By: K.G. Sreenivas Photo Credit: Manoj Patil Dated: December 02, 2014
“Cannes, Computers and Compensation have killed this business... This is the advertising business for you today. And, thank god! I am not in it,” says Mohammed Khan. Khan is an institution in the business of advertising. The founding visionary of Enterprise, he redefined the fundamental assumptions of advertising and also sought to look at the agency-client relationship beyond purely commercial considerations. In an extensive chat with Creative Brands, Khan, who conceptualised the iconic Charms cigarette campaign, reflects on the industry, its past and its present, and its likely future... “The way advertising should work is that it should create a bond and take the consumer closer to the brand...”
CB: You referred to journalism as we began this conversation and you said: “you are lucky you’re not in advertising”…
MK: I said that because of the power it (journalism) has — the power to investigate things. You provide a very valuable service to society. In advertising, there are lots of frustrations if you do it the wrong way. There are two businesses in which everybody is an expert: architecture and advertising. People (clients) know what kind of house they want and also know what kind of advertising they want.
It is incredibly frustrating when clients want alternatives. This is a big problem around the world. How do we explain to the client that it is our job to find the correct solution for them? I think the relationship is flawed because the onus of finding the solution is not on the agency, but on the client. When you go to a lawyer, the lawyer doesn’t ask you ‘how would you like me to fight your case’; a doctor doesn’t ask you ‘what are the diseases that you want or would rather have’. If the agency goes with three different things then the agency itself doesn’t know what the solution is. Never in my life have I ever offered an option.
CB: How did you negotiate these intersections with the client?
MK: I discovered quite early on that a client really wants to hear three magic words: I am responsible… for your brand or ‘I am taking the responsibility’. It is very easy to convince clients with these. There is a very strong logic to this. Clients would say, ‘I don’t think this is right,’ and I used to tell them that the easiest thing for me to do is to say ‘yes’ and give them what they want. Those were the wonderful old days of 15 percent (laughs)… so, I’d say ‘if you do it my way I am not going to earn 16-17 percent. If I do it your way I am still going to get 15 percent. So, why am I fighting? What is in it for me?’ Then their next question would be ‘if it doesn’t work then?’ I used to say ‘if it doesn’t work, you sack the agency. That is the only way to do business.’ And they would understand that and realise that here is a guy who is willing to put his neck on the block for what he believes in. Then the client gives you a chance and you have a relationship of mutual respect. Clients often agenices treated like doormats. That didn’t happen at Enterprise.
CB: Can you tell us one such, if I can call it, celebrated fight or conflict?
MK: Killer Jeans. At Enterprise, we were always perceived to be a very elitist agency. There are a lot of misconceptions about Enterprise such as that we worked on only fancy brands and that we didn’t have the feel for down-market stuff. People, however, couldn’t explain our success. And I assume it had also to do with the fact that our advertising looked good. But good-looking advertising is a basic requirement in the business. It doesn’t mean the agency is elitist. But what happens in this country is that the cheaper brands look like cheap brands. Why should that be? Any brand should look like a good brand. It is all about the product making you feel better about yourself.
I think there are too many partitions in this business — copywriter, art director, client, marketing man, research man — and everybody has their own little agenda. This is one way to do advertising, but I think it is much more effective when there is a free flow of ideas across the table, and different people put on different hats at different times...
So, coming back to Killer. We had a down-market brand with a name like ‘Killer’, which is, I am afraid, not exactly the most inspiring name for a stylish brand. How do we counter this? You have to dress up the brand and what we did was we used foreign models. We used white models. We shot the campaign in South Africa and we positioned it as an International brand. The client wasn’t expecting this. They made a lot of suggestions and I could have agreed, but then you wouldn’t have Killer becoming the largest selling jeans brand within a couple of years. The client was not willing to budge. It was only after I told him that he could sack us if the campaign didn’t work did he agree. The rest is history. We had the most wonderful relationship with this client and we built a brand from nothing.
Then there was Vadilal. I think with the name we had a bit of a problem. The logo was horrible too. We were told we can’t change the logo either. So, we had to dress up the brand. A lot of strategy went behind it. People just saw the pictures (campaign) and got carried away. That is the problem that Enterprise faced with all the advertising we created. People just saw on the surface that it was beautiful looking advertising, and said: Oh! They just do pretty pictures. But, these jokers, sorry to call them that, could not see the strategy behind those pretty pictures. I think that’s why we succeeded. Every single time. The consumer could connect with those. We kept creating one brand after another. We did photography that was unbelievable. We used to spend one day shooting just one picture. And in those days it cost `35,000 per picture. It was an obscene amount of money!
