Pat is now Bang in the middle – Prathap Suthan the way I relate to him


Pat as we all know him

SD -I know this has been your dream for a while .. The baby is born.. would you like to share your emotions  today ? 

PS – I don’t think I am overwhelmed by any emotion. It’s a bit cold really. But then, yeah, I am happy.

The fact that I have the freedom to sign an appointment letter, or take a flight, or work with a particular client, or sleep a couple of hours longer without having to check with anyone.

But that aside, I have always wanted us to have the freedom to create, and push for what we create – with honesty, conviction and integrity.

We want the freedom to stand for what we believe in, what we believe is our common goal, our philosophy, and our focus. We certainly don’t want to be the mouthpiece and executors of someone else’s dream and covert objectives.

Today, more than sheer independence, we have a skill set that’s on par with the best, we have an open book, and we have the experience and choice to pick our fights and choose our pitches.

We really don’t have to rationalize to anyone why we want to do something, or why don’t want to do something. We decide. And that’s what’s what make a good day into a great day. We have nothing to lose.

SD – Prathap Suthan  – you have some 3500 plus friends on FB. They all know you from their own point of view. I ask how would you like the world to know Prathap Suthan ? 

PS –In one simple line – I am a happy person. ( and this incidentally is the same line that gave me my first job.)

I am essentially someone who keeps to myself and do my own things in my own space. I doubt if you saw me at the last party you went to.

I think everyone will have his or her point of view on a person, and that comes from personal interaction more than anything else.

I am not someone who doesn’t meet/speak with those who take time out for me. I am also not someone who won’t help those who reach out. I am pretty sure that people will bear me out on that.

The only true capital one has is the sum total of positivity and the good wishes others have for you. I believe and trust in the goodness of people. There’s nothing else better.

I am a person who believes that our business has been long compromised by leaders who sold our souls for dimes and nickels. This is payoff time. My own brand. Where pfaff will have no designation.

The core of our businesses has always been about the ability to create and execute ideas. Not anything else. If not for the ideas that differentiate us, everything else connected with advertising can be bought from the commodity market.

With all kinds of commitments and false promises, we have eternally subsidized our blood, and I think it’s time we added a value to it. We have no hope if we don’t.

SD – When and how did advertising happen to you? 

PS –I was always a writer. I used to write and contribute to my college magazines etc. I used to be influenced by ads and often mugged up great lines and body copy in chunks.

Sometimes, I used to even write love letters for friends. Just that I was careful that I had to personalize the style and content of what I wrote for the person.

Santosh Sivan – the famous cinematographer was the one who pushed me into advertising – sometime in the mid 80s. I joined an agency called Stark, in Trivandrum before I got my first genuine break as a copywriter with Mudra Ahmedabad.

SD – You have seen advertising change many seasons. How would you describe Then & Now, in your style.

PS –The best time I spent in advertising was Mudra. I spent 9 years with people who were genuine human beings.

Grey on the other hand was the longest I spent anywhere, but it turned out to be extremely shallow, vile and forgettable.

Mudra Ahmedabad was a place that held its own. There was no pretense. There was no glam. Just hardwork. Middle class people with solid values. A heart of Indianess. But lavished with the finest from IIM, and a creative force handpicked from across India.

There was Dr. Ram, Dr. MR Arun, Dr. Naga, Ravi Ratan Arora, Abhijeet Almeida, Raju Murugesan, Bala, Subrata Bhowmik, Pritam Parmar, Ranjan Thomas, Philip D’Souza, Simon Fernandes, and of course AGK himself.

There couldn’t have been such an overdose of talent in any advertising office anywhere. It was brilliant. It was potent. And if you liked the combination, then it was heady.

That was what advertising was then. There was a fire, and gumption. There was a clear mission. There was focus. There was no denying our Indian roots. There was pride. There was passion. And there was no dithering.

It was a place to learn, to unlearn, to challenge, to be admonished, to be whipped, to be inspired, to be blunt, to be tough, to push, to pull, to be true, to be right, to be honest, to be respectful, to be modest, and above all to be part of a team that thought and did genuine work. Awards being something that happened as a result of the rewards it brought the client.

Can you believe that Mudra sent me to South of France in 1992? AGK’s vision even then was far beyond any agency of that time.

Today however, the entire landscape has changed. From media going away. From MNC networks. From Madison Ave influences. To no 15% commission. To retainership models. To the rise of the Internet. And to whole new generation that has no clue what typesetting and galleys meant to advertising.

Everything physical has changed. But the way I see it, the passion doesn’t have to. Ideas don’t have to. Commitment doesn’t have to. Innovation doesn’t haven to. And leading clients doesn’t have to.

No matter what, no matter what different media vehicles emerge, the heart of advertising still remains locked into one unchanging truth. The skill to think superior. The rest is all detail.

