Abid Hussain Barlaskar

The story behind the painting with 45 Indian ads

Psst... how many can you spot?

The entire ad-marketing fraternity in India has been abuzz about a certain puzzle for the last few days. Chats and conversations about a curious painting have been taking place both online and offline. From a distance, the painting looks like a buzzy village marketplace going about its daily fare. A closer look reveals cues reminiscent of iconic Indian ad films that aired on TV over the last few decades. The magic is to delve deeper into the graphics and match as many sections as you can with images fetched from distant memories.

The story behind the painting with 45 Indian ads

The painting goes by 'brand bazaar', 'ad village' or 'hidden persuaders'
Click on the image to enlarge

To set the record straight, the 3ft x 2ft painting has a total of 45 ad campaigns etched into it. We spotted 44. The work, a combination of hand painting and digital brush strokes, has been crafted by BBDO India. Finding the 45th, as Josy Paul, chairman and CCO of BBDO India and the brains behind it all puts it, is the ultimate challenge.

Although, without a formal name at the moment, the painting goes by working titles like 'Brand Bazaar', 'Ad Village' or 'Hidden Persuaders'.

The story behind the painting with 45 Indian ads

Josy Paul

It began with a general conversation Paul was having with Anant Rangaswami (editor of MELT, a marcom event). "He proposed the idea of creating a poster of hidden clues of the most memorable Indian ads. It sounded so exciting and rich with promise," Paul says.

Speaking on the selection of the campaigns featured in the painting, Paul says, "It was all about memorable brand image, visual memory structures and the sharpest, most powerful images that capture the glorious history of Indian advertising. We interviewed people inside and outside the agency to arrive at this list. Of course, the final filter was that it had to have strong visual cues."

The piece was created by a collaboration of artists from BBDO India and external partners. BBDO's chief of art in Mumbai, Sandeep Sawant and Mumbai production head Hitesh Shah, worked closely with a team of artists - Arun Udmale, Subhodh and Pavan.

"The Indian marketplace is beautiful. As we were discussing the marketplace and looking for references, the artists came up with suggestions of how it can also have dams and mountains. It was an evolutionary process. We asked - how and what would a painter paint about Indian advertising. How would he capture Indian advertising in one place?" Paul explains.

Most of the work happened post working hours and on weekends. It took the team a month to create the final painting. "Anant (Rangaswami) and I were totally with the team on the progress. It's a labour of love and we are thrilled to see the response from the industry and beyond. Honestly, we did not expect such a fantastic response," Paul adds.

The story behind the painting with 45 Indian ads

The cheat sheet for the puzzle
Click on the image to enlarge

We asked industry folks about their immediate reaction to the painting.

The story behind the painting with 45 Indian ads

Rahul daCunha

The story behind the painting with 45 Indian ads

Anamika Sirohi

The story behind the painting with 45 Indian ads

Nikhil Rungta

Rahul daCunha, managing director and creative head, daCunha Communications (Amul's ad agency), says "I immediately started checking if my campaigns were there. Everybody knows Amul and me, but no one knows that I was one of the creators of the Hamara Bajaj campaign."

DaCunha first saw the painting on WhatsApp. "The painting is iconic and it's nicely done. It's not easy to fit in so many campaigns in such a manner. It has two of my campaigns. The image of the Parsi man cleaning the scooter's mirror was my idea. Prashant Godbole and I worked on it (at Lintas in 1989) together," he adds.

Anamika Sirohi, who heads marketing for a sanitary-ware brand, says, "When I first spotted it in a LinkedIn post, curiosity took over. I was intrigued and there was an immediate need to stop what I was doing to solve it. This shows that creativity will always triumph over indifference. People of a certain age and above will find it easier. All it is missing is a cheat sheet."

Nikhil Rungta, ex MD Intuit (former CMO - Google, Reliance, Jio, Yatra), says, "When I first saw it, I really loved the idea as it brought back memories of some of the best ads I have seen over the years. I enjoyed that it was very engaging, as one had to figure out the brands hidden in the painting. Since I found it so engaging, I shared it on LinkedIn and it got over 20k views in less than 24 hours."

"I didn't find anything missing. It is a great idea to get people to engage with something they have enjoyed in the past. In fact, I feel it should be extended to more things like memorable movies or even books," Rungta adds.

(The painting was commissioned by Zee MELT and was unveiled at the Zee MELT event in Mumbai on Thursday, May 30.)

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