advertising, Art, Branding and Communications

How to work with creative people

In a previous post, I talked about why all creative projects have last minute deadlines. In this one, I want to give my suggestions on exactly what to do in order to ensure your project gets completed before the intended deadline. A lot of it has to do with knowing how to work with creative people. As someone who has been on both sides, I have created a set of guidelines that helps me complete projects on time. Here are the three most important ones.

#1 Select the ‘right’ artist for the right job

Would you select Hulk to open a bottle of pickle? Probably not. It’s the same with creative projects. Yet, many marketing communications folks make the same mistake. A creative graphic designer and a DTP operator are two very different people. Of course you can ask a creative guy to follow your concept to a ‘T’, but you would be wasting your  money, and the designer would hate it.

#2 Avoid micro-managing, and offering color suggestions 

This works for almost any job, but especially makes no sense in creative field. Any decent creative professional prides himself or herself over the smallest choices that they make. Moving the icons / lines / circles 5 cms to the right or left, changing the text alignment, and worst – asking for a completely new layout would only make them plot for your murder. Needless to say, they will respond by not caring about your project, which will make it harder to get approvals from your seniors.

#3 Don’t leave things for ‘feeling’, follow your own brief like gospel truth 

A bad brief could be unclear,  or misguiding, but what’s worse is changing brief. Creative professionals, hate it when the brief ‘evolves’ midway on the project. It means they could be living a bad dream over and over again. It’s better to spell out everything from the beginning, and then stick to it. Asking for endless options will seldom produce better results. Most designers I know give their best shot first couple of times, and then lose interest faster than speed of light. It helps to ban these phrases:

  • Not feeling it
  • Needs to be crisper
  • Something is off
  • I don’t know… can we try…(Insert any thing here)

It might seem like designers are vane, and just incapable of ‘getting’ it, but they do know what makes thing look good. Not everything depends on it, but most of it does. Bad design can screw good products. It’s always more helpful if your designer likes you. Believe me, if they do, they are more likely to come up with special sauce that makes things perfect!

Art, Humanity, Poetry and Songs

A bad valentine


My love,  my dearest,
sultry goddess of my red seas
For you I should sail a thousand ships
and feed you the manna from the sky
But I am mortal, a rather incompetent one

So I struggle to tell you how much I adore you,
How my dreams and days converge when you are with me,
I struggle to tell you how I wait for the next meeting with you
But, know this, that I love you, like the last bloom of spring is loved,
Silently, and without drama, lest it might cause it to fall

by Harshad Karmalkar

advertising, Art, Branding and Communications, Experience, Marketing, Reflections and rumination

Why all creative projects have an ‘urgent’ deadline

timeAround four years ago, I co-founded Purple Rabbit. It was possibly the most glamorous decision of my life. In terms of life lessons, it still is. However, when the crowd of well-meaning soothsayers leaves, and your bank balance still shows a depressing figure, things get real. Anyone who has ever worked in an ad agency would tell you that behind all the glamour, there are deadlines. It doesn’t matter if you own the agency, the deadlines own everyone. And the question we must ask is :


Why aren’t design or any other creative projects planned better? What stops people in marketing and communications from indulging in meticulous planning that is hallmark of corporate life?


The short answer is, design is taken for granted, even by the designers.

Over the last few years, I have worked with many creative designers, and have understood that their mind works differently than lets say a content writer’s or even a project manager’s. My experience as a part-time designer has often helped me bridge this gap, and communicate with them in their language. However, quite often I have struggled to get projects done. The deadline keeps extending, with Client servicing complaining about lack of commitment on creative side, and designers complaining about lack of humanity on client servicing side. So whose fault is it? Perhaps it’s the collective culture that is to be blamed.

  • The maddening culture of ‘last minute stretch’ 

Since designers are temperamental beings, who need a lot of free time in order to come up with really creative output, their work culture usually lacks discipline. So, a project that needs to be worked at everyday for about twenty days, is put of in exchange of other ‘interesting’ projects, or even Youtubing random videos. In fact, here is a neat list of things designers procrastinate on.

