We’d just returned from our B-school. We were living in a small apartment. One of our roommates said, “there is an AdMad competition tomorrow, I have registered our team”. AdMad was a competition for creating an advertisement for a random brand such as Superman’s underwear or Bereavement services. This night I learnt 4 unforgettable lesssons for life.

When it comes to ad creation, I am not that creative. I could at best play a second Fidel. After some discussion, somehow we – as a team – were ready for the competition.

Organizers had very unique conditions. This is generally the case when you are competing in B-school competitions.

The topics or brands were given late evening. We had to submit our entries by 5 AM the next day. Teams could not make corrections after submission etc. It was one hell of a challenge, not because of the terms and conditions – we were used to it by now. It was a tough task because such creative expression was new for us all engineers :). Additionally, the topics were beyond imagination.

Where to start?


When we got our brand, we started brainstorming. I was completely clueless about where to start. Then it stuck to us, let’s go to our lessons of “Integrated Marketing Communication” course notes. Mr. Sohan Shah taught us the course, he had taught us this course with a practical approach.

Learning – Desperately search for options, explore all the possibilities, and ask for help if needed.

In teams put ego aside

We got a good approach to start our entry. However, life is not that easy. After some initial brainstorming, we were working on my laptop for the final entry. My laptop had a battery issue. So, after some work, I requested two of my teammates to join me in the room. I and one other teammate were working in my room.

Ego lesson put your ego aside

This small incident turned into an ego issue. One friend said “why can’t you come here?”

I explained the problem. Call it our naivety or any of the other multiple reasons – the pressure of participation and our other studies, fear of failure, the anxiety of doing something for the first time, and of course ego. We argued on where to work?

Forget about anything we did not have any creative concept on the board to have  “creative differences” :).

We debated on sitting in one room or the other to start work. We stopped the project and tasks completely on a random non-issue. It was midnight. We were nowhere close to completing our submission.

After a while, I gave up and said I didn’t give my name as a team member, I won’t go. Whoever registered the team it’s his responsibility. The other two held their ground. The most composed of our team members was trying to build the bridge. All in vain. We were all in our beds, kind of giving up on the competition.

Some time passed, I came out and said if my name is on the list I will stand there on the podium even if I don’t have anything. I won’t run away. So, finally, two out of the four started working again.

Learning – Keep aside ego when it comes to a group task. Find solutions instead of issues.

Go back to the basics

We started off from where we had left. Where are the notes? Lets check what we learnt in “Integrated Marketing Communication” course. We started working on the basics.

Back to basics
  • Chapter 1, market research. What does customer research say about our brand? These are the finding.
  • Chapter 2 Segmentation, Targeting. Find who is the best fit segment or segments. How to address their needs
  • Chapter 3 Positioning. Let’s write a positioning statement. We followed the instructions to the tee as if someone is teaching us to write sentences. The statement was making sense.
  • Chapter 4 Ad insight. What is the insight and how do we want to communicate as per the insight.
  • Chapter 5 Execution – the storyboard.

The two team members had given some creatives for the entry. The rest of the creatives we search including the iStock images. It was looking really shabby. But finally, something was shaping up as a coherent story.

We concluded the entry by the wee hours. Reviewed our entry and sent it to the organizing committee and our other two teammates. They were still upset, nevertheless.

Learning – Go back to the basics and build up from there.

Do not be afraid, give it your 100%

Finally, after completing our regular classroom schedule, we were in the hall. The competition started. I and my friend were in the hall looking for our other team members. They had decided not to join.

One after the other teams presented their Ad or concepts. With each entry, I and my friend were literally sinking in our chairs. There were awesome videos, wonderful jingles, music, roleplays everything except a PowerPoint. We had a deck! On top of it, it was a bland deck.

Our entry was after 70% of the teams. We’re scared to even stand on the dais. But as I had said, I won’t back out. I will stand even without an entry if my name is there.