SD – Which work will you call your best so far? Of course you may say the best is still to come, but what has been the most satisfying work till date.

PS –I can’t really say what was my best. I hope I haven’t done my best yet. It’s an unending personal strife isn’t it? That you have to keep bettering yourself every day. With every word you write, and every campaign you create.

My best, in a philosophical sort of way, is Bang in the Middle. Because this is my own campaign. My own flag. As much as it is for the rest of us at the agency.

This defines our time and space on Earth. Everything we do for Bang in the Middle is adding back to our equity. If we can make it a bright place, and a place that grows to fully capture our potential, what else can be a better campaign?

We have no big MNC network backing us. We have no mega client who’s decided to hand over a 100 crore campaign. We have no prima donnas working for us. It’s just a bunch of friends who sort of push each other to be better.

What we do have and what we bring to the party is conviction, courage, and competence. Plus the bone to stand up and say that Nothing scares us. And that truth isn’t available to buy in tubes or jars.

We have handled the biggies. We have delivered for the biggies. And there is just no way any one or any thing can frighten us.  No budget. No task. No scale. No nothing.

SD – Brands, ROI and creativity are interrelated. What is your take? 

PS – Yes, everything is inter-connected. Everything has to be. And you really can’t separate one from the other, as everything sort of fuses and overlaps each other.

I personally think creativity as a discipline is an over hyped enterprise of the ad industry. And a lot of ponytails and errant behaviour have gone unpunished because of that.

Commonsense tells me that all human beings are creative. And in everything we do, our innate lateral quirk to do something different comes into play. Just like a plumber who decides to do his own jugaad to fix a leak, or like the ingenious scarecrow that stands in the field to keep the birds off from the crops.

Any product or service that wants to become a brand has to invest in thinking and execution that are differentiated. Who wants to buy a me-too or a duplicate?

You can’t really build a brand without employing distinctive thought. Unless you are a monopoly – like the Indian Railways.

SD – It’s the Award season. Scam Ads – Are they really worth it? 

PS – I think we are fighting a different monster here.

Why has scam come about? Because many clients won’t allow agencies to do what seems/looks/smells like a daring attempt on legitimate brands. There are far too many precious things at stake. Including necks.

So when you know your industry has a rating benchmark that’s pegged against awards, and you don’t have the approval of your client to do explore his/her brand, what other option does the award-harried creative dept have?

Invent clients? Discover brands? Do pro bono work? Host a fictitious festival? Brand internal workshops? This is where things can get really creative.

The way I see it, we have gone too far into this freewheeling direction. It’s pointless to pull back and apply for sainthood. It will only work against us. Instead use that passion. Create tons of alternate work. And let’s delight in doing work that gives us goosebumps.

On the other hand, I believe scam is the thinking that will embolden mainline work. It keeps the mind ticking very cleverly. It will bring more value to clients, and find surprising and cheaper ways to push branding. It makes scant sense to pontificate on the honesty quotient of experiments.

Scam exists, will exist, and must exist. It’s good to be unfettered in the head. Though I agree that we should find a more respectable word for it.

SD – How has copy changed over the years. Has it at all ?

PS – Good copy is good writing. And that reflex craft, is in the hands of very few people. For me, a good writer is someone who doesn’t have one style. Or who doesn’t fall into a signature trap.

He or she ought to have a wide repertoire. Like different golf clubs. Flexible enough to write very differently for varying products and brands.

The argument for whisky cannot be the same for milk. And the words you use to write for migraine tablets must drastically be different from the words you’d employ to sell margarine tubs.

SD – Pat, what is it that you enjoy most about the work you do today. 

PS  – The biggest driver is that I am pushing myself beyond what I know. Especially in the digital side of life.

There’s so much out there, and we haven’t even seen 1% of what the medium can actually do. I am convinced that my swimming lessons at iYogi will give me a better sense of the ocean.

I think it’s also the fact that I still enjoy what I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am. I could have easily slipped into a role of playing patriarch to a network.

I am still very much a hands-on creative. I need an excuse to work. I need to cut my films. I need to work with my music. I suppose I will be a frustrated person and a really sour boss if I don’t have things to do and words to write.

Nothing drives me madder than lazy people. 

SD – Though 65 % of the global image requirements are still assigned shoots, 35% now belongs to Image Banks. Brands save money, time and effort. Black-books replaced by online image banks. Progressive ?

PS  – I won’t say it’s just progressive. It’s in line with the evolution of convenience. If everything around us has got digital and generic, photography – especially the black book variety, ought to have been among the first to switch avatars.

My first interaction with evolving stock and quasi digital goes back to the mid 90s when I bought duplicate transparencies (trannies!) from Tony Stone. And my dependence on the ease and efficiency of that offering hasn’t diminished.

