By Ali Hayat Rizvi
Made you look, didn’t I? Now imagine doing that every working day, from nine to five (actually 10 to who knows when) and you’ll get a pretty accurate picture of what your average creative does when he’s not frolicking with models, going off to exotic locations to study the local fauna or updating his Facebook status.
Yes. A day in the life of a creative director is all that – and more. All you brand managers out there who think we are overpaid prima donnas – this time, you are absolutely correct. And no, your access to YouTube and your subscription to ‘Ads of the World’ do not give you the right to criticise my work.
A day in my life begins with me walking in at 9:30 a.m. to a sea of smiling faces. There is a twinkle in every eye and a spring in every step. At my desk is a steaming cup of chai. I check my email and apart from the usual accolades, there are a couple of challenging, well-written briefs, and a dozen invitations to different red carpet events. At that moment, the resident Swedish masseuse walks in. And her twin sister is with her.
An hour later, the stresses of the drive to work washed away by a combination of aromatic oils and incense, I walk out to survey my domain. I catch my reflection in a glass and chrome cubicle. The hairline has stopped receding, the gut is gone and I feel and look taller every day. I wish I could linger and truly take in this magnificent sight before me, but I despise vanity. And besides, the world is waiting.
A client meeting is scheduled. One of those random MNCs that look to my agency to pull them out of the morass of mediocrity that ‘the region’ has thrust upon them. I truly feel a warm glow when I see them fawn over me, hang on to my every word, look to me to take them and their brand (in that order) to Cannes.
My art director and copywriter (bless them) have had the rare opportunity to work together uninterrupted for more than three years. None of that high turnover in advertising crap for this team! They have therefore developed a creative rapport that is worth its weight in gold – and is paid in peanuts. As expected, the work is ready, pasted, mounted and polished to perfection. I remember how things used to be when I first cut my teeth in advertising. Not a day goes by when I don’t marvel at how much the agency process has evolved. And if there is one innovation that I would credit for this efficiency, it would beyond the shadow of a doubt be the timesheets. The self discipline that goes into the excitingly repetitive task of filling in a timesheet makes you a better person, a better husband and most importantly, a better creative. And if you don’t believe me, ask anyone in finance.
Suddenly, all hell breaks loose. Apparently the big idea that’s been cracked for a certain brand is EXACTLY the same as the big idea for every other brand in every other category. This is unheard of in the advertising fraternity! While some may see this as a gigantic disaster, I see this as an opportunity to exercise our creative muscle. There is no crisis that doesn’t bring out the best in all of us. That is the triumph of the human spirit.
Just like the Corleones went to their mattresses in times of strife, we go to the slides. Over several cigarette breaks, tea orders and state of the nation discussions, we need only 13 minutes worth of brainstorming to uncover the problem. The key visual is wrong! Where we could have shown a mischievously feuding couple (romantic), a young executive making a presentation to his bosses (aspirational), or a child doing any damn thing he or she wants to (cute), we chose the image of a rock star. Now everyone knows that using a celebrity to promote your product to someone who does not, will not, or cannot use your product in real life, is a terrible idea. Which is exactly why no one ever does this anymore. A quick search of Corbis, a trip to Getty and a crawl through Flickr and we are done. The big idea may not be completely different from the competition, but it’s not the same either. While a good insight is rare, an insight that is tried and tested saves time, effort and money. In the end it all boils down to efficiencies. We walk out of the huddle room, smiling. The pall that had descended upon the junior creatives and planners has lifted. All is well in the world once more. Our exorbitant bonuses have been well and truly earned.
Then, as if on cue, the client team walks in. Pleasantries are exchanged, jokes are shared and biscuits are brought in. Before we know it, it’s time to get down to business. The planning presentation (all 173 slides) is shared. The 360-degree campaign is rolled out. Not only do we have the TV ideas, we have the print insertion, the buntings and the posters. For this presentation we have gone all out. We even have the break bumpers and the appropriately named L-shaped scrolls. Studies by our media partners have shown that these innovations have made the TV viewing experience more interactive and have increased brand recall significantly.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a wrap. The client is happy, the agency is happy, the TV channel is happy. And if we have managed to create so much happiness even before the campaign is launched, I can only imagine how happy the consumer is going to be when we go on air. It is days like this that make being in advertising worthwhi…
My phone is ringing. It’s 10:30 a.m. and I’m late for work again.
Damn these early morning dreams. They are so difficult to wake up from.
Ali Hayat Rizvi is Group Creative Director, JWT. email@example.com