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Advertising pays you to just be: Balki

By , agencyfaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | March 17, 2008
Balki believes that cracking an idea is remembering something from 25 years ago and then connecting it with the brand

Every & #BANNER1 & # year, lots of youngsters join advertising for different reasons. Some think that it's glamorous, some think it's creative, some want to make films and some just want to live life. The Ad Club of Bombay recently organised a workshop on careers in advertising and media. R Balakrishnan (Balki), chairman and chief creative officer, Lowe, talked about what advertising means for him and how he came to be in this profession.

According to Balki, cracking an idea is remembering something from 25 years ago and then connecting it with the brand. Advertising is one profession in which you do not require any qualification to be successful. Even if you've been punished all through school and college for poor grades, advertising can still be a fulfilling career for you. The gist of advertising or great ideas is to draw upon life and memorable experiences from the past.

R Balakrishnan
Balki said he always wanted to make films. When he was entering advertising, he had no clue what the profession was all about. He just saw an ad in a newspaper by Mudra in the late 1980s which said 'tell us about you' and put in an application. Mudra was looking for trainee copywriters at that time. Their requirement was for six people who were not familiar with the profession, but could be trained in the field. Balki qualified along with five others and was sent to the Mudra Institute for Communication, Ahmedabad (MICA). MICA at that time was based in a small flat.

The six trainees were given access to free movies and videos and asked to watch whatever they could in six months' time. They watched close to 180 films on a video cassette recorder (VCR) during that time. According to Balki, this was the best training he ever got in his life and he learnt a lot about advertising. He says that advertising as a profession is nothing more than watching life in its flow and then forming connections with brands. The six of them later joined Mudra to start their careers as trainee copywriters.

Balki said that advertising is regarded as a profession because you are expected to generate ideas day after day. Anybody can generate ideas once in a blue moon. But because it's a consistent activity, ad men come to be known as professionals. And clients pay the ad agencies for their consistency in delivering good ideas.

He said that all ads start with a strategic process. There is a brief given by the client, there is market research on consumers, and there is competition. However, a true idea comes from brainstorming personal experiences from life. He gives the example of the Surf Excel 'Daag Acche Hain' commercial, in which the boy beats up the mud for hurting his little sister. The idea for this commercial came from a childhood memory of a mother pretending to beat up the floor because it caused her child to fall and hurt himself. The gesture soothes the child. This memory, when connected with the Surf Excel 'Daag Acche Hain' proposition, resulted in the commercial.

Similarly, he cited the ad for Havell's fireproof electrical wires. A mother often burns her fingers while cooking chapatis on a stove. The commercial shows a child on a construction site watching his mother cook chapatis for him and burning her fingers in the process. He wants to help her and gets up to find something for her to hold the chapatis with so she won't burn her fingers any more. He finds a piece of Havell's wire, which he bends and forms into a pair of tongs. The mother is happy and the tagline says, 'Fireproof electrical wires from Havell'.

The Idea commercial, where people have numbers as their names, was also the result of a brainstorming session.

According to Balki, marketers are smarter than ad professionals because they have to take a decision on an idea in just 40 minutes on an average. Ad professionals come up with thousands of ideas, but the ultimate cost is paid by the marketers. They know the consumers and sometimes can see what the agency cannot. They know what will work and what will not. They are the ones who are willing to pay for a commercial, from someone's life experience, which they have not even seen.

Balki concluded by saying that advertising is the only profession which pays for thinking ideas, living life and watching people. It's a profession where people can just be whatever they are, regardless of their academic or cultural background.