Keeping in mind executional limitations while creating idea is the big change: Surjo Dutt

In today's edition of e4m Creative Zone, we speak to Surjo Dutt, NCD, FCB Ulka, on lockdown limitations, change in creative concepting and more

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jul 14, 2020 8:31 AM

The COVID-19 global lockdown has not just confined us to our homes but thrown at us challenges of various dimensions. From the ad industry’s perspective, organising and shooting an advertising campaign in these conditions proved to be the big test. However, despite these challenges our creative leaders have continued to create work that inspires all. In our series e4m Creative Zone we find out how creative heads have been surpassing the COVID hurdles.
In today’s edition we speak to someone who’s infectious energy and passion that not just creates great creative work but also strong creative teams. We chat with Surjo Dutt, National Creative Director, FCB Ulka, on how creative concepting has changed post pandemic, executional limitations that ad-land is grappling with and why it's more important than ever for industry folks to take a moment and give themselves due credit for creating amidst the adversity.

Edited excerpts below:

How has the process of creative concepting changed post lockdown?
Creative concepting at the very core hasn't changed. What has definitely changed is that we have to now keep in mind circumstances and ground realities, especially when it comes to shooting audio visual stuff, whether it is a television commercial or digital campaign. So, keeping in mind executional limitations and realities while creating an idea is the big thing that has changed. So now, for some time to come, I don't think we can’t think of ideas without thinking of how we can execute them, given the reality and given the environment in which we live now. So that's the big change. It's like you go out to bat knowing that it's a really difficult wicket. So the plan is really different.

At a personal level, how is it creating amidst remote captivity? Because you belong to a world where there’s a lot of personal interaction & banter and sitting over tea and coffee and team chemistry. So, how has the transition to working remotely been?
I think there is one really important thing here for us to understand. Just because an industry, or a bunch of people have proven themselves in difficult times, doesn't mean they enjoy it. So these are two separate things. I don't know why people seem to think that if something is being done well, it must be enjoyable. I beg to differ. I think one truth is that the advertising industry and not just our agency, all agencies, have done a superb job in adapting to this new reality and in creating at the levels we are creating at. However, most people would say that it’s more challenging than enjoyable.

How have clients approached the situation in terms of the lockdown and the limitations?
I must say that all our clients, whether Unilever, Domino's or any other clients of ours, they have been extremely understanding and really mature. There have been no unreasonable demands made to the agency with regard to shoots. There has been a huge amount of understanding and I say that very honestly, as every meeting (whether pre-production or script/idea generation) has always begun with our clients saying that they understand new realities and that they understand the restrictions agencies are working under as creators. I think it's a great commentary on the maturity of marketing teams in India, because they could have said that, you know, I don't care how you do it, get it done in this matter in a certain manner. But I'm happy to tell you that nobody said that.

Tell us about FCB’s Flatten the Curve campaign, and what promted you’ll to bring it to life?
That is one campaign we are so proud of. Flatten the Curve was born as a static digital campaign. It was born as static posts. And, when the team came up with this campaign, all of us felt that this is such a beautifully simple way to deliver such an important message that we were very excited right from the beginning. And then our chief creative officer reached out to The United Nations office in Geneva and this campaign was sent to them. And they liked this campaign so much. They found it so simple and so useful that they launched it on Easter weekend on all their social media handles. It was primarily targeted around that time because at that point of time, a lot of people in Europe were thinking of taking advantage of the good weather and stepping out, and therefore the UNA team felt that this would be very very relevant at that moment. And it got released to tremendous response.
It was sent to the UNA’s team in Geneva. One day later, they released it. It was on their social media handle. It was on Twitter and Facebook.
I think I'd be right in saying that they loved it enough to release it the very next day. And that makes us very proud as FCB to create a campaign that is so helpful, educative and yet so engaging. It's just as everybody says that if there is a good idea and a good campaign, it travels all over the world.

The crisis has brought in a great deal of upheaval in the way agencies are working now. Where do you see the silver lining or the green shots of opportunity in all this?
I think if you look at it through the filter of adversity, the list of positives is endless.We have found new ways of creating advertising using existing footage, using animation, graphics, all of that, and being sharp about it yet strategically right. And also executionally trying to engage and entertain with one hand tied behind our back is another positive. However, we are squarely in the middle of a crisis right now, and everything my agency is doing is squarely focused on how we can create the best communication for our client in these trying circumstances. Once this crisis is over, we’ll be in an ever better position to sit back and look at these things.

What would be your message to creatives on creating work that works and how to move on when the going gets tough in these times?
Well, I think, not losing hope and proceeding forward, briefly, is the only way to go. And I also want to say one thing: I want every creative person, not just creative, every advertising person who's seeing this, to take a little time to congratulate themselves. Please take a little time to tell yourself how good a job you are doing, because only we know how difficult it is. And while it's easy to say that, okay, the job is done, let’s move on. I think taking a moment to feel a sense of pride and a sense of achievement with every piece of work will serve as great motivation. I do it every time we put out a campaign. During this time, I tell the whole team to take a moment and say 'Well done'. Look into a mirror and say that, because it's really important. I think we do ourselves a great disservice by not appreciating and not giving ourselves enough credit. So we must say well done to ourselves.

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube