There is no bigger creative motivator than seeing a good piece of work, feels Vikash Chemjong and Basabjit Mazumdar (Tito) of Publicis Worldwide, who were recently appointed Joint National Creative Directors at the agency with the CCO and MD Ajay Gahlaut moving on.
In an interview with BestMediaInfo.com, the newly appointed Joint NCDs said that to create a good piece of work, quality resources are required and getting them during these tough times is proving a challenge.
The duo said there's decreasing attention span when it comes to consumers. With decreasing turnaround times for communication and ever decreasing margins for agencies, the only ‘thing that seems to be is increasing nowadays is client expectations,' they said.
Gahlaut was the CCO at Publicis, and now that he has moved on, both of you have been promoted as joint NCDs at the company. Is there no need for a CCO anymore?
Chemjong: The CCO’s mantle is to set the creative standards and direct the vision of the agency, and the responsibilities we have been given are more or less the same. We are focusing on the responsibility we have got and not much concentration about the tag behind it.
For us it has always been about the work and not about the designation.
How will you divide responsibilities between each other? There shouldn’t be a clash of authority and it’s also difficult for the employees to report to two bosses holding the same position.
Chemjong: Tito and I are working together for 14 odd years and life is better with a partner. My career is longer with him around and vice versa. Together we bring different kinds of skill set. I do the blabbering; he does the thinking. Tito with his magnificent design sense can make anything look good, including me!
Mazumdar: The learning process is never-ending and I have learnt a lot from Vikash and the clash of responsibilities is secondary for us.
Chemjong: They say two is better than one. And because the stress and responsibilities get divided and technically it’s a win-win for everybody—for the people, the agency and the clients—as they get two people with two perspectives.
With bigger roles comes great responsibility. How challenging is your job, especially in these times when media consumptions, consumer behaviour and expectations of clients are all so dynamic and demanding?
Chemjong: Our eyes are slowly becoming square because of the many Zoom calls! The attention span of the consumers is decreasing, the margins for the agency are decreasing in many ways, the production budgets are decreasing. The only thing that is increasing nowadays is client expectations and the challenge to reach that expectation is huge.
Also all these challenges cutely land up at our feet as creative challenges, But in these changing challenges, we have also learnt how to react to them.
Recently Publicis has done the 13th July ki taiyaari campaign for Zee and I think that is an example of dynamic thinking in these changing times.
If you are quick on your feet, you will come across a lot of opportunities.
These days content is winning over advertising mostly. It’s rare to see people sharing ads but content. What will it take for Indian creative agencies to create a clutter-breaking shareable campaign? It’s been long since our industry has produced one.
Chemjong: In content, the advertising of the brand is removed and that becomes a content piece (funny, empathetic). It’s the fundamental difference between content and advertising. Advertising has to bear the burden of the stigma of being a salesman. While content’s primarily job is to entertain but advertising has to entertain, convince and change behaviour and that’s not always easy. Once in a while when you manage to do both, that’s a sweet spot.
There are different channels to do different things, advertising has a predominant role in creating the umbrella brand thought on which the brand resides or stands.
Mazumdar: Once the brand thought is cracked, then any format of communication can be practised.
Content marketing builds upon the main idea and makes the selling point a little easier.
These are very challenging times, and producing great creative-led work in limited resources is a task. What are the challenges that you face looking at it through a creativity perspective?
Chemjong: We need good people in creating and executing a good piece of work, execution is as important as the thinking of it. The fact of the matter is that good people always come at a cost.
In creating content, anyone can do anything. You can get away with the laws. But while creating ads, one has to be politically correct and in some ways legally safe. There are endless rounds of research in ads.
Despite all these practical barriers the clients face, the bravery of the client is equally important as much as the good work agency people think and they want to execute.
Mazumdar: MX Player did a campaign last year, ‘Duniya ka sabse bada nautanki’, around elections, which is brave of the client to do it. “Telling Indian elections a nautanki is a big thing.” Hats off to the client.
