Big on Small Screen, again!

Half a decade later, I am back on TV.

In 2010, it was #RideonTheTop on #ETV speaking about “Air Action by Mentos Launch Campaign”.

In 2016, I was invited to speak on the “Digital Marketing in Digital Bangladesh” on #YoungNite of #ATNNews

Felt more like a “coming of age” compare & contrast.
A boy had become a man.
An amateur to an expert.

In 2010, I was thinking creative in advertising working for Ogilvy & Mather
In 2016, I am drawing blue maps in digital services working for Robi Axiata

Still a very much thinker but also a part time blogger. Enjoy!

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A Fruity Idea

Another tea time idea sees the light of day…
A tool conceptualized and developed for people of the country who pride themselves as a paradise of fruits.

Fruits of Bangladesh

It allows you to browse by seasons (Bengali calendar)

Fruit Calendar
Fruit Calendar

Or by regions (Bangladesh map)

Fruit Map
Fruit Map

And to the best of my knowledge (you bet), there has been no such initiative in Bangladesh before (except of course Banglapedia). Endorsed and funded by my dear(est) client Tang (a brand owned by Mondelez), this was a pet project of mine which the client bought into.

So type in fruitsofbangladesh and keep exploring!!! Feedbacks are welcome with open arms.

Guerrilla Attack

Guerilla Artist (গেরিলা) is not quite the nickname you get yourself on facebook unless there’s very good reason for it. I mean there are a good one billion facebook users and god knows how many of them are fake. Since the usual spammers have questionable intent, this ambiguous friend request  had me scratching my head.

But the perennial intrigue of what’s that? was again in play. Thankfully I didn’t just accept the friend request blindly. I had randomly come across these wall paintings or murals (চিকা in Bangla) in and around North Gulshan having a guerrilla signature. Many considered them rich kids dirty play, to others it made no sense. But it stuck in my mind and as soon I saw those murals in this mystery profile, I was excited to finally meet their creator, the SPAMMER with a reason.

We never had a chance to interact one-to-one, not even on facebook. But I kept a close watch on this underground artist, probably the first of his kind in town. How he used facebook to promote his creations under the Guerilla Artist alias or I Heart Bangladesh cause, was really praiseworthy. Ever since the আমরা Bangladesh movement by the now-defunct Project Bangladesh (and its magnificent wristbands that I still wear), I have longed to find a local movement of such sort and failed miserably. One small initiative that caught my attention was Amar Desh Amar Potaka, but it still was well short of becoming a youth movement. Guerilla however, is showing more promise and intelligence than others…

Given the fact he (I assume its a “He”, since a “She” can’t possibly be drawing graffiti at midnight) is an anonymous artist with good photography sense, his medium of communication has been more effective and permanent in nature than others. The wall murals, the message, the facebook page and most importantly the Guerilla mark has really helped in making him a voice of of the unheard.

The Guerilla care-package

And today as I open the envelope full of goodies sent forth by him, I hope more will follow his suit and let their creative expressions go free. At least I wish I could do more to make use of my humble capabilities.

Remembering those unforgettable words by General Patton, “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” all I have to say is Good luck, গেরিলা!!

The Unbecoming

A month into buying the modern advertising bible Ogilvy on Advertising, I got myself a casual chit-chat session with the Head of Ogilvy Bangladesh. I don’t recall how long it went on or whether I really wanted a job in Ogilvy back then (not even formally launched). I don’t even think I made much of an impression either.

But just like the way its been for thousands before me, I ended up signing the red-letter and happily went home. I have been criticized time and again for a relentless and somewhat non-linear ambitions in life and more so regarding career. Strangely joining the firm back then made sense even as I took a pay cut and were to start at the bottom of the pyramid.

Later in life I shared this pyramid theory (with great success) with a few colleagues. It was nothing but the simple truth of being a big fish in a small pond vs. the small one in a big pond. Once in an interview I was asked this no-brainer, only to reply a small fish in a big pond gets to be the big fish someday as well. Obviously I didn’t get that job.

In my first “get to know” session I had rather foolishly said I wish to join your great firm to make it large (unlike McDowell’s) one day. Large was only an adjective that had no meaning, clarity or precision in the minds of a 23-year-old fresher. It sounded cool. It sounded ambitious. And I had to say it.

Its only much later I came across the term “what not to speak”!