Our names came. Both of us went on the stage. The first thing was – only two out of a team of four were present. I started off “After this ad we’ve so many orders that the other two are working on backend supply chain and distribution channels :)” We could not discuss the issue we had on dias, isn’t it?

I started off the presentation again Chapter by Chapter of Mr. Shah’s class “Integrated Marketing Communication”. It was too convincing I think. Initially, people tried hooting us, but slowly the seriousness seeped in, and everyone was listening. We concluded the deck. Since there was silence, we felt it was damn boring and people dosed off within 2 mins. It was completely against the other interesting concepts, from fun to seriousness.

Once the last team had presented, it was jury time. We knew the result, we were the most frustrating, boring, and bland Ad. I and my teammate were sitting and listening to the results. First, and second prize was obvious. Ideally, it was the end of the competition. However, Professor Tomas Lopez (Sir I miss you) continued.

This is Professor Lopez virtually beating me with his shoe

He said – It was a great competition. All of you put in a lot of effort and brought some wonderful concepts. There were funny ads, emotional ads, good role plays, use of AV, technology, music everything. However, there was one ad that could bring customers to the counter, sales for the business. I know the execution or presentation could have been better, but given time and opportunity, it could be done. This special second runner-up is for “our team”.

We were astonished. But we were happy. It was a great surprise and the words of appreciation were more than the prize. It was our first such attempt – we all were engineers :).

Learning – Do not be afraid, give it your 100%. When in doubt go back to the basics and give it your 100%


The lessons from this incident go beyond B-school. The learning is for personal, professional, social, and spiritual all walks of life. The lessons are

  1. Search for options, explore all the possibilities, and ask for help if needed
  2. Ego should not come in our way when it comes to a group task.
  3. Go back to the basics and build up from there.
  4. Do not be afraid, give it your 100%. When in doubt back to the basics and give it your 100%
  5. Bonus – one must follow the plan and path carefully until that becomes second nature. They as it takes 10,000 hours to master something.
  6. Additional bonus – Find solutions instead of issues.

We had challenges as a team. Our creative expressions were limited. We had unnecessary issues that we could avoid. For example – I could save work on my laptop. Put it to sleep go to the other room and start discussions. It was an easy solution that I didn’t apply.

We did a few things correctly. Going back to the basics and giving our 100%. Whenever in doubt go back to the basics. I have heard that when a boxer loses and his confidence is low, he goes back to smaller level competitions besides practice.

Since we were doing such creative work for the first time, the lesson is – one must follow the plan and path carefully until that becomes second nature. It is said that it takes about 10,000 hours to master a skill isn’t it?

I can go on giving examples of the lessons from personal, professional, social or spiritual life however that is for some other day.

Until then you can do your introspection on how these lessons could help you in your past incidents? It is likely that you did not apply and now you think I wish I had done that. It is likely that you did apply and now you think it made a positive difference. Do share your thoughts.

Image source Ego –

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Back to basics – Photo by Mathieu Turle on Unsplash

KRD Pravin

Here I am supposed to write about myself. Professionally, I am quite serious and a workaholic; personally I am an individual who enjoys what he does and takes life as it comes. I am passionate about my work and actions and empathetically careful, attached and committed to them. All this makes me a fierce competitive professional and yet a compassionate soul, the Yin and the Yang together. Balancing is the art to be practiced using the middle path. From - http://business2buddha.com/about/


Preeti Umashankar · March 3, 2022 at 11:51 am

Thank you Pravin for always so insightful writing. I heartily wish your writing to reach to as many as possible – for the fact, that, in the simplest way, you convey profound life lessons/ learnings. Kudos for your jotting down this all. Thank you always.

Om prakash Gupta · March 3, 2022 at 12:39 pm

This is the way one must work to achieve something in group’s. We must forget our ego listen each other and find the best solution. We must think in logical manner for any topic. It may happen that everyone may except your thoughts and logic hundred percent or your idea at the end may be discarded. By this we can learn for future. But just thinking what I say is correct leads no where.
Thank you for sharing your experience

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