We never asked the client to spend more money, but to spend as we ask them to. Because, it had to be done right. So, we shot these incredible pictures in colour, and one day I saw some black and white pulls of this (Vadilal) ad in office. I went to Raghu and asked ‘What the hell is this?’ He said, ‘We are going with black and white because we don’t have the money to run colour’. I told him, ‘Colour is the idea. Who wants to eat a line drawing of an ice cream?’.and thus the campaign ran in colour and the rest was history.
CB: And they saw the point?
MK: Yes! I said this is it. We used to get a guy from Ahmedabad to come and scoop the ice-cream, because, scooping the ice-cream — getting those ridges on the ice-cream — is an art. You and I can’t do it. The photography bill used to be `35,000 or so per day, per picture and the guy from Ahmedabad used to fly out every time we shot.
INSIGHT OR OVERSIGHT
CB: In an interview you gave in 2006, you said, “I didn’t come here to change the world. I just came here to make some great advertising...” What was your premise?
MK: I think you need to keep your eye on the ball... I think when you create great advertising, you are changing the world in itself in small way... Advertising is not an ‘I’ business. It is not a one-man show. If you look at any advertising agency worth its name anywhere in the world, whether it is TBWA or BBDO... they are all made up of teams of people. It’s a team business. As an agency we did what we set out to do.
I think the first step is to have a vision and a core of three people who share that vision. And then you have an agenda. Our vision was that we wanted to create a certain kind of advertising and that required certain skills. And the skills were strategic thinking and strong creative. It’s a no-brainer. This is how the advertising business works anywhere in the world.
But now, people talk about strategy as if it was something that has been discovered now. There was always strong strategy behind every great campaign, and that’s how great campaigns are built. For example, the Lemon and the “We are number two, we try harder...” campaigns.
However, I think the way account planning is being used is wrong. The creative function has been taken away from the creative guy. It’s the creative’s function to look into places where no one has looked before.
It’s the same problem with research in advertising. Anybody who wears the research hat is god. Research is wrong much more often than it is right. This is a fact of life. If research was infallible, you wouldn’t have any failed brands, would you? Research tells you how things are. And the job of the creative is to change that. The problem with research in advertising is that people are trying to fit everything into neat little boxes. It presumes that Man is a totally logical animal. And the truth, in fact, is quite the opposite. Man is the most illogical species on this planet. And this manifests itself in many ways in everyday life: smoking, people jumping off cliffs, eating hamburgers, drinking coke, chewing paan or tobacco, people walking across the North Pole...
Advertising also has to leverage that. Rather than all the irrelevant questions that we keep asking, I think the bigger thing to focus on is really: does the advertising connect with the consumer...
But when it comes to advertising, you put this guy doing illogical things in a neat little box, giving him a certain income and a certain social profile, and say that because he is this kind of person, if you do this advertising he is going to act in a certain way. It’s a load of rubbish! Advertising doesn’t work like that. Research is just one input in the advertising business, but if you take it as the word of god you are making a terrible mistake. There is not one, but a zillion examples of campaigns that have been okayed by research and have fallen flat on their faces. And other campaigns where the research said, ‘for god’s sake don’t do this’, have been unprecedented successes in the history of advertising.
CB: A lot of what they call consumer insight research is flawed…
MK: I believe there are two or three requisites to make a good advertising man — exposure and imagination. Have you travelled? Have you lived a life? Are you passionate? The problem with most account planners is that they are like frogs in a well and are singularly lacking in both — exposure and imagination. Having a consumer insight is a highly complex business. How can you have insight if you have not lived the bloody life, not even half a bloody life?
A RELATIONSHIP BUSINESS
CB: Let me quote again from one of your interviews: “I am saying this to my own clients too: if you think you are getting rotten advertising, for god’s sake look somewhere else. Why are you with us? This is what frustrates me.” Now, to turn the spotlight on the contemporary advertising world, what are your impressions …
MK: Advertising has become a commodity business. Pitches and presentations are nothing but tenders now. And the writing was on the wall even before I quit the business.