I also successfully experimented with buying stock film for an SBI Card global commercial from Image Bank in London during the 90s. I remember having done the film under 20 lakhs, compared to the multi crore quotes that came in from some of the film makers in Mumbai.

The way things are going now, and the speed at which content is getting old and abandoned, there’s little hope for mega production budgets. So stock – both still and moving, is the way to go. With niche stock now coming of age.

SD – We are creating some good content that showcases the contemporary and vibrant India. I cannot help but ask someone of your calibre the one pearl of wisdom that you may want to give www.stockimagebank.com. 

PS – Give me pictures I can’t find anywhere else.

SD – Bang in the middle – Tell us more .. how is it different ? What is it that you plan to do differently with an ace team ?

PS – There’s little merit talking about what we want to be, and what we are and what we hope to do. Words don’t quite have kinetic energy.

Of course, there’s a plan. And that plan involves exceptional talent. There’s no other plan, because no other plan makes sense. http://www.banginthemiddle.com

SD – With the serious stuff over lets get to know your personal side 🙂 We all know your love for Music .. what’s that one song in your head today.

PS  – Right now, nothing is playing in my head. But Beatles was playing a while ago. Hey Jude in particular. I don’t think I can ever get over this band. Regardless of everything else that’s exploding in the music scene.

I am also fond of almost every other genre of music. From Carnatic to Opera to Reggae. Trance and Acid incidentally don’t live on my planet.

I do listen to Malayalam songs – the old ones from the threshold between b/w and colour. They hold a lot of memories for me. And every time I listen to them, images from my childhood, contexts, smells, associations, etc. swamp my system.

SD – And your favorite dish? ( you can say 2 or more in today’s world of multitude choices).

PS  – My tastebuds are Indian. And very proudly Malayalee.

Appam and Mutton Stew for breakfast. A typical vegetarian Kerala Sadya or Kozihikodan Mutton Biriyani for lunch. Rice and Fish Moilee for dinner. Vermicelli Payasam anytime. Throw in some jelabis too.

Sorry, but all that affected chocolate blah and mousse just don’t get into my list. I cannot change my brown moorings.

SD – We all have our favorite dining places. Which is yours ?

PS  – My all time favorite in India is the erstwhile Indian Coffee House, Statue, Trivandrum. That’s where I grew up, along with my thoughts, points of view, debates etc.

In Delhi, Dakshin – at the Marriot is a place that I’d like to go. Gunpowder too is nice and fiery.

The most unforgettable restaurant for me has been chef Ferran Adria’s, elBulli, in Roses, Catalonia, Spain. It was nothing but a huge stroke of fortune that I landed up there. Google it and you’d know what I mean.

SD – Liquids .. the slurpiest .. 

PS  – I don’t drink much, and I don’t drink alone. If I can’t get Captain Morgan, then Old Monk will do. With Coke. If I am in a wine mood, as long as the grape is Riesling, I am very happy.

SD – How did you meet Jyothi, and what is the secret of her glow? 

PS  – Jo and I met in Ahmedabad around 1988. I was in Mudra, and she was studying Textile Design at NID. We were neighbours, and then like in the classical Sunil Dutt song – Mere Samne Wali Khidki Mein happened.

I think the glow is natural. She always had it. I was but the moth.

SD – Your son Abhimanyu is exceptional in music.. anything for him? 

PS  – Abhi plays both guitar and piano. But I suppose he is gradually growing into liking and playing the keys more.

Recently, he’s been playing with a band called Barefaced Liar. And Jo and I have watched him at Manjasa, Hard Rock, and Blue Frog.

I am not too sure where he is going with his music, but I do know that music will have all kinds of things to do with him.

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The first thing that you notice in Pat is his warm and genuine smile ! A humble man who is warm and so welcoming !

While I write this, I also realize, how difficult it is for me to write about the ” ace in the field of writing. Words fail me 🙂 So to put in a plain simple verbose that I am capable of, let me share that  www.banginthemiddle.com has been his dream for a while. I am so happy that today that I have the opportunity to see him beaming with pride and be able to capture this moment in the Advertising history of India !

I have tried to capture this time of his life, via a small interview where you know exactly what his state of mind, his dreams, his vision and his life !  He was kind enough to share with us his personal side which I am sure a lot of you will love to read about .

A couple of blogs of Pat that I recommend you must read. 

http://bloggingthehorse.blogspot.in/ – His mind and musings.

http://www.poetfreak.com/poet/prathapsuthan – The poet in him.

So Pat ! This is a big applause from me and all of us at www.stockimagebank.com ! Rock the world ! 

Sugandha Dubey – a friend of Pat and Founder of http://www.stockimagebank.com

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This interview is exclusive © of  www.stockimagebank.com , a brand of SIBSA DIGITAL PVT. LTD.

(In case you are an online or traditional  publication please write in to us at contact@stockimagebank.com for rights  to  re-pubish. All rights reserved.)

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