Back in 2007 sitting in the boardroom in Ogilvy, I had envisioned a career in across countries. Writing my blog in 2012 I am partly in one at least. The obsession with Piyush Pandey, the cult following of Vodafone ZooZoo (and its creator Rajiv Rao) and most importantly the dream of experiencing Ogilvy India (arguably the most famous agency in whole of South Asia)… all came to be TRUE!!!

But the One above had other plans, I guess. Finishing off my stint here in Ogilvy Delhi, I only realize dreams are there only to dream bigger and better next time. Nothing seems perfect, yet we settle for imperfections as a constituent of everyday life.

The becoming of greatness only turned out to be the unbecoming of a Bong in the city of djinns. 

Rohim Chacha Calling

What started out as a US Army recruitment poster for the two World Wars, ended up being “the most famous poster in the world.” Yes, I am talking about none else but the venerable Uncle Sam.

Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam

The poster went on to stamp an identity which personified the US Government whole-heartedly. The obvious nature of dictating terms, the relentless pursuit of self-serving objectives and the frequent yet unnecessary agression in world politics… all can be drawn up from this one-the-face visual.

When they want it, they would leave no stone unturned to get it! They are, and will be America!!!

But as always, the beginning of my stories are hardly in relation to the body. Its sole purpose of existence is to get you to the body :p

With the growing number of GPA-5 achievers and declining number of Science students, the dynamics of the talent pool in Bangladesh is changing fast. The traditional employment behemoths are facing the heat and their efforts to recover lost ground is quite apparent.

Take the military service for example. In a country like ours, throughout history (after Pakistani occupation) a career in the military has always been perceived an excellent choice. From giving their daughters hand in in marriage to buying their used cars, army men are just respected, trusted and admired unquestionably. I’ve experienced it first-hand. After all my dad served in the Army :p

Money turned out to be the root of this evil, too. As exposure to capitalism and materialism increased, students leaned more towards a business degree than the traditionally respected science. Back in Class 9, a friend of mine (after being disallowed in the science section) had said, “Study science and become and engineer, only to come and work for the company I run/own”. It didn’t matter back then, but fifteen years down the line… I thank the Almighty, my parents and myself for taking the timely decision to switch over to business studies in grad school. I did try to follow my father’s footsteps into the armed forces, but thankfully that wasn’t to be.

Traditionally a military career drew interest from the middle-class of Bangladesh. The social status, the modest pay, the countless facilities and overall a stable life was all they sought. And a career with the armed forces, more than made up for it. Although rising inflation and exposure to a better lifestyle was covered for by UN Missions/Appointments; by the mid 90’s the mindset was in a downward spiral nonetheless. From an esteemed employer, Bangladesh Armed Forces had become the destination for the less-privileged talents.

As the number of applicants kept falling, there was the obvious dip in quality of officers the academies were producing. Garbage going in, wasn’t producing anything but garbage itself.

The brand Bangladesh Army was going down…

Fortunately some “Smart Alec” General came up with the idea of mass communication aka. brand building (another child of capitalism). An order is an order, and in the military the best thing people do is echoing the words “Yes, Sir. Alright Sir”.

Their idea of attracting the Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Commando and Rambo fans into the army came to life with the “Join Bangladesh Army” campaign. The first of its kind. A brilliant work by the amazing Amitabh Reza and his crew at Half Stop Down.

The Army went on to complete the full circle with the launch of its own flashy website.

I guess, Army wasn’t the only force feeling the heat as the Navy soon followed suit in launching their version of the brand awareness campaign. “Join Bangladesh Navy” was directed and produced by Gazi Shubhro and his team at Red Dot.

Theirs too had a website to ensure proper web presence. As I browsed along for more on Bangladesh Armed Forces, I cam across a rather interesting one. Interesting because of the recent history of the force. The site belonged to Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB).

After the Pilkhana Carnage and public knowledge of their heinous acts during the mutiny, I wonder what can they do to earn back the trust of fellow countrymen; let alone being the place you send your kid to get enlisted.

Perhaps a deshi version of Uncle Sam can be the solution.

Perhaps a platform we can all connect to…

Perhaps our very own Rohim Chacha!

I will vouch and ideate for one for sure.

Who else?

My Bengal of Gold

Just in case you were wondering, the title is from the famous song by Tagore “Aamar Shonar Bangla”. Aside from being the national anthem of Bangladesh, the song is one of the better ones out there encapsulating the true beauty of Bengal.

