In Conversation With Raj Nair, Chief Creative Officer, Madison BMB
250 Awards. WOW! Is the joy of receiving still the same as the first one or have you grown out of it?
It’s fair to say that I stopped counting a long while back. Also, there are many people in the industry who have received many more awards than I have. (So it’s foolish to count.) However, the joy of receiving an award, big or small, is unparalleled. We creative folk like to be appreciated. It’s not our life - blood, it’s not what makes the world go round, it’s not our raison d’etre. It’s definitely not why we are in this business after so many years. But yes, it does still feel good when the work that you create for your client doesn’t just work in the marketplace, but is celebrated by industry leaders and peers as well.
Contract advertising for 17 years. . . why Madison BMB?
I earned my spurs at Contract and was part of the core team for many years. I joined as a copywriter in 1995 and left as CD of Mumbai and South in 2012. When Madison BMB approached me, I was at a juncture in my life when I could have continued staying happy doing more of the same. But the challenge of helping an agency that was never really known for its creative product and to help rebuild it, almost ground up, was indeed a rousing challenge.
Has it been easy? Far from it. But this is my 3rd year at Madison BMB and we have a very diverse clutch of clients with a very diverse set of needs. To name a few, Hypercity, Cartrade.com, VVF (manufacturers of Jo, Doy, Doycare soaps), Prince Pipes, Olivia Cosmetics, among others. We have a small, hungry, young and agile team. We are being called for new business opportunities on an almost weekly basis. We are obviously being selective in whom we respond to. We are at the finalization stage on at least 3 new business opportunities. Our work for Treo Dinnerware, Prince Pipes, Cartrade.com, Jiyo Parsi, DoyCare Aloe Vera Facewash, Hypercity has been discussed, liked, disliked, awarded and appreciated in equal measure, but never gone unnoticed. We have won awards at the Abbies, Ink, Kyoorius and FoxGlove.
What gives you a bigger sense of achievement, giving someone an award or receiving it?
After 23 odd years in the business, it is really a pleasure to be in a position where one is still receiving awards for the work one creates and it’s equally satisfying sitting on juries from Cannes Lions to New York Festival to Pepper at Kochi to Srijan Samman at Kolkata to DMAi to Foxglove to the inimitable Abbies, of course, and being given the opportunity to appreciate and award work. To sit on a jury of peers, have healthy discussions and even arguments is all part of a learning process. I consider the opportunity to serve on juries as rewarding as it is humbling to interact with talented, multifaceted peers in our industry and abroad. And at the end of it, to help shape the opinions of the young, to select the best entries from a year on any jury panel is indeed incredibly inspiring for me.
Had the advertising bug not bitten you, where do you think you would have been at present?
I have absolutely no clue. I was introduced to advertising while filling billing registers at a company called National Plywood in Kolkata. This was my very first job. (I was still in college, attending B.Com classes in the mornings and despite my very vocal protests, my father did not want me to laze the entire day.) I used to, in my capacity as the assistant to the Purchase Officer, dispense payments. And hence came in contact with the servicing executive from Ulka who used to manage the account. I happened to see tv storyboards attached to a bill they had raised and the bug bit and it bit hard. But I didn’t join advertising in Kolkata. Because shortly after the bug bit, my parents decided to relocate to Kerala. It’s in Kochi that I got my first break at a small agency called Space Ad. Where the daily discussions ranged from topics as fulfilling as Marquez to Grateful Dead to Bernbach. When I realized that I was consuming more Hercules XXX rum here than advertising, I ran away and came to Mumbai. And landed a job at Dart. Followed by Speer. Followed by JWT (then HTA). Followed by Enterprise. Followed by Contract. And now, here at Madison BMB. If not advertising, I really don’t know what else I would have done. Journalism, perhaps.
You are the only one in advertising amongst doctors and scientists back home. Was it difficult to get them to agree?
I think when I started earning money by holding down a job in advertising, my parents would have been just plain relieved that the seeming black sheep of the illustriously academic family could actually get by without the help of some glittering degree! There was never any question of them agreeing, I just went out and did what I had to, to make it. I kept at it and here I am. And what’s even more exciting is that after 23 odd years in the business, I genuinely believe that the journey has just begun. There are so many challenges our industry faces and the business of communication has become so intricate and layered, that there is constant learning to be made on a daily basis. These are thrilling times with virtually every interface becoming a medium and the possibility of reaching out and making contact and constantly receiving feedback in hitherto unchartered territory.
What's an opinion you hold that most people perhaps disagree with?
Opinion 1: Seniority doesn’t hold a monopoly on good ideas. Ideas can come from the most junior member of the team and irrespective of job description. You just have to have the ability to listen, recognize, appreciate, hone and shape. I have learned this time and time and time and time again. This is what keeps me young in the business.
Opinion 2: It’s really cool to be unassuming, humble, friendly and approachable.
It has been said by many that Raj works really hard. Is it because you are passionate about your work or do you prefer not to go home ;)
Are you trying to get me kicked out of my home? Passion is what keeps a creative person going. Passion is what fuels us. Passion is what keeps us young. Passion is what keeps us focused. Passion is what keeps us from settling into cozy, casual, comfort zones. Passion is what drives us to try and be better at our ideation, at our craft and even at becoming better human beings. Passion may not recognize weekends and annual leaves (I took some much needed time off this year for two weeks after being at hard at work for three years.) I do not prescribe this to everyone. On the contrary, all I do is try and create an environment where ideas abound, where everyone is heard, gets an opportunity to be their best and is genuinely happy. This is truly important to me.
Scroll down to see what Raj helped create:
4. The Bombay International School 5. Jockey | Beach
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