For instance, after we parted company with Raymond, another very big brand of suiting asked us to pitch. Now, to do better than Raymond was a task, not a mean task. And we did it. I thought we produced spectacular work. And the person who managed this brand had spent most of his life as an agency head of a top-ten agency. So, after we presented the campaign he said, and his actual words were: ‘This is it! This is exactly what this brand needs. I agree with everything you’ve said, one hundred percent’. Great! We are going to do another big number. But we didn’t get the business. You know why? Because the agency that was ranked No. 2 quoted `50,000 a month less than what we did. So, how much are we talking about, I am talking about `6 lakh a year. And this brand is worth many many thousand crores! They said, ‘you reduce your fee by `50,000 and we will give you the business.’ If an advertising man cannot see the value that good advertising can add then what hope is there for anyone?
Advertising is all about the relationship between the client and the agency. How did Charms happen? Charms happened, because when I was setting up Enterprise VST wrote out a cheque of `10 lakh, which was not a measly sum in 1983. VST wrote out the cheque and said, ‘if you need more money, just tell us.’ That is why Charms happened. When you have commitment you go that extra mile. That’s the difference. This was never a 15 percent business, it is a relationship business. And it is certainly not a two and a half percent business . There is nothing in it for anybody. There is nothing for the agency and there is nothing for the client.
CB: I guess they say advertising is the second oldest profession?
MK: No! I think, it is the oldest profession, because what was called the oldest profession also depended on advertising. They had to advertise themselves before they could sell themselves. So, it is the oldest profession. Sorry! Not the second!
THE CHARMS STORY
CB: Tell us the Charms story...
MK: In 1983, VST suddenly discovered that they were going out of business. Their main brand was Charminar which was a strong, toasted tobacco, plain (non-filtered) and regular-size cigarette. But smokers were moving to mild, filtered, Virginia tobacco (non-toasted) and king-size cigarette. Also, Charminar had a terrible image. If you smoked Charminar, your were a nobody. Because cigarettes are a badge brand and when you put your cigarettes on the table it tells the world who you are.
VST desperately needed to have a brand in that growing segment. They had tried and failed twice — earlier having launched through Clarion, their other agency. The second brand they launched was called Charminar Virginia and VST had shown me the campaign before launch and I had predicted that this brand would fail because no smoker knew what Virginia tobacco was. And that’s exactly what had happened. They still went ahead and launched with Clarion’s campaign. It fell flat on its face. I think it was the biggest flop VST ever had. The brand did not move an inch. And they spent big, big bucks on it. They were quite devastated.
There used to be a research man called Shyamal Ghosh. He was a joy to work with. What a brilliant, bright man. So, we were all talking — Shyamal, B. P. Singh (marketing head), and Sonny Pillai. Shyamal asked me what I would have done. I said, ‘First of all there is an image problem. Charminar is a bad word for a guy who is smoking Wills. Charminar means you are dying, you are poor, you can’t afford anything. I smoked Charminar when I was a student, because I didn’t have any money. There is a lot of love for the brand, but the image was a huge problem.’
So I said that we have got to make it contemporary and stylish. And I said why don’t we call it Charms and put it in a denim pack? Shyamal said why don’t you work on it. I was presenting the final ad through BP and Shyamal when Sonny walked in and said, ‘Oh that’s fantastic! But there’s only problem with it. It should be a king-size cigarette at 20 p per cigarette.’
It was not about being a great account executive, but a great account executive wanting to create great advertising was the question. I also believe that if you want people to do great work you have to create the right environment for them in which to operate, to create the ambience, and you have to inspire them. The whole focus was on advertising. So, that was what Enterprise was about...
Now, the problem was that VST by this time had two disasters done by Clarion and this was such an unconventional thought that people were afraid that this was either going to go through the roof or simply fall flat. They could not afford to have another disaster, because the sales team was very demoralised at that time. The company, financially, had taken a knock too. So, there was a lot at stake. Consequently, they sat on this campaign for six months because nobody had the ba**s to say okay, go ahead and do it. Then one day, Shyamal and I convinced B.P. Singh, who was in a very good mood, to launch the brand. And it was decided that the brand would be launched in Bangalore, one of VST’s weakest markets, the idea being that if the brand flopped, nobody would ever find out! And the brand, from the point the campaign rolled out, just took off like a rocket. At its peak, Charms was in short supply by about 50 million sticks, they could never meet the demand because they just didn’t have the capacity. Charms is a text book example of how clients and agencies should work.
I think there are too many partitions in this business — copywriter, art director, client, marketing man, research man — and everybody has their own little agenda. This is one way to do advertising, but I think it is much more effective when there is a free flow of ideas across the table, and different people put on different hats at different times. See, ultimately the responsibility of a function should be with the person concerned, but I think when you are thinking ideas, it needs to be a little more free-flowing.
