It was in April 2014 that Rajdeepak Das took over as chief creative officer of Leo Burnett. Since then, he, along with Saurabh Varma, CEO for the agency’s operations in South Asia, have been busy creating work which will help the agency to reach the number one spot in the coming years. In an interview with BrandWagon’s Meghna Sharma, Das speaks about the culture of the agency, and about the social change it wants to bring about. Excerpts:
Soon, it will be two years since you took over the creative reins at Leo Burnett. How has the journey been so far?
The last 18 months have been interesting. My aim, so far, has been to make sure that the whole team, which is close to 250 people, shares the same vision that Saurabh and I do. For a strong building, you need strong pillars. I have 11-12 ECDs, who all have strong creative minds, and we meet every month to fight! Yes, we have a ‘Fight Club’. We meet and discuss our work so that without discouraging each other, we can help each other do better work and learn something. My second level of creative is getting stronger with each passing day and the third level is very tech heavy.
Also, Saurabh and I report and take notes from each other so that we are on the same page and are able to achieve our goal of bringing in social change, work on designing (a product) with the help of technology. We want to build the entire system.
You are the youngest chief creative officer at Leo Burnett. What challenges does this bring?
Someone asked Mark Tutssel about me being the youngest CCO. And he replied, “My son works for the youngest CEO (Mark Zuckerberg) in the world.” Age has nothing to do with work today. If that was the case, the oldest man/woman in the country should be running the country. As for me, I am not saying that I am young, but I can see that today’s generation is much smarter. They don’t say “Just do it” but “Just did it.” The CMOs I meet today also are 35-40 years old. What you get on board is what matters, not the age.
What changes have you bought to the creative team?
I have got people from different fields. Yes, there are many of them from other agencies, but we have a number of dropouts (medical, tech, financial etc) who come up with brilliant ideas. The major change today, is that I tell my team to show me a video, make me hear the music they want to use rather than just show the print layout. I tell my team that we are building content. Today, I can proudly say that 20-30% of my team can edit themselves.
Saurabh Varma recently said, “We have largely been a print ad agency and have now transformed into a content agency over the last few months.” Can you elaborate on this?
I will give you three examples. The first one is the OLX social media campaign ahead of Independence Day. Themed #Daastaan, the campaign reached out to those who had to leave behind their treasured possessions, as they left for their chosen nation at the time of partition. As the stories started pouring in from both sides, we knew we had achieved our goal of helping these people get their memories back through the items they had left behind and cherished. The second example is also something we did for OLX. Launched on December 1, consumers can make the selling process interesting by making his/her own TVC. Yes, the campaign took 9-10 months to execute but we managed to do it. Through makeyourad.olx.in (after clicking the picture of the product) the consumer can choose a whacky character, create his/her own Mad Ad and sell the products.
The third example is what we did for Bajaj Discover. The campaign titled Bajaj Discover Life Banaye Zing Zong explored a married relationship and highlighted how the spark gets lost over time. And we ended up creating a heart in the middle of India. And in the coming 3-4 months you will see a lot more exciting work from us.
What qualities differentiates Leo Burnett’s work from the others?
I appreciate good work and it doesn’t matter who has done it. I pick up the phone and congratulate the other person on the great work they have created. We are a fraternity and everybody is here to create quality work. Our approach is to bring about a social change through our work and help clients find an interesting solution.
Leo Burnett aims to become one of the top five creative agencies in the world in two years time. How much of that dream has been achieved?
It is not about numbers, but the mindset. I want to create a culture where everyone can come up with an idea. We have a very strong servicing team which can sell any idea we come up with.
We want to constantly create great work and not just for the Grand Prix at Cannes. I want everyone to come up with ideas, know how to execute them and help clients monetise those ideas.