Sunday, July 12, 2009

Honestly Sir had you even expressed a desire to be called Hamu or My Lord I would have obliged

I am sorry if I caused you offense by my behavior. I want to assure you that, I really meant you no disrespect and was fully aware of your professional stature, from day one. If I gave you the impression; that I was ignorant of it and that my behavior stemmed from that ignorance, my apologies. At the same time, I wonder if I may try to place the whole thing in its proper context.

As I understand it, my first protocol faux pas was calling you by your first name. This was because I had the impression that Zest Biscuits Sales and Marketing division was a first names office. Sorry if I was wrong. Even if it is a first names office I normally stop short of using first names when it is a case of approaching senior citizenship status. That did not seem to apply to you. In fact Vic once told us ‘Roger is young’. I suppose I could have called you Mr. Roger. But it would have been the wrong etiquette. Mr. Janus frankly seemed too…. stiffly formal .

My second protocol related faux pas it seems, was passing you the story board to look at and asking you to cue me on what the voice over says;

"Roger could you read out what the voice over says?”

At the time, this seemed to me to be a perfectly acceptable bit of interactive presenting. If this seemed to be an offensive breach of protocol; I am sorry.

All I can say in my defense is that; my notions of protocol were formed or warped (depending on how you look at it) by the profession I am in ; advertising. Starting ten years ago as a Trainee at AlfredHarry Co. and doing time in six agencies before coming to Sanctuary this April, my notions of protocol were formed and defined at ad agencies. When one has practically grown up in a setting where relaxed protocol is a way of life one tends to adopt certain behaviors and mannerisms. Wouldn’t you agree? For example, I have worked with creative directors, who wouldn’t take their feet off the table even when the MD comes visiting, and I have also worked with creative directors who stood to attention when talking to the MD.

I started off thinking that the former were heroes and the later were suckers. Then again as time passed, I learned to see such loud and overt displays of nonchalance, as signs of insecurity and set my protocol meter at some point midway between these two extremes. All these inroads into my biography must be boring you, but my intention is to explain.

Another reason for this mail is to clearly communicate three vital issues, which I tried but failed to convey to you due to my lack of diplomatic finesse.

  • You told us, not to try to short circuit the proper channels of approval, in place in your organization. This was so; far far far from being our policy, that I simply couldn’t help speaking up at that time. Nobody in our team ever tried to short circuit the process. In fact we simply wouldn’t even know how to short circuit the proper channels, even if we wanted to do that. And we do not; most definitely; want to short circuit. To us Vic and Brett, your marketing managers are the client. We always have gone through them. We have never felt any urge to short circuit or circumvent them because they are the ideal clients. In fact, they are a throw back to the clients that used to exist, in the long past, golden age of advertising. Clients, who were prepared to roll back their sleeves and get down to business with the agency team. Clients, who do not entertain the mistaken belief, that a client’s involvement with the agency team is limited to two points; the briefing and the presentation. Clients, who share the belief laid out in the most basic advertising book, that for good ideas to emerge the agency and the client have to exist in each others pockets. In fact, it was due to your marketing managers’ commitment and willingness to get involved in every phase of the ideation process, that the whole Zingers campaign went swimmingly and also the Raspberry campaign. So when you said words to the effect “ my marketing managers know better than you. They have better concepts than you” my jaw literally dropped from amazement. Whoever suggested that they weren’t? Of course they are, and thank God for them. If you have somehow got the impression, that we had any complaints against your marketing managers that is wrong; so totally wrong.
  • Then you accused me/the team; of putting a family in the Lean Zingers commercial and wasting your time, when it should have been perfectly obvious to us, that the primary target group was the 30 + adults. But my dear Sir, the idea of using the family, was totally cleared with, approved by and endorsed by Vic beforehand. I am sure Vic will bear me out.

  • Then Sir, you made it clear that you don’t want me to keep pushing. Once you have spoken, that’s it. You are right Sir, I accept I am a very pushy person. But once you get to know me, I am not such a bad person. I merely believe in free and frank discourse between people to resolve issues. In fact Sir, if you have the time and the inclination (And I am fully prepared to concede that you would have neither) to get an idea about the real me; visit this blog “” and search for ‘six questions for tamils’ page and you will see the comments of a blogger called ratnawalli That is me. And you will see the discourse currently being carried out between ratnawalli and nayagan. Nayagan is a member of the Tamil Diaspora. And you may see how healthy, how illuminating and how refreshing discussion can be. If you click on the name ratnawalli, you can go to my blog and you can really see, the essential me. But of course you would not have the time or the inclination and that’s fine.

But my point Sir is if a member of the Tamil Diaspora based thousands of miles away can enter into a dialog with a Sinhalese and build an endearing forum, why can’t we, Sanctuary and Zest (who according to our Chairman are practically family members) discuss things without offending each other? We can Sir. We really can. I will do my part and I hope you will be kind enough to give us a helping hand.

Once more I am sorry, if I have offended and hope you will see me as I really am.

Yours Sincerely



  1. this is nayagan.

    I am gratified that you used our exchange to make a point but I would like to reiterate that I am not hostile (nor some strange species of human who cannot dialog with persons claiming an ethnicity shared by so many members of their own family) nor should our interaction be construed as proof of however you may be disposed/indisposed to observing whatever protocol may applicable in a given situation.

    That said, tooting your own horn when it is justified (all contextual of course) is an attractive trait until you run into the stone walls of patriarchy--then it becomes an irritant to those who control access to promotion.

    toot ye well.

  2. Ah Nayagan how wise you are. I am gratified that you replied. Had no idea anybody read this blog. In a way you are right to be concerned. About the dragging in of your name and the prospect of becoming a tooting casualty. But in fact if anybody had bothered to follow our exchange after I held it up as an example they would have realised for themselves that you were neither hostile nor of some strange species. Basically yes I was tooting but not at your expense. And the exchange does show (at least to me) how refreshing, how mind expanding, how stereotype shattering discussion can be. The fact that you are a member of the Tamil Diaspora too was a tremendous value addition to the example. I am aware of your dislike of being lumped into this fabled homogeneous species; Tamil Diaspora. But actually you are the exception that proves the rule. And nowhere have I tried to use our interaction to illustrate the dos and dont's of protocol.The blogosphere has its own unique protocol which can't be exported to any other context. I am aware of that. However sorry if I have offended you.

    The stone walls of patriarchy are usually not as solid or inflexible as they look. For those who dare to run into them they sometimes part like a curtain. Or like that wall in Harry Potter that you have to walk into to access the station number 16 & 1/2 or whatever.

  3. greetings. and u are at which agency? shalom to ur ideas, challenges, budgets, and issues...

  4. @ someone important
    Which agency? That would be telling wouldn't it. Thanks for the comment. I am deeply touched.