This Dassera, Burn the Ravana Within

By | October 5, 2014

On Friday,  we will celebrate Dassera, a festival of good prevailing over evil. This  day Rama killed Ravana, the demon with 10 heads, the most learned man of his time but a symbol of evil. Calling out the hidden professionals; the Rama within you to finish the new Ravana thriving in our industry. The power of trinity (Advertising, Marketing & Media) in consumer interface is amplified with rich insights, knowledge and deep consumer understanding. But, we the fallen ones, have been using it wrongly and have given birth to the new Ravana. This has been eroding the trust we enjoyed. This Dassera, let’s pledge to attempt decreasing Ravana’s influence if not finishing is not a possibility. Is that too much to ask?




1. MISLEADING ADVERTISING The biggest evil.  Guidelines have failed, may be we need legal and government intervention. Time that ASCI is reborn as ARAI (Advertising Regulatory Authority Of India).  Stop accepting briefs with unsupported claim.  Force the client to come clean on this subject. Stop misusing technology to create misleading communication. Just do not create ads that you don’t want your family to be influenced with.

2. SENSITIVITY TOWARD REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN Women are more often than not props and item numbers. This is true for advertising in general. Respect women and take a stance against projecting them as a subject/ object of sexual desires and fantasies. Respect their privacy while reporting. Stop the cleavage and leg show. Stop using technology to enhance their sex appeal or creating unwarranted desires.

3. PAID NEWS Media better watch, it has been violating the unwritten contract and exploiting the trust imposed by its audience. I am not against paid news. I am against hiding the fact that it is paid news.  Suggest come forward and acknowledge this good deal you been paddling with a industry defined clear loud format- maybe equal in weightage to the headline it carries!.

4. IDEA SHOPPING Who is the culprit – one who calls for the pitch as a business role or the agencies standing in queue willing to sign on the dotted lines at a fee that is ridiculous? If agencies are willing to prostitute their assets (creative, strategic, consumer understanding and all of it) as an item number in the idea shopping carnival masquerading as pitches, why blame the client?! Okay, I understand you are weak and you can’t fight the system. But can you  start with asking for a decent pitch fee or at least make the client sign a strong contract that prevents it from exploiting innocently presented ideas?

5. RESPECTING INDUSTRY STUDIES AND SURVEYS Raise your issues, scrutinizing the processes and ensure that the system is perfect, but do that before the results are out. The current scenario is hardly helping the industry. No measurement raises more doubts than solutions. Syndicated industry studies need to be better supported by stringent rules/ contracts that prevent participating media to complain about it. One of the biggest evil that it’s real tough to tame them. More so, all parties benefiting from the studies – media, advertisers and the agencies must share the cost of doing these studies. More paying stakeholders will strengthen the process commercially but also intellectually.

6. MISUSING OF CLIENTS TRUST AND FUNDS The client imposes faith on the agencies to deliver the best results within the budget and other constraints. The agencies willingly do this at a fee that is illogical and which makes no business sense. But this does not give them reasons to create preferred media cartels, inefficient planning and execution, not passing the negotiated cost advantage to the client or overcharging on creative and media execution. Trust me, it is rampant within the industry and a media/ creative audit is a real good idea.

7. PAYING AGENCIES PITTANCE TO WORK The current business model at agencies does not make it viable to hire the best of the talent forget retaining or nurturing them. Result:n clients deny themselves the best of inputs, strategy, execution and/or media intervention. Yet, they continue to have fantasies and hold unrealistic expectation. Time that clients really looked at their needs, demands and the fee they pay. Time to arrive at a win-win solution. This I know is true fantasy.

8. CUTTING PRODUCTION COST SPLURGING ON MEDIA This is a process defect that has amplified with the separation of media and creative agencies along with the retainership fee model. This is something that defies logic. It is only forcing mediocrity. Follow the golden rule: ‘Better to have a good creative/solution/strategy with low media weights than a bad creative /solution/strategy with huge media support’

9. LACK OF MEDIA CENSORSHIP Stop accepting and releasing ads that are misleading, promote regional and religious fervors, wrongly promotes superstition, violates rules and norms like Magical Remedy Act, Education and Fairness product guidelines or running ads banned by ASCI. Have I suddenly made few channels and newspaper commercially non-viable?

10. AWARD AND OTHER SUCH SCAMS Someday someone like a Rama maybe in another era will have to fight the final battle on this front. Expecting this from industry is hoping for a miracle. But I believe miracles can be created. Blacklist individual professionals and the companies from future entries. Suggest get Cannes into loop on this front. And before that maybe come to an agreement nationally on entries and evaluation process for awards in India. What about a regulatory body to scrutinize and license any new or existing awards?

May be time for ASCI to symbolically adopt Dassera. May be on Friday, create your own Ravana of the industry. Just draw it and symbolically shared it to start with.

It does not matter if you have a different list. Just  identify the evil in the industry and go for the kill.

It is in the interest of the industry that each constituent across media, advertisers and agencies to focus on investing into training and enhancing capabilities of their teams. Do invest in teaching your teams to fish rather than serving them fish. In the long term it will create a distinct advantage for you. Trust building internal team for success and facilitating tapping their potential is the best thing you could do this year.

The article first appeared at on 1st October 2014 (

Sanjeev Kotnala is Head catalyst with P1P2SOLUTIONS that believes in liberating ideas. Connect with him at or  send send him a tweet at @S_Kotnala