We have to keep our thinking going & not be limited by constraints: Sagar Kapoor

In today's edition of e4m Creative Zone, we speak to Sagar Kapoor, CCO, Lowe Lintas about finding newer ways of creating ads through the COVID-19 crisis

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jun 11, 2020 9:18 AM
e4m Creative Zone Sagar Kapoor

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 new series – e4m Creative Zone – we get to know how Creative heads have been surpassing the COVID hurdles.

In today’s edition, we speak to Sagar Kapoor, Chief Creative Officer, Lowe Lintas. Someone who believes advertising is ‘the most interesting conversation a brand can have with the consumer’, Kapoor has spent over 15 years with Lowe Lintas, serving various local, regional and global mandates. He is credited with some iconic campaigns like Lifebuoy’s #HelpAChildReach5, including Gondappa and Future Child that were implemented globally. These campaigns have consistently been some of the most awarded global campaigns for over five years. He's also the Global Creative Lead for the brand, Lifebuoy, with work that’s published in over 40 countries.  In conversation with e4m, Kapoor tells us how ad campaign production has gone through a sea change during these days when compared to the pre-COVID times and of how the industry is finding newer ways of shining through the storms.  

Edited excerpts below:

How have you been holding up during lockdown? 

It's a new way of working, and we have all gotten accustomed to it now. We are finding new ways to make it smoother, learning every day and kind of changing our ways every single day.

For an industry that relies on team chemistry, banter and personal interactions, how has your experience been creating amidst remote captivity?

Of course, it has been remote. I do not deny the power of sitting together and working organically, the way we have always worked. So I can’t say that digital-the new way of working is more effective. Probably not, but we have to make it as effective as possible. And hence, you know, initially, there were times when you're staring at a screen, you're brainstorming and you're just not saying anything for minutes. For over an hour at times, you’re just staring at each other wondering, looking at various corners in your house like you would in the office. So it was unnerving initially. 

But like I said, we’re all getting more and more used to it. And probably, it has gotten a little faster in terms of thinking, finalizing and in terms of the output. Because you're on the Zoom call, you really want to contribute faster. Like I said, you can't just be staring at a computer screen for X amount of time. So though it has been different, we are trying to keep it as organic as possible. We still have our small talks and occasional jokes, while working. Those things are happening and the interactions are happening as they used to in the office. But this is a new way and we have adapted to it. 

Speaking about your ad campaign for Mumbai Police created amidst lockdown, what was the genesis of that? How did it all come together?

The campaign for Mumbai Police stems for a very real problem based on the sheer amount of force we have for the size of the city we live in. So it was virtually impossible for the police to do it alone. And the citizens will take it upon themselves to kind of help the police do whatever they had to do. And this was the stage of the first lockdown and was not easy for anybody because you're not used to these kinds of circumstances. 

So, it was essential for people to understand why the police were doing what they were doing, and hence the idea came from saying, "everybody has to do a little bit of self-policing and that you can't just expect the police to do their job, you have to get into the little bit of self-policing and self-discipline." That’s why the campaign #MainbhiMumbaipolice. And then when we spoke about it, even in a house there's always a particular family member who takes on more responsibility in times like this. Like at my house, my nephew, he’s nine years old and probably the strictest among everybody. He takes care of everything, whether you sanitize your hands and keeps telling us “don't get out of the house.” So the idea came from that.

With the ad industry working remotely, has the turnaround time of the ads created decreased versus what it would be like doing it from the office?

Like I said, the thinking has become faster but on the production front, it all requires a little more time because when you're shooting, there are a lot of prep days because nobody's going into anybody's houses. These are happening at remote locations. You have to take help of the people in that house to create the film. Right from art direction to framing, you have to spend more time prepping up compared to a shooting date when you would have done everything on that day with everyone, all HOD’s together to help. 

So that process takes even more time.

How difficult is it for agencies to convince clients to continue engaging with consumers, given the limited resources? Are advertisers re-negotiating deals saying that the shoot will happen through phone so they won’t pay a certain amount? How are you approaching budget slash and limited resources when bringing an idea to life?

At a larger macro level, I've noticed that both marketers and the advertising fraternity have adapted seamlessly to the situation. Of course, there are challenges. But they have taken the organic way of working out there on this platform and they're trying to keep it as real as possible. Whether it is meetings or feedback sessions or presentations. So I don't think it is about, forcing the client or creating the need for the client to advertise. It’s more about for whom it is relevant. If there’s relevance, they will advertise and will come to you. 

Of course, budget-wise, it has come down because when you are working out of home, the location, crew and other costs go down. But it’s not affecting the budget because even the cost of production comes down in such a scenario. 

What are the new formats and opportunities that are cropping in the lockdown scenario for creatives, as we go forward?

We have to create opportunities, there won't be much coming. We have to keep our standards going, our thinking going and not get affected by it. We have to not be limited by resource constraints. But what I've seen happening is that a lot of our people are directing stuff on their own. A lot of creative directors have chipped in because not every time would you have a budget, or have a kind of scenario where you can get the entire team involved. So that is happening a lot. The execution involvement has increased quite a lot, like you see UGC (user-generated content) as well. We depend a lot on the footage, at this point in time. It's also about sourcing that footage and how people are getting involved in creating the visual world, also for communication. So the involvement in the literal execution has increased quite a lot

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