CB: Charms was ‘Spirit of freedom’…
MK: ‘Charms is the spirit of freedom / Charms is the way you are.’ And, I still remember that they were two separate lines, written as alternatives. But when I read both, I thought it was almost like poetry, two together.
CB: At a time when there are no longer any USPs in brand differentiation, what should an advertiser do?
MK: I think advertising is the difference. I think that happens very often. And, I think, the way technology has moved on, clarity is achieved in no time at all. The only real difference between one brand and the other, very often, is advertising. So, what advertising should be basically depends on what the product is, the price point is etc etc. Advertising also has to leverage that. Rather than all the irrelevant questions that we keep asking, I think the bigger thing to focus on is really: does the advertising connect with the consumer. Does it make him feel better about himself? And, I think, it is no longer about what it can do for you, but about whether it has the same values as you have.
B: Does advertising, the intersection that it has with society and society’s concerns, also have an ethical function? For example, in terms of sexuality, gender, colour, race...
MK: That’s a very important question. I am a bit old-fashioned in the sense that I think today we are living in an environment which, I am afraid, I don’t entirely approve of. Bollywood is one of the biggest influencers of our society; and it is so easy to justify that this is where we are at, and, therefore, we plug into that and do more of the same thing. I was appalled by the Aati kya Khandala song, because in my set of values it is not funny. What it implied to me was that every girl is available for being taken to Khandala and I don’t think it was for playing scrabble either. What sort of a language is that! On one hand, the whole country is screaming about how women are being not given respect and rape has common place. How do you reconcile these two phenomena? If somebody in my agency had come and suggested that we do a campaign called ‘aati kya Khandala’, I would have killed him myself. It could have been a popular campaign, but I think there’s a little more we have to do than pushing the product. There is a larger responsibility on our shoulders. I am not being sanctimonious. I am a very real guy with my feet firmly on the ground. But this goes against my ethic — my moral fibre, if you like. I don’t want anybody to think that I am preaching. I am not a preacher either, but it upset my sensibilities.
CB: Political parties taking recourse to advertising, be it the ‘India Shining’ campaign or the ‘Bharat Nirmaan’ campaign. Isn’t there a kind of conflict...
MK: I think there is no conflict if you believe in that party’s ideology. I am not going to name them, but we were offered to handle the advertising campaign for a party whose ideology we did not agree with and we turned it down. It was huge. We could have earned around `20 crore in a matter of weeks.
WHAT SCHOOLS DON’T TEACH
CB: What do you tell someone who joins advertising? First day first show, what do you tell him or her?
MK: What I tell them is exactly what I was told. This is the best thing that ever happened to me. The first day I attended my advertising course in London, the head of the department came to us at 9.30 in the morning and asked, ‘How many of you here think you are going to make lots of money by getting into advertising?’ So, everybody put their hands up. And, then he asked, ‘How many of you think that you are going to go to lots of parties and you will be surrounded by lots of models and pretty girls?’ Everybody raised their hands. He asked further, ‘How many of you think you are going to be famous?’ He asked more such questions and each time everybody put their hands up. So, he went to the door, opened it, and said, ‘All of you get the bloody hell out of here! Get Out! You are in the wrong place.’ And he said, ‘this is a thankless job. You will never get any credit for the good you’ve done. If you do well, everybody will take the credit, but when something goes wrong they’ll hang you for it. If that’s not good enough for you, you can all f*** off out of here.’ That was the first lesson.
CB: What do art schools and advertising schools not teach?
MK: They don’t teach anything. I went to the JJ School of Arts soon after I came from London and started hiring creative staff from there. These kids had spent five years in art school and knew nothing about advertising design. Education means that you are ready to do a certain job. You don’t get into an agency and learn your craft. People are paid to do a job, but what happens here in advertising, people are paid to be taught what to do. I used to tell them, ‘forget what you’ve learnt in the last five years then we will start all over again, and that used to break my heart’.
THE ENTERPRISE STORY
CB: What led to Enterprise?
MK: I came back from London because I wanted to start an advertising agency of my own. My model was always the Saatchi & Saatchi model — the creative guy and the finance guy. But I needed a good account man who would also look after the business end. A successful advertising agency is one that as an advertising business it creates great advertising. And as a commercial venture makes money. It’s no good doing great work but going down the tube or making a lot of money and doing shit work. So to do this you need specialists.
