This week's Adland Rockstar is Sameer Kochure, creative group head, Cheil Worldwide.
How did you get into advertising?
I have my mom and a peacock to thank for that. When I was in Class 7, I painted a peacock for a school assignment. It came out well. Suddenly, I was interested in design. During the long vacation following my 10th exams, I was the stereotypical Sid. Completely clueless about what I wanted to do with my life. My mom, perceiving my vocation, took me to a couple of her friends. They, like me, were small-town boys who had just started a promising career in advertising. It seemed like a good option. I was game.
Tell us about your copy test.
I was never offered one. Thankfully... given my track record with tests. Although, it did take me time to break into the Mumbai ad scene. I had little experience to speak of. After a hunt lasting four months and with a nod in the right direction by Niranjan Kaushik (then with Contract) I was hired at Bates. Nilesh Naik, now a dear friend, and Rajeev Raja took a chance with me. I think I owe these three people drinks for the rest of my life.
Describe your first week in advertising.
Day one, I get my first brief. Write a song. For an AV. I was keeping a straight face but thinking ‘WTF!’ I had never written a poem till then, forget song. With a prayer in my heart, I started and made everything rhyme. Hindi, English, Rock music were all thrown in for good measure. Thankfully, it was well received. I was here to stay.
What's the one thing you like about your job?
I think advertising is full of extremely talented, creative individuals. I get my kicks from working with and learning from these guys. I have been very lucky to work with Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, Parveez Sheikh and Rajeev Raja, who also introduced me to Jazz. Bhupal Ramnathkar definitely has to be one of the finest art directors the country has ever produced. And Parveez is so talented, so grounded, so approachable...
I remember once I mailed him a couple of headlines for a print campaign. Parveez wrote back saying ‘hey sameer, i really liked the line... very nice.’ It felt like winning an award. That mail is flagged and after 4 years, still holds a place of honour in my inbox.
O&M Mumbai was a great trip too. Sagar was a hands-on boss. He taught me to dream bigger. I remember my first project with him was on a HUL brand and it was epic. We were planning something on the scale of movies like Gladiator and 300. It never got made. But it taught me to err on the side of the bigger and better. You never know when you might get lucky. Working with Abhijit Karandikar and Anup Chitnis was great fun too. Abhijit belongs to that rare breed of young, talented art directors who are constantly pushing the envelope on craft. I have seen him work laboriously to get something just right. He won’t settle for something that’s just good looking. It has to be freaking awesome! And when he is done, it usually is. I won most of my international awards with him. But what will help me more in my career is that I learnt persistence, dedication and the pursuit of perfection from him. O&M was a great experience. That place just lets you be. Be responsible but be yourself. I think that’s the ideal environment where creativity can flourish. When the time came to move on, ‘where to next’ was a tough question. I had heard that Rohit Malkani, aka Popo, was a talented and a fun guy to work with. I was wrong. When I joined him on Virgin Mobile, I found out that Popo (Rohit Malkani) is a SUPER fun guy and SUPER talented. I haven’t seen such a quick turnaround time, such wit and such perfect solutions to the brief, like he dished out every single day.
Russell Barrett was also a great guy to work with. You could step into his cabin at 3 am, the night before a big pitch, and ask for help. And help he would. Even today, I find myself turning to him for advice every now and then. I am sure he appreciates it’s not at 3 am anymore.
Prathap Suthan, my current boss is a wonderful human being. One has to read a short paragraph written by him to know this guy knows what he is writing about. So much to learn from. And while we are on the topic, I think these guys are the real rockstars of Indian advertising. The guys who built brands AND agencies. Piyush, Balki, Aggie, Parveez, Pushpi, Freddie and Naved, Rajeev and Mahesh, and other great guys who set the standards.
My generation, me included, is still trying to keep up.
What's the one thing you don't like about your job?
Working with the wrong kind of people. The kind who get in the way of producing some truly great work.
If not in advertising, what would you be doing?
No clue whatsoever.
One person in advertising you'd like to have dinner with?
David Droga. So that I can sedate him, take him to a hospital and steal his brains.
One person outside advertising you'd like to have dinner with?
Woody Allen. It would be an evening full of laughter.
Three things that one should do when faced with a writer's block?
Do something else. Let go of the pressure and the insecurities. Then write it off.
Three films/film-makers that are your favourites?
Filmmakers: Thanonchai Sornsrivichai, Prasoon Pandey and Michel Gondry.
Films: Wristcutters: A Love Story, What Dreams May Come and The Dark Knight.
Three books/authors that are your favourites?
Books: The Little Prince, Panchatantra, The Fountainhead
Writers: J.K. Rowling, Jeffery Archer, Philip K. Dick.
Three campaigns that you'd put in your hall of fame?
The Tap Project, Adidas Vertical Football, Epuron ‘The Wind’ commercial.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what would be the three things you'd want with you?
Music, books and a nice bed.