Anindya Banerjee aka Andy introduced advertising to his family of doctors and engineers almost 15 years back. After working in agencies like Contract, Ogilvy and Mather, Publicis, Law and Kenneth, he soon realised that advertising today, starts conversations about a brand. Or changes it.
This helped him in creating the very successful Me and Meri Maggi campaign for Nestle. The relaunch of Limca. The introduction of McVities Digestives biscuits in India, the launch of Domino’s Cheese burst Pizza . The introduction of high profile Unitech Golf and Country Club.
In these 15 years, he’s won over 50 national and international awards that include Cannes, Asia Pacific Ad fest Lotuses, Abbies, Emvies and Effies.
Anindya is also a guest lecturer at Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication, New Delhi.
Why are you into Advertising?
Some people play with toys. Others play around with gadgets. I like playing with ideas. I was trying to figure out what to do with my life when advertising chose me. One day while flipping through a newspaper, I came upon an ad for NIIT created by Contract (Bhupesh Luther and Neil Johnson). I don’t remember the exact words, but it said something like “The college cutoff list was 92%. I got 90%. Does that make me a failure?”
I didn’t join NIIT. I joined advertising.
Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I did something better. I did English (Honours) at Zakir Husain College. So while others were learning about press ads, I was learning about John Donne and DH Lawrence. It was perhaps, one of the best decisions I ever made.
I learnt how to construct a cohesive argument. I learnt how John Donne was one of the most lateral thinkers of the world. And I learnt how to write.
Then, armed with a degree and a college magazine, I went around looking for a break. Only I didn’t know what I was looking for. I didn’t even know whether I wanted to be in media, servicing or creative.
One CD even told me “So you think you’re good enough to be in advertising just because you edited your college magazine?” That hurt! Anyway, I never gave up hope. And I have been fortunate enough to work in some of the best places in India today: Ogilvy, Contract, Publicis India and Scarecrow.
And the CD? Well, last I knew the agency had closed down.
Tell us about your recent work campaign?
Scarecrow is just 5 months in Delhi. And we have done a fair amount of work. Recently, we re-launched MVL mobile phones with the tag-line Greed is Good.
It comes from a very basic insight that deep down, everyone wants more. So India’s independence was a Mahatma’s greed. Winning the world cup was a captain’s greed. And reaching the moon was man’s greed. Greed is good. It propels mankind forward.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
Piyush Pandey: Piyush Pandey elevated Hindi copywriting to an art form. Before him, the agency was ruled by English-speaking writers. Piyush crashed the party and made everyone else sit up and take notice with “Chal meri luna.” I have interacted with Piyush while I was in Ogilvy. I have seldom see a more driven man in advertising. All he had to give was one line. It would immediately spark off a million different ideas.
Alok Nanda: Ever since Alok Nanda wrote the press ads for Mauritius Tourism, I became a believer. Each alphabet in those ads were diamonds. The half page ad, strewed with carefully-constructed words, transported you to this magical place called Mauritius. And it must have been a tough ask especially for a beautiful island where it would have been easier to just show pictures.
SportsStar: If it is possible for a brand to be a role model, it is this. In our early days, we used to wait eagerly for The Hindu to read the latest SportsStar ad. And it never failed to disappoint me. They were funny, they were wicked, and they never failed to surprise me. (see attached file for some SportsStar ads done by Ravi Eshwar, another fantastic colleague of mine in Ogilvy, Bangalore.)
Who was the most influential personality on your career in Advertising?
There were two. The first, Vidur Vohra. He is one of the finest writers of the country. He once made me re-write an NIIT bodycopy 38 times till I got it right. In fact, I don’t even know if I got it right. The 38th time, I went up to him and told him to sack me if this version wasn’t correct. He was kind enough to approve it.
The second was Rajiv Rao. Rajiv Rao (along with the late Mahesh) were heading creative when I was in Ogilvy, Bangalore. Working with him was a crash course on how to think of good ideas quickly, and then to keep honing them. It was also a lesson on how to be hungry, and yet be humane in this schizophrenic advertising world.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
From the man on the street. From my mother. From my 2 year old daughter, From the DTC bus conductor. From the auto-drivers and taxi drivers. From Rakhi Sawant. From the man who operates the lift. From everywhere.
Tell us something about the Scarecrow work environment.
Scarecrow is a concept. Before I was asked to set up the Delhi branch, I spent almost 6 months discussing with Raghu and Manish about the kind of place they wanted it to be.
Amidst all the discussion, the one thing was clear: An allegiance to good ideas. Period.
It’s simple. Straight-forward. And leaves no room for any ambiguity. Individual egos don’t come into play. And all ideas are seen through one filter… is this idea good enough to be on the Scarecrow credential presentation?
Tell us about your first job in Advertising.
My first job was in Ulka FCB. I stayed there for a few months and then joined Contract. And Contract was a hot place of buzzing creative minds.
Those were heady days in Contract, Delhi. Peep into a cubicle and you’d see Dibakar Banerjee deep in conversation with Jaideep Sahni, Shantanu Moitra and Pradeep Sarkar. Another cubicle would have Syeda Imam jamming with Vidur Vohra and Bhupesh Luther.
The corridor used to be brimming with rockstars like Raghu Bhat, Manish Bhatt and Emmanuel Upputuru.
A few months down the line, V Sunil joined Contract from Lowe.
Yes, Contract was the place to be in the 90s. In fact, even today, the DNA of Contract hasn’t changed much.
What do you think of the state of Print advertising right now? At least, here in India, the released work is most often too sad.
The good news is, its no longer about a Print ad or a TVC. It’s more about having a conversation with the consumer. Sure, Print and TV will still be there, but it will be a subset of the idea. Together they come together to form a contagious story.
And more importantly, will people forward it to their friends? Will they contribute to it? Will they have their own take on it?
And brand managers will ask, what’s the social currency of this idea?
Do you think brands who’s advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
Awards Vs. Brand work, the eternal fight.
I think brands that are honest with the consumer do well in the market. Honest brands become popular. And they are the ones who are having a conversation with the consumer. And you don’t have to be boring to have a conversation with the consumer.
I have been fortunate enough to do Me and Meri Maggi (Season 1) for Maggi. Were we thinking of awards when we did it? No. We just wanted to have a conversation with the consumer. Along the way it got over a lakh responses, and picked up 2 metals at Goafest.
What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Be hungry. Because he who is hungry, always wins. I love taking the example of Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. Brian Lara was probably the more talented of the two. It was sublime to watch Lara unleash a cover drive.
But Sachin is hungrier. And look where he is today.
Your dream project?
To advertise for Victoria’s Secret lingerie.
To work on a campaign for a large sports extravaganza: Like the Olympic games, or the FIFA World Cup.
Your upcoming campaigns, if you can talk about it
That is a question and an answer.
Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Woody Allen, for being the funniest man in the world.
Paris Hilton, for successfully turning herself into a famous brand.
What’s on your iPod?
Indian Ocean, the Dewarists Series and U2.
Mac or PC?
Neither. Just a pocket Moleskin notebook and Purple microtip pen.