We now know how our kind of madness works: Abhijit Avasthi

The Co-founder of Sideways Consulting on the company’s 5-year journey with 50 odd marquee brands as clients, and what it took to establish credentials in a non-traditional ad agency mould

e4m by Srabana Lahiri
Published: Aug 5, 2020 9:19 AM  | 8 min read
Sideways

Curious mix of a consulting firm, an advertising firm, a tech solutions company, a product design studio and a circus - that is how Abhijit Avasthi, Co-founder, Sideways Consulting describes his five-year-old agency.

Set up by Avasthi and Sonali Sehgal in 2015, Sideways sets itself apart in the way it approaches business, strategy and communication for its clients.

Avasthi tells us how Sideways has refused to fit into the traditional advertising agency mould - to date, they have never pitched for accounts, and the scope of their work ranges from HR and tech solutions to design to ad campaigns for brands. Perhaps that is why Avasthi refers to Sideways as the ‘Birbal’ to businesses and organisations. Reflecting on an eventful five years in the business, the former Ogilvy creative stalwart shares learnings from the Sideways journey, takes us through some of its celebrated work and tells us of its highly differentiated positioning in the advertising industry.   

 It’s been five years since the day you and Sonali Sehgal set up Sideways. How do you sum up the journey so far?

It’s been a thrilling ride, an absolute adventure. Learnt so much along the way. The joy of having brought to life a new age, one-of-its-kind creative company is tremendous indeed. We have managed to actualize our vision, and that is hugely satisfying. I can proudly say that there is nothing like us in terms of the width of work we do, the nature of problems we address and the range of businesses we operate across.

 Your SOP is to never pitch for accounts, yet you have a list of marquee brands working with you. Tell us more about the strategy and how you built the company on it.

We knew our offering to clients was vastly different from what conventional advertising agencies offer and hence it didn’t make sense to participate in pitches. Initially it was a challenge to explain to them what we bring to the table, but we were fortunate that many clients took a leap of faith and gave us opportunities. I am grateful to them. Now after five years, we have more than enough case studies across a variety of problems and categories for 50 odd marquee companies. We still do not pitch, but now our credentials deck does the talking.

 What were some of the biggest business challenges that you have faced – not just during the COVID-19 crisis, but before that too?

Earlier, explaining the value that Sideways can bring to businesses, why we are different, how our different processes and a differentiated team can yield more impactful results was a challenge. Consequently, our pricing seemed a bit unreasonable to clients. But now with case studies and a massive body of actual work, life is much easier. Our clients appreciate why we charge what we charge. Now we are only looking for more such imaginative clients who know they need to navigate the new world differently.

 You believe in providing all business solutions in-house and have adapted technology to a large degree in your work. Can you tell us more about it and how it gets integrated in the work that you do for your clients?

In the last few years, technology has transformed our lives, and consequently businesses too. So when we started Sideways, we knew tech would be pivotal to our offering. Hence, we put together a solid tech team which works alongside all other teams - strategy/product design/digital/communications, especially for the new age tech-enabled businesses. It also helps solve client problems differently – like building sales platforms to solve distribution issues, a Tinder-like app for research, etc.

 You have created some amazing campaigns, including the maiden TV ad for Kia Motors which was the most viewed ad on YouTube at the time in 2019. Tell us about this and other high points over the years.

That was an interesting opportunity and a tough challenge – to launch India’s 15th or so car brand, and one which no one knew about in India. Kia gave us a lot of creative freedom with a single minded brief – disrupt the category and establish us as a design-led premium brand. We had an interesting idea, and Vijay Sawant added his magic by making a hypnotic film that captured people’s imagination.

 Some of the other interesting work/high points besides advertising that has defined our journey includes: showcasing our own IP toys and games at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in Germany in January 2020, the work on Borosil to help move it from being a primarily industrial company to a kitchenware consumer brand, solving a complex business issue for Fevicol, partnering Google Pay on the product/strategy side, designing collectibles for Disney to disrupt traditional toy retailing, imagining Big Bazaar’s offering as a service brand, designing the 3D training model for Paani Foundation, the ‘Lunar Dome’ tribute to ISRO in partnership with St+Art, digital activations for Imagica… there is just so much that I can go on and on.

 Advertising is only a part of the work that you do. Tell us about the other non-traditional part. What is the nature of solutions that you have been offering to marketers?

Half of our business/solutions lie outside of advertising. Some of these are providing tech solutions, reimagining digital platforms, service design, reimagining business models, HR, strategic interventions, etc.

