How it Works

The culture of creativity is under threat: Amer Jaleel

The chairman of MullenLowe Lintas Group, Amer Jaleel, speaks out on the issue of ownership and against ideas being replicated.

By  Amer JaleelOct 26, 2022 7:51 PM
The culture of creativity is under threat: Amer Jaleel
Everyone must understand the simmering discontent that is widespread over ideas being pulled out of one agency’s remit and handed over to another, writes Jaleel. (Representational image via Unsplash)

Mere humnafas mere humnawa

Mujhe dost banke daga na de

-Shakeel Badayuni.

A few days ago I spoke out against ideas being replicated.

It’s an idea not a cookie cutter, for God’s sake.

A few days later on co-ownership of ideas.

Today I want to broaden the scope.

I want to talk about the culture of creativity.

Because ultimately that’s what leads to ideas. And I’m assuming that’s what’s most important to the entire brand building industry. Advertising and marketing included.

First up, everyone must understand the simmering discontent that is widespread over ideas being pulled out of one agency’s remit and handed over to another.

Everyone, it’s there!

Don’t hide it, don’t hide from it.

And ironically it stems from the very concept that is under contention.


We all must acknowledge ownership begins with birth. Where the ownership, I mean in the metaphysical sense not the legal, is strongest in the mind of the creator. The birth-giver. Which is why agencies, the creative community feels so strongly about their creation. They think it up, they nurture it, they see it past numerous hurdles and now it’s out in the air. Guess what? It’s the moment the agency lives for - to see the credit line alongside the media story. Or to be quoted or talked about.

For that baby they’ve stayed up late, they’ve worked their ass off, faced family crisis, tons of rejections and heartbreak.

See for any brand the product or service is their product right?

For the agency the ad is their product. They produced it.

They are bound to be not just possessive about it, they're going to be umbilical about it.

This is not about business guys. It’s not about law. It’s human nature.

You feel me?

For a moment, shut your mind to Ownership, practise Owership?

Orrr. Let’s see, another way.

Take a client: Bashshah Salamat. A patron of the arts. Moneyed, motivated and powerful.

Take an agency: Tansen. Creative, talented, a bit eccentric.

Bashshah Salamat commands Tansen to come up with a genius raag. A raag mind you, not just a composition. A raag is something on which a number of compositions can be created. Tansen invokes the clouds with Raag Malhaar, rain follows! Bashshah shabasshes the hell out of the creative, everyone’s ecstatic. But soon enough it’s time to move on. Song after hit song gets belted out by any number of composers. Tansen’s left out in the rain he invoked! Still holding the little potli of sikkas while the symphony of versional output becomes cacophony to his ears.

Of course the raag is the Raja’s! Or is it?!!

But the idea of this elaborate hyperbole was not analogical alone. Take this a bit further.

Tansen gets summoned back to another court. Also another Azeem Shahenshah, known for the opportunity he provides to artistes. Tansen obliges with another sublime creation. Wahwahs flow once again and Az Shah's Shaan-O-Shaukat blips big time as per the brand track. Tansen gets his potli and some wreaths even from a French Monarch. But again the cycle repeats. Raag is AS’s property and he invites all and sundry. Go forth and make versions he proclaims for all my cohorts!

Tansen you sense now gets the drift.

The next set of lords and nobility does go to him for his magical ragas. But T man is like do I really need to drum up the immortal stuff? Especially if it’s a one-time deal of that small potli? Worth it?

A bit worn from the experience but somewhat wiser, T calibrates.

And the King Calibrates and the Kingdom Calibrates and the People Calibrate.

And the Culture Calibrates.

There isn’t much more to understand than that. The idea is usually applauded. But its appreciation would be a more worthy outcome.

Same kind of appreciation that happens to equity?

Coming to co-ownership, something I spoke in favour of. Let’s say the brand idea was co-created, then both equal constituents should at the minimum need to seek the approval of the other before using it elsewhere?

How about that?

Of course it would be amazing if that were to be followed by a usage fee? Or a walkaway fee? But if not, ‘permission to use’ will at least keep reiterating the contribution of the creators and that’ll remind of the value of the idea and inculcate an attitude that’s more responsible towards intangible hi sahi, but assets all the same.

The author is the group chief creative officer and chairman of MullenLowe Lintas Group. Views expressed are personal.

First Published on Oct 25, 2022 10:47 AM