“Fill It Shut it Forget It” was the Ad Campaign that established Hero MotoCorp as a household name in the 1980s. I have never ridden a Hero Honda bike, but Hero Honda’s association with mileage is permanently etched in my memory thanks to the Ad. That, is the power of advertising & communication !
Ajit, our next pathbreaker talks to us about creating unforgettable campaigns using the power of words!
Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal talks to Ajit about his career as an Advertising Copywriter.
Ajit, can you tell us a bit about your background?
Born and brought up in Patna, I completed my high school studies at a CBSE affiliated school after which I moved to a very obvious choice of career, becoming an engineer.
My father, a govt. employee and mother a homemaker were focused on how to get me into a reputed college and make an engineer out of me. I was too confused and reckless to think of anything else.
After numerous exams, I made my way into an engineering college. After a year, I realized that my interests were different than mathematical theories and coding. Therefore, I moved with my eldest brother and chose BBA as a means to get a graduation tag.
What did you study?
The place was IMS Noida. A few months into my graduation, I was chosen for a radio jockey training program. I was quite ecstatic about my selection in the program. While being trained I started writing programs for radio which took me into a new kind of creative space.
Finally, It was my elder brother who connected the dots and illuminated my path towards choosing the career I have made today.
My interest in films played a huge role in it and I started searching for courses and career options that could get me into a creative writing space.
Tell us about a few influences that shaped your career path
My interest in films was a major driver. Also my brother was a big influence and my first supervisor has been my mentor. Getting the highest number of listeners on a community radio program was an important event early in my career that motivated me.
The turning point has been the first campaign I did for a mobile brand. The positive response from the market made sure that it was the right decision to choose this career.
The campaign brief was simple and direct. We are a new brand of smartphones and want to break into the millennials life, preferably the B-towns (Meerut, Patna, etc.)
The challenge was that every other smart phone wanted to do the same. The planning team researched the habits and behaviour of millennials in B-town. For me, it was my personal experience that came in handy as I belong to one of the targeted towns.
One of the highlights of the research was the consumption of created content by the TG. I clubbed it with the aspirations that B-town youngsters have and came up with a campaign called ‘Make it happen’. My next task was to write copy for all the verticals, Print, TVC/Digital films and Social Media ads. We presented the concept material to the client and once we got a go ahead. We collaborated with YouTube creators such as Rickshawali, Shraddha Sharma, etc and shared their stories of how they made it happen. The digital team then helped us reach the correct targets.
We received positive response from the market (monthly sale of 1.25 lakh unit) as well as the targeted audience (over social media channels).
How did you get your first break?
I started by researching the industry that I was stepping into by studying the success of people who had been in the industry. Apart from learning the craft of writing copies and stories, I started making contacts with people who were experienced and knew others by communicating with them in every possible way.
After graduation I joined Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication for a diploma course in Advertising which I completed with distinction marks. I was one of the first students to get selected for an internship with McCann Worldwide as a copywriter.
My first break was my internship. To get select all the students need to show the creative approach for the task provided during the interview. Also, the organisation analysed my approach through a creative portfolio that i had created while pursuing the course.
Tell us about your career path
During the final months of my diploma program, I was called for an interview with McCann Worldwide for the copy trainee position. The interview was arranged by the institution. During my interview I showed the Creative Director few ads that I made as a part of the college project. Out of 14 he liked one and immediately offered me the job. After McCann, I wanted a full-time job, so I applied to Brand Bazooka via LinkedIn. They called me for an interview and gave me a copy test. It is a standard test where you have to write headlines, creative concepts based on the brief or even a jingle under few hours.
There, much to my surprise and joy, I worked directly under Sabu Paul, a well know copy legend. It completely transformed my craft of the copy and made me understand how advertising works. It is not only about writing but communicating the right way.
After a year, I was called upon by another advertising big wig, Jaideep Mahajan from Rediffusion. I was recommended by the Creative Director under which I worked at McCann. It was great opportunity for me to be a part of such an old and successful agency. So, I joined them as a junior copywriter.
At rediffusion, I worked primarily on Videocon TV and Everest Industries and New Business Pitches. It was during one of the pitches I was given an opportunity to take the lead for creative. It transformed me into a bigger role. Even though a junior writer the opportunity provided me a glimpse of what to and what not to do as a lead.
After a year and half, I shifted to its sister concern Everest Brand Solutions as a Senior writer. It was just a name change, the work remained the same. Further as a part of corporate restructure, I was called to the head office in Mumbai to work with the team there on brands like L&T Reality, Tata and GPI. Mumbai was a great experience but I wanted to be close to my family and so I joined Leo Burnett in Delhi as a copy lead in the month of November.
What were the challenges? how did u address them?
My first challenge was language. Being from Bihar has many drawbacks, one of them is the language command. I didn’t do any course specifically for creative writing or graduate with a language as specialisation. My English language skills were also rudimentary when I joined the radio training program.
To overcome this, I started practicing by speaking on my own and writing first and correcting later. It helped me work on my mistakes and learn spontaneously. For the spoken part, it did seem a little odd to speak to yourself but it did help me become a good orator in the context of the language.
My love for movies again helped. I started studying them rather than just watching for fun. The way they use the word, the way the scene gets transitioned, etc.
My second challenge was the complete lack of knowledge about the industry. I researched a lot about it and spent hours to know more and more about the functions and people associated with it.
Another challenge was to find a good art director. Since to create a communication one needs someone who could transform your idea and the piece of writing through art.
You will find someone as you move forward in the industry. There is no fixed rule to overcome this challenge.
What are you doing currently?
Currently, I am working with Leo Burnett. I am heading a small group of writers and art directors for various clients.
Managing a team is something that you learn from your senior. Through observation and having a ‘Why and how’ tendency helps in acquiring the skill.
The day starts with a brief that contains a problem that the brand is facing and based on the brief creative team starts to find a solution and execute it when everyone agrees to it.
The thing that I love most about the job is the absolute freedom to claim ownership of the work that has been done. If you created it, it’s yours. Period.
How does your work benefit the society?
Apart from working for brands, we also work towards providing creative solution to problems that are faced by the society. It is done on various levels and mostly in cooperation with a brand and the government.
While working at Mumbai Rediffusion, we worked on a campaign for menstruation awareness for Tata Trust. The brief was to create awareness among women of village and small towns and also debunk the various myths around it.
For this we created a simple and direct campaign to achieve maximum understanding. We organised a weekly session called ‘Bandhan Todo’ in various villages along with a distribution of flip-chart made to fit in the small pouch (batua) that they carry. Women were happy to see that it fits the batua and hence they can keep their privacy while carrying it.
Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you!
One work that is very close to me is the campaign for a smartphone brand. The campaign resonated with the young crowd and took the brand from non-existent to 3rd most recognized brand in the mass market.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Please be aware of what you want to do and do not be impulsive about it. There are career paths that seem easy and in trend but it is you who need to start a trend and make the road less taken, the most travelled one. So, constantly evolve and strive towards creating something.
I am a creative writer and in future also I will continue to create and write whether I am working with an organization or independently