Thursday, June 29, 2006

Coffee with Young Creative of the Year, Avinash Sampath

DC: A little about humility, after winning a creative of the year honor many creatives would bend backwards and insert their entire torso up their own asses and hibernate. You on the other hand, have pumped out even better work and based on what people say have managed to remain do you defy vanity?

A: Hahaha… For a start, my ass is too small so that negates the twisted torso theory.
But seriously, I have a super-crush on advertising. I am in love with the creative process. And outside of chopping vegetables, quoting dialogues from ‘Pulp Fiction’ and planning my wife’s birthday, creating ads is the only thing I know how to do.
Every idea is my way of telling advertising, “I love you.” And every little success that comes my way is advertising telling me, “I love you too.” So to answer your question, vanity doesn’t feature in this relationship.

DC: So You have Won a number of honors, to mention a few, Young Creative of the Year and TV spot of the year for Crest. Saying things look good would be an understatement. But underneath all the love what do you hate about what you do?

A: I hate the 9am start. I hate the fact we think a 3-ad campaign and a 30-second TV spot is the solution to every client’s every problem. I hate it that we don’t take enough risks. I hate the fact that client servicing tends to second-guess the client and the client tends to second-guess the consumer. I hate the assumption that a creative award means the creative person did something right and an effectiveness award means the servicing person did something right. I hate it that we forget we are in the field of communication. We forget we have the power to influence people’s minds and hearts. I hate that our ads are careful to keep within the realms of what people think and know.
Somebody wise once said, ‘If Columbus had done research he would’ve only known the earth was flat.’

DC: 3 So 5 years from now you open the doors to your own agency, Whats the first thing you'd do? and what would you do differently in your own agency?

A: I’m not nurturing a dream of starting my own agency, but to go with your flow…
First thing I’d do: Make sure my name isn’t the agency’s name.
What I’d do differently: I’d make sure it isn’t on the high floors of a building with a mirror façade. What an agency looks and feels like reflects in the people it hires and the work it produces. It would be a wooden building. There would be no more than four walls. On second thought, add another four for the toilet. There would only be creatives, planners and an accountant who ensures our salaries reach our bank accounts. Creatives would need to sell their own work. When they understand the client and the brand, the work will sell itself. And when the client trusts his/her creative, the work will get better.
Mohammed Khan, a hugely respected Indian creative and founder of hot-shop Enterprise said, “The best agencies in the world are ones headed by creatives. It’s the same reason why the best law firms are headed by lawyers and the best accounting firms are headed by accountants.”
So my agency just might survive. :)

DC: So who would win the Avinash Awards in the region:
Idea of the Year?Best Print?Best TV?Best Outdoor?Agency of the Year?

A: The judges have reviewed this year’s work with an extremely critical eye. Sadly this year’s Avinash Awards will have loads of free booze, but no awards. Sorry. :(

DC: Your Cannes Predictions:Grand Prix?

A: Not Sony Bravia’s ‘Bouncing Balls’. Not Honda Civic’s ‘Choir’. Not XBOX’s ‘Join In’.Regions entries? Five finalists (don’t know which ones). Metal (don’t know which colour) on the way to BrandCom’s Mmmousepad and Tonic’s Sony Microvault Campaign.

DC: World Cup?

A: I could say Brazil, but then it wouldn’t be my prediction, it would be everybody’s!
Personally, I think it would be great to see a new winner emerge: South Korea? Croatia? Ecuador?

DC: So advice to the young from the young?

