Saturday, May 18, 2013

2012. Leo Burnett Kenya. Deputy Managing Director.

The next stint at  Kenya was a short one. I joined a group which had tied up with Publicis and ran the brands of Leo Burnett Kenya, Saatchi & Saatchi Kenya, as also the media brand Starcom Media Vest.  The laws in Kenya require you to have a work permit and since I did not find one being arranged, decided to come back to India and safety. The stint however resulted in some great work on Nestle and Samsung.

On Nestle the agency pitched and won the corporate communications account. It started with an internal seminar where the entire East African contingent participated. I had to play Creative Director on this one since the market was not familiar with the kind of song and dance that happens in the sub- continent when such events are done. It hit the bulls eye and the songs which were written by the Agency with cover tunes of hit numbers had the entire team dancing. Yes, it showcased the Agency's skills and got us empaneled in the Agency roster for future work.

The work for Samsung Kenya involved setting up structures and systems to service the Client as it migrated into ERP and BPR procedures after becoming a subsidiary of Samsung . A new Standard Operating Procedure was devised to dovetail the Client Organizational Structure and Product Portfolio. The first assignment which was developed locally, was done for the IT Division. It was a campaign to promote the entire range of Samsung laptops.

Here again, the first response from the team was not acceptable to me since I could not find any consumer insight and consumer research was clearly required. Working with the team and after some trade visits we began to get a picture of the market which was clearly being driven by HP which had a strong institutional presence. People were being guided by the IT professional at work and ended up choosing the brand that the office purchased. Very few had any grasp of the technicalities and could not decide on which configuration suited them best. Clearly Samsung had to change the rules of the game and communicate in easy to relate terms, what they were offering and who was best suited for a given set of benefits. When all this was being prepared I was also pitching for business for the Agency and in one meeting a prospect remarked that he loved the Samsung posters for air- conditioners which had the line "Built for Africa". He mentioned that with most electronic products the key concern was whether it would survive the conditions in Africa, with its erratic power supply, its harsh weather, poor after sales service networks etal. This little conversation helped me finalize my brief and proposition for laptops. Samsung laptops were built with you in mind and each variant was specifically designed to fit a certain personality type. The top end lightweight Series 9 laptop was for the  senior managers and people for whom status connotations were key as much as speed and performance. For the middle managers who were working their way up and for whom performance was crucial at work and elsewhere, the Series5 was a work accessory.The Series 3 was for the college going kid for whom style and peer pressure competed with the need to stay within a budget, since most such laptops were financed with loans. Three options were presented and the one that was approved is shown below.The campaign was very well received by the Client teams, Publicis/ LB in South Africa and released. Since it happened after my return to India I could not actually control what finally appeared in media :).

It so happened that while I was in Nairobi, the Saatchi and Saatchi team from London came down to research a TVC that had run well in Nigeria for the brand Guinness. Diageo was a client and in Nairobi, we helped coordinate the pre-testing. It was an opportunity for me to understand the Kenyan consumer better and therefore I made sure I was with them every step of the way. I was quite heartened to see the meticulous attention to detail the religious adherence to the research process For the planner in me, it was one of the most satisfying couple of days of my tenure.
 The TVC itself impressed me much. I thought it captured the ethos and rhythms of a continent that was coming to terms with itself. People were shrugging off the shroud of internecine war and looking to be gainfully employed and overcome their social situation.The recession in Europe and elsewhere had pushed business houses to Africa.They were plying their wares here to a young population which was reasonably well educated and had survived years of exploitation and war.There was optimism in the air and hope. The ticket to sitting at the table with the men who made it was aspirational for the youngsters in Kenya who seemed quite moved by this piece of advertising. Guinness Ticket TVC from Nigeria

2011.Scan Group Kenya. Strategy Planning and Delivery Agency Leadership for the Region

The Shaky Start
For planners who are used to the luxury of secondary data on every category and research budgets for everything from concept tests to advertising copy testing, a stint in East Africa would be a shock. While research data on media usage is available it is used only for those Clients who subscribe to it and that is a fairly limited number. Conducting research in this market is in itself fraught with risks and limitations due to the high crime rate and the increased risk for expatriates. Most planners therefore cope with “surrogates” and common sense most of the time. Research exercises and reports done in the past , offer some kind of a benchmark, at best.
In this rather daunting scenario and with practically no knowledge of the region or its people, its culture or its norms I started my stint as a planning “expert”. J.

