Friday, May 28, 2010

Where's Your Body, Woman?

As a raw, completely wet behind the ears 22 year old, I had joined the big bad world of advertising. Man, was it a shock to my system? There was no respect for age, gender, race, creed, religion or whatever. People used four letter words as punctuations. They came in late and worked till early mornings. Men talked about various body parts without any shame or inhibition and women did the same. To top it all, I was the only female in my creative team. And I loved it.

I loved the energy, the fun, the excitement. I loved the challenges and the camaraderie. I loved the whole creative process and most of all, I loved my team and my creative head. It was another story that my copies always ended up in the garbage bin. My boss would often scream at me, "Aparna, don't write a press release, write a copy. Write better, shorter, crisper.Write sexier."

Derik, my boss, was always trying to teach me to write better ads. Write an attention grabbing, riveting headline. Write a mind boggling, jaw dropping body copy. Most important, write a hard hitting punch line. The ad should make the readers salivate. It should make the poor guys or gals want to jump up and buy the product then and there. Unfortunately, my attempts were almost always the non-salivating types and ended up as paper planes flying towards the bin.

The first product I handled was a lingerie brand. Lacy and sinful looking underthings used to be strewn all over the office. The creative and the client servicing team discussed the merits of the straps, the hooks, the designs of the inner wear so clinically that soon my initial embarrassment disappeared. I felt absolutely no hesitation in discussing the product with the boys. The final ad had no eye ball grabbing headline. It had no body copy describing  the various merits of the undergarment. There was no tag line urging the reader to buy the brand. It had a visual of a beautiful woman sitting on a beach, looking at the sea. A four line poetry described the inner beauty of the woman. The result was a beautiful, subtle ad that our entire agency fell in love with. The client promptly rejected our effort. He wanted a woman posing half naked looking lasciviously at the camera. All efforts at trying to tell him this kind of ad may appeal to the baser instincts of a man but would put women off completely, went down the drain. He just would not accept the ad. Derik lambasted the client, raged against such sexist behaviour and tried his best to convince him. Nothing worked. He finally accepted his wish and asked us to create a crass and tasteless ad for him. We were heart broken but finally got around to accept that not all clients were as intelligent as us. And the fact that Derik loved our ad meant more than the client's approval.

Our team of four, 3 boys and 1 girl, loved him fiercely. He was our mentor, our support. He was a father figure to all of us and we went to him for advice even when the problems were personal. He shaped our thinking and helped us to hone our raw talent. He was the best boss I've ever worked for.

Our superiors influence us for lives. When you work for a boss you love, the results show.The work becomes  more exciting. It is not a chore to go to work every day and slave over tough projects. The men and women who mentor budding talents, I wonder if they realise that how important their roles are. Their mentoring ultimately affects the whole industry.

Even now, when I write a blog post, I keep thinking, would Derik approve? Would he find my head line captivating? Would he like the body? The last line? Or would he say, "What happened to your head woman? And where's your body?"

I would love to know. Unfortunately my all time favourite boss, Derik Fernandes Prabhu, an award winning advertising guru,died suddenly around fifteen years ago. He was in his fifties. And I never got to tell him how much his mentoring meant to me.

But if he is up there somewhere, drinking wine with the angels and looking at my head or body, then "Thank you Derik, you were the best and I loved you. Now, how's that for a punchline?"

32 comments:

Nona said...

May his soul rest in peace.

It is nice to see you acknowledging your mentor. If you troll the blogosphere, you will find a lot of people blasting away at their superiors! I do not find any article that tells how wonderful their (ex)boss are! So, this post is special.

Sharmila said...

Gosh! Hats off to you ... I wonder if I would have survived such an environment .. but I guess we all get such experiences to learn and survive in life. And you were lucky to have such a mentor.
Great punchline ... but why 'loved'? I think you'll always love him. :-)

Lazy Pineapple said...

I also started my career in an ad agency and I agree with you about the whole environment.

And I am kinda jealous of you for having such a great mentor. I have never had one so it is good to know that their are good bosses too.

I like it that you admired your mentor so much and have paid a tribute to him :)

The Panorama said...

@Aparna, that is a lovely post, a real tribute to your mentor. I think it takes two...you were also the kind of protege that most mentors look for, who do not question their abilities and get impertinent with their seniors.
But yes a good mentor is a blessing. I have one too and she is a wonderful lady. I look upto her. She is brutal and honest in her evaluations but very very fair.

You know I got all choked up by the end of your post. I am sure Derik is smiling from heaven.
And now I know why your posts make a great read:-)

Sakshi said...

Ohh you were in advertising? That solves the riddle of all those punch lines you shove at our guts *grins*

That's a beautiful tribute to your mentor and am sure he would be beaming with pride, looking down from among the Apsaras's at your wonderfully sculpted head and body ;)

A New Beginning said...

That was some experience Aparna..advertising is a tough world, youre a brave girl!!:)

Renu said...

Nice post!..so what they show in movies is true..that not beauty but crass commercialization sells.

Really bosses are very important, whether professionally or in family.

Sandhya said...

'Unfortunately, my attempts were almost always the non-salivating types and ended up as paper planes flying towards the bin.'

'We were heart broken but finally got around to accept that not all clients were as intelligent as us.'

Now, I know, why your language in your post is so good, Aparna! We too admire Derik now!

Kavi said...

May his soul rest in peace. the influence of bosses and teachers never cease !

I have my own stories as well. Life has its twists and turns.

Some people just stay !

The Holy Lama said...

Glad to know we are related. I started off as a copywriter, now am a web content developer. So you were a copywriter then with...? And do you freelance now? Nice to know you remember your mentor. Ad agencies are real fun. Miss it.

