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Guest Column: Zen and the art of the last-minute dash

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Associate Creative Director, Grey Worldwide, is back with his tongue-in-cheek style as he takes a dig at the pitch process

December 17, 2012

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta

It’s early morning on a winter Sunday. The wife is snuggled up in her blanket of dreams, the cook has just brought me a steaming cup of tea. Ahh, Darjeeling, always Darjeeling!

The tea, like on most Sundays, would be followed by a breakfast of luchi tarkari (aaloopuri for my North Indian friends). And breakfast would be followed by a day of lazy beers, of rolling around in the sun, of an old movie or two and some good afternoon shut-eye.

But, that’s for most Sundays. This Sunday, I’m working.

We have an important presentation today. And so far, believe it or not, we haven’t done jack. But I’m not worried. And if you’re in advertising, you wouldn’t be worried too. Because you know and I know that the best work that is produced is last-minute work.

To put it crudely, it’s a bit like a fart. When it’s coming, hold it. Clench your bum in. Wait. And then, just before it implodes inside of you, let it loose.

The satisfaction is undeniably satisfactory.

And so it is with most of us creative goats. No matter how long we have, no matter how many weeks or days or months, the work will be done two days before it needs to be presented.

And should a client servicing executive saunter up to us and ask what the progress is, we’ll close our eyes in intense concentration, akin to The Bodhisattva, and mutter through half-closed lips, “We’re mulling.”

This mulling business is a dangerous animal because there can be no end to the damn thing. A bit like wine, is the creative process. Imagine a guy asking a waiter at a restaurant, “Has the wine aged enough?”

Aged enough? Of course not, you blithering idiot. The more it ages, the better. The more we cook the juices of a campaign in our heads, the better the pudding is going to be.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

However, this elaborate, decently constructed argument doesn’t hold for me. I’m a fast worker, and people who’ve worked with me bear testimony to that fact. I hate last-minute things. If I had my way, I’d finish the goddamn work a week before the presentation. And use the remaining week to tweak, and perfect the nuts and bolts.

If I had my way.

Easier said than done because here’s the thing. Everyone has a boss. Every man has a higher man (for more information on that, click here)

What you’re working on has to be shared, approved, discussed at length by the men on top, the Big Daddy Goats. And since Big Daddy Goats are paid Big Monies to do exactly that – pass judgment after crucifying judgment, you can be sure that the campaign that you finished off a week early will suffer the same end as the Yangzhow massacre.

“If you finished off a week early,” they’ll bleat, “you didn’t spend much time over it.” Or, the much loved and often repeated, “Think, think. Think more.”

What’s better then, mate? Finishing off a campaign early so you can fine-tune it? Or stretching it till the last minute, so there’s no time to do any changes on it?

Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know this. Increasingly (and threateningly so), advertising isn’t about winning pitches with wonderful work. It’s not about building brands. It’s not about having faith in your work or any of the stupid giberoo that we were taught as kids.

Advertising is simply about keeping the man at the top happy.  

(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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