Interview: Anil Kakar

Anil started his advertising career close to 18 years ago and has worked with agencies such as Leo Burnett, Enterprise Nexus, Ambience Publicis, SSC&B Lintas and Percept Hakuhodo. Along the way, he has helped build brands such as Canon, Panasonic, Pantaloon, Taj Hotels, FedEx, Killer Jeans, Westside, Raymond, Siyaram, The Times Of India, Femina, The Economic Times, Brand Equity,, Pierre Cardin, Thums Up, Lakme, Vicks, Nerolac Paints, Park Avenue, to name a few. Anil’s work has been featured in several award shows and advertising festivals. His work for The Times Of India was the first Indian campaign to have won the Campaign of the Year award at the Asia Pacific Adfest; the campaign also picked up the same award at the Abby Awards. His work for Vladivar Vodka and Georgia Gullini clothing was showcased in the international Archive magazine. At SSC&B, Anil’s creative work helped the agency win the ‘Most improved agency of the year’ title, moving up from Rank 52 to Rank 18 in less than a year, within the Lowe network. As Bombay Creative Head at Percept, his work helped the agency garner more than 40 awards over a span of 2 years. Anil has been a member of the jury at the New York Festivals, Goafest and the Outdoor Advertising Awards. Anil regularly contributes articles to FHM magazine and is also working on his first fiction novel.

Why are you into advertising?
When I was a kid, my father owned an ad agency. Back then, there were no computers and he used to manually cut typefaces printed on bromides. He used to cut it very carefully, with a pair of scissors set the type for each ad with his own hands. As a teenager, I couldn’t help but get fascinated by the whole process. Often, I used to help him source typefaces from Letraset and various international magazines and I think that exposed me to the wonder of advertising; unknowingly, it helped me find beauty in typography, writing and art. Thanks to him, I could tell a Bodoni from a Futura, while I was still in school. In retrospect, this went a long way in defining the future. As it turned out, a few years later, my father got a job and so we had to move out and I found myself in Bombay and that marked the turning point of my life. I remember, a long, long time ago, while I was still wet behind the ears, I visited the CAG exhibition where I happened to see the Mauritius Tourism campaign and an electric sort of feeling ran through my spine and that was when I decided, I should be in advertising.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I did a Copywriting Course from AAAI and yes, I even graduated from the Mohammed Khan School of Advertising.

With your busy schedule as an ECD, do you have enough time left to indulge in Creative?
I follow a hands-on approach to work. I believe it’s the only way to stay focused on the creative output and the only way to keep your work fresh and contemporary. I’d be restless if I didn’t do at least an ad a week.

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
I’ve had no role models but I’ve certainly had the good fortune of meeting and working with a whole lot of wonderful and incredibly talented people. Some of them include Mohammed Khan, Rajiv Agarwal,  Sharmeen Mitha, Arun Kale, Agnello Dias, Ajay Chandwani, Elsie Nanji, K V Sridhar, Prashant Godbole, Zarvan Patel, Anand Halve and Vikram Gaikwad, among many others. Since I spent years working with these people, it’s quite obvious that they’ve had an impact on my work.

Who was the most influential personality on your career in Advertising?
Mohammed Khan. Without a doubt, he’s still the greatest Creative Director India has ever had. He’s easily the most honest, the most stylish, the most awe-inspiring and the most passionate advertising person I have ever met. I wish life had a rewind button and I could simply go back to the years I spent in Enterprise. Why can’t we have more creative directors like him?

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Arty museums, seedy bars, twitter, wikipedia, coffee shops, wherever I can get it from.

Tell us something about the work environment at Percept.
Percept has had a unique culture and a unique way of working. Since I had moved to Percept with my earlier boss, Ajay Chandwani, I found it a lot easier to bring in a creative culture, so to speak. We had a lot of fun producing some good work, some of which went on to win prestigious awards at Goafest, New York Festivals, Graphis and Montreux. It was quite exciting being part of the transformation, since it was the first time Percept had won so many awards.

Do you have any kind of a program to nurture and train young talent?
Percept does have knowledge sharing sessions every weekend, wherein renowned professionals are invited from the industry to share their knowledge and help train young talent.

What about new and young film makers/photographers? Do you consciously keep looking for newer talent and try someone completely new?
It depends on the nature of the project and the skill-sets required to execute the job. Obviously, the creative output is sacrosanct and if someone younger can bring more value to the table, I’ll be open to it.

