There is more empathy in the briefs that we get now: Sajan Raj Kurup, Creativeland Asia

Kurup, Founder and Chairman of Creativeland Asia, revealed that when it comes to brand communication, the focus now is more on building affinity and not just sales

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Dec 11, 2020 4:11 PM
raj kurup

The Covid 19 pandemic has been tough but has definitely accelerated changes and transformed the ad industry for the better. It has highlighted different and better ways of working-from virtual pitches, Zoom shoots, learning more production hacks and faster turn-around time. It has caused ad agencies that are heavily dependent on interpersonal connection and physical presence of staff, to rethink the way they are operating. Independent agency Creativeland Asia shot over 47 movies through the crisis. Sajan Raj Kurup, Founder and Chairman of Creativeland Asia, in a chat with exchange4media, looks back at how the pandemic has changed the face of campaign briefs, new areas that brands are keen on developing these days, shooting amidst restrictions and more.

Edited excerpts below:

How have you seen campaign briefs changing after Covid?

I see Covid moving us to a more of a need-based economy rather than being a want-based economy, so the grammar of communication has migrated to more conversational (non-bombastic). There is more empathy in the briefs that have emerged out of the situation we are all collectively in. Majority of the communication is now more human again- tapping into hopes and real needs.

To what extent did you see clients slashing marketing budgets during Covid?

I see that clients’ spending has been enough and relevant for creation and engagement keeping the current situation.


Share with us any campaigns executed during the pandemic that managed to hit the right spot with consumers and that the agency is particularly proud of?

Two campaigns that come straight to my mind 


  1. Godrej Expert #ColourLikeKaran campaign: One of the great standout pieces that we did during this time was the Godrej Expert Rich Creme video featuring Karan Johar. The idea came from Sunil Kataria, CEO, GCPL, and the brand with Karan’s grey hair Instagram video. We got the execution bang on. Everything about it was perfect. It began with Karan posting his lockdown grey hair look on Instagram. We got him to colour his hair himself and filmed the simplicity of the process and the transformation it brought about. Then we got him to post the video, with a young new look, on his birthday - a day that signifies you’ve gotten older. The video was a raging hit with 12mn views and counting.
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A post shared by Karan Johar (@karanjohar)



  1. CenterFresh #StayFreshBehindTheMask campaign: Early this year, putting on masks had given rise to a problem that no one could have predicted. After wearing masks for some time, the air inside would begin to smell and it would get pretty uncomfortable. CenterFresh picked up this insight and together we created a campaign that made people aware of the problem. And the solution was simple...pop a CenterFresh mint and stay fresh behind the mask. We collaborated with influencers like Sanya Malhotra, Vikrant Massey and Ayesha Ahmed. #StayFreshBehindTheMask became an even bigger success.


What are the new areas that brands are keen on developing these days?

Brands are keen on developing new products, basis the needs of today. There are more products focussing on more relevant angles of protection and rebuilding human connection. When it comes to communication, the focus is on affinity builders not just sales.

I also see brands migrating to different delivery vehicles- constructing messages on platforms where people are not eminently threatened while reaching them. For example, brand live events migrating to digital.


This situation has led to far more digital adoption for particular sectors? How can the late adopters of digital solutions challenge the first movers?

Digital adoption is no longer an option. It is an imperative. And, I see large brands and indigenous ones adapt and adopt alike. This crisis has been a great leveller. The early adopters and the late ones, the crisis has impacted every segment differently. So I don’t think challenging and competing is really what the market at large is focusing on. This is a time to keep moving, building and collaborating.  As they say, crisis is a terrible thing to waste. This a time to emerge stronger.


Now that ad film shoots have resumed, albeit amid restrictions, what are the challenges you see the ad-world facing and how does it affect pricing?

The production workforce has been the frontline warriors of the creative industry. The meticulousness with which they have ensured shoots go on, remote video feeds are set up, people are tested and every standard of safety is upkept is admirable. They have been most disciplined and clockwork at resuming shoots. On behalf of the entire creative industry, I applaud their initiative and courage at keeping work afloat. I would also express my gratitude towards clients who have understood and allowed us to take on the cost of testing and protective gear into the production budgets. Through these times, we have shot over 47 films. From homes, from studios and locations now. I really think it has been an extremely collaborative team effort pulling off some of the films shoots. And I do think we have all come closer pulling off some incredible challenges together.


Have you seen newer/ different kinds of advertisers commissioning ad films lately? Do these brands prefer digital to TV?

I think digital content has got huge wings through these times. Television vs digital is all about the media cost and not solely about a creative or strategic call. India by and large still remains a TV market with a very strong digital double up. We have seen various media strategies at work through these times. Unexpected brands with bold moves and formidable ones with cautious steps. They both have their space and it is too early to call futures on their initiatives.

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