I was all of 22 when I had joined Azure, many summers back. An almost fresh graduate who had already worked in two reputed agencies, I too, had stars in my eyes, literally. A job to me meant economic independence – monthly pay cheques that would “empower” me to buy all those shoes I had drooled on (Imelda Marcos Syndrome, you know, not that I didn’t need the money for more mundane stuff, you know!) . A job would mean security – a life that would revolve around a strict regimen of 9 to 5, far removed from the afternoon siestas and the inane soap operas in the idiot box. A job would mean a visiting card – my name printed under the umbrella of the organisation I belonged to. A job would mean a new, improved me, with “ultrons”, straight out of a glitzy detergent ad. And talking of ads, the fact that I was joining an agency was what had made things just that bit more exciting. The big, bad, mad world of advertising was beckoning me and I was more than willing to put my wackiest foot forward! Bye bye, Parental Guidance, I was ready to be an Adult.
My experience was certainly not what I had longed to drink to the lees. And the job that I had landed, had everything to do with it, or to be precise, the lack of it! For one, the job didn’t give me an entry ticket into the big, bad “Adult” World of Advertising, it was a lukewarm, tepid PG at best. And today I may consider it the biggest blessing of my life, but in those initial years, I used to hate the owner of Azure, Anup Agarwalla, for being more like an ever-protective elder brother than a boss!
Where I had visualised agency life to be akin to a snakes and ladders game – replete with venomous creatures that lurked in the corners (read lecherous clients, exploitative colleagues, impossible schedules) and ladders that led one to critical acclaim (read creative ennui, even a Cannes Lion), I was served with a staid game of Ludo – where my advance was more due to my boss playing fate and rolling the dice. I had gone in with Death before Disco writ large in my heart, only to learn that life in Azure was more about Honour and Happiness before Billing, even numbers!
“Happy people write good copy” Anup would repeatedly tell me, every time I would ask for what I thought were the forbidden fruits of Advertising. “Don’t invoke the Sulfur fumes, or the power of Lucifer – we don’t want creativity that is corrosive” he would say, “rather follow the heart, your heart, for when the work stems from your genuine belief, its radiance establishes connects with the audience and does the job for your client”. It was certainly not the kind of Creative Copy that I had dreamt of churning out and honestly, those early days were a drag. I wanted to run away and take shelter in the dark side, if only to spew vitriol, you know, be creative, for the sake of it. Today, I don’t know whether the copy that write qualifies to be called good or not, but happy I certainly am. My pen joins me as I say, “Thank You Anup”.
Another thing that I had missed initially was the office intrigue. The affair de Coeur’s, the rat races, the Machiavellian moves – of agencies pulling fast ones both within and outside. I had thought that I would be a part of sinister designs, of deceits that would put politics to shame, be some menacing femme fatale wielding, like James Bond, my Walter PPK-pen. “Perish the thought, little one” Anup had said, “we don’t lie. Period. And believe me, you will understand the power of the truth the day you realise that by being truthful you do yourself the favour of not having to remember each and every lie that you would otherwise have had to invent”. A little exaggeration about the client’s prowess, the generous use of superlatives that hoist us in our own petard, even stretching things to suit the narrative – perhaps, but never an out and out falsification of facts.
And then there is the matter of inter-office calisthenics. I fight the studio guys, the photoshop artists, the client servicing people, not to mention the Boss-man, for no one seems to understand just how apt the tone and tenor of the brilliant copy that I create. But will I belittle them in front of the client (or even my family and friends)? Over my dead-body. And let me reiterate, for all those who think that this is just the politically correct way of putting things – the feeling is mutual. To justify the veracity of my claim, I will only add one little fact – we have perhaps the lowest turnover rate among comparable agencies. It is as difficult to come under the Azure sky as it is to leave it.
Azure is none of the things I had dreamt it would be when I had joined. Azure has none of the qualities that attract the moths to the fire of advertising. Azure, in fact is Spartan stoicism as opposed to Advertising’s fabled hedonism. Yet I have already spent a good ten years of my life, being “blue”, that too in fifty shades. Given a chance, will I change anything? Nah. And yes, I don’t want that Cannes Lion no more – what good is outside vindication when you read it in the happy vibes of your clients?
Okay, so I didn’t get the overcast skies with the thunder clouds that I had approached advertising with. I didn’t get to feel the ominous shades of Black. What I got instead was the Blue that celebrates life, the creativity enhancing Azure of joy de verve. Anup was right you know, it is all about being happy. Especially when it comes from the bottom of the heart. U/A beats A.
Somolekha is the senior copywriter of Azure Comm, Kolkata’s creative juice-wallah. The pain behind some of the agency’s most acclaimed work, she has roots that run deep, firmly holding her even as she sways with the tide. Sometimes she is the pillar of strength – literally helping the young creepers entwine her for sustenance; sometimes she is like the mighty oak, sheltering the perched advertising souls under her shade; sometimes her work is the bloom that attracts the birds and the bees – her very presence a paean to the Gods of creativity. Here she pens her thoughts, chronicling a journey that has just begun. For some classics stretch to infinity – Qyamat se Qyamat tak, just like the Azure sky under which they play out!