Need content that is relevant to a brand’s promise: Agnello Dias, CCO, Taproot Dentsu

Dias speaks about his journey in the industry and the honour of being inducted into the Advertising Club of Calcutta’s Hall of Fame 

agnello dias

Agnello Dias, Co-Founder and CCO, Taproot Dentsu, is the only Indian to be listed among the top 100 creative people in the ad industry by US magazine ‘Fast Company’. 

Dias, who has led top ad agencies like JWT and Leo Burnett to global wins, has worked on iconic campaigns for brands like the Times of India, Nike and Airtel’s ‘Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai’.

He recently achieved another milestone in his advertising career by getting inducted into the Advertising Club of Calcutta’s Hall of Fame. Speaking about this honour, Dias said: “It’s quite awe-inspiring not only because of the nomenclature in the title but also because of the sheer weight of the personalities who have walked this path before. The list of previous winners is more intimidating than the award.” 

In a tête-à-tête with exchange4media, ‘Aggie’ as the ad fraternity likes to call him spoke about his journey in the creatively challenging world of advertising. 

Edited excerpts:

How did you break into the advertising industry? What was the first brand that you worked on? 
When I started off in the 1980s, advertising was an outlier profession. My brother had a friend who was an illustrator and was doing some work in advertising, I started working with him. I was still unsure about advertising, was still applying and going for interviews in other industries. Unfortunately, nothing materialised and so I stuck around in the advertising field. The first ad I worked on was for a brand of Thermoware called Eagle.

You have been part of top-notch ad agencies like JWT and Leo Burnett. Are there any key learnings that you have taken from these agencies and are implementing them at Taproot? 
If you are receptive and keep your mind open, every agency teaches you something. Leo Burnett, thanks to Arvind Sharma, Chaks and Pops taught me how to not get intimidated by the odds. Also, the value of keeping at it, crafting and honing the idea long after it’s been cracked. JWT worked on the larger things that create widespread impact. My key takeaway from Leo Burnett was details, whereas from JWT it was about the bigger picture.

You have led Indian agencies like Leo Burnett and JWT to multiple landmark wins. What has been the common factor that has led to these successes?
In Leo Burnett, there was a strong feeling and desire to prove. I clearly remember my boss saying after coming back from an international conference: ‘They have not sent us the target of the creative calibre which they send to other offices. We are too far behind.’ That statement really hurt. We started working towards it and created Leo Burnett’s best work from India and became the Global Agency of the year 2004. JWT was an opportunity for me as an agency that was so entrenched in their ways that nobody could change it. I was there for some years and it all worked out very astonishingly. For Leo Burnett, it was the desire and for JWT it was to revamp their structure. These are the factors that led these agencies to global wins. 

How has India’s performance at award festivals, and overall creativity and innovation improved over the years? Where do we lack? What are our strong points in comparison to our global counterparts?
Initially, we use to win one or two medals. It was written about and celebrated in the industry. This year, there are three Indian finalists at Cannes. A lot of content that is produced from the first world countries would run in any other country because their culture is homogenized. This allows us to work on content that is fresh. Our content is localised. It is not only great creative work but also a small lesson of history and culture for the judges at the panel. That itself is both our strength and the Hercules heel. The judges may understand our work but may not relate to it. That piece of Creative whether it is a song or a line has to be immersed in you and you have to be a part of that. In Cannes, the universal ideas win and that’s what we need to work on.

Can you speak about the legendary TOI campaign, in terms of the brief and insight? 
In the past, the TOI brand had done work which was very entertaining and engaging. They had never had the gravitas or the seriousness of a media news brand. This constant conversation led to a client saying: ‘We are entering into the 60th year of Independence, we are becoming one of the greatest economies and evolving from where we were.’ That is why I had written ‘India vs India’. In my mind, I was writing something that could capture the brief very clearly. We got feedback that there was enough interaction. We built upon the campaign to make it even bigger and effective. 

There is a content clutter with lot of ad campaigns being launched on different platforms. How does a brand stand out in this scenario? 
We need to create content that is relevant to the brand’s promise and that is very tricky. It has to be content that is relevant to the brand’s voice and that is the advertising industry’s strength. That is what clients should opt for. We tend to be dazzled by content that is engaging but it may not be relevant to the promise of the brand. 

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