When I started Rediffusion with Arun and Ajit that was the dream. That is why I joined MCM: one year and we could start our own agency, because I could see my two future partners there. This is what I came back from London for. And, one year later, sure enough, it happened. And, after that I quit Rediffusion and said I want to go back to London. That’s a long saga — the shorter version of it is that British High Commission did me a great favour and put down my application to return to London. I am grateful to them because I am where I am because of them, today. I decided to get out of advertising for a couple of years and was running a trading stamp company out of Hyderabad. That’s when Subhash Ghoshal asked me if I would like to start an agency for HTA (Hindustan Thompson Associates) on the lines of Rediffusion. By this time, I was completely disillusioned and I realised what a terrible mistake I had made by getting out of advertising in the first place, because that was all I knew. I didn’t want to run a trading stamp company.
So, I realised I was doing the wrong thing and I immediately grabbed that opportunity and came back and set up Contract for JWT. That was the most fruitful period of my life — really satisfying and rewarding. In the first 12 months of operations we made marginally less profit than HTA which was India’s largest agency. We won 80 percent of the awards that year. So, we were doing some great work and we were making lots of money. And, people, sort of, started pooh-poohing us saying ‘It’s just a bubble!’ People don’t easily accept success. I was left completely alone by Subhash to do what I pleased. But now that Contract was becoming bigger and stronger and almost as famous as its owner, a little bit of interference started. Raj Jagga was my boss and I presumed I would take his place once he left. I was running the agency in any case — I gave it the name, the logo, and I hired the staff and I created all the advertising. But I was told that I was not going to get the top job, because I was the creative guy! Nobody had told them that it was the creative guys who ran agencies all over the world. ‘No! You are a creative director, you’ll continue to be the creative director and you can’t run the business.’ I said, ‘Alright! If that’s the way you want it then I am off.’
I wasn’t about to be just a creative director for all my life. And I would never have left Contract actually, if I had been allowed to run the agency as the head. But in Rediffusion, Contract, and Enterprise, the basic structure was the same: it was never a one-man show. I mean, by this time I was quite famous. After Contract, I could have called the agency Mohammed Khan Associates. But Enterprise was never going to be about Mohammed Khan. I was one of the guys. There were other people who would play a key role. It was a conscious decision not to call it by my name. There were going to be other key players who were to make larger contributions than I could, and they did. There were not two or three, but many, many, many more, down the line. It was also going to not just be about a certain kind of advertising, but a certain kind of culture, a certain kind of person. You know we were not in the business of hiring nice people, but, on the other hand, talent was not the only thing that we were looking for. You had to fit in, you had to have a certain passion for the business. It was not about being a great account executive, but a great account executive wanting to create great advertising was the question. I also believe that if you want people to do great work you have to create the right environment for them in which to operate, to create the ambience, and you have to inspire them. The whole focus was on advertising. So, that was what Enterprise was about.
ADVERTISING AT ITS WORST
CB: Has craft become subservient to technology? Earlier, one wouldn’t take anything less, unless s/he was clear about what s/he wanted and take those excruciating steps uphill looking for that illusive idea. Today, has Google has become synonymous with advertising...
MK: I call it the 3Cs — Cannes, Computers, and Compensation. Cannes — how it destroyed advertising was that suddenly if you had copy, you were not going to win an award! It only had to be one picture that did the job. So, copywriting went into the dustbin. Don’t write copy, one visual and that’s it — this is the brief to the creative.
Before that, computers killed advertising because you didn’t need to create an image. You went to the net and you started looking for images, then you started looking for an idea. Once you take an image from somewhere it takes a life of its own. Ultimately, one way or the other, you would have recreated what was already there. Once you put it on a piece of paper, it’s over. You created zero, nothing.
And the third is ‘compensation’. This 15 percent went, that’s fine, but you are paying them a pittance and increasing your list of demands. There is no correlation between what you expect from agencies and how you are willing to compensate them. So, the 3Cs that have killed this business.
CB: Today, the presentations are made on computers...
MK: Yes! The computer has taken over. There is no paper anymore. I used to say, ‘the most important thing in advertising is a blank piece of paper and a pencil. That’s where ideas are born.’ Now that has gone... So, nothing is being created. It’s all being re-created. It’s being copied.
CB: Young Account Executives who spend a year or two in agencies are now switching on to the client side and defining advertising.
MK: I think everybody is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. What is happening is that the whole process got reversed. The business started going down, when they split the media business. They unbundled the business, but they unbundled it all the way into the doghouse. What happened was that the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. We would go to a client with a certain creative, say a 30-second commercial, and they said:
‘No! But, you can’t have a 30-second commercial’
‘Because the media plan is for 20 seconds. Can you cut it down to a 20?’