The first smell of coffee….Nescafe that is.. J
The first test of skill happened on a Nestle assignment for its beverage brand Nescafe. The result was a highly successful promotion for its Nescafe 3 in 1 recruiter brand.  The highlights are given below. For reasons of confidentiality a lot has been withheld in this post.
One of the barriers Nescafe encountered in Kenya which was a tea drinkers market was that coffee drinking and preparation were relatively alien to the bulk of the market. Nestle was also targeting the youth, since attitudes to coffee and to the brand Nescafe could be built easily, as against hardened tea drinkers who were older. To promote trial of coffee, easy to prepare 3 in 1 delivery sachets were being promoted. To further accelerate trial, it was being supported with a consumer promotion scheme. In fact the competition was already using  gifts to push their 3in1 coffee sachets in the market.
The challenge therefore, was to design a sales promotion scheme , which not just promote the generic category of 3 in 1’sachets, but  create preference for the Nescafe ready to drink 3 in 1 sachet variant.

 Data Collection… never mind the danger.
My research involved a few random discussions with University students and youngsters in malls, all of which was arranged by a very resourceful set of drivers in the agency J. It was clear that football is a passion for the youth of Kenya. The World Cup in South Africa had done a lot to make the game even more popular. People followed the game vide the EPL and the European Leagues.  Matches were telecast live in East Africa and had relatively high viewership. People followed footballers of African origin and supported the teams that hired them. Football however had a strong male skew. For Music and Fashion were however skewed toward women. Most leisure activities centered around these two pursuits.

The sweet smell of success
My suggestion was therefore simple:
Nescafe 3in 1 which is a ready to drink coffee, is runs a lucky draw for 12 weeks. Every week , the winner either a) gets to go to England and see a football match in the VIP box with all expenses paid. Or b) Gets front row  tickets for the Beyonce concert at Glastonbury.( options).
Consolation prizes for random winners which includes branded football merchandise in case of Option A and branded music and fashion merchandise in case of Option B.
Single-Minded or Unique Selling Proposition : Nescafe 3 in 1 helps me get more out of life/ embrace life.
Substantiation/Support :This it does by stimulating me and inspiring me to look for and try and realise my dreams. (Live my dreams.) By buying the Nescafe 3 in 1 ready to drink coffee, I may get a chance to go to England and realise my passion/dream.
Tone of voice/personality: Invigorating, Inspiring, Stimulating.
Communication channel :BTL & ATL:3 in 1 Promo campaign to run from June to August.
Mechanics: The scheme required the consumer to buy the trial pack and after using it, check the sachet for a number and an SMS code . He/she was required to send in the number vide SMS. This would mean that if he/she wins,  he/she would get an SMS back within  a week that she has won either some football (Option A)/music( Option B) merchandise or has won the big prize of the week which is an all expenses  trip to Europe to watch a given match at the EPL ( Option A) or see a concert at \Glastonbury \elsewhere( Beyonce in June).
The scheme also lend itself to significant PR opportunities with the announcement of winners, and photo opportunities of winners at the event venue, etal. There would be 11 weekly winners across the 3 months of the scheme and they would then be featured in media. ( For example, the “Live your dream  team of Nescafe 3in 1”!).
Please be advised that this concept was executed with changes and what finally appeared in media was this:
 The Client feedback was positive and after the execution its success has made it an annual feature...

 My work on P&G, or Procter and Gamble East Africa was towards getting the structure, systems and standard operating procedures for the Agency team in place for the entire region. Confidentiality agreements are tight and there is very little I can share except that I won a lot of accolades and appreciation letters for the work that I did. These included films done at very tight deadlines, launch of brands in key markets against very daunting obstacles, putting together a standard operating procedure which was accepted for global replication and the like. The appreciation letters for the film which was done in record time is reproduced below.

There was another instance which actually tested my skills and ability as an advertising professional to the limits. A fairly important presentation of an internal nature had to be done and the visual devices to support the presentation was given to the Agency. The deadline was met and the Account Supervisor sent in the material.All hell broke lose when the Client Leader saw the artworks. I had just about a day or two to turn it all around and the fact is that I surprised everyone, including myself by actually getting an appreciation letter at the end of it. It actually required me to work non- stop for 36 hours! Something which stunned everyone in Nairobi!! But it was worth it!! The evidence is below:
There are more such letters which evidence some very happy clients and work done against daunting odds. It was for me quite comforting that I could pull these stunts off even in markets that were new to me :)

For references please click on this link: References for Stint at Nairobi. 2011-2012. Vinod Natesan