Representing the branding/communications fraternity of Bangladesh, it gives me no pleasure knowing we have achieved almost “zero growth” in increasing the value of “Brand Bangladesh”. While different bodies have been mobilized and some been rather proactive (i.e. Bangladesh Brand Forum) to make amends, the end-results are yet to materialize (or far from being sufficient). The government on its part, has done little to make any sizable impact except coining words like “Digital Bangladesh” (which is more fallacy than facts) as well as incorporating “Beautiful Bangladesh” (a stop-gap measure that none seem to approve of). The BPC (Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation) has been a playing catch-up ever since its inception. Which makes it not surprising that even after forty years of being an independent nation, we lack a proper tourism infrastructure. Albeit there has been sporadic moves from the private parties (some mutually beneficial, whereas some purely commercial), tourism in general is considered a public sector undertaking and yet the government has gone underground on it from the beginning.

I fell in love with Kerala only after “Gods own country” showed me how pristine and natural it was and I can only recall Malaysia as the “Truly Asia” country… but I can never associate Bangladesh with such a one-liner in an instance. Of course the proverbial greenery of Bangladesh (which is supposed to depict the green countryside) exists, but really! how many of us would endorse that with a sane mind and hand on our heart? I believe, the numbers are in hundreds if not 10’s…

The point wasn’t about how far behind we are (which is true for most advancements, actually) but to appreciate what measures we have taken to better our image globally. Sadly, not too many enterprising spirits (persons or companies) have actually brought about any memorable changes to-date! Be it in terms of image building (may be Grameen Bank and Dr. Yunus, but even that’s a taboo now) or actual facilitating (name one resort/place that is truly unique to Bangladesh? Just one…) we have failed over and over again to make any great improvements to the sorry state of tourism in Bangladesh.

But as always (just like any fiction or inspirational true events) there is HOPE! Hope in the form of new media (social media, web marketing). While we (the nation, the government, the ones running it and the people) are stressed to feed our poor, implement ADP (Annual Development Plans) or even keeping inflation in check some evangelist souls (companies as well) have been making the most of digital to promote “Brand Bangladesh”. Although the following mentions aren’t the latest or greatest, they make way for (what I believe) the beginning of a lot of new beginnings for our Bangladesh!!!

First up is a video made by a student from Dhaka University (which I’m led to believe was developed out on a whim) that created a new kind of buzz (promoting Bangladesh’s image to the world) and gained popularity through YouTube and Facebook mostly…

Developed by ZANALA Bangladesh, the next one has been (again) one of the most circulated videos about Bangladesh. It was intended as a part a campaign that promoted Bangladesh at an international conference in Canada. Funded by IDLC Bangladesh Ltd., this video even went on to win a special award for “Nation Branding” at Commward 2009. I was lucky to be at the Gala cheering for IDLC and ZANALA for a very well deserved prize…

The final mention, and perhaps the best of the lot (in terms of quality, story-telling and a genuine communication) is “The School of Life” made by GREY Dhaka for the Beautiful Bangladesh campaign and was aired during the opening ceremony of (another milestone for Bangladesh) ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in Dhaka. Not only did it make a dent in everyone’s way of thinking (regarding Bangladesh) it was what I would call, a genuine effort to put an image to “Brand Bangladesh”… I loved how the film ends with a call of action (admission going on…) would genuinely endorse it as a must-watch for anyone seeking to get an idea about Bangladesh!

An extended version of the “Beautiful Bangladesh” film… Personally, I think it doesn’t do justice to the original film (the girl starts looking less pretty, for instance). Also with more time to play with, the story somehow falls short of connecting better! Nevertheless, I thought the update was required to this post… thus… here it goes…

Obviously none of the above make it to the league of a full-fledged campaign like Incredible !ndia, but its a start! And we all can (at least in our own ways) come together to help these trailers make the rest (of the world) fall in love with the movie (hopefully a planned and comprehensive country branding effort)…

A special thanks to Views On Tourism. We should all be thankful to the ones like Majbritt Thomsen for their initiatives! I for one got inspired to write this from a Ms. Marjana Shammi’s blog.

A Tale of Two Videos

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

If the above statement held true for all my colleagues at Ogilvy, I surely wouldn’t be writing this post 🙂 Working in advertising comes with “a different touch”, best described by the Hindi term “thoda haatke”. We work absurdly long hours for not the most promising end of month paycheck, we showoff with brands that actually gets our salaries and at the end, we are eternally dissatisfied with others (esp. competitors)!!!

