“Advertising is the business of ideas. And ideas are a messy affair. Through rejection, self doubt, lots of failure, sometimes sadness, if you’re lucky, there arrives a moment of genius. That’s it. And from that moment on, it takes a village, in every sense of the word, to turn a germ of an idea into a beast with its own imagination.”
I find myself going back to these words very frequently. It’s something that Gautam Reghunath, my current CEO at Talented and previously at Webchutney often quips. Personally, I’m one of those who genuinely believes that advertising is a team sport. Sure, most ideas can often be traced back to this one moment of genius that came from an individual in the team. But that’s just that moment. For it to ultimately see the light of day as a genius piece of work - that’s when real teams separate themselves from the average ones.
Earlier last week, Indian advertising witnessed its biggest haul at advertising’s biggest stage. The Unfiltered History Tour created history as it brought home three Grand Prix (still confused about its plural and I never thought I’d have to) and the Titanium Lion.
Cannes Lions week was amazing but it was also often confusing, I won’t lie. The core team on the project moved on a few weeks after we put this magnum opus into the world, having decided to join our new venture, Talented. And we got together with the next team at Webchutney to see it through the award season over the next few months. The early reactions and impact of the campaign in December 2021 had instilled in all of us a certain confidence that The Unfiltered History Tour had a fair shot on the biggest stages. And prove us right it did.
While we were sad as creators to not have some of us representing Webchutney on the biggest stage of them all, there has been no bigger motivation for me than this campaign now being the standard setter for all future work from Talented.
As an industry, we can do better to celebrate creators more.
The Unfiltered History Tour itself is about topics like credit, ownership and belonging - exactly the kind of topics where we can do better as an industry. There have been some questions from peers about how it feels for the physical Lions not actually being in our hands. Well, to me, the physical Lions are merely a symbol. A symbol of success of nearly a hundred people across teams in Webchutney and partner companies who all had their tiny or big roles in adding to this campaign. In fact, in point 11 size, the credit list for UHT fills up two pages.
It’s always baffled me that even today most large legacy agencies are usually structured for a very tiny group of people to bear most of the credit and the upside.
We still don’t see enough mid-level talent being celebrated as creators, recognized clearly for their work, called out for their moments of genius, or even asked to participate in interviews. In fact I know of many publications that refuse to even take quotes from individuals below certain designations. But believe me, even the simplest recognition makes a difference. Careers can accelerate from it. It takes senior leaders with a sort of assured confidence to break that status quo. I’ve seen my CCO at Talented, PG Aditiya be a torchbearer of generosity and in giving credit publicly and proudly. But then again, shouldn’t that be the natural default across creative industries?
There’s also the argument that creative agencies working for brands are supposed to be behind the curtains. I can understand that to an extent. But taking it to the extreme hurts creativity, not foster it.
We also need to create a culture where we feel secure enough to credit our creative influences, especially if it’s work by other agencies that inspired that moment of genius. We owe it to the spirit of our fraternity.
Let’s aim to credit thought leaders and creative talent from other industries who’ve influenced us. To credit the entire team so that they realise the part they have to play in building and moulding culture, and bask in its upside. To even credit alumni and make room for them on award stages for work they’ve done. So many radical sounding ideas around these topics in advertising are actually quite normal everywhere else.
As someone who loves the Indian advertising industry, it’s important we can have honest and open conversations about its flaws. And then take affirmative action to make it better.