Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Creative Director, Grey Worldwide (Bodhi, as he is fondly known in the advertising fraternity) defines himself as an obsessive, compulsive writer. When he's not writing ads for a target audience he hasn't met, he's writing the first line of books that he won't write. And when he's not writing that, he's writing about irrelevant things that have no implication in the macrocosm of things. Bodhi hates long words. Like obituary. And when the time is ripe, he'll write his own, thank you very much, he says.
In his characteristic quirky manner, Bodhi talks about changing the way adlanders are perceived and Longhand Awards, among various other things…
Who are your idols in adland? Why do you look up to them?
Idols sound a little creepy to me. Almost as if I’d keep miniature versions of them in a dusty corner in my room and offer them sweet treats every day. People I look up to, now that would be more correct. I’m a little old school, I’m afraid. And so are the people I admire greatly. So there’s Mr French, and his irreverent style that I grew up on. There’s Mohammed Khan and his supreme writing. There’s Dan Weiden and David Droga and their crazy way of doing non-advertising work. I love that. I like it very much when people see advertising in a whole new way. When people create a music video, instead of a print campaign; that’s something new for me, and something I can learn from.
Which is that one project you are proud to have associated with?
Hands down Longhand. In my eight years in advertising, I haven’t been a part of anything that’s excited me as much, or reached out to so many people in a tangible way. What was great about it were the judges – Neil, Indra, Satbir, Emmanuel, Nima, Ashish, Tony Brignull had none of the jollies other judges around the world enjoy. No fancy hotels, no lavish breakfasts and no important press conferences. The only reason they chose to judge, was the same reason I started Longhand. We wanted to bring the lost craft of writing back.
Five brands you would want to work with….
Sometime in my career, I’d like to go back to the city I grew up in and work on the brands that shaped me – brands such as Coke, L&T, AnandaBazaarPatrika and Tata Steel. Perhaps I’ll have more to give them now, than I did back then.
Your favourite digital campaign…
Google started this thing called ‘Project Re-Brief’ where the new creative directors collaborated with the legends back then, to create some new work on an old brief. One of the campaigns that was borne out of ‘Project Re-Brief’ was ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’.
I loved it because like all successful campaigns it wasn’t just digital. It had a physical, tangible presence too. And it was a sweet and simple idea, where you could actually gift anyone in the world a Coke! Now that to me is about spreading happiness. And I love that.
Your typical day at work…
Is not really spent at work, to be honest. I come in early at about 9:15 or so. Do my bit of writing, thinking of new things I can flood facebook with. Then I make my To-Do list. If the work is light, I head out. I take a walk, go for a lunch, meet some old colleagues, hit the spa. I like meeting people a lot, and I like observing human nature. And one can’t do that in office. Usually I’m out by 5:30 in the evening or so, much to the chagrin of my art partner who often complains that ‘copywriters just have to write two lines and the art director has to spend two days in doing the layout’.
What makes you tick?
At the risk of sounding overtly pompous, I think there’s just one thing that I do fairly well. And that’s writing. Over the years, I’ve tried to build projects that revolve around ‘words’ if you will, about the importance of them in our lives and how we sometimes take them for granted. Today, if anybody’s even remotely heard about me, it’s only because of Longhand. I think in a country that’s famous for its Hindi advertising and beautiful Hindi writing, I stand out like a sore thumb. Just that sometimes, it works in my favour.
Five years down the line you will be…
A has-been, a defunct dinosaur, a relic, a fossil, a what-have-you.
What after Longhand?
Longhand hasn’t ended, not by any standard. So nothing after Longhand. Unless, of course, it’s another project that promotes writing at large.
What do you want to change about adland?
I want to change the way we’re looked at outside our little wells. For contrary to what the perception is, most of us aren’t in fact druggies, oddballs, misfits and weirdos. We’re just regular people with a regular skill. Unfortunately, what people think about us has a lot to do with how we carry ourselves. Walk into any agency, and you’ll see that most of us are dressed like slobs who’ve just woken up. Barely. As if it’s okay to land up in boxers to work, because hey, you’re creative. I want to change the way we conduct ourselves, how we talk, how we behave, how we look. And in turn, that will change the way we’re looked at.