It was June 30 morning when the Indian advertising agency got the news of Sonal Dabral moving out of DDB Mudra Group to further explore his passion for creativity in life. It came as a surprise for many, while a few in the industry said it was much anticipated and, therefore, not surprising.
With his departure, the agency also announced the elevation of Rahul Mathew as National Creative Director, DDB Mudra Group, and Brijesh Jacob as the Group’s Chief Creative Technologist, hereon.
BestMediaInfo.com caught up with Sonal Dabral, Chairman and CCO, DDB Mudra Group, to understand the reason of moving out of the agency and his future plans.
Dabral joined DDB Mudra in January 2012 from Bates, where he was the Regional Creative Head and Chairman for the India operations. Since 2012, his name has been synonymous with DDB Mudra.
When BestMediaInfo asked him if his departure would impact the agency given his stature, impact and relatability with the agency, he smiled and said, “Is my name synonymous with DDB Mudra Group? I think you are being too kind.”
He further said, “In the five years I spent here, I’m proud of the fact that I was able to build a strong creative team with able, talented leaders in place. In fact, this has made it easier for me to depart. Rahul and Brij together will take on the mantle of running the creative for DDB Mudra Group, and I will work very closely with them to facilitate a smooth transition.”
Dabral doesn’t want to share his next plan as of now, but people in the industry are anticipating he would take up a bigger role at some bigger agency.
Dabral told BestMediaInfo, “No teaser ads in real life! I’ll only be able to speak about my future plans when they get finalised in a couple of weeks.”
He has around three decades of experience on brands like Audi, Fiat, Tata Safari, Dove, Le Sancy, Unilever Foods, Ponds, Lakme, Panadol, Cadburys, Asian Paints, Fevicol, Virgin Mobile, Tata AIG, Prudential, GE, Nestle’s Maggi and Milo, DBS, Remy Martin, Colgate, Pizza Hut, Sony, Coca Cola, DHL, Big Bazar, McDowell’s, etc.
Showing much confidence in Mathew and Jacob, Dabral said, “I’m passing on the baton to not just Rahul but to Rahul and Brij together. Both are young and driven creative leaders and will make a strong combination to lead the Group – Rahul with his storytelling and advertising experience and Brij with his expertise in technology and new media.”
With Dabral at the helm of the agency, DDB has produced some renowned work from USL McDowell’s No.1 and Royal Challenge to IPL beginning from 'India Ka Tyohaar' to 'Yeh Dus Saal aapke Naam'. Dabral shared that he even liked working on ‘Ode to the bug’ for Volkswagen Beetle and ‘Health Cha Shree Ganesh’ for Nutralite, as well.
Sharing his experience on working on these campaigns, Dabral said. “I’m proud that in the past few years, we were able to raise the standard of work across the board. Especially on our biggest clients, a difficult task always. I worked on some of these campaigns very closely. The work we did on USL McDowell’s No.1 and Royal Challenge for instance. It's exciting to see so many user generated videos of friendship, using the No.1 Yaari anthem that I wrote for McDowell’s No.1, as the soundtrack. For me, that's as big as any metal we've won at any award show.”
Dabral is also very proud in bringing a change in communication that the agency brought to a big brand like Big Bazaar. “Working closely with Kishore Biyani himself, we created work that added a lot of heart and soul to the retail brand’s image. 'Paper Patakha', 'Khaane Ka Samay', 'Neki Ka Mahina' during the month of Ramzaan and the latest ‘Ghar Aaiye Na’ campaign that’s running on TV right now are examples of work that has slowly but surely changed Big Bazaar’s transactional and price-driven image in people’s minds,” said Dabral.
A graduate of the National School of Design (NID), Sonal began his career in Lintas, Delhi. After a brief stint in Mudra Delhi, he went on to have an extremely successful stint at Ogilvy Mumbai before moving to Kuala Lumpur to head Ogilvy in Malaysia and make it one of the top creative offices in the region. Next, as the Chairman and ECD of Ogilvy Singapore, he led the agency to become not just the hottest agency in the region and the No. 1 creative office in the whole of Ogilvy Worldwide but also in the entire WPP global network.