Agency Profiles

Merry Men : Agency Profile

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.

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Tailor: Independent Brand Building Company

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Tailor is an independent creative agency based in the green Chembur suburb of Mumbai and is spearheaded by four senior Creative Directors. Founded by Kaushik Mitra (ex-Leo Burnett) in mid-2010, the team includes ex-colleagues Kiran Chandorkar (Art), Gopal MS (Copy) and Sadanand Narvekar (Art). The senior team have between over an average 15 years of experience across categories and have won over 100 domestic and international advertising awards. Tailor works by spending quality time on each brand, understand the category, and then gain insights on the potential consumer who will buy into the brand. The focus at Tailor is customised creative ideas.

Why are you in advertising?
When I was growing up in Calcutta in the 1980s and 90s. I used to enjoy quizzing, reading the newspaper, Reader’s Digest, India Today and various other magazines. In school, I used to enjoy writing essays, as writing let me interconnect my learnings from various fields. I learnt about the existence of ad agencies from a close friend in school whose family owned an agency. Before that I used to think companies create their own ads. The quality of ads on mainline newspapers were quite smart in those days, and I started looking out for the key number. Soon, I became familiar with names such as Trikaya Grey, Ogilvy, Contract, Clarion. Secretly, I started imagining a career as an ad writer, though publicly I opted to study science in class XI and was preparing to crack the American universities. Luckily, I didn’t receive 100% scholarship in the American colleges that accepted me and I opted to major in Economics from Calcutta University. It was in this phase that I could become more brave and started applying at agencies. In July 94, I started off at Clarion Calcutta as a copy trainee at a princely salary of Rs 2000. After that, I have never had to consider another profession. Even now, when I hear about ex-colleagues dabbling in Bollywood, it does not excite me. Advertising is what I love, though I agree it can serve as a training ground to almost any other profession.

What made you start Tailor?
Though I love advertising, I hate watching ads on TV. Most of the ads today are rubbish. I zap channels to run away from stupid stuff that tries to entertain, but is usually completely disconnected from a product or its benefit.
I think in the last few years specially, our business has become completely personality driven. Today, National Creative Directors and Chairmen are more famous than the agency they work for. They try to protect and enhance their reputation by doing a certain type of work. Even the people they surround themselves with are usually meant to extend their style or line of thinking. Somewhere, the need to do work according to a brand’s personality has been completely forgotten.
I started Tailor in mid-2010 because I didn’t want to be part of this trend. I first invited Kiran Chandorkar (ex-Leo Burnett) to join me as Art Creative Director. Then together we invited Sadanand Narvekar (ex-McCann) and MS Gopal (ex-Ogilvy) to come in as additional art and copy Creative Directors. We had all worked together in Leo Burnett, Mumbai, and were familiar with each other’s strengths. The idea was to create a common platform where a variety of ideation and design skills could merge and help us provide a wider, richer set of solutions. We wanted to avoid falling into the trap best captured by the expression ‘Those who only carry a hammer tend to look upon every problem as a nail.’
Tailor in its ownhumble way attempts to provide bespoke, customized solutions. Every job for us starts from the scratch and is decided not by what we are strong in, but by what is needed for a particular client and the situation the brand finds itself in. There are no recycled scripts or ‘one size fits all’ solutions. In fact, they need not even be ads. They could be product design or a service innovation, and later ads to communicate the same. I think this is what advertising agencies were meant to do but somewhere started competing amongst themselves with their own self-branding.

What has been the reaction of clients and industry to this kind of thinking?
At Tailor, we like to stick to the work and not really go around hogging the limelight. In fact, this is my first interview in media where we are talking about the company and its philosophy. I think, most large-sized network agencies are inward looking and they continue to do what they think is working for them. I don’t think they stop to analyse what’s wrong and correct the course very often; unless the pointers come from a regional who’s who.
I find clients to be more open. Though we still end up doing a lot of print, outdoor, television and ads for the traditional media, there are many clients we meet who are looking for alternative thinking. They are open, they’re willing to hear ideas. We have presented a condominium design to a builder client. A popular newspaper got excited when we shared with them a totally new design of their paper starting from the front page. So the process has started with more and more independent agencies joining in, focusing deeper`on a tighter array of brands and thinking of unlazy solutions.

Do you think the advertising business in India is undergoing a change?
As a culture, India doesn’t change very quickly. We take longer to attach and detach, and that’s a good thing. But in the last few years, many independent agencies have started and are churning out some of the best work on view. We can see the reactions clients have to this change also. Today, some of the India’s most valuable brands such as Pepsi, Times of India, Airtel and Audi are hiring independent agencies for work which is cheaper-faster-better. This is great news, and we seem to be following what happened in America 20-25 years ago with the start of Widen-Kennedy, Carmichael Lynch, Crispin Porter Bogusky and many others.

