Tuesday, September 29, 2015

People - Turab Lakdawala on Advertising

Turab Lakdawala is the owner of 'Tempest', a leading advertising company based in Hyderabad. I know the Hyderabad-based ad companies  - because I hoped to get employed in one. I always fancied myself as an advertising man. (I think everyone does at some point.) Another reason why I knew about Tempest was because my good friend Ashok Nair worked there. In fact Turab recounted that we probably met through Ashok at their office many years ago which surprised me - I am always surprised when people remember me. Why would you?

Anyway Turab was gracious enough to write me a mail recently after he read an old blog I wrote about my friend Tarun Chauhan, an ex-advertising man. I am always looking out to meet experts in domains and Turab was one, so I made it a point to meet him. It was a lively chat - Turab is very unassuming and easy to talk to, brings honesty and intelligence to the table so it was a fun hour well spent. Then I decided to meet him again for an interview - my excuse for asking more probing questions shamelessly. What is recounted below is the gist of our interview.

Twist of Fate
As I felt my way around how Tempest happened and why he chose adverstsing as a career, Turab recounted how he got into advertising completely by a twist of fate. He never intended to. Turab studied agriculture from Pune University before he joined IIM, A.. Then he worked at Hindustan Lever for 7 years in the foods, soaps and detergents business which gave him great sales exposure. When he quit HLL he did not want to go back to a job so he and his friend started a company dealing with seeds and software. Both divisions wound up. Sometime then, one of their friends suggested doing HR consulting - an opportunity had arisen. One thing led to aother and Turab grew his business since 1988 and is now one of he biggest advertising firms in Hyderabad with branches in Pune and Bangalore.

Brand building needs Commitment
Turab said it takes a lot of commitment to build a brand. Brand building (his forte) is like raising a child. It needs care and nurturing. Organisations have to be tutored on how to do it right. Most organisations fall into the trap of reaping benefits from the brand too early and kill it. He believes that they should instead reinvest (just like any sensible promoter does). He cited the example of mango trees and how they start fruiting in the first year itself. But good farmers do not let the young fruit blossom and wait for a coupe of years - and it is this waiting that yields tastier and healthier fruit later.

As an advertiser Turab feels that he has to advise his clients tactically and strategically. Brand building is about advertising, about the values built around the product and delivery of the value.

Tempest - Advertising That Improves Lives
Citing his own case, Turab believes that Tempest is a brand that is on a mission to create advertising that improves lives. His vision for Tempest extends to a mindboggling 500 years. That was interesting it. What kind of commitment is this that one builds a brand that lasts for 500 years? It is a vision that deserves respect on both counts.

Invest in Brands - Let Them Blossom
Turab shared how many clients do not realise the full value or future story that their product offers. The way an advertiser sees potential in a brand is by unveiling the layers of potential it holds - starting from a well defined 'who am I' and unveiling layers upwards until they reach the question of 'why buy me'. That is the journey and it must be clear. He spoke about an interesting story of how an ordinary property was branded by them in such a way that it reaped a rich benefit for the seller. While on the subject  Turab said that advertisers make mistakes sometimes. Sometimes what they perceive and what the owner is willing to spend does not match.

Branding describes the product clearly - the base line or the positioning statement of the company becomes clear.

Advertising Compresses Time
Turab said something interesting. He said advertising compresses time. What you could possibly enjoy 5 years down the line minus advertising, you could, with proper advertising, reap benefits in the first year itself. I never looked at advertising like that.

On the importance of research Turab was not too convinced. Regular contact with customers is more than the research he needs.

Ads Must be Understood by a 5 Year Old
On communication Turab says he wants his ads to be understood by a 5 year old. He is very clear about that. No big words. No long sentences. If possible repeat and iterate. One needs to understand that attention spans are about 8 secs. People are looking for the easy way out. For lowest effort. Processing time is minimised. Hence communication must be aimed at making it easy.

We tried to recollect new ads but I could not recall any. He recalled the AIDS prevention ads and the Acche din campaign and reiterated the idea of keeping them simple.

What's a Good Ad
Describing what a good ad is about Turab said that it has three things -
1) Clarity with which it communicates core benefits of the product or service
2) Socially acceptable
3) Aesthetically pleasing

People Seeking Careers in Advertising
While screening new aspirants seeking a career in advertising, Turab looks for passion, willingness to work for a lower salary, someone who is perceptive and knows how to communicate.

A Powerful Advertising Lesson
One powerful advertising lesson he imparted was this. Turab says the key to advertising is this - you should know two things clearly about your product
Base line - Who am I
Headline - Why buy me
If you have this covered, you have a story.

I spent more than an hour discussing all this and more but I feel there is so much more one can learn from Turab about advertising and brand building. Maybe some other time. But for now, it was an extremely fruitful one hour and I learned many things in terms of brand building, communication and advertising. Thanks Turab and hope to see you soon and discuss some more about advertising and brands

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