AgVoice | The Digjam Days; Part I
Adgully brings you an interesting three part series of the story entitled ‘The Dig jam Days’ by Sujit Sanyal.
Sanyal shares with us his intriguing experiences of the bygone days when he was associated with the ad world. Following is his candid memoir of the time when he was involved with the Digjam suiting account. Today we bring you the first edition in the series:
For some years I was “handling” the Digjam suiting account. In those days words like brand custodianship and similar other jargons were not discovered. You were an Account Executive, perhaps with a fancy designation, depending on your years in the business (and whatever you could trade while changing jobs) but in the ultimate analysis, you were responsible for a particular brand or a client. You had to pretend to be a professional consultant chosen to provide the best that the agency could do for the client’s advertising programme. You tried to reason with the client, all of whom, barring a very few had their own ideas as to what was to be done. While you knew that what they were suggesting was not even worth a wipe as toilet paper, you had to smile and tell him that “hmmm…we will look in to it.” Then, of course, in Digjam you could never be connected to the Ad Manager between 1pm and 2 pm since he was invariably “taking” lunch. In the final analysis, you were judged by the following criteria:
1. The client never put in a complaint about you or your team. Not that they ever complained about creativity or a strategy which most of them never understood. In Digjam the audience consisted of their Sales Team who doubled up as the marketing whizz kids and soon after the meeting was over, they would speed off to book orders. Even their President, who was a very friendly guy, did the same. The major bulk of the complaints were about you not listening to them or being rude, or worse being dhhela.(unprofessional)
2. The owner did not have to stretch beyond having lunches or high teas with the client head where the last point in the agenda was a review session and generally with an assessment, preferably a promise that the ad budget would be increased.
3. Finally, and this was the touch stone, you collected money on time. You may have been the best advertising mind on this part of Karachi, but you meant nothing if the agency had to fund the client’s business, which is keep to INS commitments out of their own funds. In many lala (ordinary) companies the clerk handling advertising bills had a fetish for trying to score brownie points by going through the bills with a fine tooth comb and finding faults. There were wise guys too. Pratap Singha, who handled advertising bills in the seventies and eighties at Gramaphone Company of India Ltd. once realized that they had over paid their agency Lintas by some paise and for months he ran a correspondence with the agency asking for a Credit/Debit Note for those few paisas! It required an embarrassed top brass of GCIL to restrain Pratap Babu to end the story.
In Digjam, S. K. Birla (Sr) looked after advertising hands on. He loved dabbling in it. And, mercifully, you could fix a time with him to discuss advertising whenever you wanted and got priority appointment. The rest included his company President, all kinds of Vice President and the sales man masquerading as Brand Managers. I must confess here that despite being a Birla, the eldest grandson of Sri G. D. Birla, had no airs and treated you like a professional. He was open to ideas and loved to discuss his brand’s advertising with the agency. For some odd reason, and perhaps because he could converse with me in Bengali which he spoke better than me, he was genuinely fond of me. I had access to call him directly whenever I wanted to take a decision.
In the late eighties and early nineties Digjam was a high profile advertising account. They ranked just below Raymond’s in the suiting category and had a very high profile model in Shekhar Kapur. The actor was then India’s biggest anti hero what with Masoom, Mr. India, Khandaan and Udaan (the last two were TV serials) under his belt. He stood apart from regular Bollywood heroes and his background was equally interesting. He was a scuba diver (in fact a scuba coach), a product of Modern School, Delhi and St Stephen’s College. He was a CA by profession and had worked for a few years in England as a Management Consultant. He was a different character than say Jeetendra or Vinod Khanna who may have been bigger
box office stars than Shekhar.
Dig jam had adopted a strategy of being “different” in the brand repertoire in the suiting category and Shekhar fitted the bill to a T. The campaigns developed were also different from those of the competitors down the years and their ads had a story of sorts. Not a Gavaskar wearing a Dinesh and holding a cricket bat. There was an exception and that was Raymond’s who ran a heavy duty campaign featuring some of India’s top personalities from Mario Miranda to Pesi Shroff, brilliantly photographed by Ashok Salian. This was before they started The Complete Man theme.
Shekhar was probably on from 1986 or 1987 in story lines that showed him in a study leafing through ‘Great Film Directors’ or leading a band of men wearing Digjam suitings or marching to the tune of Ravel’s Bolero. They all fitted his profile and achieved for Digjam the sense of exclusivity they were looking for. Except for a break of one year, when due to some disputes over his dates, he modeled for every advertising season. Incidentally the Shekhar look alike who was brought in to fill in was Milind Gunaji and after the campaign featuring the young man was post dated, people still thought the man to be Shekhar Kapur. Not that they had made a mistake. Shekhar was becoming synonymous with the brand profile, leading to what many refer to as the vampire syndrome.
To know more about the continuing story watch out for the sequel to Sanyal’s narrative in tomorrow’s edition. | By Sujit Sanyal, Ad veteran
About the writer:
The guest article writer this week is ad veteran Sujit Sanyal. In his early days in Calcutta he was with the theatre group which was the flavour of the day in the early seventies. But by late seventies he had stepped into the world of advertising and moved to Delhi. Calcutta has nurtured and shaped some of the finest minds in advertising, Sujit Sanyal is one of them. He has worked with Clarion Advertising and recently launched his book ‘Life In a Rectangle’ which takes us down memory lane and depicts the highs and lows of his days with the agency. His need to download memories is fulfilled by sitting in front of his laptop when words come naturally to him. A multifaceted person Sujit Sanyal is an adman, journalist, poet, artist, novelist and actor all rolled into one which has made him emerge an enriched human being.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect in any way of Adgully.