I walk through the gates of ABC Creatives, the Bangalore based ad agency for which I work as an off site copywriter.
Though I have been here several times before, the security guard at the gate looks up at me questioningly. A glance I pretend I didn’t see and walk right in.
Unlike during my usual visits, my heart is hammering like crazy today.
A few days ago, for the first time in 9 months, I had been asked by my boss to develop a campaign for one of their main brands. With no clue whatsoever of what was expected of me, I had written something and mailed it to him. There was no response till this morning when I got an email from F on the client servicing team to be there at office for a review of what I had sent.
Oh boy. I am screwed. I can sense it in the air.
I step through the open door of the main entrance and see an elderly gentleman at the reception seated in the place of the very pleasant, friendly Jancy who left her job last week.
He asks me to wait and goes inside to inform F that I am here.
The meeting is at 3.30 and I have half an hour ahead of me to wait. I always make sure I reach early for such meetings coz with an unpredictable 2.6year old at home, you can never be sure to reach anywhere on time.
I sit down on the black couch and check my phone to see if Sarath has either called or messaged me.
Nope. Nothing. That’s good news coz that means our daughter isn’t driving her Dad insane.
I try to take a deep breath.
It’s no use. My heart is still thumping.
Different members of the staff, men and women (all strangers to me) walk in and out of the building. Many of them throw questioning glances at me. I notice a few of whom I have met at meetings before and look in hopes of a smile of recognition.
Nope. Nothing. Just flippant glances tossed my way.
I bury my head inside a newspaper in an attempt to appear relaxed and composed.
I am not able to read a single word but stay that way nevertheless to avoid the odd looks at this stranger who’s in their office.
After a while the door opens, F pops her head out and asks me to follow her inside to meet Ed, my boss.
I follow her in through the familiar glass door and give a quick glance around the hall we enter for any familiar faces.
None. The few people I do know are all busy with their work and don’t look up.
We turn to the left, enter another long room with senior copy writers seated inside and head over to Ed’s desk.
He looks up from his laptop and greets me in that friendly manner which usually puts me at ease but not today.
I mumble a greeting, smile and take my seat opposite to him. F too sits down.
My heart sinks.
“Dammit! F too is a part of the meeting? He’s going to blast me for my sloppy writing in front of her and everyone else in this room! I am so screwed!”
F starts off briefing him about the need for the campaign, the basic ideas and that it is the three different copies that I sent in for three different properties that need to be reviewed.
He nods with this serious look on his face that does not make me feel any better.
“Let’s check out the first one. What do we have here…?” he opens the mail I sent him.
I sink lower in my seat in an attempt to hide behind the laptop screen. My hands refuse to stop fidgeting and so I keep scribbling my signature in my diary. Over and over and over again.
The voices around me jumble into a constant static that makes no sense to me. I glance to my right to see two guys discuss some work they are reviewing on the computer screen. Another guy I know from the client servicing team, J, walks up and down with laptop in hand busy with something else. H, another girl from the same team is busy briefing one of the senior writers on something. Everyone else is at their desks with eyes focused on their computer screens, engrossed in their own work. The window to my right opens out to greenery. The desk before me is a chaos of papers, books and other stationery. I try to breathe but can’t.
My scribbling gets faster.
“Okay, so Pooja, when doing a campaign, we always need a unifying thought or foundation on which the whole thing rests. Something that connects it all together.” Ed looks at me and calmly explains.
“Now let’s find something like that for WW shall we?” he says, picks up an odd shaped pen, pulls over F’s diary and turns onto a new page in it.
I stare at him incredulously. “He’s not mad at me??”
My scribbling slows down a fraction.
I watch him as he sits pondering over a campaign thought.
Dressed in casuals, always with a reassuring, relaxed demeanour, a good, kind word and very very motivating and inspiring, he is that teacher all students would love.
I have had a few one to one sessions with him before and seriously, his passion for words, writing, books and the English language is infectious. And the way he plays around with words, whew!
Every time I have a session with him I always come away with diary pages scribbled with notes, new words, interesting usages, references, names of books and what not. Never puts you down or tramples your self esteem. Always instills the kind of self confidence you desperately need to grow.
“Yeah so let’s do this. The campaign will be called WOWW.” His words break into my thoughts.
Whaaat?!! Now where did he get that from?!?
I stop scribbling and stare at him incredulously as he goes on explaining to me about how I should develop on it and which all aspects I have to cover.
Not a word enters my head.
I have to huff and puff, grunt and struggle to heave out scraps of ideas from the recesses of my dusty brains and yet such lame ones they turn out to be and here, he was just sitting with a blank diary in front and two minutes later he has a campaign idea almost like someone sent it to him, gift-wrapped, via the breeze from the AC vent!!
Just as I was digesting that, he rattles off the campaign idea for the next property which turns out to be even better than the first!
I glance at F. She doesn’t even bat an eyelid given just how used to this she is.
Whew! How does he do it? I mean how do you connect one thought with another and play with words so so easily?!
“Let’s head over to Thomas’ room and figure out the rest of it” says Ed suddenly and F gets up to leave. In a daze I ask her if I am expected to join them. She says yes and then walks off.
I hurriedly stuff my MacBook Pro into my black backpack, pick up my diary and pen and fumble after her. But by the time I reach the hallway she’s already gone and I had no idea where.
I wander over to the door to Thomas’ room and wait outside awkwardly not knowing what to do. Ed comes by to join F and tells me to get in too.
I enter the room of a man who has written such amazing stuff that I am overwhelmed and sit in a corner in a daze.
For the next two hours I listen keenly to every word spoken by him and the rest of those gathered, scribbling away furiously at my diary filling it with notes.
Right there, in front of me, from thin air Thomas weaved into existence thoughts and ideas so fresh and interesting.
He was throwing ideas around sandwiched in between the umpteen ‘teek hai’s he said with such ease that all I could do was to sit and stare.
I felt like I was back in college doing my internship. Or rather, I felt like I was back in the classroom.
A child, a student, seated before people who became copywriters from before I was even born!
I step out from the meeting with my head reeling and my heart heavy with apprehension.
I had no clue how to go about making copy for the campaign thoughts they had come up with.
Back at home, Sarath feeds sense into my head and helps me silence the deafening clamour inside.
“You’re just a novice in the field girl. You’re just 9 months into your job. It’s fine to get it wrong or screw up. That’s just how you learn. Relax and give it your best shot. We’ll see how it goes. Now go get some sleep!” – Gosh I love this guy!
As far as a student like me is concerned, this agency is right now a huge blessing. A space to learn ever so much!
Beats me how they do what they do but you bet I will keep trying to learn how they do it and how to imbue words with life till the day I die.