Rattling sticks in swill buckets

If you work in advertising, sometimes it’s hard to keep a perspective on things. If you happen to witness it in action – a ‘pitch’ for instance, where agencies compete for the privilege to work for a brand – you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as a profound, world-changing endeavour. The importance that people ascribe to their work is astounding.

I see ads in the paper and I can’t help but imagine the painful process they must have gone through to make them so defiantly dull.

A creative team comes up with an idea, say for an air conditioner. It’s probably a bit juvenile, a silly line to go with an old woman shivering or something. An attempt at punning, perhaps; “Brrring my sweater” or something. The creative director changes it to ‘coat’, throws in an exclamation while he’s at it. The client servicing head asks where the product is. A shiny little AC is added. The junior client explains that their target audience is ‘working women’. So the old woman is replaced by a young one. Grinning like she can’t believe her luck. The senior client announces the hiring of a brand ambassador. Young woman is replaced by Kajol. Or Vidya Balan. Someone sufficiently homely. Senior client asks for some copy options. It should sound classy, yet light-hearted. And it should make the product look innovative, stylish, convenient, reliable, affordable, luxurious and yes, fun. The product is pink and has flowers on it, after all. The copywriter gives up, sends a few inane options. One is approved. There’s a meeting with Boss client. He likes the idea, or what remains of it, but suggests some ‘small’ changes. A more colourful background. A bigger product shot. A bigger logo. Bullet points listing why the product is so cool. A prominent mention of the CoolBreeze and Fresh360 technologies. And copy on the lines of “Introducing the stylish new range of ACs from {cheapshit Korean company}. Now, experience superior cooling at an affordable price.” The whole process takes about 7 weeks, and the end-result goes unnoticed on page 4 of a national daily, alongside an update on the story of a teenager gangraped in a car. Or something.

Too much? Trust me, it is but a fraction of what goes on.

Today, I got an offer from one of the largest agencies in the world. To be a copywriter for the world’s biggest credit card company. Writing ads, brochures, direct mailers, emailers and website copy for them. This is what made me realize, finally, why we all act like cunts. The alternative is so much worse.

It means facing the fact that most of what you do in your entire career will, at best, never have the slightest iota of impact on the world. At worst, it will be a nuisance, a piece of visual pollution in a world already choking with such garbage.

It is intensely demoralising. It means there is no point at all to what you do. Even if you succeed, all you’d have done is sold a bit more of a certain kind of toothpaste. Or worse, a credit card to someone who didn’t need one.

It’s far easier to just ignore it, wear a suit (or a witty t-shirt and hipster glasses), sit high up in a shiny building and carry on as if you were changing the world, shaping society and culture with your ‘ideas’.

But on your way to the next ‘brand strategy review meeting’, just don’t look at what the chowkidaar used to absorb the grease from his paranthas.

Although, as you must know, I’m the kind of guy who always looks on the bright side of life. Which is: there are few places that would pay you to sit around on a bean bag in your torn jeans and chappals, and think of ‘ideas’ that involve ladies’ undergarments and Sunny Deol.

Yes. I think that’s enough.

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4 Responses to Rattling sticks in swill buckets

  1. Anki says:

    u have taken to advertising as if nothing else in the world exists
    exchanging one evil for another
    please dont sell those credit cards or whatever

  2. Big Eyed Fish says:

    Of course not. That was the point. I’m amused at people who do.

    And credit cards, bubble gum, carbonated piss, how does it matter. The wheels of capitalism must turn and turn.

  3. Anuradha says:


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