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Wednesday, October 17, 2007
In praise of bowel nosodes 

We just discovered (thanks to Poonam), that Indra Sinha quoted us in a piece in Tehelka. Not by name—he calls us "a book blogger" though the quote was from one of our columns—so we can't claim blog cred for that, but what the hey.

[And completely ignoring the previous statement he then blithely proceeds to claim cred..] It's the second time in our little life that we acquired improved social cachet thanks to the man.

Background, you say.

Well, y'see, we're a fan. In our former profession, the man is a legend, especially in India; more so in those days when copy was still mostly literate and in one language at a time. We, like most other copwriters we knew, adored his work; we even had one of his ads framed up on our wall. (Those of you from the Profession will know what we mean when we tell you that the title of this post from that ad.) And we devoured his Cybergypsies at some point in the 90s. Around the same time as he was publicising an ad contest he was spearheading for the Bhopal Medical Appeal.

We were cynical at first, in our cool advertising kind of way; after all, ads for social causes (or 'public service advertising' as they're called in the trade) were hugely exploited by agency Creatives in search of awards. Contests were an excuse for Creative Departments to kick off the traces of Client and CLeint Servcing and go wild. Sure, some of the ads were even released. Causes or NGOs would be found (or, sometimes, invented) and hot, self-indulgent creative, designed to catch the eye of other Creatives, and never mind if any one else gave a damn, would be released in obscure publications or channels, usually in December (just before the eligibility period for ads for the year ended; and just in time to mollify disgruntled Creatives who had spent the year Making The Logo Bigger) and then beeyotiful prints on Zanders Matte would be taken and sent off to the awards juries in January. There was ad we remember from the Show Books that sent up the whole genre: the visual was a hand dangling a dog's carcass, and the headline said "here's my dead dog, now where's my award" or something very much like that.

But this contest was different.

The jury consisted of social workers who were on the ground in Bhopal. And the conditions specified that the ads had to be run in mainline publications. typefaces and logo were specified too, and the prospective contestants were told precisely what pictures were available for use.

When we wrote in asking for copies of said typefaces, Indra wrote back saying he'd made a mistake. He didn't want to promote font piracy by giving away a commercial typeface, and so he was removing that condition from the contests rules.

We had just been reading Cybergypsies, and we told him of that in the course of our correspondence. We enjoyed the book very much, relating not just to the bits about advertising and his causes, but also to the cyberaddiction to the point where it gets in the way of your life (our addiction was chat; yes, this was before blogs, or Facebook). We told him of this, and got a very kind reply, whereupon we proceded to bombard the man with more email, all of which was graciously replied to.

Came the time for the contest results to be announced, and we, like most of Bombay's Creatives, were among the hopefuls at the conference. We didn't win, alas. But, after the formal part of the evening, when the free (as in, the agency paid for our tickets) wine and munchies were floating around, emboldened by a glass of bubbly, we went up and introduced ourself to the man, and we were pleasantly surprised when he remembered our name. The next fifteen minutes or so were spent in animated chat about the web—which was still young then—and much else that we can't exactly remember—we, like the web, have aged—which he seemd to enjoy as much as we did. After a bit, looking around, this blog noticed that there was a ragged half-circle around us, composed of some of the Profession's leading luminaries, including, among others from our own agency, our National Creative Director, all looking tentative and slightly bashful. Slowly it dawned on us. And so we, lowly flunk from the salt mines, introduced our boss's boss (and others) to Mr Sinha.

Mr S, tough luck. And believe us when we say we were rooting for you, and it wasn't just so we can continue to drop your name. As you can see, we pretty much dine out on it already.

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