Every year, there’s at least one such campaign which offers that testimonial. JWT’s Nakka Mukka film (Times of India Chennai) did it in 2008, Nike’s ‘Cricket’ and Neo Sports’ ‘Gas’ films were highlights of 2007 and McCann Erickson’s ‘Human Bulbs’ for Happydent shone in 2006. Ask adland about this year and the answer is prompt and unanimous – 2009 will go down as the year of Vodafone’s Zoozoos.
While an obvious answer is good, one cannot help but wonder if there were many contenders for the best campaign? Did creativity flourish this year? Which of 2009’s campaigns will we remember in the years to come? Which media – print, digital, outdoor – saw an improvement over last year?
Some feel that 2009 was certainly a better year than 2008 in terms of creativity. Amit Akali, group creative director and creative head, O&M Bangalore says that this year clients and agencies tried out new things. "The ad for Bajaj Pulsar (The fastest Indian) had the shot of the bike for a fleeting few seconds. Now that’s rare, considering bike ads are generally only about stylish shots of the bike and nothing else."
Akali adds that this year, the quality of Indian ad films got a boost thanks to agencies being able to afford international production houses.
Did the cut-backs in spending from advertisers help agencies deliver better creative ideas? Santosh Padhi, co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot India responds, “Recession was an excuse to do some below-average creative work. I don’t think the creative standards have changed across any media.”
Anisha Sarin, creative head, Rediffusion Y&R Mumbai says that the slowdown made clients more nervous about brave advertising. “The quality of creative work has suffered this year. Agencies have played a little safer (than they did last year).”
Leo Burnett executive creative director Sainath Saraban however shares a different experience. “The quality of work has been pretty good in 2009. Clients made bold moves and there were newer styles of execution. For some of our clients, we still made big films and they did not hasten to spend money.” He adds, “There was no ‘Blair Witch project’ though. So if you are looking for ideas born out of lack of resources and becoming brilliant because it is just a great idea with no money for execution – then that really hasn’t happened.”
There are still concerns over the improvement of creativity in other media. “It is tough to recall a great print campaign, an outstanding radio campaign or an immersive digital campaign. The best work in those media will be seen and judged at the awards. Traditionally, it’s the television campaigns we’ll always remember the most,” says Akali.
Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer, Taproot India
“In 2009, the creativity standards certainly saw a decline and the ad world took the excuse of recession to do some below average work. I’d blame it on laziness, taking things for granted, seniors not taking right initiatives and energy at the right time. Creative faced the challenge of doing some great work within limited budgets, but we never got to see that in a big way. Barring a few, 80% of the agencies are doing the same sh**. Very few dared to do fresh work (O&M did Zoozoos – two thumbs up to them). Except digital, the Indian advertising industry is quite hands-on with other media and has delivered great work in the past.”
Thomas Xavier, chairman and NCD, Orchard Advertising
“ There is nothing to indicate that this year has been any different for creativity. Mostly, it is the same old scene. Forget better solutions, nothing much happened. The so called “slowdown” was an imported rumour that made a lot of businesses needlessly take their eyes off the top-line and look at cutting costs. But now it’s back to work! The Tata Docomo campaign is proof that great mass media advertising with a tangible product difference is still the fastest way to ramp up a brand. It is one campaign that caught on. I liked the work on Limca, especially the use of music. Mainstream creativity is getting better in execution.”
Anisha Sarin, creative head, Rediffusion Y&R
“The quality of work has suffered this year. The slowdown has made clients more nervous about brave advertising. Agencies played safe. The slowdown made it imperative for people to look at new media seriously. Before that it was lip service. Amongst notable campaigns, I liked Zoozoos and Nakkamukka. I love the intention behind Jaago Re. There was a fabulous improvement in visual language. The print work is definitely looking more kinetic. So is film craft and packaging.There’s more guerilla advertising, so that’s great. Radio is, as always, neglected and digital work shows a very poor level of execution.”
“The level of creativity has been quite high this year, better than what it was in 2008. Vodafone’s Zoozoos were clearly the big story of 2009 and clients like Bajaj Auto made some bold moves. It’s been a tough year too- budgets were tighter, deadlines were crazier, clients were panicky. On the brighter side, Indian agencies were able to afford international ad film-makers. The participation of foreign production houses has certainly given a fillip to television advertising. Films now are slicker and much better shot. Indian film-makers also upped the ante - directors like Prakash Varma of Nirvana Films are improving with each project.”
Sainath Saraban, executive creative director, Leo Burnett
“2009 has been a pretty good with clients buying great ideas and newer styles of execution. Zoozoos, Bajaj DTSi’s ‘Transformers’ commercial, Bajaj Pulsar’s ‘The fastest Indian’, Thums Up ‘Durga Puja’ are just a few examples When it comes to film, I think undoubtedly, India is the best in the region and at par with the rest of the world. The quality of print advertising has been steadily falling and one really hasn’t seen an exceptional print campaign in a while. Viral marketing is growing but very slowly. I guess the digital space is still not taken very seriously as a parallel medium.”