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In Next 3-5 Years, India Will Become The Creative Superpower Of The World: Publicis Groupe & Leo Burnett’s Rajdeepak Das

In a candid talk with Marketing Mind, Rajdeepak Das, the creative leader behind one of the most celebrated agencies- Leo Burnett, expressed his gratitude to Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, Swati Bhattacharya, Agnello Dias and more for their leadership showcase and sacrifices which truly made India go from a small creative power to ‘INDIA’ today, giving a playing field to creative folks like himself, Sukesh Nayak, Kainaz Karmakar, Harshad Rajadhyaksha and the new generation of creatives to take off, creatively. He also spoke about Leo Burnett’s goal of impacting people’s lives with specialised solutions to business problems of clients and more.

| Published on June 25, 2024

In Next 3-5 Years, India Will Become The Creative Superpower Of The World: Publicis Groupe & Leo Burnett’s Rajdeepak Das

After scoring a hattrick at The ABBY Awards powered by One Show and continuing its winning ‘Burnett’ roar at Cannes Lions by becoming India’s most awarded creative agency at the International Festival of Creativity for two consecutive years amongst other award galas, Leo Burnett India has truly stood the test of time when it comes to award winning campaigns that create on-ground impact be it for PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Mondelez, etc.

Speaking to Marketing Mind, Rajdeepak Das, Chief Creative Officer, Publicis Groupe South Asia and Chairman, Leo Burnett South Asia, emphasised that being on a roll with a winning streak at both- India and global stage is extremely hard and under the aegis of the Holding Company that Publicis Groupe is, Leo Burnett doesn’t take it for granted.

“It’s hard to win one and win many, harder to win many for many clients and even harder to win big metals for big clients and then the highest number of metals and that too in different categories at many award shows. Trust me, it’s extremely tough to not just win but continue to lead the charts for n number of years and more than winning awards, what we’re trying to do at Leo Burnett is to do and pump in more and more work. Hence, it’s been a real tough year for me,” he said.

Upon being questioned as to what’s Leo Burnett secret sauce which has made the creative agency win not just in its specialist category but in various non-specialised categories as well in almost every coveted gala in India and at Cannes Lions as well, he responded that the way Burnetters look at work is not specialised or out of the box but to produce anything that touches people’s life irrespectively.

“What we are currently looking into is doing anything and everything which has the propensity to touch people’s lives and if we need to do so via storytelling, outdoor, AI, technology, mobile or any other ad medium, we’ll do that to make our things better. Whatever we are doing today in terms of impacting people’s lives for good, it is all a part of our culture and be it a medium or brand, everything sort of comes together,” he said.

Furthermore, he also mentioned that the primary reason behind Leo Burnett’s success and glory is rooted in the fact that the agency is great with its business of solutions and finding a creative way of doing it.

“The moment we have a business solution in our head, we work on finding a creative way to communicate it knowing that it will impact people’s lives and once we have both these filters in place, the scale comes out naturally. We will not think about what is traditional and what is not, but only the apt medium/solution to send out our message to the consumer and therefore, technology or any other media becomes a part of it,” he elaborated.

Sharing more context to this solution-driven approach to creatives, Das mentioned that be it creating Smart Farm for Lay’s farmers or coming up with movable fields for Gatorade, the one thing that is a must for Burnetters is primarily ‘solution’ followed by a creative way to communicate the same.

“For the past few years, we’ve been working with some of the biggies of the brand world including the likes of PepsiCo, Mondelez, Acko, Flipkart, etc. and winning big for our work on them. And the reason why they’ve come to us is rooted in the Burnett way of providing solutions to business problems of clients. We are known as the new-age agency that is going to change people’s lives with the kind of impact work we do and I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with marketers and brands who have the same goal- impacting people’s lives using their brands, in the process,” he mentioned.

That being said, the agency which won big for showcasing its creative prowess last year at both Cannes and Abbys today has undergone a leadership change as Das who was recently elevated to the role of Chairman at Leo Burnett South Asia is no-longer working alongside Dheeraj Sinha, his partner in creative strategy, for Sinha had parted ways from Leo Burnett India to join FCB Group India as CEO in September 2023.

And unlike most agencies which rely on bringing in external resources, Leo Burnett has elevated two of its very own creative powerhouses- Sachin Kamble and Vikram Pandey (aka Spiky) to the role of Co-Chief Creative Officers at the agency.

Explaining the rationale behind this, Das mentioned that the two newly elevated Co-CCOs have not just the same breed but are Leo Burnett, which is what makes the Burnett pedigree stronger and stronger with each passing day.

“Earlier on, I and Dheeraj together served the role of CEO, but now we have Amitesh as our CEO, Sachin and Spiky as two CCOs, Anirban as CSO, Sonal and Praveen as NCDs amongst others. If you look at the bandwidth of our team, we have literally 19 people on our top leadership and it is only going to get stronger because with all the more expectations that people have with us today, it’ll be hard for me to be fighting it out alone. Hence, what we need is the scale because we already have people who understand the culture and understand what we are and they’re all constantly working hard to make it even bigger,” he said.

Upon being questioned as to how he sees the Indian adland today and expects it to be moving forward in the foreseeable future, Das replied that in the next three-five years, he strongly believes that the Indian ad industry will become the creative superpower in the world.

“I am sure that in three-to-five years, we will be dominating any creative award show and more than that, we will be exporting our ideas to the world. It has already started happening and is bound to happen in greater amounts going forward,” he said.

With this, he also mentioned that his fellow creative leaders like Sukesh Nayak, Harshad Rajadhyaksha, Kainaz Karmakar and others are already trying to make this possible and while there may be some struggle involved, everybody’s trying to fight it out as there’s a long way to go but the magic will happen, he affirmed and promised quite confidently.

“Even when you look at Cannes Lions also, with Indians making it to the speakers lineup and winning amongst others, it is evident that we are not India or any other country anymore, but ‘INDIA’. And it has not been an easy contribution, I must say for we’ve not only made our way to ABBYs and One Show but to the US, Russia, China and others as well,” he acknowledged.

Responding to another question stemming from this change, on creative leaders like Swati Bhattacharya leaving the ad world or even Piyush Pandey taking an advisory role at Ogilvy, Das stated that he ought to give the credit of what India’s creative prowess has become today to these leaders because they are the ones who have left something better for today’s generation and the one which’ll follow.

“I respect Swati because she is the one who created the space for women creative leaders to take leadership roles in agencies and the way she has put women’s freedom in the front via her campaigns is just incredible. S Piyush and Prasoon, on the other hand, have given us a platform to be looked at as ‘INDIA’ and not just as a nation with small creative power. Similarly, Josy became the father of ‘movement’ by becoming the Champion of Glass Lions and Aggy won the first Grand Prix from India. So, they were the first ones to put India out there and therefore it is they who have actually sacrificed and helped us have a better field to take off. They have all shown to us what leadership is and now me and the new generations have the playing field to ourselves and we ought to take it to the next level,” he said.

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