Calcutta and advertising. Made for each other'
The slamming of doors in advertising agencies across the city may suggest a distinct lack of chemistry. But the industry continues to regard Calcutta as the “nerve centre” for advertising talent — the ‘graveyard’ for business can still be the cradle of creativity. And to hone this long-standing penchant for a potent campaign, the Advertising Club of Calcutta is launching a foundation course this summer.
Major corporate headquarters are leaving town and business is down to a trickle. McCann, Contract, Leo Burnett have closed Calcutta operations, while others have been forced to downsize (see box). But an industry in the doldrums is no deterrent to the Ad Club attempt to bolster young blood. “Advertising is one of the only industries around, which has no flow of qualified personnel,” says Sandip Chaudhuri, senior vice-president of Lowe, and programme director for the six-month course.
Around 20 rookies are expected to enrol in the first batch of the Advertising Club of Calcutta Communication College, to be taken through 52 evening sessions in “concepts, methods, practices”. Chaudhuri, who had been involved in Clarion’s early venture into ad education during his stint there, says: “I do not see a problem with young people joining an agency, and then moving out of the city in two or three years in search of better work… It is a young-mind business, which needs an influx of young people all the time.”
And Calcutta, Chaudhuri feels, provides “strong grounding” as opposed to Mumbai or Delhi. “Our youngsters fare better in the way they think,” he adds.
It’s the “great teachers” that Calcutta had that made it the crib of great campaigns. “Ram Ray, Subhas Ghosal, Subrata Sengupta — they all were and still are giants,” reminisces Suhel Seth, whose city-born agency Equus is making a comeback to the city, having packed up in favour of Delhi a few years ago.
“Most don’t seem to remember, but so many popular brands were built in Calcutta,” adds Seth, recalling Boroline and the Wills ‘Made For Each Other’ and Tata Steel’s ‘We Also Make Steel’ campaigns. Seth feels there is much advertising to come from the city yet. “There are enough clients who are interested in quality communication and strategic marketing. The retail explosion is also encouraging.”
It’s time to look beyond the fuzzy concepts of copywriting versus client servicing. There are over “35 career options” in “consumer communications”. Sumit Roy, brand consultant and faculty for the course, says the whole focus of advertising has to shift from mass media to “brandvertising” (coined by Alyque Padamsee).
A comprehensive brand plan must be the new focus for promotion, including word-of-mouth, events and relationship management, all of which will be integral to the course.
According to Gautam Sengupta, vice-president and head (east India operations), O&M, the keys to survival are non-conventional revenue-generation modes like public relations, rural, outdoor and direct marketing.
“We are no longer concerned about billing. We are working with an integrated 360-degree, marketing communication approach.” With “too many people chasing too little business”, clients want value, adds Sengupta. “Those who do not add value will die.”