Apart from work on Clients, there was a need to ensure that the army marched in step and that meant training. Planning skills were clearly the area of weakness. The fact that market research was hard to come by on consumer behaviour and on brand off take was another hurdle. However, with true Indian ingenuity I did manage with what was available. Since it was virtually impossible to get people to attend work on weekends, I arranged Friday Afternoon Lectures. This was branded FALS. In advertising it is impossible to get everyone together in one room willingly, I decided to send these lectures out as newsletters. It proved to be a hit with the newsletter landing up everywhere including the Client's inbox! It made me a bit popular and won me some badly needed friends and believers.:).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mayan Consultants 2010: Adoption Ad Campaign

This campaign was done on a pro-bono basis and is available to all adoption agencies which operate within the approved parameters of the law. I did this when a close relative of mine went in for adoption and saw for myself the questions that nagged them and the counsel given. I believe giving someone a chance in life is one of the most selfless things one can do.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mayan Consultants International : 2009-2010

                                         click on visuals to enlarge


click on visuals to enlarge

Tied up with a lot of similar freelance talent that include public relations outfits, film production houses, digital design shops, animation and special effects experts to start a freelance network that can provide all the services of a large agency without the frills under one roof. These ads help garner that talent and was written by me and art directed by a freelance talent.
Clients too have started calling up.

Pro -Bono Work for Adoption

Lord Krishna

                                               click on visual to enlarge
This is pro-bono work to support adoption from registered charities. There are some misgivings and apprehensions among many with regard to adoption and most have to do with how the child will turn out. This is an effort to assuage such concerns. Lord Krishna himself was brought up by foster parents. The picture shows Yashoda with the young Krishna.
Art is by Kishor Gaikwad and Copy by Vinod Natesan

Adoption Ad: Steve Jobs 

                                     Copy and Art: Vinod Natesan

                          Adoption Ad- Kabir

Copy and Art :Vinod Natesan

Adoption Ad- Edgar Allan Poe

Copy and Art: Vinod Natesan

Adoption Ad - Faith Hill

Copy and Art: Vinod Natesan

click on visual to enlarge

click on visual to enlarge

Copy and Art: Vinod Natesan


                                                     Editorial support for News letters

Project Reports are restructured after content appraisal and reedited.

An assignment for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation through INBAR, a Beijing based concern. This organization promotes bamboo cultivation as a means to economic and social development. My inputs include editorial support  in preparation of project reports with a partner concern called Edit International, which is based in Bangalore.


This was an interesting assignment and meant extensive desk research to get interesting details on festivals, customs in various parts of the world and the country as also little known details of sportspeople, short write ups on architectural wonders, on languages of the world et al.
the website is available at
They also have a children's newspaper.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mayan Consultants International : 2009 Kerala Tourism Pitch

This campaign for Kerala Tourism was done quite a while ago, (please note it was QUITE a while ago) as part of a strategy planning exercise. It was in copy form and never visualized. SG decided to take some time out and helped me out. It is not fully finished yet:)

KERALA TOURISM (Unreleased work. Part of a pitch exercise that happened QUITE some time back)

A) Public Opinion Ad

Headline: She helps feed 11 lakh families and we call her "AIDS Madama"
Visual: Picture of a foreigner asking for directions and locals ogling her
Body: Tourism in Kerala accounts for 11 lakh jobs and 525 crores to the states GDP. For God's own country she is a blessing. For heaven's sake don't turn her away
Tag: Kerala: Gods own country.

Headline: Veetil vanna mahalaksmiye….(When fortune knocks on your door)
Visual: Picture of a foriegner asking for directions
Headline contd…….. puram kaal kondu thallaruthu(Don't turn her away)
Body: Daivathinte swantham nattil oru kollam 11 laksham joli avasarungal evar nalkunnu. Veetil vanna mahalakshmiye puram kaal kondu thallaruthu...(In Gods own country, every year, tourists account for 11 lakh jobs and add Rs 525 crores to the states GDP.For heaven's sake don't turn her away )

Tag: Kerala:Gods own country

Headline:Adhiti Daivo Bhava
Visual: Foreigner interacting with locals
Body: Daivamayi karuthiyillenkilum manushyarayi karuthuka.Daivathinte swantham nattil oru kollam 11 laksham joli avasarungal evar nalkunnu. (Even if you don't worship them as a divine beings, treat them like human beings. They account for 11 lakh jobs and add Rs 525 crores to the states GDP. For God's own country, she is a blessing.
Tag: Daivathinte swantham nadu
(The figures are relevant for 2003 , so now you know when this was written:))

b) To promote Backwaters :



Headline: If happiness has been on the back burner, may we suggest the backwater cruise
Visual: Serene shot of a cosy couple lazing on a boathouse in the backwaters. The scenery around to come. Medium to tight shot. Easy font no geometric blocks seamless layout.
Body:.Its goodbye to the noisy crowds, metal monsters and asphalt. Its time to sink into the cradle of comfort .The one of a kind boat holiday on the quiet backwaters of Kerala. The only crowds you see would be a forest of coconut trees lining the shores or probably a school of fresh water fish just visible in the sparkling blue waters...

