Advertising Interviews

KV Sridhar

Chief Creative Officer | 19 Aug 2013

Unless people who are below you make you feel unsecure, you don’t progress. I don’t compete with my peers, I compete with younger people all the time, I always hire people who make me feel jealous and insecure, and I feel that I should compete with them in one last race. Unless people below you grow, you don’t grow, which means you are stagnating and regressing.

KV Sridhar aka Pops has had an interesting journey. He started his career as a film billboard painter, later foraying into advertising and currently holding the post of Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett India and Sub-continent. Under his creative leadership, Leo Burnett India has been declared Agency of the Year twice in the Leo Burnett global network. He is credited with the emergence of Leo Burnett as a creative powerhouse in India.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Mehra, Sridhar speaks about giving creative freedom to bring out the best in people, living for that one moment in the day when someone comes and gives him a great idea, competing with younger people to stay relevant and more...

Q. What do you find most fascinating about your role as Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett India and Sub-continent?

It is most fascinating to view 3,500 pieces of every quarter from 90 offices across the world, it is a rich experience. It also gives a perspective on how brands are behaving across cultures and what is happening across the world. It helps in giving the right stimulus and brand solutions, keeping in mind different cultural contexts.

Q. What was your advice to Nitish Tiwari when he took over the role of NCD?

My advice was - leadership in our business is all about thoughts and ideas on what you do with your brand. Your power in advertising is all about the contribution and value you bring to your brands. It is not a designation or a corner room. If you are a success three times out of five, you have a right to do what you want; if you are a failure three times out of five, then you better listen to the other guy. You have to give the freedom to people to manage things the way they want to manage. You cannot create clones.

Q. What is your involvement in the day to day advertising decisions?

I only get involved when things go terribly wrong or clients panic, otherwise I am not involved in the day to day decisions. But I certainly get involved when I promote somebody to a new role. For instance, when you promote an Executive Creative Director to a Creative Director, it becomes your job to mentor them into the new role, to teach them what leadership is. If you don’t, they will lose their confidence. People are not going to view them differently in the same agency, clients won’t see them differently. Hence, you need to build their portfolio and go with them for meetings in the beginning. More importantly, you must know when they are ready to take decisions on their own.

Q. Unlike a lot of other leading agencies, Leo Burnett and, more specifically, you nurture young talent in terms of giving them new opportunities and a forum to showcase their talent. What is your approach to this?

The more you give, the more you get – knowledge, money and blood are meant for circulation, we have taken so much from other people. The more you teach, the more you learn, because it allows you to crystallise your thoughts; the more you narrate your stories, the better they become. Unless people who are below you make you feel unsecure, you don’t progress. I don’t compete with my peers, I compete with younger people all the time, I always hire people who make me feel jealous and insecure, and I feel that I should compete with them in one last race. Unless people below you grow, you don’t grow, which means you are stagnating and regressing.

Q. What still excites you about advertising after over three decades of being a part of this industry and 22 years with Leo Burnett?

Advertising is constantly changing; I meet new challenges, meet new people, see new places. I am learning every day in this great age of social media – from branded entertainment to this empowering technology where anybody can make a film. It is wonderful to be in this profession where you deal with people and ideas.

It is also painful to do this job, because each day you come across mediocre ideas and you have to put up with them. But it is all worth waiting for that one moment in the day when someone comes and gives you a great idea. You live for that moment.

Q. Leo Burnett has the most number of people who are pursuing their passions, like Nitish and Juhi, besides their core job of advertising. What is your take on this?

I believe the richer the life experiences you have, the better creative person you are.

Q. Where does job discipline come into this?

Everyone has a job to do, where they do and how they do it is irrelevant. Every three years Nitish vanishes for six months, I am going to live with that. We are living an era where we need to co-create with talented people, I spend more time with media friends and content creators; it is very important to have varied talent in an agency. Today, advertising has become quite different, you have to learn to adopt and adapt. These are fantastic, individually creative people and the more they connect with people and understand their pulse, the better it is. The more interests you have in life, the more understanding you have of life, which in turn makes you a better advertising professional, who brings freshness to advertising.

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