N. Shatrujeet

"Pops is completely irreplaceable, so no one will replace him": Balki

R Balakrishnan, executive creative director, Lowe, informs that the agency will not be hiring a replacement for KV Sridhar

One visit to the corner room on the fifteenth floor of Express Towers - a room overlooking the Mantralaya and much of Mumbai's Nariman Point - and KV Sridhar's (Pops) absence is immediately felt. No familiar sight of Pops shuffling out to greet visitors. No quiet parleys on the triumphs and tragedies of Indian advertising. The room he shared with Balki (R Balakrishnan, executive creative director, Lowe) is half empty, literally and figuratively. For it's been exactly a week since Pops quit Lowe to rejoin Leo Burnett India as its national creative director.

And no one admits to missing Pops as readily as Balki, who now has to shoulder the burden of Lowe's product all by himself. "I miss him a lot and I won't deny it," he says, adding with a laugh, "If nothing else, I miss someone sitting here constantly picking my brain." On a more serious note, Balki observes that Lowe owes its current status in Indian advertising to Pops. "Pops pushed the envelope in so many areas of advertising and creativity that I have no qualms in admitting that he was, in a way, my creative director. In his charming way, he egged us to do better all the time."

It's not just Lowe that will be missing Pops. Lowe's clients too will, something Balki is well aware of. "As far as all our clients were concerned, Pops and I were extensions of one another, but that does not mask the fact that clients are going to miss him hugely," he says. "So now we'll have to double the output and deliver." While Balki laughingly alludes to Pops as "a consultant to Indian advertising whom we can always tap", he adds that Lowe's immediate challenge will be to see "how much we can stretch ourselves in the days to come".

One thing is clear. The agency has no intensions of filling the chair Pops has just vacated. "Pops is completely irreplaceable, so no one will replace him," Balki is emphatic. "Actually, no one can replace Pops, and I think even Burnett realized that," he grins slyly. "Pops started most of the initiatives we are currently implementing in Lowe. Where can you get visionaries like him in advertising?"

Of the many initiatives, one that Balki draws attention to is the move to get youngsters to work more and more on big brands. "What Pops and I realized is that you don't need age and experience to make a creative director. You need freshness. So we decided that those youngsters who are the brightest - and have the maturity - would be given the opportunity of handling big brands. Big brands need the kind of freshness youngsters bring, and these young CDs should dictate the future of big brands, across offices." Balki adds that under this initiative - which was planned some eight to nine months ago, and has been implemented since April - youngsters at Lowe have made the creative director grade a good three years ahead of the normal schedule. "Five years ago, these CDs would have still been going through the grind, which would have killed all the talent and freshness in them. By promoting them early, I think they will do a lot more good for us."

Another initiative that Balki credits Pops with is doing away with the ‘group system'. "Earlier, we had the group system where each group worked on one or two brands," he explains. "We are now breaking that format to allow a greater flexibility. Compartmentalization of work is out and work can now happen across groups, which provides freshness to every brand. Most of these things came out of Pops' vision for Lowe, and apart from his contributions in the form of great scripts and ideas for brands, this is what we shall really miss him for."

It's a missing that'll take some getting used to. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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