So, you have a great idea for a brand promotion campaign. With all your heart, you believe that it can bring a revolutionary change in the brand’s popularity. Not just that, you have the perfect copy and equally perfect visual for your brainchild. Everything is set, decorated on the plate, and waiting to be relished by your client.
And then you hear the words… ‘Too bold for Indian audience; can we try something else?’
Your dreams are shattered, your hopes have died, you purposefully break up with your creativity stating “she deserves someone better”; and most of all you want to take the grenade out of your backpack and throw it on the client after his, what he thinks is, ‘mike drop’ statement.
Welcome to the Indian Advertising Scenario.
It is the scenario where people are born offended. They’ll dig out the issues that offend them. These offended will then fight with the un-offended for not being offended. The un-offended will get offended for being asked to get offended. The already offended will get further offended for their offensive strategy. That, my dear readers, is the cycle of offense in India. And more than anyone else, it’s the advertisers who are forced to pay the price.
Clients want to have something different and bold, but not bold enough to make people uncomfortable. Your strongest idea is often kept secondary and you are forced to somehow gulp the harsh truth.
When your idea is flushed down the toilet, what do you do next?
I sit with my team. Because believe it not, cursing or (banging head on the walls) becomes a unanimous task among your colleagues. They are the people who have been in the same shoes and will understand it the best. Because let’s face it, every advertising professional has not just encountered dark days but dark ‘months’. Be it this situation or anything else, if you have colleagues with you who help you make a situation bearable, and then trust me, you are at the doors of heaven. Let’s not get into the details of what heaven is in the advertising domain.
Due to a plethora of shitty reasons, I had to shift to a new city and join a new advertising agency. Desperate, confused and shattered I was wondering if I could ever find my door to heaven in a city I hated from the very beginning.
That obnoxious change is what I found maddening and I thought to myself, “well, it’s going to kill me”.
Being a newbee in the office, and worse—a newbee in the city, unfamiliar with the language, sparked my synapses and I want to do something outrageous (sometimes). I was in that phase—wanting to go back or go anywhere but here. But the desire to burn down the building slightly eases when an unknown colleague passes by and wishes you a good morning with the warmest smile. That’s what happened to me in Litmus.
In every other article, you’ll find how crazy advertising professionals are. But nobody ever discusses how comforting that ‘crazy’ is. Here in Litmus, every colleague will greet each other (a warm good morning and a good night while leaving). It may have started as a rule but I can see how positively people have taken it.
With that simple ‘good morning’ I realized people are ready to accept me; especially when I chose to sit back in the corner eyeing everyone. Then, I gradually built up the courage to talk to others. Today I am a different human being here.
This greeting thing is what I found new and I thought to myself, “well, I can get through it”.
Fast forward to my fifth day in office, when I missed my ONLY bus that helps me reach office on time (yeah, that happens to me a lot and no I am not lazy. The bus was early, duh!). Gloomy thoughts were clamoring my head about me leaving a bad impression on my boss. Taking all the efforts to make a puppy face that can potentially soothe my reporting boss; I walked into the office—and guess what? He asked me to come safely rather than shooting the late coming missiles. He understood that I travel 30 KMs to make it to office; and says the sweetest line that I don’t think any boss who has known me, or any other new employee, for hardly five days could say “You remind of my little sister, please travel safe”.
I am not trying to put my management on the highest pedestal. But it wasn’t a sympathetic look that you often get about ‘oh, poor girl missed her bus’, or the kind of look that usually bosses give ‘it’s okay today, you better come on time next time’. It was different. It was empathetic.
That peculiar care is what I found lovely and I thought to myself, “well, I can bear it”.
Great music is played every day in 8 out of 9 hours of the office shift. We call ‘shotgun’ for securing our position for meeting our boss to get his approvals (and trust me that is actually a lot of fun).
And the biggest Indian thing that happens in this particular office, which I have never witnessed in any other place, is that people sit on the floor and eat during lunch time. They’ll remove the chairs, make a big circle and sit together. You can call it ‘desi lunchtime’. They share, they eat, they make merry! Irrespective of who was having an argument on what, when it comes to food, one can actually witness the famous phrase “food brings people together” coming alive.
I have been the most brutal critic of the city. From food to culture, to music; my gibberish comments are on almost everything, sparing literally nothing. Still, when your fellow copywriters order new things only for you to try and make plans, spares time, to take you out exploring, it makes you feel different, ‘good different’.
That kind thing is what I found encouraging and I thought to myself, ‘well, I can survive”.
Everyone has a voice. In this office, everyone’s voice is heard. Moreover, it is demanded to be heard. ‘You tell us what you think’, ‘share your opinion’, ‘arrey, talk to me’, and what not. You can be a day old at the office or a century old, you can be the senior most director or a new intern—you’ll have all the right to point out what’s wrong. And that’s not even the best part. What makes this place so wonderful is that nobody will take offense. I have personally seen designers or even copywriters easily getting offended by comments, but here you’d get responses like “arrey, explain a little on why you think what you think” or “is it so, let me see”. This makes you want to talk and share more, doesn’t it?
There are literally so many amaze-blaze things. The office throws a party when it’s someone’s birthday. I personally think it has something to do with them being thankful for your presence in the office. There are many things that make Litmus what it is —High-spirited Labrador named ‘Gilu’ is the gem of the office; encouraging bosses who’ll childishly steal food from your plate are the charm of the office, brainstorming sessions, creative discussions, argumentative approvals, collaborative rejections, silly jokes that creates a happy environment are the heart of the office.
Advertising in India is disrupted, thousand of creative changes, unlimited client demands, brainstorming every second of every moment and a carefree audience. And then there are people like us, who are trying to bind everything together. But what binds us? It’s the collective growth which comes from ‘togetherness’. The perfect word for Litmus! Today I am theirs just as much as the company is mine.
This togetherness is what I found to be my ‘happy element’ and I thought to myself, “Well, I am going to enjoy this”.