Advertising Interviews

Bobby Pawar

Chief Creative Officer | 28 May 2010

At the end of the day, it is the people who do the work to help in growing the organisation. We are moving into the business of building brands. Unless you keep on raising the bar every single day for yourself, you get sluggish and you get happy with what you do. I am excited about the next challenge. So many brands, and so little time. Genius doesn’t happen everyday, but even if you do it once a month, it is worth it.

Bobby Pawar oversees creative across the four-agency network. Prior to taking over Mudra’s national creative responsibilities, Pawar had spent seven years in the US market with BBDO, Chicago and O&M, New York.

Pawar cut his teeth at Ogilvy & Mather India. He rose quickly from Senior Copywriter to Creative Director and worked on award-winning campaigns for Tata Safari, Tata Sierra, Kelvinator and British Airways, among others.

He is a two-time Copywriter of the Year (Ad Club of Bombay, 1998, 2000). In 200, he joined Ogilvy & Mather, New York as a Creative Director. There he worked on brands like Jaguar, American Express and Kodak. He helped pitch for AT&T Wireless and was asked to run the $600 million account when the agency won it.

He re-launched AT&T Wireless with the much talked about ‘mlife’ campaign. The launch spot ran on the 2002 Superbowl and ranked in the top three in the US Today Poll. Additionally, it was picked to be in the Museum of Modern Art. Moreover, one of the follow-up spots was spoofed by Jay Leno on his show.

Pawar moved to BBDO, Chicago in 2004 as Group Creative Director. He worked with Marty Orzio, the CCO, to turn around an agency that wasn’t known for great work. He helped change the culture and the product. Now, the shop is considered one of the hottest in the region.

A stand-up comedy buff, Pawar also loves photography and travelling.

In this interview with exchange4media’s Tasneem Limbdiwala, Pawar speaks about Mudra’s four verticals, describes the agency’s journey so far, how he is perceived as a boss, and more...

Q. It’s been almost three years for you at Mudra. How has the journey been?

It’s been exciting. When I came on board, it proved to be a task to put in creative energy into this mammoth ship. But I am blessed that I have some great partners. It’s been a long haul, obviously because you try and build an organisation to do good work and evolve its culture. Also, the organisation has a vision of where the communication business should go and the direction it should take, as the work just can’t be above the line or below the line, but needs to be beyond these theories. The whole nature of ideas and how they will be born and dispersed needs to be changed. So, we at Mudra try to get to a point where we could evolve ideas and be a part of the change rather than be changed by the things that are happening. That’s the journey we have been on, and to me, the creative aspect is building an organisation that will lead the changes for the growing business of communication.

Q. In the last one year, Mudra has witnessed a restructuring phase and many key appointments. So, how has that been panned out for the agency?

One does not restructure everything at one go. There are phases of restructuring. We see ourselves as a consumer solutions provider, a solution provider for a business problem, for brand problems, for relationship problems between a consumer and the brand. And to that extent, we will operate in whatever space we need to be in to provide those solutions. So, we started with that mentality that we have to be the best niche solution provider for brands in this country.

Q. Please brief us on the four verticals of Mudra group.

As I mentioned earlier, we aim to be the best creative solution provider, hence we are organised into four verticals. First is the main Mudra agency, which aims to be not just an advertising agency, but a communication consultant too, and that’s how we see ourselves. The second one is DDB Mudra, which puts the intent of DDB in the Indian market. Third is Mudra Max, which would be the determination of ideas in every flash point – from the most traditional through the media agency to the newer mediums. However, a lot of time many are mistaken that the new age media is digital, but if one looks in depth, the new age media mediums are born on-ground. Many find new ways of engaging and creating experience for the consumers with on-ground activations. The fourth vertical is Ignite Mudra.

India is becoming a nation of entrepreneurs, and Mudra being born in Ahmedabad, which is an entrepreneurial place in itself, we as an agency know how to take those brands and make them grow. We have a history in this business and that was polarised into a specialised entrepreneurial brand building organisation. These are the four verticals, which will guide us in evolving business. However, we may modify the verticals as we may add and remove certain things. So, we haven’t been afraid of trying out new things. Thus, the new appointments like Jude Fernandes, Rajeev Raja, Rajiv Sabnis and KB Vinod coming on board are in line with the these structural changes.

Q. So, how do you fit in the role of Chief Creative Officer in these verticals?

There are two things to it. My role is not just limited to normal NCD, but is to inject creativity within the group, which also includes injecting creativity in media, activation, rural and in all parts of it as well. So, the whole idea is to keep focus in all of that. The other thing is to get everybody to play together and try different things.

But at the end of the day, it is the people who do the work to help in growing the organisation. We are moving into the business of building brands. Unless you keep on raising the bar every single day for yourself, you get sluggish and you get happy with what you do. I am excited about the next challenge. So many brands, and so little time. Genius doesn’t happen everyday, but even if you do it once a month, it is worth it.

Q. We remember that some of the campaigns Mudra had worked on were based on comparative advertising directly targeting the brand, for example, the case of hijacking Airtel DTH’s launch phase campaign. Do you think it a good idea to do such campaigns?

(Laughs) On the hijacking of the Airtel DTH launch, they just laid themselves open to it. They had teasers open ended. And in marketing, when you are given these tips, you take it on as an opportunity. Was it comparative? Yes, it was. But it was an opportunity to create an impact for the brand that we were launching.

Q. So, how do clients react to it? Do they give their approval in the first go?

In this case, yes, they did. As I mentioned earlier, in marketing it’s an opportunity and thus, the strategy of doing something risky and brave pays for the brand. Unless you challenge yourself, you won’t be able to raise the bars in creativity.

Q. Mudra has completed 30 years and the whole of Mudra is shifting under one roof. How do you feel about it?

The shift should be happening some time in June. And the entire agency, especially me, is very excited to get settled in the new office. My life will be so much easier with all the divisions under one roof.

Q. Please name three ads in recent times that have impressed you with their creative work.

The ones I like are all international campaigns. The first one is the ad done for Philips done by DDB London, called ‘Parallel lines’. Then there was a campaign done by Coke in the US, which was more of an activation placed in a university cafeteria. The third one was a campaign for Volkswagen done in Amsterdam, called ‘The fun theory’.

In all the three campaigns, what I observe is that whatever be the idea or innovation, it includes an experience, because an experience creates a memory in the minds of consumers. And that’s how we lead our lives, as they are a collection of memories. The more the memories we create in the minds of consumers, the more they will connect with the brand, and that’s the operating philosophy behind our work.

Q. What kind of a boss are you perceived to be?

I am not a person who will sit in office on my own chair the whole day. Most often you will see me sitting on somebody else’s chair, chatting up ideas and all. However, I am also aware that many see me as a tough guy when it comes to work, because I won’t let my people or team do work which is below their standards. I refuse to allow that. That sometimes means that I have to be harder on them. So, even if I have to be a bad guy – though I don’t like – I have to be. And I am sure nearly everyone in this organisation has hated me at some point of time or the other. But if I am not tough, then it is me who is not doing my job.

Q. In one line, what is your personal funda at work?

Always keep your feet up on the table! (Laughs)

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