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BW Businessworld

Do You Have An Idea?

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Sanjiv Choudhary is unlikely to forget this event in a hurry. He has been floating in and out of the advertising profession for some years (21, according to one creative director who evaluated his work on 26 May). He walked out of Portfolio Night 9 (PN9), a global event held simultaneously in over 20 cities, without any creative director offering him a job. Yet his day, or night, was made at the Mumbai edition of the event when he came face to face with his "God" — not Alyque Padamsee, the creative genius of Lintas who was deified at the agency's South Mumbai headquarters in his time, but the new-age God who rules Ogilvy, Piyush Pandey. "He also invited me to come and see him at his office," recalls Choudhary with some measure of pride.

Such persistence is unheard of, in advertising or elsewhere. In fact, Choudhary claims to have taken a sabbatical and invested the past seven years to upgrade his knowledge as the world moves from the analogue to the digital. After doing a couple of courses and sharpening his knowledge of advertising and marketing through multiple sources on the Internet, he has now shifted to Mumbai to pursue his advertising career. "PN9 was the first step," he says. Creative directors like Raghu Bhat, founder-director of Scarecrow Communications, who was one among the three senior creative guys who evaluated Choudhary that evening, is in praise of this never-say die attitude, that can help in no small measure in a business where clients bounce campaigns every other day.

For many of the other participants who turned up that evening to get their creative work (known as portfolio in industry parlance) evaluated by industry veterans, meeting Pandey in flesh and blood was the big moment. Some went further than giving Pandey titles like ‘God' or ‘Big Daddy' and came up with patronising one-liners such as: "Marketing has four Ps, but advertising has only two Ps". Pandey may have been a trifle embarrassed.

Mrinal Kenchi, a JJ School alumnus and a participant, says, "I was really pinching myself when I met him." Others were a bit intimidated with Pandey's handle-bar moustache. "Looking at his iconic moustache, I thought he will throw my portfolio," recalls Vijay Kumbhar, who has taken part in both editions of the Portfolio Nights in Mumbai. But Pandey had other ideas.

"The onus is on us to make it a level-playing field and not scare the daylights out of the participants," he says. True, this was one evening where creative directors chose to not blow their own trumpet, but honked aloud in approval when they found someone with an impressive portfolio. Rucha Patil, one of the participants, says, "I never loved honking so much before."

The lucky ones were showered with chocolate bars and the luckier ones even got spot offers for a job. For instance, Abhinandan Khanna, a student from Pune, got a hand-written certificate of appreciation and a job recommendation from Saatchi & Saatchi's creative chief, Ramanuj Shastri. Swagata Banerjee, a senior copywriter from ad agency Origin Beanstalk, who sat on table no. 13 beside a large mug of beer and a larger beer-guzzling creative director, found that the number 13 was not all bad. Pandey, who was evaluating her portfolio, gave her all the chocolate bars on his table and even decided to read a few of her Hindi writings, declaring that it is one of the best works he has read in the past few years. The entire room was applauding. "My guess is it was because of their respect for him," says Banerjee in all humility.

EXPERT OPINION: (From left) Ogilvy's Piyush Pandey, Leo Burnett's K.V. Sridhar and Euro RSCG's Satbir Singh were among the 27 experts at the do

For others, the evening was about tracking their personal progress. Kumbhar recalls that the previous year the creative directors advised him to work harder on execution. "This year they liked both the idea as well as the execution. Now they have asked me to focus on layouts," he says, commenting on his journey of improvement.

Participants got goodie bags, which had a horse-shoe as a lucky charm, electrolyte powder (to stay tension free), Mentos candies that go with the ad line ‘dimag ki batti jala de' and a bar of Cadbury's Diary Milk for shubh aarambh (auspicious beginning).

For many participants this was a short cut to meet their advertising idols — served on a platter. "In our days we had to make 200 phone calls just to reach the secretary of the CD. That too, if we were lucky," recalls Satbir Singh, managing partner and chief creative officer of ad agency Euro RSCG, who was among the 27 creative heads evaluating portfolios that evening.