 You address Sideways as the Birbal to businesses and organisations, always studying challenges and tackling problems. How well has this approach worked for you?

It has worked brilliantly, with an increasing number of clients realizing its worth. That is the reason we have reached where we have, in creating a company like Sideways. I tell everyone that we are a one-of its-kind-company in India. It’s a curious mix of a consulting firm, an advertising firm, a tech solutions company, a product design studio and a circus, maybe!

 Tell us about Team Sideways – what is the kind of talent pool that you have and how has it shaped up?

It’s a motley crew of behaviour architects, technologists, product designers, writers, designers, brand strategists, business folks and engineers. We are always looking to widen this pool. I believe Sideways is the most exciting place for those who are up for interesting challenges and are okay with stepping outside their comfort zone.

 Talking of your Ogilvy days, do you miss the buzz of a big agency and the ecosystem it provided? Do you feel it was the right decision to turn independent?

I miss Ogilvy, for sure. It was home. I learnt so much there and have made lifelong pals from those times. But I needed to move on to embark on an adventure driven by curiosity and the desire to discover new grounds, professionally and personally.

Before you set up Sideways, you had said that you were open to the idea of the company being acquired, should opportunities arise. What do you have to say about that now?

Did I? I doubt it. Acquisition means giving up a fair bit of independence and the freedom to pick and choose the kind of work that excites us. What we enjoy is the flexibility to indulge in a variety of work, and I would hate to see that getting restricted. 

Can you recount a few anecdotes over the five-year ride at Sideways - defining moments that stand out in your memory?

I can't pick a singular defining moment or a string of them, actually.  A company like ours is shaped each passing month because of the different nature of projects that come our way. We started from scratch without an inkling of how it would pan out. We were looking to land opportunities to partner businesses of all shapes and different nature of problems. So when a toy design project came our way, it moved us a tad forward in our journey. When a tech project for a digital payments firm came, we inched ahead. Likewise, with an HR project, a big advertising launch like Kia, a chance to invest in a start-up, an e-commerce platform launch, a JV with another company (Reliance Brands) to launch our own products... each of them have shaped and defined us.

Also, stances like not pitching, having mandatory 10-day winter vacations for everyone, the ritual of celebrating everyone's birthday and the not-so-sober Diwali parties have all contributed to the culture of Sideways and shaped it.  

 How do you envision the next five years to be for Sideways? How do you plan to grow?

Slowly and steadily, we have built something special. We now know how our kind of madness works. More and more clients are hearing of the impact we have had on other businesses. The foundation is solid for scaling up well. So we will continue to look for the more imaginative and braver clients who are eager to leave behind the old ways of working for the new. And I know there are many out there.

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Asian Paints says ‘Shauq Ki No Limit’ in new campaign

The campaign has been conceptualised by Ogilvy India

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 1:04 PM   |   2 min read

Asian Paints

Asian Paints has launched “Budget mein fit. Shauq ki no limit.” campaign.  Conceptualized by Ogilvy India, in the campaign, the paints are shown to be an ideal solution for homeowners seeking good quality paint within their budget.

The campaign tells a humorous story of a colleague who can fulfil his wishes in his newly painted house, thanks to Tractor Sparc & Ace Sparc Emulsion.

As part of the TVC, the brand has also created a fun, snappy jingle that will stay in consumers' minds and help generate high recall. The jingle conveys Tractor Sparc and Ace Sparc Emulsion's value proposition as high-quality, cost-effective paints that will allow consumers to fulfill other desires through savings on these paints.

Speaking about the new Tractor Sparc & Ace Sparc campaign, Amit Syngle, Managing Director and CEO, of Asian Paints Ltd., commented, “In our endeavor to offer smart, value-for-money offers to the consumer and truly democratize the home décor market, we continue to innovate and launch solutions which offer customer strong propositions. This customer is willing to upgrade to branded solutions, accompanied by a strong quality and décor promise. The new campaign takes quite an entertaining route to communicate the value-for-money proposition of Tractor Sparc and Ace Sparc emulsions.”

Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India, said, “Asian Paints Tractor Sparc & Ace Sparc Emulsion are cost-effective paints that promise to offer a rich finish for interior and exterior walls at low cost. Our new campaign highlights the benefit of this feature with an enjoyable take. What the world thinks when they notice the amazing paint job, and also the things that are bought to fulfill the wishes, with the money saved from the cost-effective paint.”