A: I’ve been playing this advertising game for almost ten years, so I don’t know if I’m still on the young side of things. Nevertheless, if you’re starting out in big bad ad-land and aren’t pressed to leave your computer screen for the World Cup, here are a few words of advice:
(a) Embark on a steady diet of advertising annuals. Any book that features ads as editorial, read it and re-read it till your eyes bleed and when the blood blurs your vision tear out the pages and eat them. Ad annuals are your greatest source of inspiration. They will rub in your face ideas better than yours. Their index columns will ask you, “Why isn’t your name here?” And if you’re spending a night at the agency, they are trustworthy pillows.
(b) Think options. Urban advertising legend has it that superstar C.D. David Droga demanded to see 30 (T-H-I-R-T-Y) options for every brief delivered to his creative teams. These teams now collect Frequent Flier Points in the previously mentioned ad annuals. So yes, this advice works.
(c) And lastly, the best ads are created on state-of-the-art, unlimitedGB-hard-disk, super-flat-screen machines. Your IT Manager might not have them. They’re called ‘scribbling pads’.

DC: Advice to the old from the young?

A: Aaaah… something the old have been telling the young for years.
Well it’s time to return the favour, “You’re only as good as your last ad.”

DC: Pleasure having you with us Avi'

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dollar Phil

This thought is indeed inspired by Pragmatisms King, Phil Lynagh.

Why are managements so pissy about ‘poaching’? Well not to condescend by stating the obvious but basic economics theorize that high demand in conjunction with low supply mostly equates to high cost, subject at hand being regional talent, (there I go again).

So without poaching there is no price war. The value of talent remains at the discretion of the respective agency it belongs to and industry salaries remain the same, crap (which few would argue is a trait that attracts more talent).

To ensure we avoid the possible tragedy of salary increases we introduce poaching as an industry taboo and make intra agency agreements ‘Oh we can’t hire people from X or Y’. We use words like ‘poaching’ and assign adjectives like ‘unethical’ to make sure
any calls HR make feel like adultery.

Yes 'poaching' is salary deregulation’s childhood friend and the sh*t industry managment wake up in a cold sweat screaming.

But why then is Dollar Phil an advocate of 'poaching'? Well most likely because he can afford to be.

So anyone who got a raise or works at Promoseven take some time out to raise your glass when celebrating, even if noones around and say, 'cheers Dollar Phil...cheers'

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Coffee with Lowe's Regional Director, Rupen Desai

DC: Rupen, your agency has pledged to drop clients who don't want to take creative risks...some people might say that's getting a little ahead of yourselves as a new agency. Your thoughts?

R: I think this statement needs to be interpreted in its right context.
At the end of the day – the clients pay us for our expertise in communication solutions. At Lowe we know we can stretch their advertising dollar by high value creative ideas. Given we are being paid for our expertise – it would be unprofessional to sell a solution that we believe to do half the job – or at times none.
Whist in all cases we would try and sell the right communication solution – there are times when these efforts would fail. If this continues – rather then be paid for a solution badly delivered - we would seek another solution to the situation.

After all – isn’t this the integrity our business deserves?

DC: So you now have a completely new slate, give or take...what are you goanna do differently?

R: Three things to start with:
- Will not compromise on the creative product. After all good is the biggest enemy of great.
- Will not compromise on the talent pool at the agency. We are only as good as our team is.
- Start charging a portion of the client’s success.

DC: So where will Lowe be in 2 years then?

R: Leading the creative standards of the region along with a select few other agencies.
I say along with a select few – as without healthy competition from them, we will never be able to raise the bar in the region alone.

DC: Agency heads have articulated the difficulties in hiring talent from the region, you have a entire agency to hire, how do you plan on undertaking this task?

R: It is difficult – there is no doubt about it. We are a mediocre industry – not just in this region, but around the world.
But if you look at it – as tiny as the amount may be - there is a considerable amount of talent out there. It may take time, but those are the ones we are targeting, at first.
Secondly we have stopped the focus on the nephews, cousins & sons in our agency.
Thirdly we are focusing beyond the traditional advertising market – into areas like musicians, painters.
We are very happy to be understaffed with the right quality rather then compromise on the quality of our people or the work we create.

DC: Many thanks Rupen and good luck with Lowe!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Music Artists protect their brands...

