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Reminiscences of a writer

By A G Krishnamurthy
July 08, 2005 13:22 IST
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Fifty columns ago, I started out on a completely new path -- after being chairman and managing director of Mudra for twenty-three years -- that led to my evolution as a columnist. Clearly, it was not a cakewalk.

Though expressing my opinion on advertising came easily to me -- I had been doing that for long enough, sharing my life's lessons has been surprisingly challenging and rewarding.

It had me reviewing my own mistakes and, importantly, it reminded me continually of the number of people and circumstances to whom I owed my learnings. In the process, I discovered that one of my more recent guides has been you, my reader.

Your response over these two years has not only provided me with a steady supply of oxygen to carry on, but has been extremely enlightening as well. The column has been receiving a huge fan mail from diverse groups -- students, professionals and academicians.

People write to me seeking resolutions to their personal, professional and academic dichotomies. I receive invitations to conduct seminars, training programmes and courses in management schools. I get consultancy opportunities besides offers for writing in magazines!

In fact it is this groundswell of feedback that served as catalyst for my first book The Invisible CEO. I think I can confidently credit its popularity to your response.

Let me take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to all of you. I send a reply to every email I receive and it is this interaction that gives me great joy week after week.

And now for a recap. In advertising, one of the research tools that we employ to check the effectiveness of our ads is something we call Ad Recall. There are two types, they are pretty self-explanatory terms -- aided recall, and, top-of-mind recall.

Of course as with everything in life, there are pros and cons to both approaches but I will not get into that now. I will now be using top-of-mind recall to conclude those that I consider as my "Best of Fifty".

Among the ads: The Coke Aamir Khan ads - The Nepali and the Bengali episodes lead the pack, followed by the Johnson and Johnson ad for baby cream and Amitabh Bachchan Dabur Hajmola TVC.

Here are excerpts from my columns, on all three ads:

The Coke Aamir Khan/Bengali ad: "The two have tied in so brilliantly to each other and the endearing quirkiness of every State in our country, that each new Coke ad is now what we all wait to watch. ... Insightfully sketched out and well-produced right down to the pouts and the extravagant gestures… it skillfully lets the viewer infer that the controversies around the brand are equally over exaggerated."

The Johnson & Johnson ad: "….It's probably because the commercials are so ingrained in our sub-conscious, we don't realise that the phrase "how cute, just like a Johnson and Johnson baby", has arisen only because of the amazing consistency of the brand to make a cliché look so lovable, commercial after commercial. The latest in this series of course is the ad for baby cream which celebrates a baby's first steps…

And now for top-of-mind recall from What I've Learned: They are i) Logos have no dreams, ii) The Joy of Continuity iii) How Frank can you be?" Here's a snapshot from each:

Logos have no dreams: "Be it a political party, an educational institution or a corporation -- take the person in charge out of the place and the entire set-up acquires a whole new personality!… I looked at some of the longest standing institutions that have changed over time, but yet have done so, with grace and dignity.  I found my answer in…Religion. Religions, if you observe have learned a) to manage change, and, b) to keep the 'Personalities' out of the 'Philosophy'. You don't go to the temple one day and discover a whole new religion just because a new pujari has come in!

The Joy of Continuity: "Our first instinct as the 'new agency' was to change everything that was so carefully built by the previous agency. We wanted to 'prove' that we were better. But fortunately for us, and the brand, better sense prevailed…. Leveraging past strengths was, and still is, a surefire way of catapulting the brand forward."

How Frank can you be: "And then came the presentation to Shri Dhirubhai Ambani… He .. looked at Frank and asked him whether he liked the campaign. Frank replied that he did not. It was a life-changing moment for me. …, his professional integrity was so high that he could not lie. Even at the risk of such a significant loss..

Thank you Frank. You made me see what no book could teach me."

And with this I conclude my "Golden Jubilee column".  It has been a great fifty!
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A G Krishnamurthy
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