'An ad that changed the way the world saw people who are differently abled': W+K's Gautham Narayanan

A series to end the decade - Part 1

Nov 29, 2019 07:14:00 AM | Article | Campaign India Team

Campaign India's countdown to the end of the decade will feature leading names from the marketing and communications fraternity. We ask senior executives from the advertising, marketing and media fraternity about the last 10 years and the year to come. 
Here's what Gautham Narayanan, managing director, Wieden + Kennedy, Delhi, had to say.  
One piece of work created by a competitor in the last decade that you wish you had created/worked on?
Meet the Superhumans, for London 2012 Paralympics created by 4Creative for Channel 4 (a broadcaster in the UK).
It started with the simplest poster. I still remember being at a London underground station the day after the Olympics ended, and the Paralympics was about to start. As the train I missed left the station I saw this poster appear across the track. I smiled, and thought, that was clever. Bravo Channel 4.
Little did I know what was coming next. Very soon, this TV ad (below) dropped, and stopped us all in our tracks. It was mesmerizing, brilliantly crafted, surprising and humbling all at the same time. It really made me re-evaluate myself and my preconceptions. It changed me, it changed the way people looked at paralympic athletes and it changed the way the world saw people who are differently abled. Not bad for an ad.

If hindsight is 20/20, what is the one thing that you could have done differently in the last decade?
The messier, the harder, the less straightforward it is, the more fun and rewarding in the long run. I’ve realised that the world was bigger than the established business / marketing / agency ‘centres of excellence.’ London or Paris in Europe, New York or the West Coast in the US and Dubai or Singapore in the Middle East and Asia.
Since I left London and having spent time in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and now India, I know that these growth markets are a real hotbed of creativity because people are solving problems out of a real need. Innovations like mpesa, paytm, Tencent are testament to this. The level of innovation, creativity, determination and resilience you need to succeed in these environments is material and prepares you for anything the ‘west’ can throw at you.
So, I wish I’d embarked on a journey of living and working in more interesting places three or four years earlier than I did. Both from a family and also professional development point of view. Collectively, my family and I have learned, seen and experienced some amazing things during our 5 years on the road and I’m sure this will continue.
One skill that you would want to pick up in 2020 and why?
I can speak Tamil, at least with my family who forgive my deficiencies, but i’d love to achieve some sort of proficiency in Hindi. I can just about communicate with an uber driver or order in a restaurant but I’d love to be more fluent. And I’d like to make true the rumour in the office that I’m a secret Hindi speaker and listening in on everyone!