'Gnarls Barkley's track "Crazy" is the best selling UK single for 2006. It spent 9 weeks at number one, which is the same length of time as Queen's 1975 classic Bohemian Rhapsody. After 9 weeks Warner Brothers made the decision to delete the single from online and store sales. Warner was concerned that too much success would lead to a backlash against the singer and make it difficult to promote the rest of the album. This new sensibility is reflected in the cautios approach many brands and their labels are now adopting because of Internet success.The music industry is now looking at success differently. At a time when everyone is scrambling to be the next new thing and single tracks matter more, it's easy for the consumer to flip from band to band. The record companies need to find ways to create more stickiness and to find ways for artists to build enduring and lasting relationships with their fans.Marketing success has always been defined by gross sales, gross ratings and total volume. Success is important, but too much of it can be a bad thing and force brands to burn out. Success needs to be managed, which is tough because most brand managers and CMOs are in their jobs for a short time and they are looking to build resumes based on short-term success. In this environment, who is looking after long-term brand health?' (Article from Influx)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Congratulations to the guys and gals at WUNDERMAN Dubai for bringing home the first of hopefully many golds this year for their work on Microsoft!

Let's keep our fingers crossed for the 6 Saatchi Dubai press shortlisted(winners announced today). 3 Y&R Dubai and 2 Grey Dubai outdoor shortlisted (winners announced tomorrow).

Monday, June 19, 2006


The shit has hit the fan for Cristal and is blowing in the direction of their MD Louis Roederer. The article in the “Economist Bubbles & Bling” (posted below) where Roederer was quoted as saying "We can't forbid people from buying it (hip hop community). I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business" has caused a serious backlash on the Cristal brand. Triggered by Jay-z who boycotted the drink from his Sports bar franchise, Ja-Z responded "It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frederic Rouzaud views the 'hip-hop' culture as "unwelcome attention." I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands including The 40/40 Club nor in my personal life. Just as Rouzaud stated, 'I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business,' Jay-Z and the 40/40 Club will now be serving only Krug and Dom Perignon to their customers seeking high end champagne products."

Watching Cristal’s sales over the next 2/3 months is goanna be pretty interesting and indicative of Hip-Hops real influence on the brand. Read more here.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Coffee with Showtime's George Abi-Habib on TV tomorrow.

DC: So George working at Showtime could you tell us a little about DVRs and your prediction as to what role they will play in future audience life, on advertisers etc?

G:You hear a lot of products claim to revolutionize the industry it’s in, but DVR is one of the few cases where that really holds true. Everyone has had the experience missing a show they like or wishing they could see a goal replay instead of the fat painted football fan. With DVR, viewers control time; what is more revolutionary then that?

The effect is higher audience involvement in their own viewing habits and more efficient use of their TV. But what that really translates into is the need to increase quality of programming and advertisement production. Now to get the attention of the viewer you will have to be very bold on your communication and very specific about your messaging, otherwise you will get the fast forward button.

This is a scary prospect for all the agency hippies who are use to the industry of mass media. But hopefully these scrubby, dreadlock sporting creatives will take a bath and align with people on the sales side of the business a little more to find out what people really need; then build creative and engaging messaging around that.

DC: So could we say that our advertising dollar will be of much less value?

G: Well this is a double edge sword and the advertising community needs to find out how it works in their favor. Either you are cutting to the heart of viewers needs and building your brand faster then before or you’re cutting your brand out of the equation by waffling around issues speaking to o generally. The people who are going to have the hardest time with this are the P&G’s of the world. Everyone thinks they know what the products and the needs it serves so these ads are first on the chopping block. But what is going to happen when the next non-drip detergent innovation comes along? Will Jumeirah Jane’s be fast forwarding through Desperate House wives moments or stop and listen?

However, this is good news of anyone that specializes in product placement. Future technology will allow you to highlight products in your favorite movie or show and explore product details and where to get it. Or simply switch over their TV to web functions and just have it delivered. How is that for ‘on demand’ advertising? The shift in consumer habits is not that people don’t want information, quite the contrary they want a lot of information; just about the stuff they like.

DC: On demand this on demand that, so the net is going to replace TV?