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? Why do you think it has lost the shine? Why are the younger lot more interested in TV? Is it because TV creative (after the script of course) is outsourced to a production house?
I think it’s really sad to see print and particularly, writing for print, die in this country. It’s equally sad to see the younger lot ignoring print completely. There was a time when we used to fight among each other to work on a print campaign, but quite apparently, all that is now history. I think it’s bullshit when they say people don’t have the time to read, I think the real reason is that quite evidently, most writers are not writing any more and most planners and juries are not supporting writing any more. A premier Indian newspaper supplement once carried an article titled ‘The Death of Copy’. Ironically, the article was over 600 words in length. The article contradicted the very premise it was based on; that people don’t read any more. Last I checked, newspapers were still on the stands, blogs are gaining more importance and we see more and more bookstores than ever.  The fact is, when you write copy that is relevant and intriguing, people will read it;  when you have fun writing an ad, someone out there will have fun reading it.

About 12 years ago, all IIM and other B-School grads had advertising as their first choice of career option. Today it does not even feature in the list. How does that reflect in the quality of non-creatives in the industry? Is that one reason why the current print work sucks?
Great advertising is born out of a collaboration between a business insight and a disruptive idea. Obviously, it would be horribly wrong to have one without the other; that would most definitely affect the quality of any creative work and not just print alone. Now, more than ever, this industry needs as many bright thinkers as it can get.

More and more young people are web savvy and want to work on the internet or on more entrepreneurial ventures. Has that affected the quality of people advertising has been getting?
On the contrary, it’s helped push the envelope. It’s always good to have young, web savvy creative talent around, considering it’s common knowledge that the internet will gain even more ground as a medium, in the days to come. It’s also refreshing to see so many creative people start out independently. I firmly believe the next big creative revolution will be digitized and more often than not, the big ideas will come from
independent creative hotshops. Traditional advertising and beliefs will undergo a massive transformation and it will be exciting to witness a paradigm shift.

Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards do well in the market?
Without a doubt. According to The Gunn Report, more than 70% of the brands which win awards go on not just meet, but exceed sales targets. Advertising which wins awards obviously stands head and shoulders above the ones which don’t, and therefore gets noticed better and therefore, results in sales. It’s quite simple, really.

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Stay hungry. Stay foolish. Never, ever waste money on an expensive portfolio case;
all your employer cares about is what’s inside.

What is your dream project?
To work on a campaign for Volkswagen.

Mac or PC?
Mac. Dead argument, innit?

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Salman Rushdie. He’s got to be the most fascinating man on earth.

What’s on your iPod?
Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam, One Republic, The Fray, GMS and good ole’ Pink Floyd.

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8 thoughts on “Interview: Anil Kakar

  1. Santosh says:

    Kick ass ideas…great work

  2. Somesh Kakar says:

    His concepts are clear, language subtly incisive, making a dent. His ads make a lasting impression, distinctive – a class apart. Saying more wouldn’t be fair. He is my son – makes us proud.

  3. suraj says:

    “About 12 years ago, all IIM and other B-School grads had advertising as their first choice of career option. Today it does not even feature in the list. How does that reflect in the quality of non-creatives in the industry? Is that one reason why the current print work sucks?”

    Anil, do you think people joining advertising now are not up-to-the-mark? it seems a lot of people join advertising because they couldn’t do anything better. its obvious that quality is suffering.

  4. K V Sridhar says:

    Anil is one of the finnest copy writers this country has produced. A rare breed today. Keep going Anil..

  5. saumya says:

    loved the print work. you wrote the copy? who did the art?

  6. Anil Kakar says:

    Thanks Santosh. Thanks dad.

    Thanks so much Pops, you’re too kind 🙂

    Suraj: There are many talented people in the business,
    we just need a whole lot more.

    Saumya: Thanks. As for the art, here are the credits:

    Crystal: Manish Ajgaonkar
    Georgia Gullini: Mandar Wadke
    Ghetto: Manish Ajgaonkar
    Vladivar: Raj Kamble

  7. sachin gondhalekar says:

    liked it… pride of indian advertising… 🙂

  8. JC Sai Krishna says:

    Dint like the beer ad (football theme).

    The rest are very tough, there is a lot to learn from these ads.

    :The last two ads are big enough to read the copy, kindly please upload the bigger one.

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