In the league of such eccentric people, I am no angel either. If anything, my eccentricity and complacency gets the better of me in most cases for good or bad. Just the way a rather sane me tried to jump on board the Cannes Canoe (taking part in the Cannes Lions) almost a similar opportunity came knocking on the door for my creative buddies, but for a bigger audience at work.

This year being the 100th birth anniversary of “Father of Modern Advertising”, David Ogilvy… the company he founded is planning to hold special centennial celebrations in his honor. And what better place to honor a legend than at the legendary Cannes Lions Festival itself. To promote the pride in being with Ogilvy, competitions were across different disciplines to excite and entice Ogilvians around the world for an all-expense-paid trip to Cannes Lions 2011. Previously I had mentioned how I was lucky to be considered for a ticket to Cannes through the “Young Suit of the Year” competition. Although I made it to the Top 10, I missed the final cut (Top 5) by a whisker!!! The other competition launched was the more open to all “Create or Else“; where the creative types were invited to share ideas and work that inspires in a video. The video had to be an all original content (concept, music, photography, filming etc.), between 2 to 4 minutes long and had to be a team of two. The ten most viewed video owners will be reviewed and one lucky team gets to take part in Cannes Lions. The following were the submissions from my beloved Bangladesh:

First up was the all “art” combination of Razib and Sakib. The fine arts duo capitalized on the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden as they published, B+S (oBama and oSama). Unfortunately the video was removed from youtube for having sensitive content.

The copy department soon followed suit as Mehedi teamed up with our in-house animator Nafis to create Bring back the green

With the rumor mill of a few more upcoming still buzzing, and I assure you of putting them up as well. For now, enjoy the works of the fabulous four and spread the word around!!! Who knows, may be one day your time will come as well…

New drama unfolds, as the B+S (osama and obama) has been removed from YouTube as per direction of the competition committee citing political sensitivity and company policy. However there is good news in the form of a third entrant. Here comes Positive or Negative? by Imran and Russell…A

Surprise, surprise… Razib and Sakib strike back after the untimely end of their first video with a rather artsy and eccentric submission, AWARD!!!

The Suit

In my experience, there is not a single role in an agency a suit (Servicing to others) cannot or (more appropriately) doesn’t fill in for; a jack of all trades; a one-man agency. But of course there are a few must have’s along with other good to have’s.
Below are my top 5:

  1. Passion for advertising is the fuel for careers in our industry. The very moment it runs dry, its time to bid goodbye. Neither is it completely irrational, nor very logical… for it is the best of both worlds and one needs to feel for it to be in it at all times.
  2. While passion drives us forward, it’s the ownership of our work that keeps it steady. Good is never the answer, its always got to be great.
  3. However, it’s not possible to own your work completely without having an eye for detail. There is simply no scope to overlook the obvious (down to the tiniest detail).
  4. Since it’s advertising, there is never an absolute right or wrong. In the shades of gray we operate in, we should always trust our instincts. Many a times, what doesn’t feel right just isn’t right!
  5. And finally to be one heck of a suit, we need to love our clients. We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the opportunities they entrust us with, likewise they wouldn’t be as great they are without our undying love and respect for their business.

1000 Words of Wisdom

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together”

Never had a clue how this excerpt from Van Gogh would be the perfect answer to “why me?”. For an adman who sells campaign ideas for brands for a living, it wasn’t the usual child’s play to sell brand “SABIH” and keep it sold! To my utter surprise, five years after I baby-stepped into the mad world of advertising, nothing described my achievements better than the quote above.

Back in 2007, joining Ogilvy was a gambit for me. The agency had just opened its doors in Bangladesh – a bagful of prospects but little accomplishments in reality. As exciting yet enduring the journey was, it was only in 2010 when the hard work started giving dividends. An idea that was simple in concept but fabulous in action did the trick for Ogilvy. The first 360° campaign, in which I double-timed as both a suit and a copywriter, the launch of Air Action by Mentos broke the deadlock of creative recognition for Ogilvy. Scoring our first ever metal for effective creativity (at the national Commward 2010) and that too in a prestigious category (Most Effective Launch) was just about perfect. However beyond that fanfare, it gained us the client’s trust that let us practice better creative freedom (developing the first of its kind radio engagement campaign, Mentos Monday that won in Dhaka Adfest 2011) and reinforced Ogilvy’s image as the preferred partner (leading to handover of the McCann business to us). In a matter of three years, the PVM account had grown by over seven times and was the second largest business of Ogilvy Bangladesh. All this achieved by getting the basics (of creating great work that works) right!