G: Well it is definitely starting to. I would much rather explore content that I like then wait for my TV to deliver meaningful content at its own pace. I regularly surf sites like to see what people are doing around the world. With the fiber optic bandwidth capability doubling ever ~3 months the space to stream any movie in history any time you want is not far off. So it is not that internet will take over, but it will just complement your viewing habits more and your TV will gain more functions.

The major change is in the amount of content people want, now people want bite size info. Think about SMS news updates, it is a lot easier absorb then watching 30 min of CNN and its light years ahead of the newspaper. So the next step would be SMS updates with streaming video of the news in question and taking your TV with you on your phone. Not that far away either.

DC: So where are we with all this here in the UAE from your Showtime perspective?

G: It is hard to say how long it will take for DVR to be the standard, in the US 1 in 10 homes owns a DVR now. We still have a long way to go, but products like ShowBox are selling out fast and having a hard time keeping up with demand. But, unless people have other functions like EPG (Electronic Programming Guides) they will not take full control of viewing habits. Showtime is currently the only company offering this service with a sizeable lead time. As the industry itself matures, more companies will offer this feature, bringing the value to more people.

Once DVR is the standard, the effect should be better commercials with higher production value to grab attention and inspire product sales. Hopefully TVCs will be like mini movies. You could compare it to what the Michael Jackson’s music video Thriller did for the MTV generation.

DC: Many thanks George and good luck with Showtime.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Here is one of them great products...

"The new v1.06 iFG represents the lightest soccer boot in Puma's arsenal and serves one purpose - get you to the ball faster. The boots upper is constructed from new, extremely thin ConTec material, and the fine tuned, pointed AptoLast Lace Wrap System helps mold the shoe to your feet. Plus, the grass field graphics act like camouflage, confusing your defender with every dribble, pass, and goal!"

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

MD of Cristal, less than thrilled at rappers' fondness for the drink...

Came across this great article in the Economist definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

True football Spirit...

"Heads will roll: Just in time for the World Cup, visitors to the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts can bounce Bush or Blair, corner-kick Clinton or soccer-punch Saddam. Kendell Geers' interactive art, titled Masked Ball, is one of 24 football-themed works by international artists."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Coffee with Impact Proximity Director, Dimitri Metaxas

DC: Campaign MEs kick to the digital world (offering no awards). Pompous or

DM: Two Words: Damage & Limitation
Why do I say that? Well to be honest there were many factors at fault here. On the one hand, Campaign ME completely mishandled the digital awards category from the start and weren’t clear on the entry guidelines. Does digital campaign mean websites? Or websites and ad creative? And what about Search? Because all of these (and more) are components for an online campaign. Furthermore they had traditional marketers with zero experience in online judging work they didn’t understand. I pretty much had this confirmed by Campaign ME themselves.
On the other hand, Campaign ME were justified in their assertion that the overall output in the region is still lacking. That doesn’t mean to say that some agencies aren’t doing great online work but the industry as a whole is in such an infancy that the volume of that work just doesn’t yet exist. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that past online work from this region has won on the international stage, true we haven’t quite cracked the big two - New York and Cannes but we have been finalists on many occasions. These same entries didn’t make the Campaign ME finalists…So need I say more?
In the end, I think Campaign ME didn’t have much choice. When I saw the finalists I was surprised. We had handled many of these creatives ourselves (as a media buyer) and technically they were preschool. It’s hard to explain this here but take my word for it, any seasoned digital marketer would have spotted the issues instantly, never mind the basic design faults at play.
Did we have a chat with Campaign ME about the resulting finalists? In short yes. Did we push them to not award this category on the night? No, that was their decision.

DC: So what would you consider great online work in the region?
Great work from abroad?

