Please tell us about yourself
‘It was in my third standard (of primary school) that the village I lived in, in Gujarat, got its electricity. I remember staring at lights, bulbs and fans for the first time. I consider it fortunate that I could experience living in a variety of units of habitation – from that village of 2000 people to Mumbai, and several in between. These varied habitats ensured that my experiences were colorful.
The first professional turning point in my life happened after I joined work in a construction company that was building roads in the Gujarat State Fertilizer plant, after completing my Civil Engineering like my elder brother. I was expected to follow my brother’s footsteps and become an engineer. I instinctively and subliminally realized that this was not the career for me. It could not be my ultimate destination. While I knew that this wasn’t my final destination, I could not identify what was. My knowledge of options was limited.’
Why are you into Advertising?
Because I was a lousy Civil Engineer. As an engineer I was thinking to construct a building using egg-shaped bricks. Which could have been a disaster.
Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
Yes, Bachelor of Fine Arts (Applied Arts), Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
You started your career as a site engineer at Gujarat State Fertilizer Corporation Plant and then you decided to enter an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career such as advertising- how did this happen?
Engineering was too methodical and I realized that I was a creative person within. I had to do something which gave me day to day satisfaction. Being in the midst of chimneys and machinery helped me arrive at a decision faster.
I was looking at disciplines like interior design or architecture, logically building on my engineering qualification. Much to my dismay, I realized that I could not get exemptions on any of the papers one needed to complete on the basis of my existing degree, to qualify in those streams.
It was then that I passed by the Fine Arts faculty of the University of Baroda. I got the right vibes. I knew nothing about Fine Arts. I walked into the office and asked them what the most sought after course there was, and applied subsequently. At the time, and even during the process of admission, I had no clue that this was a prestigious course and institute and quite difficult to get in. Fortunately, I did.
Share your working experience with leading brands like Tata Indicom, AegonReligare… etc
Tata Indicom: was involved in repositioning the brand… “ SunoDilkiAwaaaz “ Campaign. (Running Girl). I always believe that communication can become immortal if it creates long term property… e.g. Tata Indicom wanted to do a Gujarat Specific Campaign. Being a Gujarati, I wrote a song & created a music video sung & performed by 25 Celebrities of Gujarat, where brand thought “ SunoDilkiAwaaz” woven in the lyrics. The song has become popular as An Anthem Gujarat…established as a property for Gujarat State forever where the brand philosophy was woven in. If you type Gujarat Anthem in Google you will find many pages referring this song.
AegonReligare: AegonReligare was 23rd entrant in Insurance Category in India. Our launch Campaign KILB using Irfan Khan not only established the brand with high recall. But during the teaser phase of the campaign, KILB became the 6th most searchedword in Google. KILB & Pension Plan campaign generated record breaking leads for the brand (more than 50000 calls in 3 weeks in comparison with biggest spender competitors’ 3000 calls in 3 weeks.
Cadbury Celebrations Diwali specific LALTEN film featuring Amitabh Bachchan &Sachin Khedkar was one of the successful and highly recalled campaign for Cadbury.
“Budget Wedding” TVC featuring Vijay Raaz and Atul Kulkarni is again highly recalled Campaign for Asian Paints.
My experience in Hair care category specifically Parachute, helped Contract Advertising in not only retaining Dabur Vatika Portfolio in a pitch, but we got the complete Vatika Portfolio.
I was involved in the launch of Essar Mobile Store. (Nude man TVC)
Again “ Shalini Chopra /Telescope TVC of Nerolac using Om Puri’s voice was one of the highly recalled Nerolac TVC.
“Wedding Night” TVC not only won international accolades like Shots Cannes Contenders, Lurzer’s Archive, Adfest, but made America’s no.1 undergarment brand Hanes popular no.2 brand in premium segment where consumers ask for “Kenchiwala underwear dena?”
Our Wonderbra Car film is selected in SHOTS and few other AWARDS, WONERBRA “COMIC” PRESS AD HAD GOT MULTIPLE NOMINATIONS IN CANNES.
I was involved in the launch of the Vaseline Summer Lotion which was one of the most successful launches of 2006 byUnilever India. ( aamchori TVC )
You have also worked in leading ad agencies of India – which agency was the best learning school for you and in what terms?
Every agency had role to play in my learning curve.
After a stint of about six months in Capital, I got a break into Contract Advertising, again in Delhi. A nine-month stint at Bates (Clarion, 1997) was followed by a move to O&M Delhi. I wasn’t spending too many years at one agency till then, but I was convinced that the restlessness had to do with the opportunity to learn and stay on top of the learning curve. It was not about the money. In 2000, I moved to O&M Mumbai, with a brief stint on a project to the Kuala Lampur office during the time.
Right at the beginning of my career, when I moved to Contract, I met my copy partner and now agency partner RaghuBhat. He wanted to build a portfolio, and wanted to work with an art partner. We did work on the portfolio. And we’ve been working together ever since.
We realized back then, in 1995, that we’re making a good team. We have our differences but there are commonalities in our outlook towards several things of consequence. On multiple fronts, we realize as we look back on our 15-year partnership, that we’ve complimented each other.
