Merry Men is a media neutral creative agency that loves audacious ideas, challenging the status quo, and of course being merry. We bring together the best of what a traditional and a digital agency have to offer – loads of experience, passion for ideas, a sound understanding of building brands, and youthfulness. We also pride ourselves on our strong ethics. For example we never test any of our concepts on animals because it would piss off our co-founder- Wagger, the in-house dog.
What made you start Merry Men?
When I saw the kind of integrated work that was happening abroad, where brands were taking ideas seamlessly across media and changing the rules, it made me want to do the same for brands in India. Basically a desire to create an agency that could be and act as a media-neutral solutions partner to brands.
Tell us about your Art Professionals. Did they go into fine art or design schools? How do you pick them up?
Actually we have never cared too much about art schools. A lot of agencies only pick art graduates but at Merry Men we look for nimbleness, flexibility and of course a good design sensibility/ taste. In fact almost all our art people have been from a non-art background. Our last art director was a trained pilot, and one of the guys in the current team actually came for a copywriting interview.
How would you define the design style at Merry Men?
Because we work trans media we have no defined style. We adapt according to the medium, brief and the idea. We believe that a style ties you down and it’s important to never get tied down. In fact we are proud that no two pieces of work done by us look or feel the same.
What does Merry Men do which sets it apart?
The ability to understand what’s needed in different media and deliver integrated solutions. We are also not an egoistic bunch. So we are always looking at co-creating, collaborating with talented folk and even jamming with the client to come up with awesome work for the brand. We love taking risks and experimenting, this we believe is the only way to create new ideas.
Do you think the advertising business in India is undergoing a change?
Yes, it is. Digital is no longer the stepchild in a marketing budget and has almost gone mainstream. Clients no longer want a digital idea for 10,000 Rs. Plus ideas are entering the digital workspace. Social Media is the bus that everybody wants to be on right now. Mobile is still nascent but growing. Which is why traditional agencies and networks are busy gobbling up agencies with any of these specialties.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
When you’re young your role models are based on mostly on bedtime stories you hear. One such story and role model was Robinhood, who led his Merry Men to victory against a might army simply because they believed in what they were doing and used unconventional warfare techniques. It told me that size was irrelevant and the only thing that mattered was how much you believed in your idea. It was the reason we called the agency Merry Men.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in Brand Building?
Bill Bernbach. Piyush Pandey. KS Gopal (EX NCD of Contract), Josy Paul, Richard Branson and Alex Bogusky.
How important is the focus on good brand idea in Merry Men?
Very important. We love good ideas. But increasingly the focus is on ideas that can spread.
Is there any particular work that you have done which has helped build a brand?
I don’t like talking about the past, so let me tell you about something we did recently. For a new dairy brand called Milky Moo which wanted to tell people that their milk didn’t have to be boiled, we created TVCs and other work that showed people in pop culture who boil a lot or get angry, like newscasters (one in particular) and moms-in-law in TV soaps. The idea was to have a calming influence on the entire country and tell them that neither they nor their milk needs to boil anymore. The campaign went across mediums, from TV to print to in-store and even social media, and really helped the brand clock healthy sales and register high awareness of their core proposition.
What do you feel about the state of design in Brand Building in India?
It’s at a very interesting juncture. Though our traditional design skills like print and brand identity are very good, we are not as good in the digital space. This is because art colleges are still not teaching students digital design in a big way. If designers want to remain relevant and competitive they need to master both.
Internet speed at Merry Men?
Seriously? Okay, fast.
Is it difficult to find good people for work ?
Absolutely. The number one problem.
Any other Indian agencies you admire?
None really. But i do like the work that’s coming out of Creativeland Asia and Happy Creative Services.
What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals? Would you advise them to take on advertising as a career option?
Join advertising only if your desire to express ideas for a brand is so strong you don’t mind the sleepless nights, reclusive lifestyle and loads of hard work.
Who would your team like to take out for dinner?
Narendra Modi. To get to know the real man.
What’s on the company iPod?
Stadium Arcadium by Red Hot Chilli Pepper.
Mac or PC?
Mac. Most definitely.
And the people: