Thanks to its phenomenal success and media coverage, BPO or Business Process Outsourcing does not need any introduction.
However, this form of outsourcing, prevalent in India, essentially involves mechanical executions of a specified task. Not much is known about outsourcing of creative services from the Indian advertising industry. But yes, there are many examples in this field too.
McCann-Erickson's Thanda matlab Coca-Cola campaign has been recently adapted for the Indonesian market. In fact, many of O&M India's ad campaigns on Perfetti have been adapted for the European market. The agency has created campaigns exclusively for international markets for brands such as Perfetti's Alpenliebe and Golia Active.
However, these examples of creative outsourcing are from organisations that are part of well-established international networks of ad agencies, and not by individuals.
Now, there's reason to cheer over this aspect too. Recently, four Indian creative professionals - Madhur Verma, Ankit Garg, Nitin Das and Bhavin Patel - took the top honours at a global pitch conducted online by a Switzerland-based organisation OpenAd.net. Titled 'Going' Mobile', the pitch saw more than 120 global creative entries.
OpenAd.net is an outfit that gives creative professionals across the world the opportunity to market their ideas to clients who seek fresh and original concepts. Going Global is the sixth successful pitch competition OpenAd.net has held or co-sponsored.
As for 24-year-old Madhur Verma who bagged the cash prize of $2,000 for his print campaign 'Sky Connect', Ankit Garg, a copywriter at Delhi-based Montage Advertising, or Nitin Das, a marketing executive, who is working his way through an education in film-making, and Bhavin Patel, an art director with Saatchi & Saatchi in Bahrain, the international recognition will surely spur them to reach even greater creative heights.
Incidentally, this is Patel's second prize-winning entry. The first came in the 'Any Car At All' pitch for his ad 'No Boundaries'. The pitch was promoted at the Cannes Advertising Festival.
Two clear trends (or at least, their beginning) emerge from this development. First, Indian creative talent is getting far more recognition globally than it used to. Second, outsourcing companies are showing interest in the Indian creative mind - a fact that Anil Ambani, vice-chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries and the owner of Mudra Communications, had pointed out at the recent 50th anniversary celebrations of the Bombay Ad Club in August. "This country possesses a near-perfect mix of skills that can turn India into a global hub for creative outsourcing."
Katja Skoberne, managing director, OpenAd.net on her visit to India, saw the scope for creative outsourcing from people like Verma and Patel. "Indian creative professionals, looking for an outlet for work that does not quite suit the needs of local clients, are increasingly showing a great deal of interest in organizations such as ours."
OpenAd.net is looking at India as a sourcing base for ideas that could be licensed and released by clients across the globe. As Skoberne puts it, "OpenAd.net has incited significant client interest in purchasing ideas and staging pitches online. We will be proud to be able to offer Indian work to these clients as we have already seen some excellent submitted ideas."
To that end, OpenAd.net plans to enter into agreements with professionals from India, who would submit an agreed number of ideas every month, for a monthly fee. These ideas, including the winning ones, will be sold to clients, who subscribe to OpenAd's services. Incidentally, OpenAd has agreed to work on a retainer basis with Parveez Shaikh, who recently departed from Contract as a creative director.
A win-win solution
Creative outsourcing offers a win-win solution to both Indian professionals and international companies. While it is an attractive opportunity for Indian creative professionals, who now can, without much fuss, demonstrate their talent to the world, for outsourcing companies such as OpenAd.net, the interest in India, like that of other BPO companies, lies in the comparatively cheap cost of these services.
"A major reason for outsourcing in India is because of the money factor. We offer an economically cheaper alternative. While the work may not always be path-breaking, it is definitely a decent one, sourced at rock bottom prices. It makes a perfect business sense," points out Santosh Desai, president, McCann-Erickson India.
Money is one part of the reason. Recognition of creative potential of Indians is another and equally important objective. Winning international awards has certainly helped establish the creative credentials of Indians in overseas markets. And, as is the case with traditional BPO companies, the knowledge of English comes in handy at the creative department too. "Indian professionals are more than fluent in English. This is a huge advantage that India holds in the Asian market," says Nina Dinjaski, marketing projects manager, OpenAd.net.
With Indian companies and individuals doing award-winning work, the country is being viewed with a new respect in the international market.