DM: I will always include Emirates for some great regional work. This brand easily pioneered online in the region and most people in our industry would acknowledge that. We recently ran an extremely successful viral campaign with them and the results were outstanding. That doesn’t mean that Emirates online work is consistently great, but it is consistent and on brand.
The Al Arabiya online rebranding campaign is another example of phenomenal results if not ground breaking creative. We generated 790,000 clicks in the space of a month and ended up bringing their website down in the process (not bad for a portal). We also streamed their now quite famous TVC (produced by BBDO Beirut) through the online ads 353,000 times which was also a great statistic, keeping in mind that users had to initiate the stream. So in the days of ad avoidance we had consumers actively seeking the ads and sharing them with their friends. I have had these ads sent to me by people in Asia and the United States further proving the power of online when things come together.
Also, check out the Snickers Middle East website: - I like this site.

DC: A bulk of agency's are run by a more 'traditional generation' in the
region, do you feel this is hindering the development of online advertising
considering most lack digital know how?

DM: Most definitely. I could write an essay here but suffice to say we need more experienced industry professionals here to help us grow. The business is booming but this is also the case globally, so how do you attract talent? Basically we decided to hire them young and hungry to train and mold.
The lack of digital know how is easily the biggest challenge. I have been working in the region for nearly 5 years and I’m still educating marketers from scratch. But I don’t want to sound pessimistic, we as an industry have come a long way in this short time and I think people should be proud of that.

DC: Rarely do you find an account handler working in what is dubbed an
'integrated agency' versed in digital solutions. Why do you feel it
is the case? Do you think we are doing anything to change this?

DM: Personally I think integration doesn’t necessarily mean having an account handler working digital as well as ATL projects for instance. I believe there is still a need for specialization as you see it in the other more developed digital markets. When I think integrated, I have strange visions of a round table seating 8 specialists who are working together on a campaign brief from the outset, even if they represent different agencies.
When media agencies first formed they were "specialists" and quickly became "generalists". The same is already happening to the digital agency with specialists now concentrating on sub-services such as a "Viral or Search Engine Optimisation".
If you mean that the account handlers need to be versed in digital but not manage it, then I would agree that is lacking. But then if you go back to my previous answer who is going to verse them in the first place? It’s a slow but steady education process which is happening and this is how we are changing this.

DC: Digital advertising for dummies book? Digital advertising for not so dumb dummies book?

DM: Haha..Check out any of my presentations and I’m sure we can translate these to a book format. Actually there are a few good books out there that cover this topic specifically. I can’t remember the names but I have a client who has one and keeps trying to test me with it, I’m thinking of pursuing the sharia council for a region wide ban.

DC: Dimitri pleasure to have you on the blog. Many thanks.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Coffee with OMD Director, Nadim Samara

DC: Ok, we just have to ask this question…PVR’s the end of advertising as we know it? P&G’s Jim Stengel, death of 30 second spot, applicable in the region?

NS: “The end of advertising as we know it” is applicable on a daily basis…it just changed again after you read that sentence! Change in advertising is here, and it is continuously gaining speed. PVR’s are just accelerating this speed, making our “conservative” look for a 30sec spot short-sighted, and necessitating us to go further. The 30sec spot is not dead, it’s rapidly “ageing”… Brand engagement, smart positioning, and “inside programming” thinking is needed to ensure that our message is within consumers’ TV viewing interest. Objective now is to, first, be within the “can’t miss” part of TV and, second, how to be there in an engaging fashion to avoid being off-putting.

DC: Should media departments have creatives?

NS: “Media departments” have already disappeared; assuming you are referring to Media Agencies. Any task requires a creative solution to improve the final outcome, and that is true for creative agencies, marketing departments and media agencies. It is up to the people, corporate culture/thinking and the “work spirit” to deliver this. As for pure creative people within Media Agencies, several agencies have already pursued this. Quite right to if they are to support and enhance their account handlers’ ability to address a task with more creative weaponry and therefore deliver a better solution.

DC: How should media ownership be controlled?

We need to separate between ownership and rights to sell ad space. For the first part, it is not a major issue for us and advertisers, as long as content quality reaches a high enough level to entice people to consume the media in question. For the latter, it also should not be a major issue for us advertisers! Many models exist. Viacom, one of the largest global media empires, is surviving well with media agencies based on mutual benefits, which ultimately impacts on the brands. Agencies can exert control on third-party media sales companies via several trading methods, which protect the agency/client from any threat of “monopolistic” practices.

