This week's Adland Rockstar is Denise D'silva, creative director, Publicis Ambience.
How did you get into advertising?
I wanted to be a vet – I’m too fond of animals – but somewhere down the line I figured that I didn’t love them so much that I’d be able to pull out a cat’s heart and work on it (laughs). Advertising happened by chance. I have an elder brother who is in advertising – I knew he has a lot of late nights, hectic work schedules, so I figured his life is kind of exciting. One day he just asked me to write. I tried - without any idea what a headline or a copy was. But surprisingly, the copy that I wrote (it was for an automobile company), he found it to be perfect! So with those ads, I started applying to agencies. My first job was at Euro RSCG, then I moved to Lemon, Enterprise Nexus and its been about five years at Publicis Ambience. I also write travelogues sometimes for the Hindustan Times.
What were your first few weeks in advertising like?
My first few weeks of advertising were pretty intense. I joined Euro RSCG in the aftermath of the Bhuj earthquake. One of the first ads I wrote, was an appeal for the victims of the disaster. I’d received a letter through an organisation and it described the plight of a lady who was in the rubble and what she had written was gut wrenching. So it was difficult to detach myself emotionally and work on it. Considering it was my first job, it was a challenge. But overall, my first impression of agency life was that I saw a lot of people trying too hard and a lot of people who were just being themselves. They were very comfortable in their own worlds. I liked that. There was nobody pressuring you to be someone. You didn't have to conform to a certain style.
What’s one thing you like about your job?
That I can live different lives, probably. Every campaign, every brand that you work on let’s you ideate, meet different people and you tend to surprise yourself with the thoughts you come up with.
What is one thing you don’t like about your job?
Sometimes the pressure of delivering is unreasonable. I think when creative people are left to themselves and if they have a fair amount of responsibility, they do deliver.
One person outside advertising who you want to have dinner with?
(thinks hard) Wall-E.
Who are the mentors in your career and how have you been influenced by them?
Mohammad Khan is someone I learnt a lot from, especially a sense of discipline. But overall, I don’t have any mentors as such, because the best influence has come to me from the outside world. So whether it is a great book or a film or even travelling, those are the influences which count.
Who is your favourite bouncing board for ideas in your agency?
I think it would have to be Prasanna (Sankhe) and Ashish (Khazanchi). They are blunt and very straight forward and excellent people to bounce off your ideas.
How do you cheer yourself up on a bad day?
Television. I can watch endless hours of Travel and Living. I'm a huge travel buff. It really helps me unwind. Sometimes going on a long drive helps as well.
When Harry Met Sally is an all-time favourite. I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Star Wars series. Amongst recent ones I liked Up in the Air and Up.
I like this author Jonathan Stroud who writes fantasy fiction. He writes beautifully. So does Arthur Golden (Memoirs of a Geisha).
Any campaign you’d put up in your hall of fame?
Freddy Birdy's Old Age campaign for The Indian Express.
Three things you'd want with you on a deserted island.
Food, a good travelling companion and a good camera.
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