"India is no longer seen as a distant, mystical place where people seek spirituality. The fact that I have been made a member of the executive jury for the Clio is evidence of that global recognition of India's talent. The world is more receptive to India's ability to deliver great creative work," remarks Prasoon Joshi, regional CD, South & South East Asia, McCann-Erickson. Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and national creative director, O&M, who incidentally was Joshi's senior colleague at O&M, headed the jury at this year's Cannes festival.
A Few Hurdles
While there are reasons to celebrate the success of Indian creative work, what remains a thorny issue is how can a creative work from India connect with a consumer, who comes from a different economical, social and cultural background?
Going by that logic, markets in East Europe, South Asia and Latin America, which are at a similar stage of economic development as India, ought to be more conducive to the success of that creative idea. Conversely, if the market (parts of Europe, Japan, the US and others) is at a more evolved stage of economic evolution, can a creative justify its implementation? After all, what's involved are basic issues of understanding consumer behaviour and expectations of these evolved markets.
Culture also plays an important part in the advertising language. In markets that share broad cultural similarities, chances are the creative idea in its original form may work. However, in markets such as the US or Europe, the reason why this reverse flow of creative ideas may not work is because of the different political and advertising language prevalent in those nations.
"Their advertising language is quite different from ours. But adaptations can work. The marketers of the West or in other developed markets might find a beginning, or a sense of direction from our creatives, from the allusion used in our work," says McCann-Erickson's Santosh Desai.
At best, Desai says, Indian creatives could work as triggers for creative ideas. "What I see is a greater dialogue among the emerging economies and the developed nations. Ideas will travel across the border..."
His colleague Joshi is more bullish. He feels with the requisite inputs, Indian creative professionals can deliver in these developed markets. "Just to substantiate my point, McCann India has just won a pitch for a US-based client that had asked the McCann-Erickson offices of the UK and the US to make presentations. This shows how we have managed to pick the business, despite cultural differences. Now, what does that say?" Joshi asks.
OpenAd.net's Dinjaski agrees that cultural differences exist, but her point is: "…in the end, a good ad is a good ad". "Creatives from countries, which could be described as the emerging markets, have been winning awards at the most prestigious events in the industry. Sure…it's important to think locally. After all, your idea could be chosen by a local client, but definitely, do act globally. Although consumer psychology varies according to the market, a consumer is still a member of the worldwide audience. Americans make films that the whole world watches. Why shouldn't Indians or Brazilians be able to make ads that will sell the product anywhere? Brands are global now, local specialties in advertising can be a spice that differentiates an idea."
The other issue, which needs to be looked at, is the medium of execution of these ideas. As long as the creative idea is expressed in a print form, it is all right. But the moment a TVC comes into the picture, problems begin.
"Yes…casting and production quality are two big issues with a TVC," states Desai. "And, the issue is that elements of culture invariably find expression in a TVC," he adds.
"We are a country of oral tradition. We use similes, metaphors in our TVCs. Symbolism, or the visual language is not something we Indians normally relate to. As opposed to this, the communication in the West is more skewed towards the unsaid or unstated," explains Joshi.
Aware of this limitation, even OpenAd.net does not insist on ad ideas for television. "We accept simple storyboards and home videos, as long as the idea is made clear," Dinjaski says.
The Road Ahead
TVCs or not, the way forward in this fast integrating global advertising market is collaboration. "This is the age of collaboration. Understanding consumer insights of developed countries in the correct perspective may be a handicap for Indian advertising professionals coming from a different cultural background. But with the right kind of partnership, good work can happen. This is the way we worked on the international brands of Perfetti. The company provided us with in-depth consumer insights and we developed the creative based on that. We must recognise the importance of collaborations," insists O&M's Pandey.
Other senior advertising industry professionals echoed a similar perspective on this issue. "We are smart people. Given the right kind of client inputs, our creatives can work across markets and across cultural-socio-economic groups. I am 100 per cent certain about that," says Anirban Chaudhuri, senior vice-president, MAA Bozell.
So, while print may be the medium of interaction for Indian creative professionals - at least for now, the industry is convinced that the future of creative outsourcing is bright.
"As India is obviously going to be a flourishing creative sourcing base in the future, we will certainly continue investing efforts into this by launching a more extensive competition with a potential Indian OpenAd.net Creative of the Year award," Dinjaski says.
Now, doesn't that sound good?
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