Tag: Kerala: Gods own country

C) Ad for Honeymoon Couples

Headline: If marriages were made in heaven.. Then honeymoons were to be made here...

Visual: Couple looking out on the scenery from a hill station/sunset on the beach/backwater. Easy font no geometric blocks seamless layout.
Body: It’s a time for togetherness..a time to discover. And God meant it that way. Back waters, beaches, hill stations ... feel blessed.
Tag: Kerala: Gods own country

D) To promote Hill Stations

Headline: At xxxxx ft above sea level you feel closer to God!
Visual: Scenes from hill stations
Body:Its something you pray for. Long tree lined pathways for just the two of you. A lake with a boat and a gentle sun smiling through the mist. Evenings in front of a Victorian,gardens, mountain views....sometimes life is but a dream come true
Tag: Kerala: Gods own country

E) To promote Beaches

Headlines: Worship the Sun in Gods Own Country
Visual: Lone tourist sunbathing on a beach
Body: The tourist to Gods own country is known to follow many rituals. It mostly begins with the morning sun worship, the piscean feast follows for lunch and soon it is a lazy obeisance to Neptune. An Ayurvedic massage precedes an evening rendezvous at the cultural melting pots. Lunar worship is often in private and in the quiet privacy of tree top houses, house boats and the many cottages that dot the coast line. Life follows a sinfully slow pace here….
Tag: Kerala:Gods own country

F) To promote Meetings Incentives Conventions Exhibitions

Headline:Business Plans are best laid in God's presence
Visual: Landscape shots.
Body:Blue sky meetings are best held under blue skies. Proximity to breathtaking backwaters won't harm either. Brain storms are less stormy and more sanguine if Ayurvedic spas are close at hand. Lateral thinking is best attempted after a look at some of the oldest art forms and cultures. Shall we say divine intervention is known to happen at conventions held in these surrounding?
Tag: Kerala: Gods own country

G) To promote religious tourism or the temple trail

Headline: Beauty Pageant in Gods Own Country
                  Fashion show from the House of God
Visual: Elephants at Trichur Pooram
Body: In Trichur, every year in May, the Pooram is celebrated at the temples of Thiruvambadi and Parmekavu, with the deities perched on the temple elephants. Pachyderms bedecked in gold, with constantly changing colourful umbrellas atop them, sway their ears in tune to the rythm of the panchavadyam ( orchestra of five instruments). A sea of devotees throng the gardens here and drink in the sight and sway to the chant and beat of the panchavadyam, lost in a trance, as it were. It’s Gods own rave party at high noon !!

Mayan Consultants International: 2009. Pharmaceutical Advertising


The Government has permitted the advertising of vaginal rings as a contraceptive product. While advertising of the generic category is permitted,the brand cannot be advertised, as it is still a prescription drug.
This was a freelance exercise and has not been released or been purchased by any client. (Not paid for by the agency  that commissioned this, though partly used  would be more honest :))

Category: Vaginal Rings. This campaign is to promote the use of vaginal rings.
(Brand name is XXX(NEW Ring).
It is a vaginal ring which can be inserted into a woman’s vagina. It is round in shape like a large condom when rolled and is inserted into the woman’s vagina where it grips the wall and stays there secreting chemicals which prevent pregnancy from happening during one cycle. After the cycle it is taken out and another one inserted after the period is over.
It is very expensive and has lesser side effects than the pill which has to be taken everyday by the woman. This ring is preferred since there is no risk of forgetting that happens with pills.
There is a lot of demand for I-Pill and such other pills, since many young women are faced with the prospect of abortions and are worried about the fall outs. However these pills cannot be taken more than twice in a cycle and have severe side effects. Vaginal rings offer protection on a longer time frame.

Who are we talking to?
To very rich and well to do women, who are working in high income jobs, and in fashionable jobs like movies, television, airlines, hotels, travel etc where there is a lot of freedom and mingling of sexes.This is aimed at Mumbai, Delhi and such other metros.
These women may be living in with a boyfriend whom they plan to marry, if everything happens right and when they have money to afford a marriage and kids. This product protects against pregnancy on a regular basis. They are not worried about AIDS because they are having sex with only a person they know and they believe he is not into prostitutes and casual sex with strangers.
Men who are boyfriends of these women will be shadow audience.