With a little bit of braveness and cool heartedness comes great work. Clients have to be braver in terms of selecting topics and ideas that are clutter-breaking.
Has braveness decreased with the pandemic?
Chemjong: By trying to please everybody, we end up becoming a limp version of what we start to do. With tight budgets and high targets, it’s not an easy task for the clients as well. But the one who does it despite all these, are the ones that change advertising fortunes.
It’s been more than a year now at Publicis for both of you. How different is the work culture at Publicis in comparison to Ogilvy?
We all are aware of Ogilvy’s legacy and what we have become is also because of times we have spent there and the learnings we got. The culture Ogilvy has to foster creativity is very difficult to replicate that at most places. The good part about Publicis is, we are slightly more nimble as we are smaller. Another good part is its PO1 (Power of 1) concept where we get everything from media, to digital to performance marketing to data science under one roof.
Co-creating is the best way to do advertising in these challenging times because it’s not just about advertising for one particular format but one campaign running on multiple formats and having partners from different is a great help.
One tip each you could share on how to nail a pitch.
Mazumdar: After getting a marketing brief, we pick something that is not directly related to the pitch but the brand itself. Maybe a social campaign or some funny stuff that can ease the mood; it helps some times.
Chemjong: There is no point figuring what the client will like or not but the best way is to do the work that you believe in and that is right for the task at hand. When you go convince about it, even if they like it or not, you have a solid reason as to why you have done it.
Also, tips for the young generation wanting to join advertising during such unprecedented times?
Mazumdar: People say, it’s not the best time for advertising but I don’t believe that because we have a lot of things to offer for the new generation.
The plethora of people one gets to meet is one best thing, all creative and artistic people who share and pass on their knowledge.
Chemjong: It’s a fantastic training ground if you ask me. Plus, you not only get to create campaigns and meet new people, but advertising also teaches how to sell stuff them.
In one of your interviews in 2010, Tito said he wanted to become a film director and Vikash wanted to go back to his hometown and settle down in five years from 2010. It’s been a decade now, what holds you both back in the advertising business?
Mazumdar: The dream is still on but waiting for the right opportunity, but if Vikash goes back to Darjeeling in the coming five years, then there is a chance that I will also be directing soon.
Chemjong: The reason we are still here is because it’s a great industry to work. Where else you get to meet with so many creative people, travel to places, meet stars and live with them and all of this when you are working.
The feeling of getting your work admired by people is priceless. The greed of more of that is what keeps us, And yes, it’s definitely not because of our EMIs!!
Both of you are counted as India’s one of the most sought-after copy and art duo. What are the key ingredients that make this duo so much looked upon by the industry? Would life have been the same if you both wouldn’t have been art and copy partners together?
Chemjong: I will never forget the farewell we got in Ogilvy last year. Apart from the formal farewell we got, the people on the two floors gave us a spontaneous standing ovation and that too across teams, from creative to account management to the execution teams. “It was goose-bumpy and priceless.”
Mazumdar: I told Vikash that day, that if I leave advertising today, I will have no repent in my heart.
Chemjong: We have been very sincere about work and never about work politics, and I think that has been seen by the people at the agency and they have always appreciated that.
Without Tito, I would have gone back to Darjeeling and become a farmer.
Mazumdar: As I told earlier, I have learnt a lot of things from Vikash. He has helped me a lot in getting concentrated on ideas and execution.
It’s a joint effort and I can’t think of myself without him. It’s how you make the best of each other and try and use it makes worth. The space we create for each other, the division of responsibility and taking the work forward helps as a team.
Chemjong: I think the reason that there are no teams anymore is a sad thing and practically it’s not an affordable thing anymore.
What keeps you motivated at work during such unprecedented times, and when stress levels and work pressure have no limits?
Mazumdar: When we see good work in the current times, it motivates us a lot.
Chemjong: There is no creative motivator than good work.