Is there any agency which serves as a role model for you while building Tailor?
The word ‘agency’ reeks of a broking house model. You choose the media and give us an X percent commission. You choose a filmmaker and give us a Y percent commission. We are not a broker. Tailor is an independent brand building company which works on a fee model and we are not consciously modeling ourselves on anybody, though we are sure we are not the only ones thinking along these lines.

Is there any particular work that you have done which has helped build a brand?
Yes. Most of the work we have done in the short span of three years or so has greatly helped our clients. The target audiences and product categories have been different every time. For instance, we helped the Times of India Group launch only their second regional language newspaper in the last 50 years (after Navbharat Times). This was the launch of ‘EiSamay’ (Modern Times) in Kolkata. The brand decided to urge the modern-day Bengali reader to not just bask in the rich heritage of the past, but to create his own niche in the world. The tagline translated into English was, ‘Make these times your times’.
Since most of the TV channels in West Bengal are owned by rival groups, we put together a music video to be played in clubs and concerts. For that, we got together India’s first folk-rock band which started in 1975, and five subsequent bands that have taken the genre forward. The theme of the launch commercial cum music video cum brand anthem was to show how the baton of creativity is taken forward by subsequent generations. The newspaper is today the No.2 read in Bengal.

Similarly, we helped the US-based Topps Sports & Entertainment Co. launch a trading card game in India based on IPL. Targeted largely at kids and their parents, the Cricket Attax cards encourage a game of T20 with all its player auctions and strategies, but without needing a large ground, the bat and the ball. There are many more examples of brands which we have launched successfully available on the Tailor website.

How important is strategy to having good creative?
The thinking behind the work has to be smart before the work can be smart. At Tailor, we spend a lot of time understanding brands, the category and the consumer before we start the process of creative storytelling. Though we are a creative driven brand building company, our first focus is strategy and finding the right insight.

How can aspiring fresh talent work with you at Tailor?
This is something we talk about quite often at Tailor. When we meet starry-eyed youngsters who have just graduated from art and communication schools, we see most of them not quite sure where to start. Most of them want to start at a big agency because of their reputation. Some of the lucky few manage to get in; until they start working on stuff nobody else wants to work on, and then they just disappear into a huge cesspool of talent. This creates huge amount of disillusionment.
Then there are others who don’t know how to present ideas and worse, what is currently wrong with their portfolio. So they just keep hearing from Creative Directors ‘We will get back to you’ and never hear what they need to hear.
Sadanand Narvekar, senior Art Creative Director at Tailor, is very keen to change this. He spends a lot of time meeting fresh art graduates, tells them what is right, what is wrong, and sometimes when they need more time than just one-two meetings, he takes them under his wing and trains them until they become industry-ready. I think this is a great way to learn on the job what they can’t teach you at the art schools.
Who would your creative team like to take out for dinner?
Our creative team has a very diverse set of inspirations. I know it is fashionable for Creative Directors to look at non-advertising people for inspiration, but for me the people who motivate me to perform better at work are usually the advertising greats. I think I will pick Marcello Serpa.

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The Tailor office looks as inspiring as its work:

 

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Aaiba – Creative Design Studio based in Mumbai.

“AAIBA is a design & brand consulting studio. The name AAIBA was created from the mixing of two words, ‘AAI’ = Mother in Marathi and ‘BABA’ = Father in Marathi. So… ‘AAIBA’ for the simple reason that they Inspire us. Inspire us to give birth to a child called ‘brand’, inspire us to bring the child up to the level he make his mark in the world called ‘market’. “

Is Aaiba primarily into identity design and brand communication? What all services do you provide?
Yes! We are into brand communication business.
We provide:
Strategic brand development consultancy
Brand identity designing
Creative designing for all Medias
Film publicity designing.
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Dynamite Design

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Dynamite is a full-service broadcast design and branding agency based out of Bombay.  It helps television channels brand themselves, their shows, and related properties. Dynamite also assists brands like Smaaash and the V-Spot build their identity.

Is Dynamite Design primarily into identity design and brand communication? What all services do you provide?
Yes, we are primarily a branding company for the media industry.  We provide full turnkey services for broadcast design such as channel packaging, show packaging, idents and promos (both live-action and animated), off-air design, and identity design.  We even have a list of talented directors who have a long-standing track record in producing award winning ad-films and promos.

Tell us about your designers/animators. Did they go into fine art or design schools? How do you pick them up?
We have a varied set of colleagues, most of them are trained in their particular skill set, some are self-taught, and all are passionate about what they do. Mostly, people have joined us from past associations and word of mouth.  Two of our designers were recruited with the help of headhunters.
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August Communications: Agency Profile

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August is a communications agency led by Vivek Dhyani, Ambar Sharan Lal and myself (Manish Bhatt). It’s been around since 2006. Over the years we have serviced accounts like IFFCO Tokio, Times OOH, Pizza Hut Delivery, Barista, Spice Mobility and Conscient Group.

