does Bates David Enterprise's newly appointed regional executive creative director and chairman think of the Indian ad industry? After all, it's nine years since Sonal Dabral left the country to work for O&M in Malaysia and Singapore. Surely, the industry has changed quite a bit since then?
And Dabral does have a lot to say, For one, he says he thinks Indian advertising has become too "loud" and "Bollywood-ish" over the years. "Every second ad we see carries a Dharmendra/AK Hangal-type voiceover," he says. The gags are similar as are the casting and the music, even though the scripts might be different.
Dabral admits that production values - particularly technique and detailing - have gone up, but he feels there's a lot left to be desired still. "Only a few brave filmmakers are trying to up the scale of production," he says, "while the majority is lazy."
Dabral counts off ad filmmakers Prasoon Pandey, Ram Madhvani and Abhinay Deo as being on the top rung - they form a gang that has actually gone beyond the conventional and believe ad films to be a delicate craft, he says. He particularly appreciates ads such as the one for Happydent, which he terms high on entertainment and production, and MotoFlip, which he describes as understated, with just the right amount of dialogue. "We need more of these," he says.
Dabral has quite a bit to say on print ads, too. Most people realise that the quality of print ads today is mediocre, barring a few exceptions. Dabral feels that not enough investment is being made in the right kind of people to make a good print product, be it a famous illustrator, photographer or art person. Often, one tends to put up with whoever is available, rather than try and come up with the finest names in the industry.
Dabral shakes his head at the tendency to okay the first headline that pops up in the mind; he says more time should be given to the medium. "If print cries out for attention, or if it is taking a backseat to other media, we are to blame," he says, urging creative directors to indulge in more introspection.
Often, at international awards shows such as Cannes, Indian print ads reach the finalist stage and then fall by the wayside. "And we're often satisfied with that," cries Dabral. "Aim high! Aim for the gold!"