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Can Creativity Work to Deadlines?

What do ad folks do, aside from giving themselves lots of awards? We asked Alok Nanda, creative director and founder of Alok Nanda Company (the agency behind Forbes India’s launch campaign) to tell us all about it

Published: Jul 3, 2010 12:09:00 AM IST
Updated: Jul 2, 2010 07:31:34 PM IST
Can Creativity Work to Deadlines?
Image: Vidyanand Kamat

What should aspiring creative directors keep in mind?
Depends how far they want to climb. Initially, it’s doing great work, and then getting great work out of others. And finally, it is winning the clients trust.

What does it take to become an art director?
Two words – feeling and judgment. Art direction is about understanding and expressing feelings. But without judgment, it is meaningless. Sure you need great technical skills – typography, film, photography – whatever, but craft has to work towards a purpose.

What is the toughest part of being a creative director in India?
The same as being a creative director in Czechoslovakia I suppose. We like to think of India as this unique, fascinating country. It is. But so is Uruguay to Uruguayans. It’s a job that demands passion, insight and hard work. Just as it is in any part of the world.

Can creativity work to deadlines?
As a matter of fact, that’s the only way. There’s this book I’ve been meaning to write for the last 12 years….

How has advertising changed in the last five years?
Advertising is always changing because it is a product of popular culture – which itself is changing all the time, so there’s nothing special about the last 5 years. Having said that, the obvious trends are: more colloquial; more visual. The next 5 years could be different again.

What is the next creative frontier?
Digital at one end, and experiential on the other. Almost everything will migrate to the digital platform, making the word ‘digital’ redundant. But even as we turn more virtual, whether on computers, the mobile or the iPad, our love affair with malls is only beginning. Communication skills will be stretched to meet these seemingly opposing directions. And, oh yes, TV is not going away in a hurry.

What do you think of technology firms partnering with ad agencies?
They are unique trailblazers. What I am not sure of is this: it the only trail, or necessarily the best one? Technology can be outsourced (ask Infosys), brand ideas cannot. It’s much the same question we’ve grappled with in retail design – should we have an in-house architect or partner with the right one depending on need? There is no clear right or wrong. Having said that, I have a deep respect for these organisations. At least they’re not sitting on their butts waiting to become history.

How many times does the client really get the idea first time after sending him the creatives?
Depends on the client. But why risk that? That’s why it’s always wise to send the creator along with the creatives. Better yet, on major initiatives, invite the client over to your office.

Is it important to discuss ideas in a bar? Or is it just an excuse used by creative guys?
What wash that you wash, hic! saying?

What are three cultural traits that define the Indian audience?
1. Confidence and a desire to up trade
2. Value, even in luxury brands
3. A great desire to classify everything into threes

Which campaign would you describe as a turning point for Indian advertising?
There is no one answer; it entirely depends on your age. In the 70s, it was Bobby Kooka’s Air India campaign – for more than a decade, it defined to the rest of the world a Maharaja’s India. If you were part of the great print era of the 80s – you’d say the work of Trikaya, Enterprise and a few other agencies. Today it’s the wonderful Hutch-Vodafone work. Tomorrow it could be a young kid in a garage turning out a great app for Facebook.

Which campaign, to your mind, did the best job of changing the consumer mindset – from boring to sexy, from an old user to a young user, etc.?
I’m sure there are many. For us, it is what we have achieved for Lodha. Transforming a low key real estate developer into a highly desirable brand. In fact, it’s transformed the real estate category.

What is the best thing about your job?
What job?

(Co-ordinated by Nilofer D’Souza)

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(This story appears in the 16 July, 2010 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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