The McCann APAC Chairman’s word of advice for youngsters is ‘Never take yourself seriously, as you are not the electricity, but the wire’. He attributes his success to the simplicity and trust that people of Kumaon are imbibed with
Sarmistha Neogy | Mumbai | October 20, 2014
Young aspirants, with unresolved questions in their minds and dreams in their eyes, listened attentively to advertising stalwart Prasoon Joshi, Chairman, Asia Pacific, CEO & Chief Creative Officer, McCann World Group India, as he took a trip down memory lane of his multifaceted professional journey at the Young Turks Forum of the International Advertising Association-India Chapter. Kaushik Roy, President, Brand Strategy & Marketing Communication at Reliance Industries Limited, interacted with Joshi to prod and uncover the journey.
Hailing from a ‘sleepy town’ of Kumaon in Uttarakhand, where the doors of the houses were not locked and the entire village stayed together like one big family, the values of ‘trust’ were manifested in Joshi since then. It is because of this inculcated value that till today, his basic instinct is to first trust people, no matter what the consequences later might be. This is how Joshi has managed to keep Kumaon still alive deep within his heart.
He thanks his parents for giving him the best childhood one could have ever dreamt of. It is for them that he could stay confused for a long time and there was no undue pressure on him. He enjoyed the period where he could entertain various thoughts and be in the space of fertility for long. Joshi said, “Both my parents were trained classical vocalists and therefore there was less talking and more of singing jugalbandi in the house. I was never made scared of what will happen if I fail and in fact I got more pressure from the society than from my parents.”
He said that he has never been able to understand why time and again at different discussions and debates he is asked the same question: that with the emergence of social media, you don’t require television and print. “I feel that the question itself is the epitome of foolishness, because if an existing brand wants to reach the people, it can do it with the help of social media. But if you ask me to build images and entice people to a brand, how will I do it without the most powerful audio-visual medium? If the brand already has images, then yes, social media will help, but if the image itself is not there in the minds of the people, then? I feel that projection of images on screen is magical! And no other medium can take that away from it,” he emphasised.
Joshi has never actually differentiated and been judgmental on whether he is writing a song, a poem or a jingle and has never given any hierarchical status to any medium. According to him, “As mediums emerge, the wirings of our mind also start to change. Today people are virtually connected to each other, and you might be present here physically, but you are also virtually present somewhere else. One should understand that idea is and will always be the king, but the audience has evolved.”
Joshi understood the power of the internet when he had made an advertisement for the brand ‘Happydent’. Back then he had received a mail from someone with a list titled ‘Best things happening in India’ and his ad link was also there in it. It was then he realised the power of viral because not only did it spread his work, but it also helped the brand immensely. Happydent had initially planned to sell only through chemist shops because of the presence of baking soda in the chewing gums which helps in teeth whitening. But today it is found even in the local paan shop. Therefore, the fundamental of viral is infectious and there is no set rule for it. He cites the example of Anna Hazare, who became viral at that point of time because the idea was infectious. Therefore, he urged people to not waste their energy in deriving a formula for virality, but to invest in a truthful idea, because if the idea is real, then no one can stop it from becoming viral.
To the question that how much of creativity a person is born with and how much one can inculcate later, he remarked, “The first formative years of a child is very vital. We feel that the child is absorbing what we are telling him, but it is not the way so. The child is in fact listening to something which you are not telling him. If the parents are fighting, the child in the other room is consuming the fight and that is what he/she is going to manifest all his life. Secondly, there is no success without immense hard work and you need to practise a lot because you never know when the right opportunity will knock your door.”
Joshi explained the debate between culture and consumerism by giving simple examples. He said, “I hate India being stripped down to only ‘Bollywood’ or ‘Chicken Tikka’. There is no doubt a cultural difference between the West and us, but it doesn’t mean we are wrong; we have just invested in spiritualism for years. I have never worn Indian attire at the Cannes festival because I have always questioned, ‘Are you accepting Indians as an exotic tribe or our thought process? When it comes to marketing and consumerism, it is a new thing for us. We have for years invested in culture which tells us that happiness comes from inside and consumerism says that happiness comes from outside. One needs to understand that India is not a country, which does not have intelligence; it is just that we have invested in something else.”
His word of advice for youngsters was, “Don’t take yourself seriously because you are not the electricity, but the wire. Your role is to be a good conductor, and be receptive. Think whether you are worthy enough for ideas to land on you? You should always read a lot and be humble to people who know more than you. Never let arrogance enter you, because it has the potential to even destroy you completely. Remember that learning never stops and the day you feel you know everything, it is time to pack up because it actually means you know nothing.”
The audience was left not only mesmerised but highly inspired as the advertising guru shared his life’s journey with the industry’s future – ‘the youngsters’.