"I was unable to get my work to reach the right people as most of the time it gets lost in the transition," says one participant. Portfolio Night removes the unwanted middlemen (take that, creative group heads) and that makes it so unique, he adds. That is why participants went the extra mile to reach Mumbai's suburb of Goregaon from all corners of India. One creative head recounts meeting a participant from Tripura, while Sanghamitra Baral, who moved from Bhubaneswar to Delhi to further his advertising dreams, turned up at Portfolio Night and took back five job opportunities by the end of it — each participant gets to meet only three creative directors during the session while the rest happens during the post-session networking. A participant from Ahmedabad came to know of the event just a day before it was scheduled. "I was lucky enough to get the last ticket, spent the whole night preparing my folio and flew down from Ahmedabad to attend," he recounts.

Meeting With The Stars
Some managed to reach the big-boss in the agency they worked for. Saarthak Dutt, an engineer who now works as a trainee copywriter at Ogilvy, was among them. That evening, Dutt got to meet his agency's national creative director Abhijit Avasthi in person. But he feels the 15-minute interaction during the session was too little. "It was like speed dating. The moment it got interesting, they rang the bell to change the station," says Dutt. But for others it was more than enough to solve the dilemma of a lifetime. "Interacting with the NCD for just five minutes solved the biggest confusion. Just by looking at the work they identified where my strengths lie and told me to get into art and not copy. It was an amazing experience. What more can I say?" says Sweta Jasapara, one of the participants.

Was the idea of Portfolio Night conceived by jobless creative guys? Well, nearly. Back in 2001, a group of young men from an organisation called, I Have An Idea, dreamt up the concept that could give young creative minds a short-cut to the advertising world. Then, two of them, Brendan Watson and Nat Salgueiro, were shopping their own portfolios around; Brett McKenzie was still a student in an ad programme; and Ignacio Oreamuno, the founder-president, was just starting his first job as an art director at Ogilvy Toronto.

The first Portfolio Night happened simultaneously in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto in 2002. It was only in 2006 that Portfolio Night, well into its fourth edition, went beyond Canada to the US. By the fifth edition, the Portfolio Night fire had spread to 12 locations across the globe.

With little experience in organising a global event, I Have An Idea decided to get outside help. The answer came in the form of a rock band Burn Back, which gave the organisers a quartet of advertising-themed songs. ‘Make The Logo Bigger' became an unofficial global anthem for the industry. Last year, Portfolio Night set foot in India for the first time with Ogilvy playing host in Mumbai.

Source: www.

Portfolio Night 9 also gave people such as Pratiksha Dinesh More a second shot at pursuing her dream career. An alumnus from Mumbai-based Welingkar Institute, More always wanted to be a copywriter, but had to take up a job of an accountant to overcome financial constraints. Some others got advice to change track. Kishori Tikmani from Symbiosis was one among them. Ogilvy's Anup Chitnis told her, she says, "Instead of pursuing a career in graphic design, I should work in the planning department of an advertising agency and that he would ask the planning department of Ogilvy and Mather to contact me." Sajan Raj Kurup, creative chairperson, Creativeland Asia, found some of the work from freshers to be outstanding. Some even turned up with well-edited films, he says. Kurup's advice to one such participant: "You could be the next Ram Gopal Verma."

But life isn't always hunky dory at Portfolio Night, especially if a participant's knowledge of advertising begins with Piyush Pandey and ends with Prasoon Joshi (blame the media for that). One such participant (who we will not name because he is already feeling so bad about it) received an offer from Scarecrow's Bhat last year. "Raghu told me about his new venture. I decided against joining an agency that has just started. Till date, I really regret saying no to him," recalls that participant. Another participant, Aarish Matcheswalla, who has completed a PG course from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (Mica), recalls spotting a man crying in the restroom after the judging session. Gentlemen's section, we assume. In advertising, one can never be sure.


(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 13-06-2011)