  1. Watching movies or listening to music to ‘get inspiration’
  2. Playing games to ‘get inspiration’
  3. Going on smoking/tea/ “other” breaks for stress relief
  4. Taking up completely random, and sometimes even personal projects because they are in the mood.

However, before we put the whole blame on the designing community, we must understand why they do this?

  • Many layers of ‘buffers’ in Client Servicing 

The biggest fear of a Client servicing executive, is being found out as ‘unprofessional’, and losing the client.

Think about it, a Client servicing executive is a buffer between marketing communication and the creative team at the agency. However, their work involves a lot of coordination, with little creative input from them. This makes them eager to prove a point, and to make themselves appear to be ‘working hard’.They are also completely under the jackboot of the marketing communications department.  So a client servicing person, by virtue of being in this field, has to conduct the following set of activities.

  1. Keeping an extra buffer on ‘quality’ of the output, in hopes of completing the project sooner.
  2. Keeping an extra buffer on deadlines by having an ‘internal’ deadline.
  3. Promising an oversell to the client when none was required.

Then, can we blame the client servicing for creating this culture of ‘last minute delivery’? Of course not. Because they turn to these means due to behavior of Marketing Communications, or even marketing managers at client end.

  • Insecurity of marketing communications

Marketing communications professionals struggle with an existential crisis for better part of their career.


Unlike designers, marketing communications field has a more transactional relationship with creative projects. Usually a project is the means to an end, i.e. more publicity, and perhaps browney points from the management. Communications manager people often suffer from a secret insecurity complex, of not adding any real value to their company. To add to this, most have suffered an ‘escalation’ from the management because the agency they hired was unusually slow in producing the work.

In order to keep up appearances and to get a dose of self importance, communications usually employs following strategy.

  1. Reject ideas of the creative team in order to ‘align’ creative output to the brand.
  2. Have a long loop of emails to show that they have ‘worked’ at the project
  3. Provide abstract or vague briefs that do not include important marketing objectives.
  4. Keep an extra ‘buffer’ to ensure the calendar stays on track.

The big reveal. 

Let me tell you an open secret. Every designer worth his or her salt has a very good idea about what an ‘actual’ deadline for a project could be. This sixth sense of deadlines develops with a lot of hard word rejected down the drain, many hours of burning midnight oil only to find out that the project wasn’t due for another week.

In short, the designers are tardy in their approach, because the client servicing is finicky. The client servicing is finicky about deadlines and keeps extra buffers because they know it takes a long time for project to finish, and they are eager to finish them earlier. The projects take longer to finish because marketing communications has insecurities and a false sense of entitlement, and feels that ‘agencies and creative people’ need a firm push.

So what we have here is a Marketing Mexican Standoff of the epic order.

Do you agree with the above? Do let me know in comments! I would be sharing my opinions on how the above ad agency standoff can be broken without anybody getting hurt. 🙂 Stay tuned for that.

Art, Humanity, Literature, Music & Movies, Poetry and Songs, Society & Culture

What Lord Ram Has in Common With Modern Superheros


Rama in forest

In 1990’s Sunday mornings used to be quite a dull affair. Except we would end up watching the seminal classic of Ramnand Sagar – The Ramayan. There are stories of people actually decorating their television sets with garlands. Towards the late 90’s my affection for the lord was replaced by much colorful and distinctly non-Indian fictional characters. It ranged from X-Men, to Avengers, and of course, Batman. Reflecting back on that, I now feel that it wasn’t that big a leap of faith as one would like to believe. Ramayan after all is the most amazing superhero story ever told, and shares many elements with modern day superheros. Don’t believe me? I can give you 4 reasons why you should.