However, being a brand steward often calls for going beyond the call of duty. Over the years, I have consistently tried to develop and deliver on the stewardship principals again and again. For me it was always about owning the brands I worked for, instead of being employed to look after the brands. When TANG was losing market share to me-too brands, an initiation on my part resulted in a sampling program across eight metros that regained significant market share. In addition to that, I helped identify a need-gap followed by writing a business case on how Kraft could grab share off carbonated drinks by making TANG available at vending machines. The idea was well appreciated and approved by Jiri Hejl, the then Regional Business Director for Kraft Foods, but could not see light of day. Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury had unfortunately put the plan back to the drawing board. A few months back, at a social gathering, I stumbled upon a group of Italian photojournalists working on the RISHI community. Hearing what they had to say, I was in my MD’s office first thing next morning explaining why we should take up this opportunity. If pushing forward with a one-off campaign wasn’t risky enough, there was almost little or no money to be made. All I could foresee back then was a social cause that would make headlines and an outstanding campaign in the making. A year later Khachar Bhitor Aachin Rishi became Ogilvy Bangladesh’s first ever entry into AME. It’s remarkable to recollect how I could convince an “it’s no good” to “it’s our shot at fame”.

It really doesn’t help being a blogger, a social network junkie and a tech geek from a country barely beginning to embrace the “digital revolution”. However, I try to keep myself and the rest of Ogilvy Bangladesh updated on what’s the latest and greatest in digital around the world with regular mails that read “daily dose of awesomeness”. Managing the Ogilvy Bangladesh fan page on Facebook, attending webinars on social media by Thomas Crampton, subscribing to Digerati by Barney Loehnis are just a few of the initiatives I am part of. My newest undertaking was to be nominated as the Digital Lead of Bangladesh. Following Ogilvy’s global drive towards Digital, when my MD offered this opportunity, I eagerly took it up. Our first digital project – Grameenphone Brand Page (a brand activity showcase) was also my responsibility.

In the end, it all comes down to the realities of the bottom line. When it comes to business, I have always considered myself numbers-oriented. Not so long ago, PVM was having an artwork redevelopment across all SKUs. Instead of getting this done by Selection (their central design house in Italy), I pitched and sold the idea of using Redworks as the studio operations partner. Since then PVM has used the local Redworks facility as and when required and that resulted in additional revenue from unidentified new business. After a few years of absence, when Kraft/Cadbury was reviving their Bangladesh operations, we were asked to handover the business to their media partner. Instead I was successful in getting them to keep not only the creative but also the media business with us, adding substantial greenbacks in the process.

Google Ogilvy & Mather Bangladesh and you are most likely to find either my blog or professional profile in the Top 10 results. Innumerable times I have been the introducer of new faces to the agency. From talent scouting in campuses to headhunting from other agencies, I have been instrumental in getting recruits across the hierarchy. Considered the blue-eyed boy of Ogilvy, I thrive at instilling a sense of pride that comes from working for Ogilvy. The long hours, and unfriendly clients become irrelevant in the face of the contagious enthusiasm I nurture. The Duracell Bunny-like passion and devotion to my work was always held in high regard and aptly recognized. When the moment of truth finally came, I found myself up against the very best of Ogilvy at Ad Champs 2010. Although I was the youngest delegate by age and experience, my team was the eventual winner by a margin nonetheless. This meteoric rise (though the Ogilvy ranks) and the budding fame (TV and Magazine interviews) has been an inspiration for everyone in and beyond. And as a people’s person, I always try to make the best of it by motivating the apprentices.

It has been nothing short of a spectacular journey at Ogilvy for me… and I believe it is only to get better with time. While being nominated for the YSOY 2011 competition is definitely a moment of pride, I’d rather win it to turn dreams into reality. Passion for advertising is my reason for being, and what place to showcase it better than Ogilvy… I am Sabih Ahmed, and I am here to win it!!!

This what I wrote in my “Why Me?” application for Ogilvy Young Suit of the Year 2011.