Before we get into discussing the significant print work that caught the eye last year, there is a point that needs to be made. Many found it difficult to recall too many "big noise" campaigns that hit publications. Does that mean print needs more innovation? Read on.
On the other hand, that assumption may be unfair. Print has always been seen as a support medium to the mainstream (read TV). Most of the "noise" made on a channel is easier to remember.
Rajeev Raja, national creative director, DDB Mudra minces no words. Says he, "Overall, it has been a pretty disappointing year for Indian print advertising. And, that is putting it mildly."
Raja's words may sound harsh, but they give food for thought. But Raja and other creative chiefs did sit down, sift and discuss a few print campaigns that stood out and got the attention they deserved.
Big noise innovations for everyone
There have been the exceptions. Volkswagen leads the way in those that stood out. It was the one brand that did make the biggest noise through the year, even in print. With creative and media partners, DDB Mudra and MediaCom India, it took over national dailies, punched holes in the shape of its car, gave the medium an actual 'voice' with another ad and got the nation talking. Whether they were impressed or not, experts too could not help mention the Volkswagen ads in their list of favourites.
Mentioning both ads as his pick of the lot, Rahul Jauhari, national creative director, Pickle Lintas says, "I think my criteria for choosing the best print will be work that created maximum impact and buzz for the brand in question. I can actually think of these two ads since they overshadow any other print work in sheer magnitude and impact done this year."
The campaigns also find favour with Prathap Suthan (Pat), ex national creative director, Cheil Worldwide who agrees with Jauhari. Without going deep into a creative discussion, experts feel that the Volkswagen ads fulfilled the basic requisite of advertising -- catch the maximum eyeballs and mindspace. It also helped the client get its money's worth.
Towards the end of the year, Volkswagen also did an extensive print campaign for Beetle, where it positioned the car as an ideal gift during the wedding season. The campaign, with the copy reading 'Bachelorhood deserves a fitting farewell', finds a place among Scarecrow Communications' founder director, Raghu Bhat's favourites. "Ads like these give print advertising a good name," he states.
Conquerors and old favourites
Of all that Taproot India could be proud of in 2010, Santosh Padhi and Agnello Dias would probably place their agency's work for Conqueror Papers among the ones at the top of it all. The others do!
"The Conqueror Paper campaign, already famous for wins at Cannes 2010, is probably the best among everything for ideation and immaculate execution that leaves no stone unturned to ensure a great ad. It is clearly a labour of love," gushes Raj Nair, regional creative director, Contract Advertising.
Offering a slightly critical view, Mudra's Raja says, "The ad again relies on the familiar technique of creating a face using many objects, but manages to do it in a way that is relevant to the product and the topical usage of the brand." Pat praises the execution and the effort that went into the campaign. "It takes execution to another level altogether. A lot of effort and time went into this and it shows," he says.
Next up was old favourite, Amul Butter. Its campaigns continue to evoke smiles. Shivanand Mohanty, national creative director, Dentsu Communications, is among the ones who rate Amul's jibes at current affairs highly. DaCunha Communications, the agency behind the ideas, would probably find it interesting at the parallels that Mohanty chooses to draw.
"This campaign has legs to rival a supermodel's. And, they know how to use them. Amul's print work channels everything that makes life in India interesting -- from the CWG to Robot (the film) -- and turns them into witty executions. They still make you smile after all these years. Unlike many supermodels," says Mohanty.
His views are echoed by Scarecrow's Bhat and N Padmakumar, national creative director, Rediffusion-Y&R. "Amul still attracts eyeballs and evokes a smile. The pun might be a much-reviled ad technique, but when Amul does it, all is forgiven. Be it 'Radia-active' or 'Phone Banega Karodpati'," says Bhat. According to Padmakumar, the campaign "never ceases to be fun because of its always-innocent take on current events."
Mohanty also has a kind word for Weiden+, Kennedy's work on Royal Enfield. The ad used a comic strip look to build a tale around the motorcycle. "Is it a comic strip? Is it an ad? Royal Enfield does not care. It uses the comic book format to weave together a wild narrative of a boy who left home on his Thunderbird, met some monks, some bad cops, landed up in jail and then escaped. Gripping stuff, this. And, they trust their audience, which is smart enough to find out things like bike specifications on their own," Mohanty says.
The brand receives a mention from Nair of Contract Advertising, too. However, he talks of another creative, which with a picture of an Enfield owner spelling out his obsession as he 'trips' on his motorcycle.
He appreciates the execution that makes the experience seem authentic. "Royal Enfield does an interesting job of being absolutely real and featuring real users of the brand with good photography," says Nair. Raja agrees, "I really liked the Bullet 'Trip' campaign. Though adopting a much used testimonial format, the campaign still has a ring of truth and a certain simplicity that is right for an iconic brand such as the Bullet."
Creativeland Asia's work for Appy Fizz and Grappo Fizz has been well received for its whacky nature and typography.
Raja too has words of praise. "The ad was well written and was pretty well crafted in terms of typography. Even though there were so many sizes of fonts, the story was still readable and connected with a younger target audience," he explains.
Taproot clearly knows the art of print and knows it well, as Padmakumar brings up the work done by the agency for the Teach India campaign and the Cannes Lions ads.
"Teach India for its sincerity and honest intent, apart from good old-fashioned copy and art and the Cannes Lions ad because it is cool, irreverent and echoes every creative person's dream," he says.
Among Bhat's other favourites are Ogilvy India's work for Madhya Pradesh Tourism that looked like an old manuscript featuring the state's tourist attractions. "'Flow flow, river of love...', I read every word of the copy. Nice to see so much love being poured into a press ad. Makes you want to take the next flight to Indore," he exclaims.
Other campaigns Bhat singles out are the Reva Electric Car campaign by Temple and Bates 141's work MTV (Play.in). He likes the Reva creative for its unpretentiousness and the art that he sees reflecting the personality of a brand comfortable in its skin.
Though Bhat finds the TV press ads "cool, with good lines," he feels that the art could have been more edgy. The other campaigns mentioned by Dentsu's Mohanty include the one for Tashi shoes, which he says is packed with insights into the very special relationship women have with shoes and is nicely crafted.
The 'Love Blossoms Here' campaign done by Delhi's Out of the Box for Mother's Pride pre-schools also features among Pat's favourites. He approves of the execution and the simplicity of the creatives.
A support medium? Maybe. But, the work pointed out by the experts could be testimony enough on behalf of those who still bet on print's strength and potential.
Who knows, next year could be startlingly different!