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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Shadow Chronicles

Being an established self serving advocate, it was quite unbelievable that I would miss the chance to go up on stage and collect the silverware for my campaign "Mentos Monday" at the Adfest Dhaka 2011. But as ironic as it may be, it happened... and somehow, I really have no regrets about it :) After all, winning is all that matters and my missed chance was soon made up for as I stood on stage collecting the second silverware for the night that we (Ogilvy Bangladesh) had won. Winning feels great... everyone gets to take pride in it, dialogs start about it, criticism goes up by a notch... ah well, its all just part of the package at the end!!!

Beating the mighty Prothom Alo to take the best print ad award (news and publications category) was quite an achievement for Daily Sun. Being only a few months old, the English daily is hardly a match for the no.1 newspaper in Bangladesh for over a decade. And even when it comes to communication, Prothom Alo has been leading the way with some of the great campaigns that we've been exposed to in past few years. However, it wasn't to be the same this time around... the Daily Sun Victory Day (16th December) print ad dethroned its predominant competitor to take away the silverware!!!

The idea was to associate how the "pen" is mightier than the "sword" (or in this case the rifle) and salute the freedom fighters on the eve of Victory Day.

However, as deserving or crappy as it may seem... no sooner had the award been announced that an anti-alliance was formed. As I closely watched people from the creative industry bombard this piece of communication as a "copycat" of a noted campaign from a global brand; I simply couldn't resist to dig deep and actually unearth the practice of using such shadows in advertising around the world.

The campaign from which the one above had apparently taken inspiration (or copied) from belonged to Lego, the colorful interlocking plastic bricks that we all loved back in childhood.
This campaign was all about highlighting the greatest strength we posses as children, "creative imagination". When a child's vivid imagination takes over, even the simplest of Lego structures could stand for the unlikeliest of objects (in this case a ship, a dinosaur, a tank and a plane).

Considering how half a glass of water can stand for both optimism (if seen as half full) and pessimism (half empty) in one single visual representation; its hard to believe that a creative mind would associate the campaigns above to be of the same kind (let alone, dubbing the local to be a "copycat" of the global).

In fact, the use the shadows to mirror the subtext of the image is a common practice that's been going on for ages. Its easy to label a local creative as a knockoff of the global award winning work, but when you see the following, does the same neurons tickle your brains?
And more...
Even movies haven't shied away from ripping the benefits of this shadow-play either... 
Its really unfortunate, that we as a nation are obsessed with defaming the achievements of others (and I'm sure multiple occasions are popping up in your head, too). It would be really great to have something as original and authentic as the Holy Qur'an, but that's hardly ever the case. Because the brains behind such creative work take inspirations from their daily lives; it seems, at times their expressions of different ideas take not so different shapes at the end...

Its always easier to say something is "copied" rather than trying to interpret what the thought behind is, just like the way it is to condemn than to compliment!!!

For more on use of shadows in advertising, please visit

Friday, February 11, 2011

The joy of being served tea and biscuits by Jasim

Wonder if you would agree or not, but one of the silent pleasures of working in a company in Bangladesh lies in the privilege of ordering someone else (usually the office tea boy/girl) for a cup of tea or a black coffee and getting served straight at your desk when you must be crunching numbers with your open excel spreadsheet or are about to start that all important meeting with visitors. I always had full respect for these support service staff but never realised the luxury they used to offer us until I started working full time outside the country. I guess we carry the culture from our households where we grew up seeing our houses being cleaned, food being cooked and cars being driven by ‘others’ who were hired or kept to do such jobs only. So naturally when we get into workspaces, we could not get over that hard-coded habit of ‘being served’ the little refreshments of another day at work.

But honestly, would you really expect the same treatment when you are outside Bangladesh? May be you would silently miss that, like I do, but would you actually go to the extent of bringing someone over from Bangladesh to execute the same responsibilities? I did come across Jasim, the ‘imported from Bangladesh’ tea boy, here in London while attending a meeting owned by a British Bangladeshi gentleman. Most of the workplaces here have a kind of ‘serve yourself’ policy in designated kitchens, or you might see your hosts preparing your desired caffeine option before the start of any meeting. But to my surprise when my host ordered for some tea and biscuits to a nicely dressed young man, he jumped to his routine duty of boiling the water and pouring the biscuits on the plates for us. As I was being served by Jasim, I could not help asking my host how could he afford to have the luxury of having a tea boy in west London for such a small company as his. He explained rather proudly that he had brought Jasim from Bangladesh to offer him a better life. I didn’t ask in detail how exactly he could bring him over. No wonder he wears tucked in shirts and nice trousers but still ends up serving tea and biscuit to his Bangladeshi master. The other Bangladeshi staff at the meeting, young graduates from private universities in Dhaka, jokingly informed me that they also sometimes call for Jasim Bhai’s services as that is what the norm is in Bangladesh, so they feel good when there is someone else to serve them tea or coffee at work – it makes them feel important and in control somehow.

So there you go, order some tea to Jasim, sip it hot in cold cold London, feel good and empowered and continue working.