How to tell a good Idea: Deepa Kakkar at The Block

By , agencyfaqs! | In | May 10, 2004
The fourth session of the AAAI's creative workshop saw Deepa Kakkar discussing how creative directors can spot potentially good and long-playing ideas

"There is no formula to arrive at an idea. The creative idea just happens in the mind, and no one can teach how these things can be made to happen." Addressing young creative minds during the fourth session of The Block - the 10-stage creative workshop being conducted by the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) - held in Mumbai on May 7, creative consultant Deepa Kakkar echoed a thought that has been repeatedly made at the forum by the likes of Mohammed Khan, Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi. However, what Kakkar did share was her thoughts on how creative directors can evaluate the work done by their juniors to spot ideas that are potentially good and long-playing.

At the outset, Kakkar pointed out that while most of those gathered were likely to become creative directors in the course of time, she warned that creative directorship is "a role and not a position" in an agency. "You might get promoted and become a creative director, but the job calls for a lot," she said, "Not everybody can slip into the role of a CD. For one, it calls for a state of 'egolessness', where you have to let others have the opportunity of doing great work. You have to learn to share, and not insist on working on the best accounts and briefs. It is also about motivating people and being an anchor that enables your juniors to do good work… something like being the anchoring leg of a compass that allows the team to draw the perfect circle."

Kakkar also believes that creative directors have the responsibility of helping account planning and servicing write a good brief, that helps creative in taking the leap. "Every great creative director is a great planner who intuitively knows where to place the product and the proposition," she said. Speaking about the brief, she also argued that creatives should ask not for briefs but G-strings - "because briefs have to tantalize creative people by covering only that much, but revealing all at the same time". Kakkar, however, pointed out that writing that much-desired one-line brief isn't easy. To make her point, she assigned each of those gathered the task of writing a one-line brief for a matrimonial ad for themselves. Assessing the responses she got, Kakkar said, "We ask servicing and planning to write one-line briefs and say they can't do it. This shows you how tough it is, so please be kind to planning and servicing when they come to you with a brief."

Dwelling on the creative director's role in assessing ideas, Kakkar said, "As a CD, you will have to evaluate others ideas, and I do think there are ways of recognizing the Idea. But for that, you have to be objective in your evaluation about what will work for the brand. And you will have to learn to sift through a lot of work to separate the grain from the chaff."

In Kakkar's book, one of the first pointers to identifying an Idea is seeing whether the idea is a 'Pamela Anderson' or a 'Jennifer Lopez' - meaning, is it fake or real. "You have to be your worst critic and ask if it is only a line, a jingle or a script masquerading as an idea," she insists. She then demanded creative directors to see whether the idea is insolent. "Does it cause disruption? Is it shaking up the category?" she urges creative directors to ask themselves. Citing the 'Nothing official' campaign for Pepsi, Kelvinator's 'Coolest one' campaign ('dentures', 'singer', 'needle' and 'hot roofs') and the Femina commercials ('bride' and 'mother'), Kakkar pointed out that all three campaigns were insolent, caused disruption and shook the category. "Another yardstick for assessing work is seeing if the idea makes people uncomfortable," she said.

Kakkar puts the single-mindedness of ideas high on her must-have list, and to demonstrate her point she gave the examples of the Live-In Jeans ('washing machine') and Surf Excel ('shirt on terrace') commercials. She also believes that ideas have to be surprising and entertaining. "Advertising has to surprise and entertain people because that's why they are watching television in the first place," she said, giving the examples of Fevikwik ('fisherman'), Akai ('football field'), M-Seal ('will') and Center Shock ('barber') to make her point.

Elasticity is another important criterion while assessing the merits of an idea, Kakkar feels. "Is it like a rubber band, stretchable enough to suit all media?" she asks. The test, to her mind, is seeing whether the idea works on a hoarding. "If it does, chances are it'll work on other media as well," she said. The best example of an elastic idea in Indian advertising is Fevicol, Kakkar thinks. "From film ('cliffhanger', 'bus' and 'shadow') to print to outdoor to radio, Fevicol is a brilliant example of how the idea of 'Fevicol ka jod' has been stretched effortlessly across media," she says.

