If not into advertising she would have been a professional Bharatnatyam dancer or a cook for sure. Yes, this is what Netra Natarajan is second best at. The first is definitely copywriting. Born and brought up in Bangalore, she completed her schooling from Cathedral High School.
Natarajan never had an interest in studying maths or physics but loved studying English literature and language. Taking forward her interest in college, she triple-majored in Psychology, English Literature and Communication Studies.
Before giving advertising a shot, Natarajan worked in the field of PR communications and video production. “I kind of always knew I’d dabble in the field of communication, I just didn’t know what exactly at that point. I did multiple internships, but my most favourite was a brief stint at this production house called Thinkpot. I got to work on in the direction team for the CLA Frooti ad, ‘Say it Sid.’ I think that put advertising in my head, somewhere.”
She then joined MICA and enrolled herself in a Crafting Creative Communications course. “Back then it was still a class of only 24 students, so it was kind of a big deal. What followed was a year that was eye-opening on so many levels. And before I knew it, I was on my way to Bombay to join OgilvyOne,” she joyously recalled.
Ogilvy One was her first advertising workplace, and in her three years of time in Ogilvy, she worked on making brand campaigns for Coca-Cola, Cadbury Fuse, 5-Star, Dove and more. “I started working with an amazing team and my primary brand was Dove. I got to explore so much and my boss always encouraged me and pushed me to take the lead on projects.”
Natarajan has been awarded the DMAI International Award for the Dove campaign ‘Real Beauty Stories by Real Women’. “Ogilvy was just amazing. It set the foundation for my thinking and approach to work,” she said.
“In Ogilvy, I learnt how to lead projects, how to think. I dealt with clients on my own and learnt how to decode what they said and meant. After spending three years in Ogilvy, I was ready for my next challenge and that’s when VMLY&R happened,” she said.
At VMLY&R, it’s been two-fold for Natarajan. She manages a creative team along with improving herself in being better creative.
“VMLY&R has been exciting. Over the past year, I’ve got the chance to work on a range of clients — Pantaloons, Heinz, Oriflame, Kerastase —and what makes it even better is that I have some amazing mentors and a great team,” she said.
Speaking on her time at her present organisation, Natarajan said, “VMLY&R is a young, more energetic and vibrant agency. I work with a lot of people who are closer to my age and it is fun. Currently, I work on Pantaloons, Heinz ABC Sambal & Sardines, Oriflame and Kerastase. There’s this restlessness in the air and it translates into us creating some really cool digital campaigns.”
“VMLY&R is all about creating connected brands. So, when we pitch campaigns, we’re thinking about how we can harness culture, creativity and technology to create a seamless experience for the consumer. What does that mean? Simply put, we question everything, analyse data and insight, and then try to re-imagine the connected consumer experience. We believe everything in the world is connected, and if you join the dots correctly, it will lead to a seamless connection between brands and customers, customers and communities, and finally, communities and the world,” Natarajan pointed out.
Natarajan feels a good copy is simple and evocative. One needs to first land on obvious insights and then spend hours finding the right words, structure it and crack the best way to tell it to the world. Good copy is supposed to feel effortless. “My CCO Venkatagiri Rao and ECD Kevin Lobo really inspire us to constantly push the envelope. Their energy and enthusiasm are hard to match. And that’s what pushes all of us to think up campaigns, proactive or otherwise. Plus, we’re always collaborating with different teams, which mean I’m always learning something new,” she said.
She believes that working for advertising gave her a chance to be many things and that’s what she loves the most about it. “On most days, I’m a writer who has to be funny, coy, inspiring and audacious there’s a thrill in the whole process. It both annoys and excites me to be around people who sit and mull over what word is correct, what font to use, what colour not to use.”
Speaking on her biggest strength and weakness, Natarajan said, “I’ve always believed it’s extremely important to speak my mind, regardless of who is in front of me. I have always found it easy to address my concerns, talk about the things I don’t agree with. However, I tend to be a bit impatient at times.”
She advised that it is very important to be around people who inspire you at work. It can be your boss, a friend, or an art partner. But be around people who’re better than you and inspire you to be better.
Speaking on her most fun project, Natarajan said, “When I just joined VMLY&R, we were working on a project for Heinz ABC Sambal. It was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on. As a brand it operates in the humour space and comedy is not as easy as it seems. What’s funny for one person isn’t for the other. So, we were a bunch of Indians cracking a campaign for Indonesians. What followed were lots of trial and error, lots of deadpan expressions from our CCO along with hurtful rejections but by the end of it some really good scripts.”