IS there a crisis facing the creative fraternity? When Kiran Khalap, executive vice-president and all-India creative director, Clarion Advertising, floated the idea of putting together the best brains in the trade, he found a ready response from others of his ilk. If not a crisis, it at least showed a shared concern with a new and unfamiliar set of problems. The Creative Directors Club that Khalap formed in August 1996 included members across a wide spectrum of the advertising business: some have handled TNC brands for years while others have created great Indian brands; some come from home-grown agencies like Ambience while others belong to international networks like HTA and Lintas; others, like Piyush Pandey and Jaikrit Rawat, have made their name through copywriting in languages other than English.
The Club aims to educate and enlighten the creative fraternity by the simple method of comparing notes. The exercise, they hope, will raise standards of the creative function in advertising and help them face the challenges of the growing, complex Indian market. Says Khalap, the unofficial spokesperson of this extremely democratic association: "The advertising industry has had to absorb too many changes and an attempt to cope quickly has led to considerable chaos and confusion."
That chaos Khalap attributes to the sudden influx of TNC brands, changes in the media and a multiple growth in billings. TNCs, he says, follow a discipline of their own that advertising agencies are not yet used to. Media, too, is undergoing a sea change. "Just when creative people were getting to understand television there is the growing demand to exploit the cybermedia," says Khalap. Also, with business booming in the past few years, there is an extreme dearth of qualified people. With designations rising with billings, people have increasingly found themselves in roles they are neither ready for nor trained for.
Thus, one of the first problems the Club addressed has been that of personnel. As a start, it met four art schools in Mumbai which provide the industry with most of its artists. Says Usha Bhandarkar, creative director, Lintas, and one of the earliest members of the Club: "The art school syllabi dont provide for study of disciplines like TV and the cybermedia. Nor do the students get any real-life, hands-on industry experience." They are not used to working under severe deadlines, in "pressure cooker" conditions, or co-ordinating with industry partners like processing houses and printing presses.
To change that, the Club has invited members of the faculty to spend time in the industry. This summer, leading agencies will have a few lecturers over to work with them. Workshops for students in these areas will follow.
Another problem that the industry is facing currently is that of getting good copy-writers. Says Jaikrit Rawat, creative director, Everest Advertising, and creator of the memorable Bajaj Auto Kal bhi aaj bhi campaign: "As the rural and mini-metro markets are growing faster, the need for vernacular copywriting is growing tremendously." Agencies are now required to create campaigns in Indian languages rather than translate ones from English. Rues Rawat: "Even though metro copywriters can write in the vernacular, there is a dearth of copywriters who can express the ethos, the culture and aspirations of consumers in non-metro markets."
The Club also plans to "educate" people on advertising as a career option through regional publications. The members have already planned a series of articles to be published. Aspirants will later be invited to take copy tests for selection. The Club has enlisted the support of leading agencies to take on these trainees.
Another problem the forum has looked into is that of awards. Industry persons often express doubts on the transparency of the judging process in the distribution of these awards. The Club has approached various organisations like the CAG and the AAAI, which give awards, to rationalise this process and responses, they claim, have been "promising".
The Clubs future plans include working with brand managers to make them aware of the importance of a good creative idea, exploring the value of research for good creative work and involving the media in the creative process. Also on the anvil are self-education sessions like a February meeting which will take the members surfing on the Internet along with a surfing instructor.
Will there be ego clashes among members of the Club? Khalap allays such fears. "We are all experienced people, well aware that our requirements and problems are common. Working together can help us all to get there."
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