By Alokananda Chakraborty
Within hours of OgiIvy Worlwide announcing that Indian-born Devika Bulchandani will be the global chief executive officer of the advertising and public relations agency group, there has been a deluge of news reports about how Bulchandani would now be joining the growing league of Indian-origin business leaders — mostly male — at the helm of multinational corporations.
Piyush Pandey, Ogilvy’s Chairman, Global Creative, & Executive Chairman, India, begs to differ: “It’s not a gender thing at all… it’s her accomplishments that brings her here,” he says, adding “Bulchandani has phenomenal talent and is truly a global citizen”.
Ogilvy is part of global leading marketing and communications group, WPP. Bulchandani, who has been serving as Global President and CEO of Ogilvy North America till recently, succeeds Andy Main, who will serve as a senior advisor until the end of the year, the company said in a statement. Bulchandani joined Ogilvy in 2021 and will also now join WPP’s Executive Committee, said the statement.
In her new role, Bulchandani will be responsible for the creative network’s business across 131 offices in 93 countries and spanning its advertising, public relations, experience, consulting, and health units. “She believes in Ogilvy’s stated policy of borderless creativity,” says Pandey.
“My focus and passion is to see how meaningful creativity and commercial success have a symbiotic relationship,” Bulchandani writes in her LinkedIn profile.
Dev — as Bulchandani is known in her industry — was born in Amritsar, spent most of her early years in India, completing her school education from Welham Girls’ School, Dehradun. She earned a degree in English and Psychology at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai before joining the University of Southern California where she earned her Masters degree from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Bulchandani, who is described by her colleagues as a people’s person, spent more than two decades at American global advertising agency network McCann, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, one of the four large holding companies in the advertising industry globally. She played a key role in some very memorable campaigns created by the agency, such as Mastercard’s long-running “Priceless” as well as “True Name”, the 2019 initiative that urged transgender and non-binary people to display their chosen name on their Mastercard.
As Ogilvy puts it, Bulchandani is popular for ideas that capture the “cultural zeitgeist”. “She believes creativity is the solution for client needs irrespective of the medium,” adds Pandey, adding that she is cast in the Indra Nooyi (former CEO and the Chairperson of PepsiCo) mould. She is also a founding member of Times Up Advertising, where she has championed equality for women in advertising.
Importantly, Bulchandani is behind the “Fearless Girl” installation to honour International Women’s Day (2017) that was dropped on Wall Street in the middle of the night and became the talk of the town in 24 hours. The campaign remains one of the most awarded in the history of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
In an interview to Vogue, Bulchandani had said during her Amritsar days, she enjoyed climbing tress and riding cycles too big for her. As a child, she enjoyed watching American TV shows and hoped to one day become like the characters who returned home tired from work at the end of the day.
Reel life and real life has finally become the same.
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