They say ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss’, but it didn’t apply in our context. The exposure to multiple agencies and therefore multiple styles of functioning, multiple styles of leadership, helped groom us as advertising professionals. Our Contract and Bates stints could be labeled as our training period in print advertising. At Ogilvy, we got to apply what we learnt in print on clients like Lotus IBM, Satyam Cineplex, American Express, KFC and others. That stint helped us hone our print expertise. There were hordes of accolades from clients and awards too.
At O&M, there was Pushpinder Singh, Rajiv-Mahesh, Abhijit Awasthi, Ramanuj Shastri, and more; and Pixyish and Parson were pretty hands-on too. After a point, we felt that there were too many people sharing the pie (of coveted work). We didn’t want to embarrass the leadership by standing outside their cabin looking for work that everybody obviously wanted. There were also lots of fresh talented people hired, and they wanted a go too.
We’re grateful that the urge to learn never stopped. We also wanted to work on mediums other than print, and on mass brands. We were getting branded as ‘that award-winning print creative team from Delhi’. We needed to move on. What also prompted us was that until that point, we were doing an annual tally of the work we’d done, and evaluating what had worked and what hadn’t. We were rating our own work. Until that year, we’d been well over break even every year. That particular year, there was a lull. Something was wrong, we felt. That’s when we moved to Ambience.
On the face of it, Ambience looked like a ‘print agency’. But the truth wasn’t that. There were some clients who we craved to work on – Nerolac, Tata Press Yellow Pages, Parachute, Bisleri and the like. Electronic media exposure was high, and the opportunity was also well divided within. Our desire to learn the nuances of lifestyle advertising was also fulfilled through clients like Lakme.
Somewhere along the way in our advertising journey, we started taking ownership of clients. We had a free hand and could create our own way of doing things, our own methodology.
The exposure to different agency cultures helped. We observed that at Contract, where we learnt the craft of print, every piece of work had to meet a certain set quality standard. It was an everyday battle that the agency was engaged in to ensure this quality. In the process, they were not the best at turning around the communication for a brand and taking it to a completely new level. O&M on the other hand, had a very practical approach. We wouldn’t fight over every dangler or poster with the client beyond a certain limit. That enabled us to keep the work going, while we created that game changing TVC or campaign for the brand. It was a new school of thought.
At Ambience, we put this experience to work even as we were learning to deal with clients. If there were three good scripts approved, and we felt there was a fourth that could work, we worked with the production house and made the film and showed it to the client. Often, the client bought it after seeing the film. We had to devise little enterprising ways of doing work, strike a balance and create our own ecology. That was the initial mini-experience of running our own agency, in a sense.
You have been either nominated or awarded for more than 50 international and above 100 national awards – how does it feel?
Creative person working without award is like AR Rehman singing in the empty Royal Albert Hall of London “Every artist needs applause of appreciation. The value of the award is as much as how reputed is the jury. A person with great caliber officially certifies your work that it is Metal- worthy… it definitely flatters.
But we here at Scarecrow, know that every creative person needs expression of their creativity… And when if he/she does not get the outlet to express their creativity in their day to day regular work. Then he/she gets desperate to express through work specially created for awards. But we think Award being only alternative outlet to express theircreativity is a problem…To tackle the problem so, we here at Scarecrow, experiment with 2 initiatives – Scarecrow Art Gallery & Scarecrow Designs.
What is your take on winning national awards like Goafest and CAG?
We think acclaimed Indians are the best judges to understand the excellence in Indian context, and I think , Marcello Sepra may not be the right judge to understand power of Indian nuances, So Indian award judged by Indian juries like Goafest & Cag are necessary.
Scarecrow communication has recently bagged the creative duties for Margo- what is your plan to make this work effectively?
Soap is a highly competitive segment of beauty category. Also Beauty Category follows very string category codes. Doing something clutter breaking here is a sheer challenge. We think our past experience in this category will help us doing something fresh.
How did you name your outfit ‘Scarecrow’?
We all 3 founders (me Raghu & Joy) hail from villages, so, wanted something rooted there to be associated with the name of the company hence ‘Scarecrow’.
Also, Scarecrow is a very effective Communication Device being used to communicate to birds to stay away from the crop. By simple yet creative use of a pot, some old clothes, hay and wooden sticks, a scarecrow visually conveys the message to everyone without any language barrier. Every field of every country has different looking Scarecrow, though everyone recognize it is Scarecrow. We think this the power of communication.
It has proven successful name for us, as it starts discussion in every meeting we go to. Because it is disruptive & sticky in nature.
Your film Hostel (Eye Bank Association of India) is the most viewed TVC on YouTube- what made you create such piece of work?
I saw blind children playing Holi in Nagpur by a happy accident. And thought there is a very powerful communication lying in this experience. It took 2.5 years to convince the director to execute this. But when me & my partner penned down the final Screenplay of the TVC, since then there is no looking back… not only Cannes ,Ad fest & Cup award jury rewarded it, but organizations like UN, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, WHO etc appreciated and thousands of people from across the world pledged their eyes including many Bollywood Celebs.
