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A word on words

Who is a good writer? Ask that to a pre-advertising me and I would most probably be fumbling with a sweet-heavy jargon here, a quote stripped of Dickens or Bronte there. Now go back. Time travel back to the early 90’s when I was an oily haired teenager dealing with the disturbing tidings of adolescence. Knock against the brilliantly illustrated Famous Five cover that’s resting on my hand and ask again. Hey, girl, what’s good writing? Well, sir, umm.., writing that makes me feel good, really, really good!
Don’t stop there sir. I request you to step a little backer and go on to when I was a 5ish chubby kid, hair rudely crowding on my face, snuggling up to my grandpa who’s making a brave attempt pacifying against the dreary backdrop of May afternoon heat and strategically inconvenient power failure. His eyes are gleaming and he’s telling me the story of the princess held hostage under the deep blue sea by a demon. The only way to kill the demon is to locate his heart that’s stowed away in a remote tree, inside an intricately carved snuffbox. It’s a honeybee, or a pranbhomra, killing which would release a marvelous spate of events, culminating in the death of evil, the rise of good, and the patiently anticipated ‘happily-ever-after….’..
Yes, I tell you to interrupt that little pigtailed girl just when the prince is going to run his dagger through the honeybee. There and Then. “Hey, kiddo, who is a good writer?” I warn you sir. You’re in for some unexpected bloated insult from a fiveish cherub. “Hey, no fair! Don’t you see granpa’s telling me my favourite story! I can’t answer you now!” After you’ve recovered from that indignant jolt and ready to explore the seemingly invisible silver lining, let me tell you that you’ve hit upon the answer. Just like that.
That fairytale in the withered hands of the superannuated gentleman, fanning away his pool of grandkids on an unfairly hot summer day, is what good writing is all about. And that superannuated gentleman is what good communication is all about.
Notice how many eras you had to go back to get the answer. And why? Because we were on a journey of innocence. We were trying to find out how a child, who is at the simplest and the most uncomplicated stage of her life responds to a piece of work. This quality, this essential innocence, the capability to generate a spontaneous response wanes away with the replacements of the wall calendar. We add things like ‘conditioning’, ‘experiences’ ‘circumstances’ ‘learnings’ ‘education’ and a medley of other things that cloud our responses. Hence Dickens and The Four P’s of Marketing inch in, and the real answers inch out.
I am a personal person and live in an interiorized world. So I’ll tell you what think good advertising does/attempts to do to the customer. Good advertising is like my grandfather. It attempts to frame an argument in a way such that the customer’s mind develops a spontaneous and positive response towards the brand that the advertiser is trying to sell. It ain’t easy sir. Because we live in a communication brawl. You could liken it to a noisy, ill smelling tavern. People are drunk, fighting and kicking the life out of each other. You don’t know if the next person can get what you say. Most often they can’t. They’re intoxicated and tired with their humdrum lives. So are consumers. Intoxicated and numbed by the teeming populace of advertising communication they encounter everyday. Ask Freud, and he’d promptly stock all that junk up in the unconcious and flush it down brain’s lanes. So there. The market, the competition is like that hot May afternoon with a power cut. It won’t let you litsen to the brand story. You’ve got to make your own way.
Yeah, mate we get all that. But how do we do it? How do we make advertising communication so irresistible that the droning hot afternoon and buzzing dragonflies lose hands down? Well, you’ve got to be my grandfather. You’ve got to be the ideal story teller.
Why did we litsen to stories such that our lives depended on it?
  • The story: A story must have something to say. It may be the adventures of Sindbad. Or the fact that drenching yourself in Axe gets you girls.
  • The big idea: I hate using the 3 worder because its become a cliche and people don’t pay attention to it anyway, which is a big no-no in any form of good communication. Anyway, the BIG idea is actually a very powerful insight. Take any epic piece of advertising. Say, the fact that we constantly cringe about the fact, that we’re losing ourselves amid the demands of everyday. We love laughing but my wife thinks the grunting laughter is disgusting and inappropriate in front of her guests. You love dancing weirdly but cannot because you feel your body hair standing up on ends when a thousand pair of eyes stare down at your funny behaviour. But you love being you. Bingo! You now have a brand for it. Reebok lets U B U.
  • Relevance: This is a personal favourite and am an eternal crusader for it. Advertising isn’t your sing-dance stage. It’s not a profession that tells you, “Welcome Dude! You can do any damn thing here and get an award for it. And guess what? Booz binges are mandatory! Woohoo!” No Sir. We’re doing some serious stuff here. The client wants to SELL  his product and not do mental doodling with it. Conventional creativity is only a means to the end. It isn’t a necessary device. You can do without it and do well. Have you come across a notification for a ‘missing dog’ as a weepy television commercial that exhibits bill the dog in his happier days and a real tear jerker testimonial from the family asking you to contact them in case you see Billy sauntering by? No. You’ll see cheap maplitho pamphlets stuck to walls and electricity poles that boldly and crudely demand your attention for help in returning the missing dog.
 Going back where I began. A good communicator is one who connects with the intended audience. A good piece of advertising is that which empathizes with the reader/viewer/browser and so on. Which is why, it’s a good idea to flush out staple formulae before you get down to ‘communicate’ for a particular brand.
An agency called David with Josy Paul as one of its founders ceremoniously renounced adulthood. Everyone there was no more than 6 years of age. No more than the age that allows an innocent and unbiased receptivity and judgement. An age when there’s no difference between a well told fairytale and a brilliant piece of advertising.
  1. DK
    May 1, 2012 at 9:21 am

    “personal person who lives in an interiorized world” – WOW !!!

    Josy Paul incidentally is the person Preet Bedi spoke to from Delhi asking him to stay where he was as he disembarked one Santosh Sood from the car with tiffin box in his hand with instructions to fly off to Bombay and return with several campaigns the next morning by 9am sharp – I think I told you that story.

    Once again – WOW !!!

    • May 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      you did not!! it’s kept for the story session tomorrow…okay??
      and thank you very much! how do you tolerate my threats to read and comment all the time??
      are you stuck on the omygod-why-the-hell-did-I-hire-this-mad-lady question??

      Thanks Mr. Guha 🙂

      Sreemanti Sengupta

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