Jul 30, 2008

Mktg - Visiting Cards

One of the first things that Josy Paul did when he assumed charge of the creative department at JWT’s Delhi office in April 2007 was punch a whole lot of holes into his visiting card. It was part of a mind-unlocking exercise he’d initiated at JWT called ‘hawa aane de’ .“It was all about telling the guys there to open their minds to new influences,” Paul, chairman & creative head, BBDO India, recalls. Sceptics would argue that this is precisely the sort of ‘gimmickry’ ad agencies ought not to resort to; it transmits the wrong, non-serious ‘boutiquey’ image to clients, they contend. But ad agencies are increasingly using the visiting card not merely as a passive, transactional device , but rather as a telegraphic tool to convey everything from creativity, capability to agency philosophy. Not surprising, considering the visiting card serves the first point of contact between professionals. “It’s a communication device . It helps bring out the specific point of view of the company, and if done in an intriguing and nice way, it can become a topic of conversation,” says Subhash Kamath, group CEO, Bates 141. Bates, in fact, recently got Umbrella Design to create various sets of visiting cards with different pairs of ‘eyes’ on them. What’s unique with each card is that while all pairs of eyes look in one direction, one pair alone looks in the opposite direction. “Our positioning is centred at the concept of change — change in categories, consumer trends... We wanted to have something that would symbolise this philosophy of change,” says Kamath, adding that change is often a result of looking at things differently. Therein sprang the ‘eyes’ concept. Different people in an agency having different visiting cards is a concept that one can see even in outfits like Publicis’ design shop Red Lion (the idea here is different cards having different interpretations of pencil shavings to connote design), Onads Communications and even Trevor Beattie’s London-based agency, BMB (here, the back of each visiting card depicts everyday objects that somehow resemble ‘BMB’ ). Jignesh Maniar, founder of Onads, believes such visiting cards help project not just the identity of a company, but that of individual employees as well. “They get a chance to say what they want, and it reflects the culture in the organisation,” he says. Onads cards use the letters ‘O’ and ‘N’ to form doodles which spell a message — Maniar’s card, for instance, shows an open lock to denote the unlocking of the imagination. Personalisation of cards is another thing agencies are heavily into. Globally, Leo Burnett’s visiting cards bear the signature of the card holder — chairman & CEO Tom Bernardin’s card is signed ‘Tom’ , while India NCD KV Sridhar’s reads ‘Pops’ . Paul’s erstwhile agency rmg david took personalisation to a different level when each member of the staff had his or her picture as a child on their cards — in keeping with the agency’s ‘childlike creativity’ philosophy. david even designed a font resembling a child’s handwriting, and contact information was printed in this font.“Personalisation helps create an emotional, shared value and makes you part of the organisation,” says Paul. When Everest underwent a rebranding in 2006, it too chose a personalised route. Rediffusion’s president Mahesh Chauhan, who was then head of Everest, recounts that the agency thought that its personality should be inspired by water, which takes any shape and form. “We decided our logo should be like water,” he says. “After the initial logo was created, each employee was given the choice to create his own references , which was then given to an illustrator. My card had a ‘worm’ . Others had a ‘champagne glass’ , ‘coffee’ , a ‘gun’ ... Totally, about 150-odd logos were created.” If it’s ‘looking inside’ for most agencies, for TBWA the visiting card works as an ad medium. The back of each card bears the picture/logo of one of the agency’s clients — no one’s quite sure if it’s pro bono, though. What matters, though, is that the card is being seen as a medium of expression. Paul’s BBDO card, for instance, has his mail ID, mobile number, car license plate number, and his Jet and Kingfisher number — but no address. “It’s a mobile world, a mobile job. The card reflects that,” he explains. “Cards have to create disruption and squeeze more out of the moment they are exchanged.”

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