Anantha Narayan is a Mining Engineer turned XLRI Grad turned light bulb salesman turned account executive turned copywriter turned blogger turned short film maker turned columnist turned word-minter turned Facebook junkie turned Delhi Daredevils supporter. In his free time, he runs the Republic of Anantha, doubles up as Creative Director of 1pointsize, plays Chief Devil at Lucifer Labs and lends a hand in steering Albert Dali Naming Consultants.
Why are you into advertising?
It’s the only field that views restlessness as kinetic energy, laziness as potential energy, lack of diplomatic finesse as honesty, bad dress sense as irreverence, and sense of humor as creativity. For a chap like me who has a healthy disdain for hierarchy and the rat race, it feels like home.
Tell us about your recent ad campaigns.
Chennai is probably the toughest market for a creative person in India. Out here, there are way too many talented people chasing brands that rarely believe in doing good work. So for creative jollies, one has to look beyond Chennai. At 1pointsize, we work on a wonderful brand called Stori. It’s based out of Bangalore. To launch their new line of full cotton clothing, we arrived at the theme ‘Supernatural cottons’. The accent was on the supernatural. The print campaign featured supernatural beings flipping for the Stori man. If you’ve seen the kind of apparel work that gets released these days, I would classify the new Stori campaign as stand-out work. Another campaign that was deeply fulfilling was our un-real estate way of launching Akshaya Today. The campaign created a record of sorts by selling 1000 apartments in 3 days. In my view, the Akshaya Today work should easily rank as the most effective campaign we’ve created in recent times.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
When you’re not the sharpest kid at home, you do look up to your siblings. That said, my mom and dad are my biggest role models. My mom for her ceaseless creativity in whatever she does. And dad for staying humble and pure, no matter how high he rose.
Ivan Lendl used to be my childhood hero for his epic dismissal of Wimbledon with his ‘Grass is for cows’ statement. Like all Tamilians, I used to adore Rajnikant for starting as a bus conductor and ending up as the giga mega super star of the multiverse. When I became a copywriter, I became a fan of David Ogilvy – not for his writing style but for entering advertising at the ripe old age of 38 and become its best known icon.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in advertising?
I had the fortune of working with four giants who proudly chose to work in South India:
Rajesh Ramaswamy (Ex-ECD, McCann-Erickson South): The man who gave me my first job as a writer. The effortless ease with which he spouts ideas and the supreme elegance of his prose is the benchmark for so many of us, down South.
Sharad Haksar (CEO, 1pointsize): His ability to solve complex advertising problems with a strikingly simple visual, his intuitive marketing genius, his ballsiness and relentless reinvention of self, has often left me in total awe.
CP Sajith (My art partner for 13 years): He taught me the power of typography and the class that art direction can bring to the table. He was the first demonstrate to me that it’s possible to do inspiring work sitting in Chennai.
Thomas Xavier (the Seer of Orchard): I haven’t seen a higher mind in advertising in India. In my view, he should be THE thought leader of our industry. Deftness in cracking the communication strategy, translating the concept into a beautiful advertising idea and expressing it with anecdotal brilliance are a few things one learnt from dear Thomas.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I don’t know. I think there must be some thoughtmosphere out there. All of us just download ideas from that realm. And pretend that we came up with it.
Tell us about your biggest challenge as the creative director of 1pointsize.
Like I said, Chennai is the not the best of places for a creative soul. Everyone wants bread and butter advertising. No one wants the wine and cheese. In such a constricting creative environment, it’s difficult to keep the faith. Even more testing, is the challenge of finding, grooming and retaining talent. Big ad agencies have abandoned the task of talent management. So smaller agencies like 1pointsize have to bear the cross. Given these constraints, producing work of international caliber, year on year, is a mighty challenge. We’ve been managing fine for 11 years now.
Tell us something about the agency environment. With such a large team, how does that affect individuality and creativity?
Correction. We’re not at all large. 1pointsize is small by definition and design. We’ve willingly opted to keep it that way because we wish to enjoy what we do. The bigger you grow, the more diffused you get and you become one more factory. 1pointsize has never been a factory. Never will.
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. Are agencies ignoring released print?
There was a time when people used to collect print ads in India. I doubt if it’s happening now. What we see all around us in newspapers and magazines is lazy advertising that no one reads or remembers. Clients and advertising business heads have to take the blame for this mess. The obsession for creating stock photo led template ads has to stop if we have to change the game. If you don’t have the moneys for a shoot, for god’s sake try illustrations, typography, long copy or just a good old sparkling headline-led campaign. Instead, all that is dished out is wallpaper.
Tell us something about Albert Dali naming consultants.
Albert Dali Naming Consultants is a venture founded by PC Muralidharan and me. To my knowledge it’s the only homegrown end-to-end naming company in India. From pins to planes, and pets to planets, we have the skill sets and tie-ups in place to name anything in any language. We truly believe that a name is the shortest story of the brand. Thankfully for us, many start-ups, and even MNCs have bought into our thinking. We have the largest players in switches, cigarettes and information technology working with us. It can only get better from here as naming is huge abroad. In India, we’ve just scratched the surface.
Pick and tell us about one of all your past campaigns, your personal favourite…
One advantage of being in a small agency that’s finicky about its work is you get to do a lot of fun stuff. Good stuff. Instead of picking one favourite, I’d choose three: the Stori ‘Clothes with a twist’ campaign that continues till date, the Perri Alley ‘Leaves’ campaign and the category-defining work we did for Beissel sewing machine needles.
Do you think brands that win advertising awards, do well in the market?
For all those gentlemen, who somehow seem ashamed of winning awards, and tar genuine ideas-based work with the silly label of ‘scam ads’, here’s news for you: 1pointsize has built truckloads of small brands with award-winning advertising. We’ve done this for 11 years now sitting in godforsaken Chennai. Each of the brands that we’ve helped build are now leaders in their own right in their market of operation. They would never have reached that destination without their desire to create award winning advertising.
What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Never listen to a word of advice. Find your own mantra.
Mac or pc?
Mac is for the verbally challenged. PC, any day!
What’s on your iPod?
The Sound of Silence.