Campaign India Team
Dec 27, 2010

The Big Debate: The good, bad and ugly of Indian Advertising:Nayaran Kumar

As part of our year-end special, we reproduce the thoughts shared by industry captains on the good, the bad and the ugly of Indian advertising, in conversations with Campaign India. Read what Nayaran Kumar, director and creative chief, Metal Communications, had to say.

The Big Debate: The good, bad and ugly of Indian Advertising:Nayaran Kumar

The Good 

Even with my personal distaste for awards-clamouring, I must say that in the last decade or so, it has lead to an uplift in general standards. Even middle-of-the-road commercials in this decade are sort of bearable and do not induce puke - barring such obvious bilge as kunwar ajay saree number 1,2, etc.Commercial-making as a craft has seen some serious improvements. A good spate of young directors and support guys in graphics and facilities have enlivened the scene. Bringing in spit and polish to the work of agencies. Even bullcrap scripts at the very least tend to be presentable these days.There is international recognition for Indian ideas and - even bigger - a long overdue recognition of the Indian sense of humour. We have quite a variety of it in our country. We take it for granted and it is only in recent times that in meetings and gatherings abroad, foreigners are making surprised discoveries of this through our work. That is nice.

A lot of young agencies like Metal have sprung up in recent times. It’s a great thing. In a subjective business like advertising, small shops offering close access to its top levels is a great boon to clients. They don’t have to deal with the legendary layers of account executive, senior executive, account manager, group account manager, vice-president and whatnot. 

It’s easier to solve advertising problems when you cut the crap and get to business. Unless, of course, the clients’ side is also laden with equal layers of legendary proportions...

The Bad

As someone famously remarked, the assets of an agency go down the elevator every night. So the bad part of the agency business is bad people. The under-talented-but-overly-ambitious tribe has always existed, but has seen prodigious growth in recent times. New media like the internet trade press has given new forums for these voices and encourages fresh ones to come out of the undergrowth in search of light and fame.

Agency people never knew much beyond their narrow world of advertising. That much was always true.This traditional limitation has unbelievably shrunk further now - to the promotion of the self. Which means I am merely waiting for you to finish your rant about you before I take over with my rant about me. Someone from outside the industry could mistake this for a conversation.It’s a serious affliction. More people today appear weighed down by the responsibility of having to be presidents of their own fan clubs.

Which is probably why training in the industry has gone for a toss. Why will I train you if I am preoccupied with me? There’s a lot of knowledge and learnings in this exciting industry every day and the bright senior people ought to share generously. Yet we hardly get trained youngsters any more. Or, to be fair, the intentions may still be there but the forums and budgets have vanished.What’s particularly bad for the future of our industry is that new recruits are going elsewhere. Many reasons have been put forward for this - mostly to do with remuneration - but the outcome is still sad. You don’t want the agency business populated with mediocre talent.

For my liking, too many creative people are writing too many scripts which are set inside either elevators or barber shops. Watch TV tonight if you don’t believe me. Keep your eyes open for the lift or the saloon to assault you yet again. This extraordinary development is some weird, inexplicable trend going on for the last ten years or so. I am waiting for this trend to die. And it won’t be a day too soon.

Maybe, these creative people should go out more and get a life. Maybe, they shouldn’t spend all their time in the office thinking only about advertising, barring an occasional outside visit for a haircut.Scam ads were always there. But the lengths to which some people can go to win a silly award is distressing. This kind of behaviour not only sets ambitious youngsters to follow a wrong and unnecessary path, it also takes our eyes off the ball - the client’s business. Surely ambition deserves a better goal than mere awards. I confess I never understood the clamour for awards. The recent murky goings-on only make me feel more self-righteous than ever. 

Clients are squeezing margins for their creative agencies. This can’t be for anyone’s good but it’s happening. It appears they will pay humongous amounts to consultancies which point out problems but they pay peanuts to agencies which provide solutions. Go figure.

The Ugly

Bitching and pointing fingers have always been a part of our beloved industry. They had their entertainment value. But when someone from this agency starts suing someone from another, it’s no longer fun or watchable. It is ugly.

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