‘Respect for national anthem’ is another popular public service communication done by you- share the making of this TVC starting from cracking the idea to actually make it happen?
We saw people never used to bother standing up while National Anthem being played in theatres of Mumbai. Again this bad experience evoked us to do something about it. WE casted Theatre actor Surendra Rajan who played the Role of Gandhi often and looked dignified freedom fighter as the main character of one-legged Old cobbler. We also casted few real street children as cobblers and we added rain element to enhance the original idea. And created the Indian typical street life situation. Tagore’s creation Jana Gana Man anyway has enormous musical power to enhance further we roped in renowned classical singer Shubha Mudgal & popular Composer Shantanu Moitra. After creating the film we thought we need authoritative voice to convey the message heavy as respecting the national anthem… so we shown the film to Amitabh Bachchan. He said “film ko dekh ke rongte khade ho jaate hai.” He lent his voice free of cost to help the cause. All the possible channels ran the film free for couple of month .We still gets calls from channels to re run even after many years. Many schools still play this film on Independence days & republic day. Many theatres also ran the film long period. It is the most viewed Indian on YouTube with film in National Anthem Genre with close to 15 lakh vies on YOUTUBE.
Scarecrow communication recently celebrated its 1st anniversary- how was the party?
It was well attended by 400 people including Ad fraternity, clients, media & art fraternity.
Tell us something about Scarecrow Art gallery!
At the completion of Scarecrow’s successful first year, we launched an initiative called Scarecrow Art Gallery. Where we dedicated half of our office walls to primarily display the creativity / pure art created by young artists. Started with a show called “landscape of new Desires” by 20 artists from Baroda Art Circuit created by Niyatee Shinde & Yogesh Mahida. Objective of this initiative is already been covered by earlier answer. See ScareCrow Art Gallery Catalogue here.
What made you decide upon the current partners for Scarecrow?
I & Raghu are one the longest ongoing ART – COPY partnership I Indian Ad world for as long as 14 years. . So, Raghu was a natural choice.
People started approaching us and we did approach people too. We were on the lookout for the right people to partner with to set up shop.
Me & Raghu Believe that Advertising is neither a solo show nor a duet… it is rather an orchestra… it needs combination of left & right brains. Fundamentally, we believed that the agency is a full service entity. We did not want to set up a ‘creative shop’. Such phrases are creations of the industry – the client needs his advertising. So we roped in Arunava Sengupta, our Client servicing partner at Contract. We had a successful working relationship with him and it was a proven match. The bigger task was to align ourselves with a partner.
Like they approached a lot of people, Naked, WPP and Strawberry approached us too. There were also others we were speaking to. The global economic recession slowed down the process considerably, but things started moving again slowly. Big names and designations had never intimidated or awed us, be it of people or agencies. It was at the peak of our careers that we moved to Ambience. So we evaluated things neutrally.
Thinking calmly, we decided that we did not want to be ‘another agency’ in a network of agencies, which would fight for clients in the same market as ‘sister’ agencies. We also wanted to offer clients services as a full service agency, something we couldn’t do if we became a network agency.
We wanted to align with an agency that was complimentary to our business, not one competing with it. There were some media agencies, some digital agencies which were interested. Conversations were on.
That’s when we decided to partner with Concept Communications and Vivek Suchanti. We were actually complimenting each other. He needed someone with our skill sets and we had a lot to gain from his areas of operations. We had a good portfolio in the financial category, for instance, and his portfolio of clients in the space is also substantial. We were convinced that the synergies would work, giving clients a more comprehensive offering, and giving us an edge in the market. Since the launch of Scarecrow Communications in February 2010, we have been proven right.
You always say that scarecrow is a reflection of everything you believe in- what exactly do you believe in?
We believe as we earlier said that the advertising should have longer shelf life. It should go into popular culture. I we also believe in new media, use of technology… we believe in change. We believe Idea is bigger than media, we believe in media neutrality in its true sense.
TVC. Deepuanthikad’s first large film was Gujarat Anthem. We want to continue exploring even here at Scarecrow.
What do you think of the state of Print advertising right now? At least here in India, the released work is most often too sad? Why do you think it has lost the shine? Why are the younger lot more interested in TV?
It is the change in viability of medium to reach out mass & media habit of consumer. Consumer reads less due to fast paced life. But a print ad with relevant copy is still read. E.g. 2.5 lakh in 3 weeks had blown horn at the Shiram transport Microsite http://www.okhorn please.com after reading a long body copy print ad in newspaper created by Scarecrow.
More and more young people are web savvy and want to work on the internet or on more entrepreneurial ventures. Has that affected the quality of people advertising has been getting? Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
Advertising is now segregated in many mediums. So is the talent. The change in media habit will always impact the talent pool. Advertising has to earn its respect back. Advertising specially created for awards may or may not work in the market. But genuinely good award winning work should work in the market as well.
Can you remember the first brand you worked on and where?
Logo for Apollo Tyres in Capital Advertising…
What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
To youngsters, explore more outlets to express creativity apart from awards…
To senior Creative people, to help youngster exploring above…
What is your dream project?
To work towards making Scarecrow an advertising hub/capital for some renowned International brands.