comfort level between the parties involved.
And most of all, let’s unite. We need an industry body like the APA or the AICP (Association of Independent Commercials Producers) in the US. And it needs to be staffed by experienced and decently paid professionals. But that’s a topic for another day.
Till then, VIVA LA COMPETICIÓN!