“The irony is that I joined advertising because I loved to write. But there is no opportunity to write any more!”
Sohini Sen | Delhi | July 14, 2014
Someone once said, “Advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” Some people combine this fun with a learning experience for everyone around them. Like Prathap Suthan.
Suthan, an advertising veteran, worked with Cheil, Mudra and Grey before setting up his own quirky little agency called ‘Bang in the Middle’. Looking at him, you’d think Pat is the guy next door. But when he speaks, you must hold your breath because, whether you are ready or not, you are in for a ride. BestMediaInfo.com decided to go ahead and have a ‘chat with Pat’ over some nice mango milkshakes.
Pat’s decision to join advertising has a lot to do with his love for language. A lover of good writing, Suthan churns out longs copies just for fun. He is also behind the ‘terribly tiny tales’ on Facebook, and quirky exercises like ‘Brat in the Middle’, and ‘Ode’ to the days of the week.
“I have done the mainline ad jobs, from Creative Director to Senior Creative Director to NCD for multiple countries. I have done that. It’s a good life, and I could have continued. But there was no money. When I replaced someone from New Zealand, I was not offered even half the money he was taking home. My point was, you should pay for the idea and for the product. Not for the person who is behind it.”
Suthan’s point is that even a simple hiring process becomes complex in a big organisation. When a decision is being considered, the India CFO will report to the Southeast Asia CFO, who then gets the permission from the APAC CFO, and then finally the global CFO. So, to hire someone, this entire chain has to be completed. Whereas, in Bang in the Middle, Suthan can decide almost immediately and can look after the organisation better – with direct contact with all the people working in it.
His last ‘job’ in Cheil was something he loved. However, certain issues made him quit and he decided to join iYogi. iYogi, a remote technology support company, planned to get listed in the stock markets. Pat learned about online marketing at iYogi, and this knowledge created the base for some of the services Bang in the Middle offers today. However, when Facebook and Groupon came out with their IPOs, iYogi’s plans to go public were shelved; Suthan realised they didn’t have to be in the company any more. Along with friends, he created Bang in the Middle and started working from the same office space. Incidentally, Suthan is still listed as the Chief Creative Officer for iYogi – another proof of him wearing various hats.
A wacky little creative agency, Bang in the Middle is well known for the kind of quirky but powerful stuff they do. The name also suggests the very promise of their work. “Bang in the Middle happened because we were inside the clients, in this case iYogi. We were already present in their work. Thus, Bang in the Middle! Moreover, the name is also an expression. And thankfully, the dotcom was also available. If we didn’t get this one, we would have gone with ‘Brand in the Middle’, but this one definitely has a better bang to it,” exclaims Pat. He confirms that he has never met anyone who doesn’t have a reaction to the name, and luckily, most of them are positive reactions. He also explains that the name suggests that they want to be in the middle of design, of creativity, of UI design, of brand management, of digital and television.
The fact that he keeps it interesting wherever he goes is also evident from the products he posts on social media sites. The terribly tiny tales is a daily exercise, where he contributes every fortnight. Bang in the Middle also has independent creative exercises like the ‘Ode’ to each day of the month series, and the ‘Beta in the middle/ Brat in the middle’ stuff which garnered a lot of interest and likes.
“Social media is used to create constructive and charming conversations. In real life also, you’d want to talk to someone who holds your interest in a conversation. That is exactly what we have done at Bang in the Middle. It doesn’t matter that we are small or we are independent. Plus, it also gives Bang in the Middle a very different stage, independent of who our clients are and what our clients do. It’s about us.”
Other than social media, Bang in the Middle may soon enter into the Indian television space, with content created in their New York office. Saira Mohan, model and President of their NY office, is behind this ongoing initiative.
The agency is also signing on new clients. One of their latest is Jabong, the online e-com site which is making a lot of news these days. Pat however realises that there challenges in working for an online client. The speed at which an online portal works, and that of a creative agency are different. At the same time, he knows that if a brand requires digital presence, then they must create that for the brand. OXOllOXO, the fashion brand they are taking care of, will have a new identity created by them. Films and digital work has already been created for them.
Along with this, his trademark longhand campaigns will continue. Pat, as a matter of fact, is a firm believer in the magic of longhand. He laments the absence of long copy by saying, “The irony is that I joined advertising because I loved to write. But there is no opportunity to write anymore.”
But does he wish that the present generation took more interest in long copy ads? Or even in ads for that matter. Suthan feels that the present generation is not even coming into the advertising field because of a lack of money. Even though a record number of students are coming out of art and communication courses, they are not joining creative agencies. “Today it is not just advertising. They can join the online division of a television company, an FMCG company, even a blogging company. And all of them pay more than an agency,” he said.
But not everything is bleak. He believes that this is what he has to do – this is his calling. According to him, if he had to leave writing, he would have to become a car driver!
Well, that day doesn’t seem to be in the cards any time soon. Because Pat is at work, and work with him around is surely fun.