1. Bad Parenting or Parenting Mishaps

It’s an intrinsically human feeling to expect the best from our Parents. They cannot be too good, they cannot be too bad, they have to do right by us when we don’t even know what is the right thing to do. Oh, and they can’t die when we need them. Not much, right? Because of these high expectations that human beings generally have from parents, any error in a parental figure’s part results in tremendous sympathy for the protagonists. Look at the number of fictional characters who have lost parents or have had bad ones. Harry Potter, Batman, Cinderella, Iron Man, Hulk, and of course Lord Ram who was sent to exile by his own father for no mistake of his own. It immediately makes him a protagonist that we care about.

2. Riches to Rags to Riches Story

There is something that is as important as parenting, being well off or rich. For most people extreme riches or power is highly aspirational. We would never have that, and thus we are obsessed about it. So someone who has it all has all the qualities that we can dream of, right? Wrong! What’s even better than simply being rich is to lose it all, and then gain it again. Case in point – Tarzan, born to a wealthy couple, lost in the Jungle to lose it, only to gain it back. By the way another orphan. Or, if you want another mythological example, story of King Nala and Damayanti is insanely similar. Ram losing out his kingdom even if for a short time creates a sense of injustice, and make us rally behind him even more.

3. With Great Power Comes Great Sacrifice

Oh Jesus! Where do I even begin with this one? Perhaps with Jesus himself. The most epic figure who sacrificed himself for sake of humanity. Not unlike other selfless superheros like Batman who doesn’t sleep, Harry Potter who will face mortal peril to save his school, Spiderman who gives up on love for duty, Captain America who drives a plane to his own perceived death, list is endless. We love our heroes to be tormented, and tortured. We are sadistic by nature, and their agony makes it okay for them to have a great power. We allow them this power because they are also losing out on a lot. It’s a bitter fact that we must accept. Travails of Ram, his personal sacrifice when he gives up on Sita for sake of what he thinks is right would have made him an instant favorite with masses, and still contributes to his popularity.

4. Real Heros Always Win

Okay, let’s think for a minute. Which extremely popular character has ended up losing out battles of ideology in their life? Think harder, can you think of one? Probably can’t as most heroes follow a very common fiction trope – Heroes always win.  They might have a hiccup or minor set back, but eventually they are the ones who are on the winning side. In Rocky series, the protagonist loses often, yet he is seen winning ‘hearts’ or winning eventually, firmly establishing him as the ‘hero’. So, no matter how much we like Joker, he will never win, neither would Raavan, even though he was considered to be the greatest warrior, a scholar, and righteous person.

Not just Ramayana, most of mythology and Grimm’s fairy tales are full of some of these common fiction tropes. It’s remarkable to notice these similarities between ancient literature and modern literature. Character development, and the way society perceives them remains astonishingly similar. So next time when your parents talk about how comic books have ruined you, perhaps talking about how Ramayana could have been a graphic novel if Valmiki lived in today’s age might be an interesting rebuttal. Or maybe not, because unlike the superheros’, real life parents kick real ass.

Art, Films & Television, Marketing, Music & Movies

Decoding the Force: What’s behind the success of Star Wars Brand


The excitement is palpable, for ‘The Rogue One’, the next in the Star Wars saga. While my love for the light sabres and all things inter galactic makes it difficult for me to analyze Star Wars as a brand, I have to stay true to inner voice in this case which sounds a lot like Yoda.

Try not, do. Or do not.There is no try.

So here are three things that have helped Star Wars create a massive cult over the years.

Consistency in Production Values

It seems like over simplification, but  Episode IV, V, and VI do not really lag behind much from technical perspective, even from today’s standards. This means there is a certain consistency in the fictional universe that can cross over generations. In popular sitcom, the big bang theory, there is mention of ‘a machete order’, to see all six episodes. It basically means you can catch up on the story by watching the episodes back to back. What’s absolutely brilliant is that the quality of the movies does not go down when you see the original series. Although many people have bashed Lucas for tampering with CGI of the original episodes, one can see how that might have helped in updating the technical finesse. Great brands transcend the time and generations, and updating the technical side of the movies has helped in keeping the franchise fresh in public memory.

