We aim to create work that becomes the beacon for the next decade: Mukund Olety of VMLY&R

In a conversation with, Mukund Olety, CCO, VMLY&R, talks about his experience of working in different markets, campaigns that inspire him and the state of creativity in advertising today

Nisha Qureshi
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We aim to create work that becomes the beacon for the next decade: Mukund Olety of VMLY&R

Mukund Olety

India’s creative scene is getting repetitive and there is a need to create top-notch work that stays in our minds for years, says Mukund Olety, CCO, VMLY&R.

“We have been seeing the same kind of work for the past 10 years and I want to create world-class work that travels beyond geographies and possibilities,” Olety said a conversation with

Elaborating about his vision for the agency, he said, “What we will aim to do is create work that becomes the beacon for the next decade. I think this can only be done by harnessing the power of creativity and technology. The aim is to create new-age iconic pieces of work. I want VMLY&R to be the centre for creative excellence. I think the one agency that can become the agency of the decade is probably VMLY&R.” 

Before joining the agency, Olety was the Group Creative Director for BBDO in China. He was also a freelance Creative Director in Beijing.

Speaking about his experience across the two markets, Olety stressed the importance of using technology to boost creativity, how young creative talent in advertising can excel and his creative process.


You have moved from BBDO China, where you were the Group Creative Director. Is it a challenge coming to India and adjusting in terms of the difference between creative outlooks in both markets?

India and China are very similar in terms of mindsets and their growth trajectories. The pace in both countries is very similar and cultural context becomes important with both.

China is striding ahead in terms of digital, social, mobile and e-commerce. In the last couple of years, also because of the pandemic, India has also not been too far behind. We have made strides in everything from digital to social commerce to mobile commerce.

In China, platforms such as Alibaba, JD, Douyin are powerful. Hence, many times creativity is what is creating for these platforms as opposed to making one piece that runs across platforms. However, on the flip side, it is a closed ecosystem. 

There is no Facebook and Twitter. They have their own ecosystems and it works brilliantly. I can watch an ad, like the product, purchase, make the payment without even leaving that page in 30 seconds. This is amazing for a creative person. India does not have a super app like that but it's getting there.

However, China has many restrictions and constraints. Sometimes they are laughable. For example, you can't show Winnie the Pooh. In India, we have the capabilities of using creativity as a tool to create a debate, start a discussion and trigger conversation. I think as a democracy we have this culture of debate. So when a brand can start that, it is amazing. 

What is your vision as a CCO for VMLY&R?

It is to create world-class work that travels across boundaries, geographies, and possibilities. I want us to be an innovation hub. I want us to not just create ads but invent things. We want to create new products; we have already started doing that. We want to create new formats, new ways of story-telling and connecting with people.

If you look at the work overall across the industry, it's the same kind of stuff that we've been seeing across for 10 years now. What we will aim to do is create work that becomes the beacon for the next decade. This can only be done by harnessing the power of creativity and technology. The aim is to create new-age iconic pieces of work. I want VMLY&R to be the centre for creative excellence. I think the one agency that can become the agency of the decade is probably VMLY&R.

Another aim is to create a set of leaders who can go on to lead agencies and networks, anywhere in the world. We need new-age leaders who can go on and be leaders not just in the VMLY&R ecosystem, but anywhere in the world. Then, of course, be the magnet for the right brands, clients and people.

What are your expectations for the agency, especially with the festive period and big-ticket properties here?

It is a big year for brands. It is not just Diwali but also the World Cup, IPL at the time of Diwali. We have fabulous work lined up for our brands such as Dell. We recently shot something very nice for Platinum; Colgate is doing something very cool. It has been an exciting time and I am looking forward to all this work getting out and seeing people’s reactions.

Is there anything that concerns you about advertising and creativity in India?

A lot of agencies are doing some fabulous work. However, looking at the overall work scenario, it is stuck in time. We as marketing and advertising people should keep pace with emerging technologies and even lead the way.

How many times has an Indian agency stood up and said, ‘Hey, I invented this thing.’? We get stuck in older ways of working. There's a new expanse of what creativity can do and we should explore that.

Is the role of CCO also expanding and evolving according to you? Today we are seeing agencies coming up with not only campaigns but also designing products, solving problems. How are you looking at it?

As the role of creativity expands, so does the role of a CCO. Today the boundaries of creativity extend far and beyond where they used to be. For some of our clients, we create and run their e-commerce sites. It is not just about running the e-commerce sites but also creating product bundles, packaging, setting the price. Thinking about the innovations that we can build on and delivery of the product. In each of the spaces, creativity can play a role, right from thinking how I can bundle these products to create new products and get this to reach people.

It's an amazing time to be in advertising because advertising itself is changing and we are all changing along with it. Some of us are changing faster than the rest, that's all.

Today, most of the BTL work is outsourced from larger agencies to smaller agencies. Does it hamper the creative quality; having two mindsets on the same product or brand?

One should have a thorough understanding of the brand no matter who is doing what work. Not just the brand, but also the idea and the campaign. We as agency folks are brand custodians and are responsible for whatever gets out there. I think it's about the understanding of brand idea and tonality and campaign. If there is enough knowledge, it doesn’t matter who is working on it.

Can you share some favourite campaigns you have worked on or mention some that you find interesting and inspiring?

I think in the VML ecosystem itself, the Wendy’s and the fortnight work was amazing. I think it's a simple idea and it is so easy to do. Another idea that pops up is the one that won Innovation Cannes Lion but today is a billion-dollar company, ‘What3words’ which maps the world out, and divides it into three by three-metre square cubes and gives unique three names. It makes understanding and sharing location easier. 

Another was Nike+. It changed running from a loner sport to a social sport. I could be running wherever I am but I'm competing with my friends, checking stats and seeing the routes. The whopper detour by Burger King was excellent. It's among one of my favourites because of its boldness. This is not amazing technology, it existed but it's the use of technology (that made it different). You’re telling them to go to the competition to get the offer and come back to them.

While growing up, I looked at a lot of work by Crispin Porter, which inspired me a lot.

What advice would you give to the young people in the creative department?

Creative people have ambitions about where they want to work, what they want to become, etc. I think whatever work you do, should fuel that ambition.

If your ambition is to work in New York, create work that will take you to New York. If you want to become a CCO, create work that will make you one. If you want the client’s brand to win a Cannes, work for it. I don’t know who said this but how do you be the best agency of the year? By being the best agency of the day for 365 days. Sometimes an underappreciated attribute in advertising is resilience.

It's about bouncing back stronger after every rejection and failure. This is what I would tell the youngsters — bounce back stronger as rejection is only an opportunity to do better work in the next round.

Mukund Olety VMLY&R