What made you start August Communications?
The three of us had worked together at the beginning of our careers. While Vivek and Ambar kept on working in mainstream advertising, and getting longer and longer job titles, I had started dabbling with start-ups by 2002. By 2006, Vivek and I were already old friends with a common love for Old Monk and Hindi Poetry, both of us a little jaded with regular jobs. So we decided to quit our jobs to start this creative outfit called ‘Sex Creatives’. I guess we just wanted to work at our own pace and have some fun in the process. Our first office was Vivek’s living room. Then, to our surprise, we started getting business. A few hundred bounced mails later, we changed our name to August Communications. Soon, Ambar joined us to take care of the business end.

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Salt Studios : Agency Profile

Salt is a brand communications and creative services studio. For Salt, creating a brand is not about giving smart attire but making a personality statement which looks, thinks talks and walks the brand’s vision.

Is Salt Studio primarily into identity design and brand communication? What all services do you provide?
Our expertise is in the following verticals –
•    Strategic Branding & Design Consulting ( this includes identity design and brand communication)
•    Broadcast Branding
•    Media Services
•    Films

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Multia Studios

Multia is studio full of colours, passion, play and ideas.

Is Multia Studio primarily into identity design and brand communication? What all services do you provide?
We absolutely love to create a face and a heart for a business. It is exhilarating when we are able to give a business an identity that is unique and conveys what the clients endeavour as effortlessly as possible and sticks. So, yes, we do identity design, brand communication, web branding and print media. We also provide content and other allied services.
 
Tell us about your designers/animators. Did they go into fine art or design schools? How do you pick them up?
If they like triangles and Din, we hire them. But jokes apart, our concern is not just about being ‘pretty’ or about what kind of qualifications you have or what hotshot school you are from. The important thing is taste. It is about having an eye for something that is interesting, something that would speak to us and to a larger world. You can learn the craft, but taste and feel are generally innate. You can’t take a course on it. Also, a good designer has that instinct to soak in what is cool, smart and durable. It is something that shows early.
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Harshvardhan Kadam @ Inkbrushnme

 

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tell us about Inkbrushnme ?
Inkbrushnme actually originated in 2005 as my final year campaign project when I didn’t have a budget for photography and it required a lot of effort, models, locations. I didnt want to compromise on my creative thought process. Time was running out and our display was in 4/5 days. I could not sleep and during that sleepless night, I came up with the idea of making an ad campaign
on myself, a studio that creates illustrations. A concept like that never existed in our country as far as I knew. I created a few illustrations and on that night, some basic layouts and inkbrushnme was born. Those 4/5 days were one of the most productive days
of my entire life.

Later I went for a post grad to IDC, IIT B and soon after my studies a new life began.
A few years down the line, inky has been bouncing like a ping pong ball with a soul through various platforms related to Art, Design, Music & Entertainment. We develop projects which have a tremendous potential for exploring illustration to an extent no one has tried. We would like to illustrate on the moon if given a chance!

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Grandmother India

Grandmother is a design and communication studio based in Mumbai.

Is Grandmother India primarily into identity design and brand communication? What all services do you provide?
Grandmother India is a multi-disciplinary visual communication home. Grandmother nurtures imaginations to breed innovative creations that challenge conventional design standards. Strategic solutions, fresh perspectives and local designs with global aesthetics chalk out the best prescription to strengthen the aura of brands.

Our areas of expertise include:
•    Consultancy – Brand / Retail / Online / Way finding
•    Brand Identity Design
•    Print Design
•    Publication Design
•    Packaging Design
•    Environmental Design Solutions
•    Way Finding Solutions
•    Ambient Design
•    Event Design and Communication
•    Retail Design and Communication
•    Online Communication Strategy
•    Online Communication Consulting
•    UI + UX Design
•    Digital Content Generation(Video, 3D, Illustrations, Photo bank)
•    RIA Website & Interface Development
•    Interactive Multimedia Installation
•    Online Promotion (SEO, SEM, SMM)
•    Mobile + Tablet Web application
•    Sound Identity
•    Broadcast Design
•    Sound Design
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Elephant Design

Elephant is a strategic design consultancy established in 1989 in Pune. Today it has offices in Pune, Delhi & Singapore with more than 80 people across multi-disciplinary teams.
Key practices at Elephant are: Brand Strategy & Communication, Corporate Identity, Product Design, Packaging Design, Retail & branded Environments, Innovation Consulting.

Tell us about your designers. Did they go into fine art or design schools? How do you pick them up?
Elephant is a destination place to work. Our Principal Designers come with design education from premier design institutes like NID, IDC (IIT). Some of our designers are also from newer Design Institutes like MIT. We also have people with background in applied art & commercial art who have gained tremendous experience in design led thinking over the years.
We work on some of the best design projects that India has. So we have a constant flow of aspirants from all over to join us. We pick them based on their design thinking aptitude, articulation skills & ability to work their best in a team environment.

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