‘No! I can’t’
This is not, or at least we were not, in a business of making 15-second commercials, 20-second commercials or 2/3 ads or full page ads. We were in the business of producing effective advertising. If it requires 30 seconds to do a job, then so be it. If your budget is 3 crores, we wouldn’t ask you to spend 3 crores and 1 rupee, but spend that 3 crores doing what we want you to do. That is much more effective than doing ineffectual communication. That ad we made for 8PM was a one-minute long commercial. But I don’t know of any [such] commercial that ran for 10-12 years. If you go on seeing somebody, you don’t particularly like, over and over again it becomes an irritation. And that is exactly what’s happening with the way commercials are being scheduled on cricket. You want to start tearing your hair out. It is exactly the opposite of what advertising is intended to do. The way advertising should work is that it should create a bond and take the consumer closer to the brand. Here, you want to run away from the brand. I keep asking, ‘what are you thinking, you guys? Do you want to spend your money putting off your consumer?’
CB: Do you think we can ever come back to what it was?
MK: Unfortunately, no. I don’t think so, because the media is very different today. Social media is going to become more important. I think nobody has understood how to use it, so far. And, I think TV has a great future. Print has become a kind of tactical medium now. It is no longer used as a generative medium anymore, but only to announce a sale or price offer. Even that can be done well, but there is a complete absence of design in print today, which boggles the mind. The leaflets of the old days would look better than the full page ads of today. You know what is obscene is what a print ad costs. Nobody can write copy anymore. There are no writers left in the business. If they can’t write one line of English, how can they write copy?
Enterprise was a great art school. And Mohammad a really good teacher
Bhupal Ramnathkar, Chairman, Umbrella Design, credits his stint at Enterprise, under the guidance of Mohammad Khan, for his expertise in design. He proudly recounts his experience of working with Khan, as a visualiser, on the iconic Charms cigarette campaign
Bhupal Ramnathkar vividly remembers the Charms campaign. He had worked closely with Khan at Enterprise and got a taste of the man’s creative brilliance. Here, he talks about why and how the Charms campaign came to be known as the best cigarette advertising ever and why Enterprise was a great art school.
You’ll know a Marlboro ad without seeing its logo and that’s the power of cigarette advertising. In India, we hadn’t seen any memorable cigarette campaigns. Wills had a ‘Made for Each Other’ campaign featuring couples. But there was nothing unique about other cigarette advertising campaigns, in terms of visuals. So we decided to create a visually driven campaign for Charms. We got photographers who were not from the advertising world — Prabuddha Dasgupta and Gautam Rajadhyaksha — and conceptualised the campaign in black and white. That gave a different perspective to cigarette advertising.
THE HANDWRITTEN HEADLINE
Normally art directors don’t remember headlines, but I still remember the handwritten headline – ‘This is the spirit of freedom. This is the age of Charms.’ For the headline, I got at least 3,000 different handwriting samples, shortlisted one and showed it to Mohammad. He didn’t like it. He said it looked like a woman’s handwriting. And cigarette advertising has to be manly. I had to go back to finding the right handwriting again. It took me a month to find the right one. I believe, good art is one which can run for at least 50 years. If you see the art in the Charms campaign, it looks fresh even today. The campaign had great photography, great concept and great execution.
THE MOHAMMAD MADNESS
I was a visualiser at that time and worked on the campaign for two months. Mohammad drove me completely mad. The denim packaging idea was his. Those days denim was much in fashion. That was the first cigarette campaign which became a hit because of the packaging. Mohammad knew more than the client. So, the client would ask Mohammad to make the decisions. He got tremendous respect from the client. Today, you have to do what the client says or else you’ll lose the business. He even made us change the whole campaign even after getting the client’s approval. He would say, ‘we are the experts, not them’.
Enterprise was a great art school, and Mohammad a really good teacher. He has trained nearly 40 percent of the industry’s creative professionals. You name anyone doing good work today — Elsie Nanji, Avijit Awasthi, Karan Rawat, Chax (K S Chakravarthy), Preeti Vyas, K.V. Sridhar — they are all from Enterprise. He was a good trainer and master. People from small agencies would come to Enterprise and become stars in just three years. Art directors who left Enterprise would be given double their salaries. Somebody has to take interest in talent. People aren’t bothered about that anymore. Mohammad used to bother about his kids. Today, they are only bothered about billings.