Regular Diversification and Brand Reinforcement

One of the easiest ways to keep a brand fresh in public memory is by keeping conversation around it. It’s a little different to do when what you are selling is a story.  You can do sequels, you can do prequels, and then there are other things like books and animated series. Star Wars has done almost everything possible, and has covered all platforms over the years. It has immensely helped to create a generation that has been primed relentlessly to warmly receive the next chapter in saga.

The Underdog to Wondergod story 

As far as character development goes, Star Wars employs the most common troupe for ‘hero’ of the story. The easiest way to instantly rally the support of masses is by making your brand ‘the underdog’. Everyone loves one. Can you think of any massively successful fictional character who has birthright that he needs to claim one day, special powers, and loss of family or parents. No? How about Harry Potter, Batman, Neo in Matrix and countless others? The idea of ‘the one’, the veiled references to his abilities gets massive excitement, because people always believe they are better than what the world thinks of them. So when a very ordinary character transforms into a mighty hero, the audience see their own reflection in that hero, because they too are unappreciated in many ways.

Perhaps it’s because so many people feel unappreciated, and unloved, that we see such massive response to fantasy. Underachiever inside all of us revels when we see the sweet success of a hero from humble origins like ours. By sheer statistics, generations that have more expectations from themselves and thus resultant desperation should have more Star Wars and fantasy lovers. Having said that, it’s really impossible to outright make any claims about correlations such as these. And despite all the statistical arrays we can build around decoding success of Star Wars, most of it cannot be replicated that easily. One must have a strong connection with ‘the force’ to do that. 🙂

Activities, and hobbies, Art, Experience, Music & Movies, Poetry and Songs, Reflections and rumination

Coffee Cup Love Song


It’s seven in the evening

Birds shut down their wings

What a place to be, yes to be

Gulping slruping, oh what a place to be

Don’t care about you I love my coffee

Coffee cup I bring along

It’s been on work too long

What a sad little travesty it be

Sugar or not, killing the notebooks in spree

Be free, and love your coffee

Don’t you sometimes do it

Stare at nothing and exploit

Seem important, and busy

Working late night, long nights maybe

So when they fire you,

Don’t you blame it on the coffee

Cause everyone loves their coffee

Everyone loves the coffee…

gulp it! 😛

Activities, and hobbies, Art, Films & Television

Pacific Rim Review: The Weight-gain Risk




So I had been planning to see this movie for some time. Huge monsters, giant robot suits operated by cute chics, and an apocalypse which is going to be a near miss. All the ingredients of an action film that is easy on eyes. The fun begun right from the ticket cue. There was a guy in front of me who kept stressing on “Paaa si fic Rim”. It was weird, for the guy was clearly a maharashtrian, who for some reason was trying to sound australian. It got worse when he started speaking marathi. Anyway I had enjoyed the little tiff between the ticketing guy and the psuedo australian guy, so I moved on quickly to the film. 

The theatre was almost empty, and I knew then that this was no Avengers. Surely enough, the movie got old too soon. There was nothing that I hadn’t seen before, and I mean way before. It’s the kind of stuff I have seen in Japanese Anime who nobody watches anymore. There was one with a better storyline, something called Ninja Robots if I am not wrong. So now that I had promptly lost interest in the film, I moved over to the next best thing. The food. 

Citypride Kothrud has an assortment of food items, and it’s all mediocre. Nevertheless mediocre food is still food, and on any given day is much better than an average film which kept on it’s very predictable path. I must admit that the robot suits (Jaegers) looked really cool. So after munching on fries, corn and some other stuff, I realized that it wasn’t that bad after all. Maybe I was just hungry and couldn’t enjoy the honest effort of thousands of rendering specialists. So I tried to enjoy the film, and it did provide some excitement towards the end. Two dialogues were really good, got a decent laugh out of fifteen people theater. Overall, I think I would give it two stars out of five. It’s a film that can be summed up in a short one line description. 

Inter-dimensional aliens get kicked in the rear by nuclear powered robot suits , yay for humanity! 

So obviously you can go and watch it if that’s your thing, or if you really have noting else to do. Watch what you are eating though, you may go overboard and overeat your way to the glorious weight-gain!