BK Chowla, said...

Very lucky peole get a mentor like you had.
And if you have one, half the problems are solved.

Smita said...

This was such a touching tribute!!! I sincerely believe that it is your 1st boss who makes you the professional that you are. A good one makes you see thing positively and a bad one...less said the better!!

Aparna said...

Nona, it's so easy to blame the boss for all our misfortunes. When you have a caring and competent boss, life is so much easier though.

Sharmila, I loved the world of advertising and it taught me a lot. Including how to value my own talent. Though the people are informal, they respect you for your talent and competence.

Lazy Pineapple, good to know you were also a part of this world. I still miss it.

Panorama, good mentors are special. They know where your strengths lie and always encourage you to give your best.

Sakshi, yes I was:) So you like the head and the body...but what about the tail? Did it pack a punch?

A new Beginning, advertising is tough but it is also a lot of fun. I loved it.

Renu, a lot of times the ads that you see are actually not the best the agencies create. Sometimes the creative ones are rejected by the clients.

Sandhya, thanks. Yes, I owe a lot to Derik.

Kavi, some people do stay, no doubt.

Holy Lama, I no longer work. But the years that I spent in advertising were the best in my life.

BK Chowlaji, a good boss can make our lives so much easier. Not many bosses understand their roles properly though.

Smita, thanks. I also had my share of bad bosses. I am definitely not going to write about them!

avdi said...

That is an awesome post. May he Rest in Peace

Jyothi said...

OK. Now we know why everything about your post is so well framed and planned! The ad world has always fascinated me. I couldn't dream of joining it though. I guess my mom was well educated about the working atmosphere there!I am not sure if I would have survived in an environment like that! A great boss....never had one. Most bosses make you work harder and try their best to ruin your life, but they always mean well. Some, are the best of buddies with you, a loving soul but might just as well end up back stabbing you. You are lucky that you got such a fascinating boss...and I am sure he was lucky to have someone like you on his team!

May he rest in peace......

Anish Patel said...

May his soul rest in peace.

Really Nice to see some one admiring his/her Boss.... mostly people hates..

But ya, I am lucky to have nice n technically sound managers in all 3 companies I worked... being in tech line, its great to have technically sound boss.... it really helps to grow....

I wish someday I too rite about them...

Nice post...

ZB said...

Lucky or blessed are those who get a mentor in their first boss, and you are lucky amongst few.

Good bosses are as endangered as the tigers in India.I remember i had an A-hole of a Boss. He used to find fault with everything i did.

ANd once i told him to "Fuck-off". after that he was the best boss in the world. Some bosses need special treatment to bring them on track.Nice post:)

May he rest in peace.

Tomz said...

Only fortunate people get a godfather of this kind..you were lucky in that manner..

You Did Whaaat?! said...

Great blog you have here :) Check mine out: http://youdidwhaaat.blogspot.com/
:)

Rajesh said...

Beautiful post. You were really lucky to have such a boss.

My Travel Photos

RGB said...

Oh yeah...I totally agree with you abt the role a mentor plays in shaping our lives. I had one such mentor, who has influenced me a great deal. Nice head (-line) you got there!

starry said...

Lovely post and was really nice to think of and honor your mentor.many forget the people that showed them the way.

Nikita Banerjee said...

Lovely post...you were to have a boss like Derik!

Destiny's child... said...

Even I am a 21, completely wet behind the ears copywriter who has the privilege of working with a team which is nothing short of divine :)
I have a boss who is a fun-loving, game for any mischief, sort of person. A great friend. There's another senior member in the team who provides all the laughs. RGB, Holy Lama, I am blessed to have worked with you. :)

Great post Aparna, somehow this post made me very nostalgic. I have just quit my job to pursue furtehr studies...I will miss my team. Terribly.

kavita said...

Beautiful post Aparna ! How you remember him so fondly speaks lot about this great soul.I would say that both of you are lucky to have worked together.
What a 'punchline'..wow !!

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

wonderful tribute!! Wish we all had bosses like that!

Aparna said...

Thank you Avdi, I know, wherever he is right now, he is enjoying himself.

Jyothi, his influence on my writing was tremendous. Believe me, the ad world is not all that bad. Most of the time it is a lot of fun. There is absolutely no monotony.

Anish Patel, good to know you had good bosses. They are very important in one's life.

ZB, reading all the comments here, I guess I was one of the fortunate fews to have a good boss!

Tomz, thank you.

Youdidwhaaat, thank you.

Rajesh, thank you.

RGB, thank you. It is indeed a blessing to have a good role model and a mentor.

Starry, thank you.

Nikita, thank you.

Destiny's child, you have been very lucky to have such a wonderful team. First jobs are special. Good luck to you.

Kavita, thank you. I don't know about you, but yes I was indeed lucky.

Roshni, I wish the same, thank you.

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

What a post, what a lovely lovely post. Great to know that you too once belonged to the ‘bad bad world of advertising’. Sadly, the likes of Derek are pretty hard to come by these days. You’re so lucky to have a mentor like him…

JD said...

excellent punchline. Some bosses are unforgettable. They live on forever..
The good we like to fondly remember and the bad ones are best when kept under wraps..

Nu said...

Aparna,such heart warming post could come only from you !

Well Done ! I'm sure Derik is happy with you up above !!

The Ketchup Girl said...

a name, a language and now a profession. Wondering what more is common!
Yes, I know what it means to have a boss you love. Its amazing the kind of work you can churn out under them.

Aparna said...

Thanks every one for commenting.

@ The ketchup girl, we both have daughters!