The rule is that only the category of rings can be advertised and not the brand, so it is similar to public service advertising. The rings cannot be purchased across the counter like I-Pill, it needs a prescription. The ads are therefore now concept cards and may be in print media in select publications. The ring shape of the product is the key here

Creative Buttons
The “ring” shape is very important . The shape of the product could well be the signature. The brand that is promoting it is called “Newring” (fictitious)

Headline and Body Copy Thoughts



A)“Falling in love was an accident, but what happened after, that was in my hands”

TV Script:
Visual: A lady in bed talking to someone on the phone with the man sleeping or is on the internet and is typing into the laptop and looks up to camera
Lady:“I never planned to fall in love…but he was there to catch me when I did “. Looks at her man by her bedside and smiles back at the camera..
“And of course there was the ring to make sure we did not loose our footing… not the engagement ring…the vaginal ring which my doctor prescribed …because lovemaking is not something you should regret”.
She picks up the pack of vaginal rings (ring) and shows it to the camera and says “Falling in love was an accident, but what happened after, that was in my hands”
Super: The ecstasy of love, without the agony .


Headline: “Falling in love was an accident, but what happened after, that was in my hands”

Visual: A lady in bed talking to someone on the phone with the man sleeping or is on the internet or is looking up to the camera

Body Copy:“I never planned to fall in love…but he was there to catch me when I did “.
And of course there was the ring to make sure we did not loose our footing…no not the engagement ring…the vaginal ring which my doctor prescribed …because lovemaking is not something you should regret.
Falling in love was an accident, but what happened after, that was in my hands”

Tag: The ecstasy of love, without the agony.


B) “Destiny brought us together, the “ring” made it forever”


Visual : Woman with the laptop next to her typing. She is in her nightgown, which is sexy. A photo of her and her man is blown up on her wall.
She looks to camera and says:
Lady:“No we were not introduced by our parents… I think it was destiny, I was not supposed to be there. Well, he was supposed to be there. And I suppose that is why he is now here”…points to the man in the photo on her table next to her.
“He says the wedding should be after his promotion. Since I have the ring that my doctor prescribed, we are celebrating the honeymoon before the wedding”
“Destiny brought us together, the “ring” made it forever”. Shows the ring pack and smiles into camera.

Tag: The ecstasy of love without the agony


Headline: Destiny brought us together, the “ring” made it "forever”

Visual : Woman with a laptop next to her typing. She is in her nightgown, which is sexy. A photo of her and her man is blown up on her wall.

Body copy:"No, we were not introduced by our parents…. I think it was destiny. I was not supposed to be there, but he was. And now he is here with me.
He says the wedding should be after his promotion. Well, since I have the ring that my doctor prescribed, we are celebrating the honeymoon before the wedding.
Destiny brought us together, the ring made it forever."

Tag: The ecstasy of love without the agony


C)The morning after….. there is only one pill to take …. The Chill Pill

TV Script:
Visual:A sexy young woman with her face on the pillow opens her eyes and squints at the camera as it comes closer, as the camera pans back and a black lacy bra is on the table and there are clothes strewn all over the floor indicating that they were discarded in a frenzy of passion. Next to her on the bed and there is a man sleeping obviously after a night of lovemaking.. She rolls over and smartly keeps the sheets above her breasts.

Lady:“Well I am not into chasing boys… they normally chase me…this time however I had to make sure he chased me… the black dress helped. She looks around on the bed and finds a little black dress on the floor, “It helped that his friends were all leching me like wolves”, she smiles sultrily “Ah yes .. what really helped was the ring that my doctor prescribed… if you are into hunting innocent, shy guys like this one... it helps. “
Shows the ring (pack) into camera.
“The morning after….. there is only one pill to take …. the Chill Pill. Condoms are for the bad boys”… winks into camera

Tag: The ecstasy of love without the agony.


Headline: The morning after….. there is only one pill to take …. The Chill Pill
Visual of a woman scantily clad in bed with a man and looking at the camera. Background has clothes discarded. Obvious cues that it is the morning after a night of lovemaking.
Sub head: “Well I am not into chasing boys… they normally chase me…”
Body copy:
“This time however I had to make sure he chased me… the little black dress helped. It helped that his friends were all leching at me like wolves. Ah yes .. what really helped was the ring that my doctor prescribed… if you are into hunting innocent shy guys like this one... it helps. The morning after.. there is only one pill to take, the chill pill. Condoms are for the bad boys.”

Tag line: The Ecstasy of love, without the agony …