Shahir Ahmed is a hotshot creative with TeamYR Dubai
Why are you in Advertising?
Because it’s the only desk job in the world that pays you to have fun.
Did you always want to get into advertising?
Without any exaggeration, I wanted to write ads since I was 14. Wrote my first ad when I was 18. Wrote my last ad 4 hours ago.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
If I had to choose a hero, it would have to be Saul Bass. Probably one of the best designers who ever lived. He made movie title sequences cool before they were cool, his posters are now expensive works of art and his logos are still widely and unwittingly copied. What I like best about his work is that it’s simple and obvious. And the fact that you can’t take your eyes off it.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in advertising?
In the order that I met them professionally: Sampath Kumar, Elsie Nanji, Mohammed Khan, Suresh Manian, Vikram Gaikwad, Sam Ahmed, Syam Manohar, Uday Sankar, Adil Khan, Kartik Iyer, Nadine Ghossoub and Komal Bedi Sohal.
How has advertising changed over the course of your career? Is execution/art direction more important than it used to be? Do you think advertising has become more clever and less intelligent?
Good advertising has always been about content. That hasn’t changed. The business is still about ideas. The sad news is that craft is dead. Somewhere along the line we killed the art in our day to day work. So instead of artists, we’ve become mere professionals.
How is advertising in Dubai different from India and SE Asia?
Same shit, different postcode.
What would you advice youngsters who want to work overseas?
Frog. Must. Leave. Pond.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Same place as everyone else. The looming deadline.
Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
I can’t believe we’re still discussing this. Let me keep this simple. Brands don’t need to win advertising awards. Brands need to be relevant to their audience. In any highly competitive market category, a brand that is relevant and has a standout idea tends to do better. Advertising work with standout ideas tends to wins awards.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit advertising?
Sure. All creative people are born dissatisfied. But just like smoking, advertising is habit-forming and fucking hard to give up.
What makes a good Creative Director?
A good Creative Director is not afraid of being wrong.
What are your views on Scam Advertising?
My beef with scamvertising is that it can turn good creatives into spineless cowards who buckle under the first sign of real world pressure. A scam project has no client interference, no meddling from the accounts team, no possibility of negative feedback from consumers and no real pressure to build on brand equity. Once they’re used to this, creatives find it too arduous to fight for their ideas on real briefs. Consequently, an agency’s real work becomes shit and meaningless. And our newspapers and TV shows get polluted by brainless dross. Sure, scam ads are a good way to vent and explore. They’re an easy and reliable way to become famous (and rich). They’re certainly fun to look at. But just like Jessica Rabbit, they can’t love you back.
We hardly get to see Illustration based Art Direction. What do you think is the reason? Is it that we don’t have any inspiring illustrators or is it the Client?
The new age of art people don’t trust traditional illustration because they don’t understand it. It’s counter-intuitive to them. They’ve grown up in a world where real artists don’t paint any more but place disembodied cow heads in glass boxes. Where hand-drawn animation has given way to pixels and video games have become photo real. It’s the age of digital manipulation and visual trickery. Not of charcoal on paper. Gone are the days when you could bring a girl to your apartment to show her your etchings. But there are creatives who resist. Campbell Doyle Dye has done some startling work with illustration in recent years.
Who would you want to spend a dinner with?
With Adolf Hitler, a bottle of wine and a loaded Walther PPK.
Whats on your iPod?
Music and porn. Mostly porn.
Mac or PC?
I shall not dignify this question with a proper response.