Friday, May 27, 2011

The White Tiger Cometh

When it comes to reading material, you won't find me running to the bookstore to buy the latest bestseller or prize winning book. I have yet to read The Da Vinci Code or The Harmony Silk Factory (popular books at one time) and don't plan to.

As for the Life of Pi (winner of The Man Booker Prize 2002), I did read all 356 pages of it, coz it was a Christmas present from a friend and I believe in doing justice to presents! That was the only reason I was seen carrying that book around way back then.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga however is an exception. Admittedly I have come to the book a bit late, it was published in 2008 and won The Man Booker Prize the same year. An exception because of the subject matter the author choose, and the voice in which the story is narrated.

Unlike a slew of other Indian authors who have taken the publishing world by storm with stories of sweeping family sagas and the plight of immigrants in the West, all well peppered with the heady scents of saffron and jasmines, Adiga has taken the road less traveled or perhaps not taken.

His subject matter is the poverty that still lurks beneath India's often hyped economic miracle, as seen through the eyes of the novel's protagonist - Balram Halwai. Where other writers might have narrated Balram's story as a touching saga of one man's crawl out of the darkness into the light, Adiga does the opposite.

Balram Halwai (Halwai denotes that he comes from a caste of sweet makers) does not lament his fate. Far from it, from the novel's very first page, he is writing a letter to the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.Wen is about to visit Bangalore to find out what makes an entrepreneur. Why? Because China despite its booming economy has no entrepreneurs.

This is where Balram steps in, because he doubts the Indian government will be able to offer the Chinese Premier any useful information on the subject. So over the course of seven nights and seven letters, Balram tells Wen what makes an entrepreneur through the story of his life.

Adiga's Balram is witty and charming, a somewhat philosopher, and as he smoothly informs Wen from the beginning of the book, a man who murdered his employer in cold blood. But as he patiently explains - it's all part of the journey in becoming an Indian entrepreneur.

As Balram tell the Chinese Premier, the trustworthiness of servants is the basis of the entire Indian economy.

"In the world's greatest democracy, the jails of Delhi are full of drivers who are behind bars because they are taking the blame for their good, solid middle-class masters. We have left the village, but the masters still own us body, soul and arse."

This novel is a dark comedy, a mocking take on contemporary India - the corruption, the poverty, the caste discrimination. Adiga is a sharp social commentator, nothing escapes his acerbic pen, even the gods and the revered river Ganges are not spared.

More about the author 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mac Inspiration

In great advertising lies great power. Which is why come campaign season, political parties will spend huge amounts of funds on advertising to steer voter sentiment in their direction. One powerful slogan, an effective accompanying strategy, and voila! miracles can happen - Barrack Obama becomes the 44th President of the United States.

Malaysian political parties should take a leaf out of Obama's book and start hunting around for a good advertising agency. Who knows, one super concept, and change could come to Malaysia too! Well I digress, the objective of this post is not politics, but advertising......and to be more specific, it's about an advertising campaign that touched the hearts and minds of consumers in the late 1990s and still continues to do so.

The name of the campaign is Think Different, and it was based on a poem The Crazy Ones. It was commissioned by Steve Jobs to revive the ailing Apple brand after his return to the company on December 20, 1996.

An Ad Is Born
Of the three advertising agencies invited to present ideas before Jobs, he picked Chiat\Day represented by chief creative officer/account director Lee Clow. The concept presented by Clow was a new slogan Think Different with a montage of artists and creative professionals using the Mac. Clow also said he wanted to feature filmmakers at Dreamworks SKG working on their Macs. Jobs liked the concept, but wanted to use celebrities and thinkers instead.

The objective of the ad was to align Apple with the creativity and personalities of people who have made an impact on the 20th century. The main theme of the campaign is that Mac users think differently.

Interesting Facts
  • Clow and his team were given 17 days to complete the entire campaign ( television commercial, billboards, print ads, posters).
  • Jobs helped the ad team to get usage rights from celebrities featured in the campaign.
  • No Apple products were featured in the ad, for fear of exploiting the famous personalities whose images were used in the campaign.
  •  All the featured personalities or their estates were given money and computer equipment to be donated to charities of their choices.
  • At a time when outside advertisements were practically unheard of in the computer industry, Apple bought space in popular magazines and fashion magazines, instead of sticking to Mac and general computing magazines.
  • The only thing that makes it an Apple commercial is a small faded-in Apple logo at the end.
  • After the first campaign, Apple started sending complimentary posters of the famous people featured in the ad to public schools.
  • Chiat\Day copywriter Craig Tanimoto wrote the free-verse poem The Crazy Ones (narrated by Richard Dreyfuss) which was used throughout the campaign.
The campaign which debuted on September 28, 1997 received glowing press write-ups and was hailed as a turning point for Apple. A slew of awards soon followed - an Emmy Award for best commercial, a Belding, a Silver Lion at Cannes, an Effie Award for marketing effectiveness.

Poster courtesy of Macintosh
The Team Behind Think Different
The campaign was developed at TBWA\ Chiat\Day, Los Angeles by Clow, creative directors Ken Segall, Rob Siltanen, Eric Grunbaum, Amy Moorman, art director/executive producer/director Jennifer Golub, art directors Jessica Schulman, Margaret Midgett, Ken Younglieb, Bob Kuperman, Yvonne Smith, Susan Alinsangan, copywriter Craig Tanimoto.

As an advertising student in the late 1990s, I was inspired by the Think Different campaign. It possessed all the hallmarks of a great brand campaign. It was fascinating, emotional and iconic with a powerful message - the Mac is for thinkers.

The pic above is of my MacBook purchased in early 2007, every creative person should own one.

More stuff on Think Different