Can you walk us through your professional journey and share some of the career-changing moments you’ve encountered during your decade-long tenure in the advertising industry?

My father is a theatre actor, writer, and director. My mother is a proficient musician, and my younger brother had a rock band. So, the seed of doing something creative was sown early in my life. I started my advertising journey as an art director in a humble advertising agency in Chennai. I took a break and went to MICA to gain perspective on my creative side. I restarted at Hakuhodo Percept in Delhi and worked on some fabulous campaigns for Daikin, Sony Xperia, Costa Coffee, Yakult, etc. I learned a lot from my bosses and made some lifelong friends. But the career-changing moment came at Dentsu Webchutney in Mumbai when we won a Cannes Lion for the first time. The motivation to do good work multiplied. Also, there I realized the power of one good creative idea and how it can impact people in so many positive ways. One of the campaigns where we took a creative leap involved making fake products, resulting in a whopping 500,000 app downloads. It was here that I ranked 45th in the world’s top advertising art directors out of 200 in 2021 (Drum Magazine Report) and ranked 5th in Asia’s top creative persons (Campaign Brief Asia 2021 ranking).

Then at ^atom network, one campaign that still owns a part of my heart is Notes by Nature by Dabur. The brief was to remind people about Dabur, the original natural brand. The campaign was about launching a music album composed by plants. What could be better for an all-natural brand like Dabur? The campaign did fabulously in all parts of the world. Currently, I am building “The Fuel,” an in-house creative agency of redBus. Recently, we bagged 10 Abby’s (3 silver and 7 bronze) at Goa Fest for our campaign “Route to 47,” where we again bridged technology and culture to cater to our young audience. The campaign was a huge success.

The plan is to push the envelope of all digital mediums and ideas to create an unforgettable experience for the consumer, help brands find a greater purpose, and make advertising fun. 🙂

How are newer technologies changing the creative landscape? How do you stay current with emerging trends and technologies in the creative field?

A brand has to be present where its consumer goes, and consumers go where technology takes them. Technology has completely changed the creative landscape and will continue to do so. It’s a nasty fight for occupying the mindspace of a consumer, but clever use of technology and cultural insights can help a brand win the battle. One has to be relevant and up-to-date with modern technologies and how they can be hacked or cleverly used to distribute brand messages. Sometimes it may be purpose-led advertising or simply a fun execution.

Technology has given us reach, experience, and deep personalisation. This is a gold mine for any brand. More and more personalized creatives will enhance the user experience. Our Route to 47 campaign is a good example.

It’s very easy to stay up-to-date with technology. We just have to follow ourselves and our own behavior closely. Needless to say, we all use technology in various forms day in and day out, from mobile phones to smartwatches to begin with. Every app is a universe in itself. Then we have hundreds of blogs on technologies waiting to be discovered. The next best teacher is your 8-year-old nephew who lives in technology. Following national and international campaigns and agencies that are doing great work on the tech front helps a lot too.

How does the in-house team at redBus collaborate for campaigns? What would you say are the perks of having an in-house agency?

The in-house creative team at redBus is an integral part of the brand marketing team. We work with the marketing, product, and UX teams. Since we are closer to the brand and product, we take care of both long-term brand building and performance creatives. We handle content marketing, social media campaigns, and the visual design aspects of redBus, redRail, and Primo. We redefined the brand book and gave it a more contemporary spin while keeping it true to the brand essence. We collaborate across departments to provide creative and design solutions.

Access to data and firsthand consumer research is perhaps the most important perk of being an in-house agency. Every campaign that we do is analyzed, and those learnings are used to improve the next campaign. The simple use of regional language in app push notifications has had a great positive impact on the brand and bookings. Another important perk is the speed. Being close to the brand, the speed at which we operate is phenomenal. Sometimes it takes less than a day from conceiving an idea to executing it successfully.

Can you please outline some of the pivotal trends that will influence the industry in the next two years?

In contrast to other professions, the field of advertising and media is arguably the one that is changing the fastest. A few months can pass before an idea or platform is no longer relevant. In the following two years, the industry will witness several new trends due to technological advancements.

In terms of cultural relevance, context matters more than content. Creatives that can better identify cultural nuances and context will become more in demand. Brands will delve deeply to comprehend the viewers’ regional context. More inclusive content will be produced and shared.

Using AI to target audiences and provide hyper-locally tailored content will become standard practice for all brands.

Long-form storytelling will be back. Videos with longer durations will be used in building brand love, whereas short-form videos will add more power to the performance of the brand.

Quality over quantity. Influencers and content creators with fewer but organic and genuine followers will be valued more. Shares and save features will become more deciding factors than only views and plays.

More and more creative campaigns will stem from culture and technology.

Data privacy and compliance will be major points of discussion in the next two years. Brands need to become more transparent in their daily dealings, and the use of first-party data will be on the rise.

Storytelling will never go out of fashion and will always be trending, but cross-channel platforms will be used to narrate better brand stories.

Voice and Conversational AI (chatbots) for personalized customer interaction and engagement. Voice-activated ads and branded content will see a rise.

How has the target audience evolved over a period? Being a Creative Head of a brand, please enlighten us on how audience choice affects design ads or creatives?

Penetration of the internet in our country is at 51% (approximately). This clearly shows that our audience is well-informed and making thoughtful decisions. There has been a huge change in the audience profile in tier-two cities. They are looking at quality over quantity, prioritizing comfort and safety over low price and savings. The audience’s focus has shifted towards health and wellness.

They are looking for convenience. More and more youth are gaining purchasing power and influencing the older generation in decision-making. They are increasingly adapting to new technology. In our case, we see a significant rise in students and early jobbers as our prime audience.

More than the audience’s choice, it’s the design and creative that influences the audience’s choice. While crafting any creative, it’s the brand and the communication objective that is kept in consideration. The duty of every creative is to guide the audience to purchase the product.

On the contrary, when it comes to the performance of a creative campaign and measuring its effectiveness, it’s always the audience’s choices that are kept in mind. As a tech brand, we have the advantage of analyzing data and metrics post every campaign. We extract audience insights from the data and optimize our creatives as per the audience’s choices, in both design and copy. For example, in the MP campaign, the use of regional language and local art form (Gond art) worked brilliantly in elevating the brand presence. We also conduct thorough research of creatives with audiences before any big campaign.

How do you aim to make an impact on the Gen Z audience, which plays an important role in the current Indian market scenario?

Most of our audience are students or Gen Z. So, it becomes our utmost duty to crack the Gen Z code. If we see the Gen Z attributes, we know their priorities and beliefs are way different. So, our brand must reflect these attributes to resonate with them. Our recent campaign, Route to 47, has successfully done that. It has bridged the gap between culture and technology. It hacked into the Gen Z habit of using Google and placed the communication there. The campaign was a huge success and won multiple awards.

We are designing and conceptualizing campaigns in such a manner that it beats the Gen Z blind spot. We have been doing it successfully for quite some time now.

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