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Guest Times: Advertising – A yearlong festival of lights

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Associate Creative Director, Grey Worldwide, is acknowledged as a rising star in the creative fraternity. In his weekly column, in his usual tongue-in-cheek style, he relives the life of agency creative hands

November 14, 2012

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta

It’s Diwali. And although I’m not a fan of the ear-drum smashing noise, I can’t help but gaze fondly at the beautiful lights that deck up the city. I nurse a cool Coronita as I write this on my balcony. It’s a little after 9, my daughter’s first birthday has just ended. I look out and I see a Gurgaon with an illuminated skyline. There are yellows and greens and whites and reds, and it’s all so colourful, all so beautiful.

Advertising is a lot like Diwali too. Different kinds of fantastic lights surround us. Or perhaps it’s just the beer talking, I don’t know.

There’s dawn, the break of daylight for us, the all-nighters, the artwork signers, the award-hungry, the pitchers. Hours mercilessly blend into one another, and we slowly sink into a quicksand of timelessness. All that there is, is a slice of cold pizza, a thermocol cup of pop, a few crumpled cigarettes and an underutilised drawing pad. The first time we spent a night, we went home feeling like a champ, a hero. We finally did it. And then, we started spending more nights. And many more. We’ve gotten used to it now, it’s become like the tedious repetition of a bowel movement – not pleasant, but inevitable. But spending nights in office too, have a bright side. There’s a lovely little light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. And for those who’ve stared out of their windows and gazed upon the sun rising, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The sky changes from a somewhat sad grey to a happier orange. Yes, the next day is pretty much going to be like the last, but there’s something in the sunrise that makes it all worthwhile.

At the end of the night, or at the wee beginning of the morning, if you’ve been a good boy – or girl – and eaten your quota of pizza and shared your cigarettes and resisted the temptation to quickly peek at some smut, you’ll arrive at the light that most Creative Directors call The Big Idea. Sometimes, you’ll do all that you’re required to do, eat your slice of pizza, share smokes and all, and you still won’t see the light. But that’s okay, because your Creative Director, all-knowing-demi-god that he is, certainly will. His creative ideas are a bit like the ‘anar’. Short, sporadic, not reaching too great a height, and generally fizzles out in no time.

Then there are eyes that light up when a new intern sashays into office. The eyes that hang droopy bags of black, the eyes that gaze dead into nothingness, the tired eyes of a thousand nights, suddenly spew sparks like a short fuse! Those unending legs, the cascading hair, the dhinka-chika hips – suddenly you’re alive once again, suddenly there’s blood flowing through your clogged up veins. Suddenly advertising is again the best place to be.

For the award hungry, there’s the beautiful neon of a backlit billboard. One for which you’ve fought little political battles at office. One that you’ve possibly paid for, by yourself. Just two overhead white lights on top of an empty billboard – for teeth whitening chewing gum. Ah, clever. Just one light that illuminates only a part of the billboard, for a company that claims to be energy conscious. Then, quickly take pictures, create mood board, write some bullduckingtwat about how many products sold thanks to your idea and voila! You’re closer to one more metal.

In your pocket and in your office drawers, there are Malboro Lights. Thinly rolled minutes of head-sorting time. You’ve worked and you’ve worked and you’ve worked a little bit more. But you just can’t crack that look. You’re a loser, a despicable idiot that deserves to be beheaded with a plastic knife. But then you remember your packet of Lights. You reach for one and light up one of those cool things. Suddenly, the world’s all right again. You’re the messiah, the superstar, the lead guitarist of an irrelevant band. You haven’t cracked the idea yet, but so what? You still have four more Lights to go.

I am on my fifth beer now and it’s getting a bit late. The cold November wind feels nice. Gurgaon suddenly looks pretty with all the lights and fireworks and all that rigmarole. People are happier too, it seems. But it’s short-lived, this happiness. Soon, the lights will be taken off and put back into boxes and locked up in cupboards. And they’ll rest for a whole year. People will go back to being short-tempered and ruthless and unnecessarily angry.

But you and I, come Wednesday, will go back to our offices of tomfoolery. Our offices of artworks, of suffocating deadlines, of unproductive nights and restless days – we’ll go back to our offices of lights.

Now seriously, where else on Earth would you rather be?

(Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, better known in his circles as Bodhi, works as a writer in advertising. Designations aren’t important because he’s realised no matter how up, how low or high middle he is, he just keeps doing the same kind of work. Bodhi has an opinion about almost everything in life, some of which he documents in his blog www.lookslikeabodhi.com. He also has a charming daughter, and when she’s asleep, he writes at whilemimisleeps.blogspot.com.)

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