Saturday, February 20, 2010

Enormous audience of one.

I joined Clarion in 1965 soon after its collaboration with McCann Erickson. One of the so-called benefits conferred on the Indian ad agency was the training of the creative, media and research staff by a “visiting faculty” from McCann. These Firangs would come and regale us as well as our clients with paens to their own intrepid exploits. Actually, this was a way to offer free junkets to the reigning favourites of the McCann international management at the expense of the Indian “partner” – a new twist to the time-tested imperialist ploy. What Clarion got out of it was the PR mileage. One of the worthies from out west was a Creative Director – I cannot recall his name – whose self-proclaimed secret of success was to write and design print and cinema ads to talk to the “enormous audience of one”. To prove his thesis he even had a 30-minute slide-and-sound show (an ancestor of the PowerPoint presentation) with examples culled from (hold your breath!) Keats, Byron, Wordsworth and the Bard of Avon set to music. What the Great Man did not clarify was how one was supposed to achieve it in the enormous clutter of ads in print and at the movie hall. The implication probably was that clever media placement could clear that hurdle. Being an impressionable rookie then, I was quite taken up by his act which further fortified my belief that I was engaged in a “creative” pursuit. It was much much later that I realised the common thread running in all these “winning” formulae. Zero in on an attention-grabbing key word (“positioning”) or phrase (“enormous audience of one”) and offer it as the secret ingredient for advertising success, a panacea almost. Remember what Dr Samuel Johnson said ? “Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.” Bingo!