Why the work of rival agencies adorns the walls of Scarecrow...

By Suraj Ramnath , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | June 07, 2017
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A quick chat with the agency's founder Manish Bhatt, as he takes us on a tour of his new office.

Trophies. Award-winning work. Pictures of the founders. More trophies. These are some of the typical images we find hanging on many an agency wall. But in a curious flight from typicality, Manish Bhatt has hung the work of his rival agencies and creative folk - Vidur Vohra, Alok Nanda, Russell Barrett, Santosh Padhi (Paddy), Vikas Gaitonde, Bhupesh Luther, Varun Arora, B. Haridas, Sonal Dabral, among others - on the walls of his new South Mumbai office, where writing on table tops is encouraged.

Manish Bhatt

"We curated a lot of great work from various entities," says the founder-director of Scarecrow while giving us a tour of his new 4,000 sq-ft. office space, going on about an ad that reads 'Get Lost', strategically placed at the reception, "I saw this ad when I had just started (working) at Contract Delhi. This ad for Wildrift Adventures was created in 1995 by Bhupesh Luthar, one of the classic art directors in India. I saw it being created. Vikas Gaitonde and Alok Nanda were a team, Vidur Vohra and Bhupesh Luther were another team, and I had seen how much time he had spent on that ad. I remember that the writer had to write the copy in such a way that the illustrator could get the words 'bird watching' exactly where (the picture of) the bird is. I remembered the craft of it. Bhupesh is now in Canada, so I called him and got the ad from Hari, who illustrated it..."

We then address the elephant in the room. In a competitive industry where agency brands are vying for the same accounts, why glorify the work of creative folk who, for all intents and purposes, are Bhatt's rivals? Sure, a lot of the work displayed was created years back and most of the CDs who created it have since moved on to other agencies. So for the most part, it's to celebrate "the classics," Indian and international. Even so...

"It is not a battle field," Bhatt smiles, adding, "We want to felicitate the great work done in advertising because it will help my team. When they see something new every day, it will keep them going. Tomorrow, if I feel another ad needs to be put up there, I will change it - the frame is there, I just need to change the print."

"There is Paddy and Russell Barrett's ad for Luxor Permanent Market, created while they were at Leo Burnett, and another ad for Mauritius Tourism created by Alok Nanda and Vikas Gaitonde. I spoke to them and got these ads."

The ads, he reasons, will aid the creative development of the youngsters who work for him. "It'll be very useful for this generation. We have all cherished the golden era; this generation has not. Tomorrow, they may not have a reference point and benchmarks. When I tell these youngsters an ad should be like 'this', there has to be a reference point - these ads hanging here can create a common reference point."

Paddy, by the way, hasn't visited Bhatt's new office yet, but is "overwhelmed," we learn. "I messaged him when I saw the Odds ad for adidas... I appreciated his work," Bhatt says.

In Bhatt's cabin hangs a Neil French ad that reads: 'Nobody reads long copy anymore'. The copy trashes the idea of newspaper ads. About print and long copy therein, Bhatt opines, "It is true that media consumption habits have changed, but once in a while we did do long copy ads. In 2010, we did a long copy ad for Sriram Transport that celebrated truck drivers - it had a small digital call-to-action in it (readers were urged to visit 'hornokplease.com'). Our client was expecting around 10,000 clicks. Surprisingly, in about four weeks, we got around four lakh clicks..."

To what extent does agency architecture influence clients? "The agency," he answers, "should be well-crafted... but in the quest of business, people don't really care about it. Yes, we have had incidents where someone who happened to be someone else's client got intrigued by the agency space and landed up giving us the business..."

Established in 2010 by Manish Bhatt and Raghu Bhat, Scarecrow Communications currently employs 95 people.

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