Commercial art: interview with Sunil Mahadik
What is commercial art?
Commercial art or applied art is about applying your aesthetics to solve a particular problem. It includes advertising, animation, art direction in films and graphic art, to name a few.
How has advertising developed in the last decade or so?
The early nineties was the turning point. Before that, the big agencies were doing rather predictable work. It hardly required any out-of-the box thinking. The three top agencies HTA, Lintas and O&M, were then doing maximum business. From the point India opened its gates to foreign companies, advertising agencies woke up to the idea of coming up with creative solutions to problems - the reason being working with multinational clients who were more clued into international standards.
This was also the time when smaller agencies such as Trikaya (now Gray Worldwide), Rediffusion (Dy&R) and Contract shot into prominence because of their willingness to experiment. The advertising world was getting democratic in the sense that the monopoly of the big players was questioned.
Now most of the top agencies in India and abroad are part of a business group called WPP. The market is now so dynamic that smaller agencies have an edge. Several mid-sized to small companies are eager to work with small agencies for more personal interaction and effective performance. Another interesting development at the turn of the millennium was the profusion of design firms that specialised in graphic art.
How is Mumbai placed in the value chain in India?
Mumbai still rules, though Delhi and Bangalore have also emerged as the next big advertising hubs. Mumbai's supremacy has largely to do with the city being the financial capital of India and most MNCs settting up shop in the city. It's also the place where talent is recognised, nurtured and honed. Most young people would rather be here than in any other city.
What changes do you find in young advertising professionals?
They are more aware of the industry than ever before. They know even what's happening in the US, UK and other parts of Europe. At the same time, rather than seriously contemplating an idea, they seem to be in a haste to execute it. They are also bringing fresh ideas to different forms of advertising such as clay animation and commercials and commercial photography.