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Edelweiss Mutual Funds TVC talks of visibility of returns

The ‘Kitna Milega’ campaign showcases Target Maturity Funds' unique investment approach

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 12:34 PM   |   1 min read

mutual fund

Edelweiss Mutual Funds has unveiled its TVC brand campaign ‘Kitna Milega’, which focuses on Mutual Fund products that are designed to provide visibility of returns.

The ad campaign showcases Target Maturity Funds' unique investment approach, which offers investors visibility of returns* on their investments provided they stay invested till the maturity of the fund. This campaign will also have presence on print media, outdoor and digital and social media.

Speaking about the campaign, Radhika Gupta, MD & CEO, Edelweiss MF said, "Inherently we have heard investors always asking ‘How much return will I make in this product’ before they choose to invest in any financial product/ Mutual Funds. Investors want simple products that provide visibility of returns.

We have picked this insight of ‘Kitna Milega’ to build on the communication for Target Maturity Funds. These funds are structured and designed in a way to give visibility of returns to investors and are simple in a structure like traditional deposits. Investors will be able to understand and invest in this category banking on the growing popularity of Debt Passives and Target Maturity Funds," she adds.

The campaign aims to convey a clear message about returns on investment that investors have while investing in mutual funds.

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Tanishq’s Ugadi film celebrates women creating own narratives

The film is a celebration of the brand’s Ugadi collection ‘Vardhini’

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 12:28 PM   |   2 min read

Vardhini

Tanishq has launched a heart-warming digital film for the auspicious occasion of Ugadi.

Tanishq’s first-ever digital film for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is a tribute to every woman who is not only unique in her thoughts and stance but also supports her decisions by being her voice.

The film is a celebration of brand’s beautiful Ugadi collection ‘Vardhini’, which is inspired by rich culture and crafted with precision for the women who prosper and thrive in all their might.

Conceptualised by Tanishq and Mind Your Language, the 75-second digital film showcases a powerful narrative of how a woman of today believes in carving her own path, takes a stand for herself and weaves a magic of her own new narratives. The film is an ode to the progressive women of today who want to create an identity for themselves, strongly believes in the importance of new beginnings and that life after marriage goes beyond motherhood.

Speaking on the launch of the film and the collection, Ranjani Krishnaswamy, General Manager – Marketing, Tanishq, Titan Company Limited said, “Today, women are yearning to carve an identity for themselves and are creators of their own narrative. The film is a tribute to the women who prosper and thrive in all their might and the Vardhini collection is truly a celebration of her extraordinary beauty and beliefs that make her stand apart.”

Deepan Ramachandran, Creative Director- Mind Your Language!, said “Tanishq, like the protagonist Swati in our Ugadi film, has always stood out with their progressive and new thoughts. Their brief to us was to straddle the conventional celebration of Ugadi with the new-age thinking of today’s woman. That’s when we asked ourselves - Why shouldn’t today’s woman dream differently? We found the answer in the story of Swati.”

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Mercedes-Benz talks of plans to go all-electric in digital campaign

The campaign ‘tells the story’ of the three-pointed star logo

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 10:50 AM   |   1 min read

Merc

Mercedes-Benz India has come up with an innovative social media campaign to "tell the story" of the three-pointed star logo and the company's plans to go all-electric by 2030.

Explaining the concept behind the logo, the campaign says that: "The upper blade stands for the air and by the air, we are inspired."

The carmaker has said going all-electric was part of its endeavours to slash its carbon footprint.

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Tanishq’s Ugadi film showcases how the woman of today believes in carving her own path

It is conceptualized by Tanishq and Mind Your Language

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 6:53 PM   |   2 min read

tanishq

Tanishq, the jewellery retail brand from the house of Tata, has launched a digital film to commemorate the auspicious occasion of Ugadi. Tanishq’s first-ever digital film for Andhra Pradesh & Telangana is a tribute to every woman who is not only unique in her thoughts and stance but also supports her decisions by being her voice. The film is a celebration of brand’s beautiful Ugadi collection ‘Vardhini’ which is inspired by rich culture and crafted with precision for the women who prosper and thrive in all their might.

Conceptualized by Tanishq and Mind Your Language, the 75-seconds digital film showcases a powerful narrative of how a woman of today believes in carving her own path, takes a stand for herself and weaves a magic of her own new narratives. The film is an ode to the progressive women of today who want to create an identity for themselves, strongly believes in the importance of new beginnings and that life after marriage goes beyond motherhood.