DC: Some people think that media and brand planning should be a combined discipline, what are your thoughts?

NS: Aren’t they already? If one thinks they are not, elaborating on this subject now is meaningless…

DC: Integration, is there such a thing in the region?

NS: To answer this question one has to look at the way Media Agencies came about: they started as “the guys in the back” generating schedules, grew to increasingly take part in the planning of a campaign and liaising with the client. Today, they are more often than not separate from the rest of the account and frequently in the lead position on an account. The issue for “integration” is whether all parties are ready to accept the crucial role media plays today. We should adjust to the international AOR model that has proven time and time again successful & adaptive to local large accounts.

DC: Many thanks Nadim for your time and effort!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Coffee with the young man behind the most controversial agency application we've heard of.

DC: So Anton, you were probably the most talked about intern to ever hit London. Campaign wrote about you and your application stunt had the industry around the world talking. Stigma or charm?

AR: I wouldn't say that I was the most talked about intern to ever hit London, quite a few have paved dramatic waves way before me and at a younger age but to be talked about certainly isn't a stigma regardless of context. I've always been a believer of "any publicity is good publicity" which is quite a dangerous sword to live by as proven by the likes of Gary Lace and Ben Langdon, but if no one is talking about you then it's more than likely you're not worth being talked about.

DC: You've always been what some may dub a 'trouble maker' others 'brilliant' but look at where it got you and how well your doing. Can you talk a little about the positives of causing trouble?

AR: I'm not out to cause trouble. The only move I've made that was controversial was my M&C Saatchi stunt and that was a joke in itself. Without even saying anything the whole of Saatchi & Saatchi along with Campaign Magazine actually believed I'd hacked the real M&C Saatchi website when really it was just a replicate site. I guess it worked on two levels which was to cause noise around my application to the Saatchi Summer School and also exposed considerable people for not really understanding digital other than the word 'hacker'. Remember people coming up to me in the Pregnant Man and asking if i was 'the hacker'? Dear dear, I couldn't hack a soft drinks machine let alone a website. I would also add that there are no positives to simply causing trouble for the sake of it, to cause trouble as a by product of what you believe in and what you believe works is different, that's when the fun starts.

DC: So how do you know when 'far' is proceeded by 'too'?

AR: When everyone stops laughing.

DC: London is a tough place to make it, the market is saturated, talent is everywhere, agency's aren't really expanding. Where would you see yourself in 10 years

AR: I would disagree with talent being everywhere, far from it. I think it's harder to find talent than it is new business and as a result some agencies have their priorities muddled. Expansion is reliant on new business and new business is reliant on talent. An easy equation really but still not thoroughly adopted. In terms of where I see myself in 10 years, if all goes to plan, I'll be writing an expose on how the world was fooled by the worst book on earth which featured a crap conspiracy surrounding Da Vinci's Last Supper and how McDonalds is the best thing since contraception. Failing that, I'll be making ads somewhere.

DC: So what does your usual 1st year at a large agency in London consist off?

AR: It's hard to say really as believe it or not large agencies differ greatly in London. I can therefore only speak from my experience which is a cocktail of Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis. What I can say that is the support is of a good standard, sometimes too good. As a young Account Executive with ambitions it's hard to be kept in the cage when all you want to do is run around and get as deep into the business as possible. Having said that I've probably been saved from considerable mistakes due to this. Large agencies also have the resources and the services to provide a fully integrated experience. As a trainee, not only are you able to converse the benefits of branding mediums such as TV, press and outdoor but you are also in a position to talk about the tracking benefits of DM, digital and POS which contribute to a greater picture of consumer insight. The first year should really be written off in terms of frustration though, just keep your head down and grin and bare it.......unless contact reports, booking rooms, formatting presentations and having emails checked is your thing.

DC: Great to have you on the blog Anton, good luck with Publicis!

(Visit Antons blog)