After 21 years of working non-stop, I think I owe myself a break: Malvika Mehra

Malvika Mehra created waves when the news of her exit from Grey India as NCD came to be known yesterday. She explains why she called it quits and talks about what she wants to explore next

e4m by Priyanka Mehra
Updated: Apr 8, 2015 9:46 AM
After 21 years of working non-stop, I think I owe myself a break: Malvika Mehra

Malvika Mehra created waves when the news of her exit from Grey India as National Creative Director came to be known yesterday. On her departure she says, “I am forever indebted to Grey for the awesome opportunities and global exposure it has offered for my personal and professional growth. I am indeed fortunate to have worked with some wonderful clients, rockstar partners and teams here at Grey. The learnings of being on the Cannes jury twice and working with the handpicked 15 Creative Directors on the Global Creative Council under Tor Myhren and Per Pedersen was nothing short of spectacular. I am leaving on a high and as I look back on the five years here.”  After working 16 years at Ogilvy and another five at Grey, Mehra is candid about the fact that while head hunters are calling her incessantly and she already has some 'plum offers' on the table, she would really like her head and heart to herself for a bit. “After 21 years of working non-stop, I think I owe myself a break. Also take some time out to perhaps look at adventures outside of advertising,” she said. Mehra, who is currently serving her notice period (her last date at Grey would be 31st May), intends finishing all her commitments to clients till then but being an Army brat herself is particularly excited about finishing the Indian Army campaign before she leaves.

As solo NCD of Grey for the last one year, Mehra along with her teams  won businesses like the Indian Army, the Swachch Bharat initiative for the Prime Minister as well as the Ministry of Women and Child Development under Maneka Gandhi. 'Clap of shame' and 'Own your area' are two recent films by Grey for Swachch Bharat as is a series called 'Handcuffs' against Female Foeticide, and Grey Film for Gillete during the World Cup.

With a background in art, she is particularly proud of bringing home Grey India's first Cannes gold as co-art director for her graphic print campaign for P&G's Duracell (titled positive-negative) in 2013.

A few excerpts from an unplugged chat with plain-speaking Mehra:

Learnings from being a solo NCD

Coming from an art background, I like to delve into details and really enjoy the deep dive on every piece of work, be it film, writing, activation, print or packaging. Given the plethora of brands and the three cities under me, I quickly realised that width is equally important and being alone I can't be making an indulgent Taj Mahal of every piece.  I learnt to make quicker decisions and juggle many balls across brands and pitches that required my attention without losing the soul of the work (and drove my teams quite mad in the bargain). I also accepted the fact that an NCD is like an invisible glue holding things together which no one can see and that the brickbats will come faster and harder than the bouquets and it's all part of the job some of us signed up for. Also finally despite doing your best, you will win some, you will lose some and it's really ok. As long as you tried your best. And yes, the crazy travel across the three cities has increased my Jet miles infinitely.

On her most treasured memories of Grey

In no particular order, it would range from the high of winning the Reliance telecom business within the first 90 days of joining Grey. To being Co-Art Director on Grey's first Cannes gold for P&G's Duracell (positive negative) print campaign, an entry into the hallowed bible for art directors called the D&AD thereafter, to more recently winning the pitch for the Indian Army and making films for the Swacch Bharat initiative for Mr. Modi. Being an army brat and guilty of OCD in the cleanliness department, I could not have asked for a more apt set of projects. And lastly, even though I don't wear a moustache, the joys of 3 million hits on our Gillette film 'the best a fan can get'. But the highest achievement I would say is building a strong second line in creative in Mumbai, Bangalore and yes Gurgaon - I just hired a rockstar ECD there. So really, the stage is set for the next NCD. And he/she better not mess it up!

On the recent trend of senior NCDs leaving including Abhijit Awasthi…

I won't be able to comment on Kinu's reasons for his exit but for me it was simply the need to have some 'time out'. After 16 years at Ogilvy and another 5 at Grey, I think I have reached a slight saturation point. Despite the laurels, accolades, pitch wins and Cannes golds. As creative people we can't be drinking from the cup of creativity non-stop and not expect it to dry up without filling something new in it. I guess that is a valid enough reason to move on, explore and live a little. Perhaps with less money, but more time to nurture our souls and child like dreams. It's what I call the classic 'I want to buy a Harley Davidson' moment a lot of crazy, passionate people have in their 40s. I don't have a Harley, but the roads are calling. As are the head hunters admittedly!

An attractive next assignment would be…

I am not looking at a new assignment for a wee bit of time at least. What I am looking at frankly is a bit of 'me time' as simplistic as it sounds. And of course if people call to meet, yes I definitely would be honoured but am really going to weigh my options on whether my next move is advertising or not. It may or may not be. I may end up designing or writing some really trashy novel and be rechristened the female Chetan Bhagat for all you know! I like him. Am plebeian  that way.

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