As the film unfolds, it features Swati; a young & enterprising woman who visits her home to celebrate her first Ugadi after marriage. Moments later after she enters the home, everyone notices the extra glow around her and is curious to know if she has any good news to announce to which she answered in the affirmative. Contrary to relative’s assumptions of Swati expecting her first child, the viewers are in for a surprise when she reveals the actual good news. The film is sure to leave the viewers awestruck and inspire every woman who wants to make a difference and stand out from the crowd.

Speaking on the launch of the film and the collection, Ranjani Krishnaswamy, General Manager – Marketing, Tanishq, Titan Company Limited said, “Today, women are yearning to carve an identity for themselves and are creators of their own narrative. The film is a tribute to the women who prosper and thrive in all their might and the Vardhini collection is truly a celebration of her extraordinary beauty and beliefs that make her stand apart.”

Deepan Ramachandran, Creative Director- Mind Your Language!, said “Tanishq, like the protagonist Swati in our Ugadi film, has always stood out with their progressive and new thoughts. Their brief to us was to straddle the conventional celebration of Ugadi with the new-age thinking of today’s woman. That’s when we asked ourselves - Why shouldn’t today’s woman dream differently? We found the answer in the story of Swati.”

 

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Havells urges consumers to #LookUp

Launches new fan campaign conceptualised and created by Mullen Lintas Delhi

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 4:14 PM   |   2 min read

havells

Extending its ‘Hawa Badlegi’ campaign thought, Havells India Limited has unveiled its latest ad campaign for its fan business urging consumers to #LookUp.

Conceptualised and created by Mullen Lintas Delhi, the campaign is a montage representing Havells legacy and stitches different situation where consumers look up to their fans – be it for wide air-throw, premium aesthetic designs, Smart Sense technology or energy saving.

The brand resonates with the thought that whenever the consumer felt the need to experience something new from their fans, they have looked up to Havells, a brand that has always delivered industry best experience.

Commenting on the campaign, Rohit Kapoor, EVP – Brand Marcom, Havells India said, “Over the years, we have come a long way in becoming the preferred brand for our customers. The campaign is another step towards creating remarkable storytelling of our brand journey to establish how Havells Fan has played a key role in responding and pre-empting changing needs of evolving customers. We are confident that this new campaign through powerful messaging around ‘Look Up’ will bring alive our brand legacy and reinforce the stature that Havells enjoys in the fan category.”

Talking about the campaign, Saurabh Sinha, Vice President, Havells India, said, “We are extremely excited and proud as we celebrate 20-year legacy of our fan business in India. Being a trusted name, Havells enjoys a strong presence in the fan category with its constant progression and focus on driving innovation. From smart sense technology to stunningly designed fans, or BLDC technology, Havells has introduced innovative offerings to enhance customer experience. This campaign gives a unique touch to our product story telling bringing alive the ‘technology and innovation’ narrative through its core message ‘Look up’.”

Commenting on the creative thought, Garima Khandelwal, Chief Creative Officer, Mullen Lintas said, “With this campaign, we create a dialogue that builds stature and brings forth the category first innovations the brand has fronted by speaking about its legacy. “Look up” very effortlessly sets Havells as the market leader, and how we have always set newer benchmarks for everyone else to catch up. While energy savings is the core proposition, we wanted to land that to build preference in the consumer’s mind on the back of the credentials we have in the last 2 decades.”

The 360-degree campaign is live and promoted across all mediums – Television, Digital, Print, Outdoor and BTL and retail visibility. It will be aired on major GEC, movie, news, and regional channels across the country.

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Bergner launches ‘feel the joy in cooking’ campaign with brand ambassador Vikas Khanna

The campaign video features Michelin star chKhanna showcasing his love language - cooking

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 3:06 PM   |   1 min read

bergener

Bergner, a brand in cookware and appliances, has announced the launch of its new campaign, "Feel the Joy in Cooking". This is Bergner’s first brand film, where it showcases its premium range of products. The campaign reveals the secret ingredient of cooking the best meals - cooking it with joy.

“The campaign video features Michelin star chef and Bergner's brand ambassador, Vikas Khanna, showcasing his love language - cooking. It’s this infectious passion of Khanna that is sure to motivate viewers to get into the kitchen and start creating their own culinary masterpieces, with joy!,” the company said.

Cooking becomes easier and convenient when it is accompanied by a range of good cookware, and Bergner does just that. The video highlights the premium and durable range of Bergner’s cookware – its Non-stick Bellini range, Argent Tri-ply stainless steel range, Cast Iron range, and Kitchen accessories to name a few. It beautifully embodies the message of ‘Feel the Joy in Cooking with Bergner’.

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