Kakkar also believes that the best ideas are those that have a perfect match with the brand or category promise. She cited the examples of Wills ('Made for each other'), KitKat ('Have a break'), 'Thanda matlab Coca-Cola', and Hutch ('network') to make her point. "'Thanda matlab…' is one of the biggest ideas in recent times, and the way Prasoon (Joshi) has crafted the dialogues is brilliant," says Kakkar. "The campaign is also a good example of how to use celebrities in your advertising." She also think Hutch is a big idea, "as it's not just a nice, cute execution, but a relevant idea which is true to the category promise".

Another test of a good idea is seeing if the idea is truly campaignable. "Is it love or lust?" she asks. "Is the idea limited to a one-off ad, or is it capable of growing into a long-term relationship, a steady marriage? Wills' 'Made for each other' is a 40-year-old idea that has stood the test of time. Raymond ('Complete Man') is another instance of a brand falling in love with the idea. Even the NECC print campaign is a good example of love." A closely related criterion for assessing ideas is seeing whether the idea can belong to the brand and the brand alone. "The locking in between the brand and the idea has to be complete. The cowboy and Marlboro are synonymous, and no other brand today can own a cowboy. Similarly, the device of looking at things differently through a Smirnoff bottle is Smirnoff's alone. And the look and feel and emotion of DeBeers advertising cannot be taken away from it."

Kakkar concedes that at times, the execution can become the idea - "but only when the execution is locked in with the brand. The adidas film ('Tendulkar') is purely execution-led, but the technique is the idea of how India stops when Sachin bats." She also agrees that the Times of India films ('paper pusher', 'road digging' and 'currency') are great examples of execution becoming the idea.

The ex-JWT creative head also dwelt briefly on the importance of gut feel ("as you gain in experience, go by experience and gut"), the power of a good idea ("there is no argument over a good idea") and threat of becoming victims of paralysis by analysis. She also spoke on the distinction that has to be made between idea and information. "Are we confusing the idea with information?" she asked. She narrated the allegory of a blind beggar seated in Hyde Park in the peak of spring, who has a placard with 'I am blind' written on it. The plea for alms, however, doesn't have much effect on people, till a passerby comes and adds something to the placard. The result is instantaneous, and the beggar's cap starts filling with coins. Curious about this change in people's attitude, the beggar - who has sensed the change in the placard - asks one passerby to read out the modified message. 'It is spring, and I am blind,' it reads. "The words 'I am blind' is information, but information alone isn't always enough to get people to think about you," Kakkar explains. "For that information to take effect, it needs the backing of an idea that reaches out to people and touches them emotionally."

In the context of explaining how ideas should ideally come out of brands themselves, Kakkar touched upon her patented Oyster Principle. "When you take something from the brand and make it into an idea for the brand you get an enduring brand idea," she said, likening it to the manner in which a grain of sand develops into a glowing pearl within the oyster. "You have to see if an idea can evolve from a brand insight," she added, citing the example of the 'Jiyo mere laal' concept she had created for Brooke Bond Red Label Tea. "Tea is about bonding between people, and at that time, no tea brand was looking at the emotional aspect of tea," she explained. "'Laal' is a term of endearment, and is also 'red', which tied in with the brand, and 'Jiyo mere laal' was symbolic of a mother's blessing to the tea that brings the family together. The idea came from the brand, and the best part was it was taken across media and occasions."

Interestingly, all through her session, Kakkar mostly used ads created in India to demonstrate her line of thought. There were just two international examples (Smirnoff and KitKat) in her presentation, and Kakkar explained it thus. "If some people sitting in India have created good ads and ideas that work and are remembered, you people sitting in India can do it too." Truly sound advice on benchmarking, one has to say. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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