Authenticity and idea are crucial elements of viral content: Epidemik’s Shabbir Motiwala

In an exclusive interview with BestMediaInfo, Shabbir Motiwala, Head of Epidemik Content, Infectious Advertising’s new content arm, spoke about the usage of AI in ad production, long-format content, goals for the content arm, and challenges associated with running ad production

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Shabbir Motiwala

Shabbir Motiwala

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Delhi: While it's impossible to promise that any given film will go viral, authenticity and the core idea are the crucial elements of creating viral-worthy content, said Shabbir Motiwala, the head of ad agency Infectious Advertising’s newly formed in-house content arm, Epidemik Content.

Epidemik Content aims to embrace AI and new-age storytelling while collaborating with new talent. 

Motiwala joined Infectious Advertising last year. Prior to this, he was an independent producer and won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix in 2022 for the Killer Pack campaign. He started his career in advertising as an assistant director at UTV in 1993.

Motiwala emphasised that the most crucial element of creating viral-worthy content lies in the idea itself and its execution. He further highlighted the importance of authenticity, stating that if a video feels fake to viewers, it will never achieve virality. Thus, ensuring that the execution is as real as possible is the key to making content believable and engaging.

Nisha Singhania and Ramanuj Shastry, co-founders of Infectious Advertising, underscored that the mission of Epidemik Content is to focus on 'virality' within the content landscape.

When discussing the origin of Infectious Advertising's decision to name its content arm Epidemik Content, Motiwala explained the reasoning behind the intriguing choice. 

He noted that in today's digital era,’ influencers’ have become a significant phenomenon from  ‘influenza’ in the past.

Motiwala elaborated that the name ‘Epidemik’ naturally evolved from the word ‘infectious,’ aligning with the brand identity. He felt that the unique name Epidemik aptly captured the contagious essence of creating content.

In addition to emphasising the uniqueness of Epidemik's name, Motiwala shed light on what sets the company apart from the crowd. 

He pointed out that while major network agencies like Publicis have extensive in-house production setups, smaller independent agencies in India often lack such resources.

He said, "I believe it's a bold step for us to not only conceive ideas but also take on the responsibility of executing them until the final product is delivered.”

“To see a project through from start to finish sets us apart and reflects our aspiration to operate more like a production house within an agency of our size," Motiwala explained.

When addressing the influence of AI in the advertising production industry, Motiwala believes that it's crucial to embrace AI rather than view it as a competitor or a threat to job roles.

Adding to it, he said, “If you are using AI to create better work for a client, I don't think anybody is to question you on it. It's part of a process that helps you create content in a way that is the future, and I think the quicker we embrace it and the quicker we make it part of our work system, it will help us do good work.”

In a discussion with BestMediaInfo, Motiwala addressed a significant challenge he perceives within the industry today.

He emphasised a historical tendency to favour international talents over Indian talents, which is rooted in the mindset that someone from an international landscape is better than India.

Underscoring the importance of this approach, he remarked, "We want to engage young Indian talent to work with us at a time when the industry is looking at international talent to come on board." 

He emphasised the abundance of young talent in India across various fields, including directors, cinematographers, editors, music directors, art directors, and stylists. 

"These roles are crucial to ensuring efficiency in project execution, and we're eager to collaborate with such talent on a hands-on basis," he stated.

Motiwala outlined two primary areas of focus in building Epidemik: building client trust and finding the right talent.

Regarding building client trust, he emphasised, “We aim to establish a strong trust with clients, ensuring confidence in both project execution and our overall collaborative process. It's not merely about showcasing capability but fostering trust in the entire experience of working with a production house.” 

In highlighting the importance of sourcing talent, he stated, "A critical aspect of our team is the passion for in-house production. If we can generate concept ideas that are captivating enough to attract talent, be it directors, musicians, CG artists, or AI specialists, they will be the next to take us forward."

Identifying a significant challenge, he noted, "One of our biggest pitfalls lies in assembling the best talent for each project, and since we are working with limited budgets, it requires us to carefully select the most suitable talent for our clients. Balancing these factors presents a considerable challenge." 

During the discussion with Motiwala, it became evident that long-format content offers a unique opportunity for brand integration within the traditional advertising landscape. 

Unlike conventional ads constrained by time limits, long-format content allows brands to engage audiences through more extensive narratives and storytelling.

Motiwala highlighted, "Partnering with brands in long format content is a fantastic avenue for brand integration within popular streams. It liberates us from the constraints of traditional advertising methods."

He emphasised that when brands plant themselves in such content, it is wonderful to watch. As a production unit, he expressed enthusiasm for the idea that content creation for clients can become both fulfilling and self-sustaining.

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