What Got Us Through 2020? Trust & Momentum

June 24, 2021
Prashant Chari

In early March, we decided to shut our office for two weeks because a colleague had just returned from overseas and interacted with the entire team. At the time, it felt like we were overreacting, and the fact that none of us at work that day contracted the virus (including the aforementioned colleague) is something we are grateful for.

At the time, we didn’t know we would’t work from that location again. Extended lockdowns, and a virus out of control ensured that the only time we saw our colleagues was inside a tiny box during virtual meetings. Now a days, most opt to keep their cameras off.

As creative professionals, it’s not been easy to adapt. We thrive on the energy of one another. Of being able to, in a split second, tell whether a certain creative direction is going to work or not just based on the outline of the work in progress. Seeing our ideas scribbled across a whiteboard, or seeing the dots connected can really help us give structure to our thinking. And while there are alternates to replicate these experiences via software, we’re still stuck in our 13"-15" screens it just doesn’t compare.

This is a roundabout way of saying, I can’t wait to get back into office with the team. We won’t do it before we’re sure it’s safe. As they say, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

In the middle of the pandemic, it’s easy to blame all our problems on it, and forget the economic downturn we had already started to enter by the end of 2019. But that’s exactly the situation we found ourselves in. Partly, the result of tough circumstances, and partly not being as good as we needed to be on certain accounts.

As we introspected, we set in motion the changes that would better equip us to do better in the future. Then the pandemic struck. Purse strings were tightened. Our own recovery was delayed as we twiddled our thumbs.

Slowly, we started to make ourselves busier. A new campaign was rolled out for Firework. People took notice. The work we did opened doors. We started seeing ourselves as not just creative consultants, but also as strategic partners. Opportunity knocked, and we grabbed at it. While presenting our views on the subject we were asked to, we stuck our necks out and had the audacity to suggest that the brand make a change at the core of its very identity.

The roll of the dice worked. Global teams took notice, and before we knew it, we were tasked with solving the problem that we had identified earlier. 3 solid months of work followed. We pursued a number of new directions. Perhaps, a hundred options and variations were shared to find the one that just clicked. Calls went on into the late hours of the night. Until something spoke to us. It wasn’t the best looking option, but it was the most appropriate. A brand identity project that preserved the roots at the core of the Firework brand, yet poised for the possibilities of the future. Job done. More wind in our sails.

Opportunity knocked once again. Two leading brands, severely hurt by the pandemic, were on the lookout for new partners. We threw our hat in the ring. The team took on the challenge. Daily calls and meetings. Research led to insights. Campaigns were dreamt up. Pitch decks were prepared and refined and then further refined. Creative directions changed and changed again. Storyboards sketched out by hand. The meetings were delayed, the team decided, the work’s not yet done. More refinement happened. Filmfare and Femina were eventually secured.

The creative juices were starting to flow again.

Another client, another brief. A script was written. Several rounds later the script was approved, production begun, and the night before going on floors, a twist. The product itself was in jeopardy due to a case of corporate rivalry. The hard work was down the drain it seemed. A small delay, and the project was pulled back from the dead.

There is no power in the universe that can stop an agency-client pairing when there is strong trust and faith in one another. Or something less melodramatic. Another brief in. Several sleepless nights later, it was knocked out of the park.

Industry veterans believe, that it’s not the legacy that’s important, but the momentum. We were starting to experience this. Another brand was successfully pitched to, at an even faster speed than anything that had transpired before. Today, opportunities have come knocking. We’re starting to not just hit our stride, but are on the verge of surpassing anything we’ve done before. The work we do is diverse. Tailor made solutions for different kinds of challenges. We run the risk of spreading ourselves thin. Of repeating past mistakes. Of falling into the same traps. It’s a risk worth taking. We will keep getting better. We have momentum. Whatever challenges 2021 has in store for us, bring it. We’re still here.

Post script: The last ten days have been challenging. They have reinforced our belief in the power of a strong agency-client trust. Of the power of momentum. It started with an idea. A script was written, the client warned that it would be unlike anything they’d ever done before and at a scale they’d never trusted us with. It almost never came to life. “Trust us,” we said with butterflies in our tummies. We’d never done something like this before. “Sure,” said the client. “It’s your call. You have the approval, now use your judgement. Do you want to proceed or not? Do so only if you are confident. It’s your decision. I believe in you.”. This trust was built on the back of a multi year relationship with the client. And having made 6 ad films with them since October, Paytm was happy to trust the team with this, more ambitious, one.

From script approval, to casting, to treatment, to set design and post production. This was the result of ten sleepless nights.

Wish you all the momentum and trust in the world in 2021.