Manu spent his childhood in a huge joint family with no one from advertising or art or music or any creative background and his parents worked hard as teachers in government schools, saving all they could to give their 2 young boys a good future in an English medium school, St. Mary’s. He always wanted to be a doctor. But never took his studies seriously after class 8th. He had been a DU student for 5 years without a degree in B.Sc. Mathematical Sciences. Manu, in spite of his father telling him that he will never get through IIT Entrance exam, prepared for it, but never got through it. He used to do sketches and banner designs in school, but it never occurred to him or his folks that he could have a good career in something he enjoyed … art. He kept discovering. From working in an internet cafe to get free access to internet and downloading fonts for Rs.1000 a month, to an event management agency to a web development company, to a DM firm to a media house at KG Marg and then to advertising…it’s been a road of discovery for him. He loves well written long copy advertisements, typography, photography, home cooked food and has a very high level of tolerance.
Why are you into Advertising?
Going with the flow. Wherever life takes me. I never wanted to do anything particular in life or be somebody great. I am just following where it takes me and wants me to be. If life wants me to be in advertising then I am enjoying the ride it takes you on to. A ride of a lifetime.
Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
You have won your own set of awards. How has that impacted your career?
Not much. Because I don’t have much of them . Awards do have a long term impact on ones career and others around. They do give you confidence to do what you want to do and you can take those risks too. They could be dangerous as there are a lot of expectations. Which may or may not turn out to be as expected.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
My childhood was a waste. I used to follow my younger brother’s classmates who were much more talented and creative than anybody around…Robert of Mad – a famous show on Pogo and Rohit ‘Badmash’ Thakur. Later when I was in college, my friends were my role models.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in Advertising?
Here are some of them:
Naved Akhtar / Freddy Birdy
David Droga: He is the most admired and hard working guy on the planet.
Erik Vervroegen: He makes brands out of teams working for him.
Viral Pandey: He still works with the enthusiasm of a newbie.
Jaideep Mahajan (JD): Fantastic creative director, brilliant and hard-working.
Ajay Ahluwalia: One of the most polished writers/thinkers and a “dude”.
Daniel Upputuru: One of the very few talented and well read art directors with style.
Dushyant Pal Singh: The best copywriter around, today.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Books, typography and design websites, talented/hardworking people and myself.
Tell us something about the work environment at Leo Burnett…
It’s fun environment. It’s like a fun ‘n’ food village. The whole culture is about converting work into fun. Some of the industry’s most talented and creative people hungry for good work are being ably led by terrific creative head – Sainath Saraban. This place rocks. It is, I think, the only place which makes you feel that you are in advertising and not a call centre. The culture flows down from Pops ( KV Sridhar ), who, being the oldest, is the youngest of all the people working at Leo Burnett.
Do you have any kind of a program to nurture and train young talent?
A “program” cannot help in any way to “nurture” and train young talent. Young talent needs help and guidance and not a fixed set of rules. They need to be understood and advised. Not told.
What about new and young film makers/photographers? Do you consciously keep looking for newer talent and try someone completely new?
My favourite question. “Young” doesn’t necessarily mean “new”. Sometimes “olds” can come up with something so amazing and new that it becomes difficult for the young to digest. I do look out for talented film makers and photographers and love to experiment against some rules set by others. Well most of the times it is difficult for people to see things in a new light or from a new angle and open up their minds. They like to see and depend on what they have been trained/programmed on “how to do” all their lives that they refuse to accept new and original. They compare with what has been done in the past to come to a conclusion, which they think is “safe”.
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?
1: It is sad and it will remain sad if we keep doing headlines meant to be in Hindi, in English. We can do “award winning work in English” only. If there’s a brief for a Hindi press ad, we try to pass it onto some junior with no experience whatsoever. We make fun of our regional language press ads. What are we doing? Did Piyush Pandey write “Miley sur mera tumhara” in English? He would not have been in advertising this long! Get my drift?
2: Lack of good writing. How many copywriters can actually write? Most of the copywriters think that the art director will do some magic to their lousy written copy full of grammatical errors.
Why do you think it has lost the shine? Why are the younger lot more interested in TV?
Because having more films in one’s folio will get him/her more money and a faster designation rise than having more press ads and mainline work. When one goes for an interview, the interviewer wants to see more “width” in ones work than just print work or AV’s or posters. That’s why more and more youngsters are writing less, actually they don’t even know how to write a line, forget long copy ads…and concentrating more on films/TV as they can escalate themselves to a higher ground without much/any effort.
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?
Web is easy. Click here. Click there. Like this. Share that. Spend all the time in the world by reading what others have to say or what others are showing off. Is this all we know of digital advertising? Is Facebook the start and end of digital campaigns? I don’t think young people want to work on the internet, but yes they would love to head for more adventurous entrepreneurial ventures on the web. The quality of people in advertising has been affected and it’s not because of the internet. It’s because we try to become who we are not. We, as an advertising agency try to be a direct marketing agency, an event agency, a 3D design house, a digital hot shop….
Instead of hiring good people with independent thinking and new ways of working, we hire people who would listen to us and do what we tell them to do. There are people who feel insecure, and they in turn make more people insecure.
Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
Some of them certainly do well in their respective markets, both nationally and internationally. But, yes, most of the work that wins looks like a scam, executed beautifully to fit the requirements of the award shows.
What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Dream, work hard and be brave.
What is your dream project?
To design the Indian currency.
Mac or PC?
I don’t like any. No, seriously. It doesn’t matter what gadgets or tools or machines you use. They are just small things people love to show-off. What matters is what you create using any! Both are equally good and powerful.
Who would you like to take out for dinner?
What’s on your iPod?
Autechre, Best of Beatles, Coldplay-X&Y, David Guetta, Lynyrd Skynyrd- God&Guns, Morning Ragas, Olafur Arnalds-Found songs, Best of Skid Row, Ted Talks, Osho, Kasabian-Velociraptor