Raahil Chopra
Jun 22, 2023

Cannes Lions 2023: ‘Build trust and the agency will die for you’ – Dheeraj Sinha

Sinha was in conversation with Spotify’s Neha Ahuja on day four of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Cannes Lions 2023: ‘Build trust and the agency will die for you’ – Dheeraj Sinha
Dheeraj Sinha, chief executive officer, Leo Burnett South Asia, and chairperson, BBH India, along with Neha Ahuja, director, and head, marketing Spotify India, took to the stage on day four of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to discuss how the agency and brand worked together to make it the most used music streaming app in India.
Going back to 2019, before the brand launched in India, Sinha stated how he and his creative partner, Rajdeepak Das, were excited about the idea of working with a ‘cool’ brand like Spotify.
“India is a different market. We had to make Spotify relevant in this different country. To do this, we rewrote the marketing playbook,” said Sinha.
“When the advertising world thinks of the youth, there’s this stereotype. It’s a young man with curly hair, who has a tattoo and is either playing the guitar or jumping up with a basketball in hand. But the real youth in India are hustling. If Murphy was to be born in a country, it would be India, because if anything has to go wrong for someone, it does in the country,” he said.
“We knew music couldn’t change the world, it would only help us hustle on,” he said.
Taking over from Sinha, Ahuja added that when it comes to brand launches in India, usually television is used as the medium, and a big celebrity is used as an ambassador.
“We said maybe not. We realised that music helps navigate sticky situations. We looked at more than 1,000 situations and looked to solve them with playlists. We did a hyper-contextual outdoor campaign which organically landed on digital. We had 1,053 lines written, and used the line ‘there’s a playlist for that’,” she said.
After the launch, within a year the brand was being consumed in 7,500 Indian cities.
Sinha stated that the next step was to take on a leadership stance, even though the brand wasn’t a market leader.
“India is a huge country. It comes with idiosyncrasies. We like standing in the longest queues, just because we’re following others and think they’re doing something right. We were number eight at this position, but wanted to play like a leader,” he said.
Ahuja added, “We acknowledged we were late in the market. We didn’t enter with a great differentiator. What we realised is that India is a market which loves repeating songs and at any given point is only listening to 20-30 songs.”
She then revealed the thought behind the campaign featuring Anil Kapoor and Ishaan Khattar.
“Music is meant for everyone. We started by targeting two generations. Following this campaign, Spotify became the most loved brand in the country,” she said.
While brand love was achieved, leadership wasn’t. Spotify intended on using this momentum to take it to that pedestal.
Ahuja explained, “Indians follow astrology, Bollywood, cricket and devotion. We used cricket and the IPL. But the IPL is extremely cluttered. In the 2022 edition, there were 136 brands advertising. A month before the IPL, we wondered if we should be advertising during the tournament at all.”
Sinha added, “We had a long meeting and then finally decided to be on the IPL. But we changed the idea. We thought of doing 20 pieces of work rather than one film. We went back to the original idea we had presented in the pitch and thought about chaos and used that.”

Ahuja revealed that post this campaign, the brand became the number one in the market.
According to the duo, the next step is to make India the biggest market for Spotify in the world.
They ended the session by stating the importance of the client-agency relationship and claimed that’s what helped.
Sinha said, “We don’t get a creative brief from Spotify. We look for business outcomes and numbers and then work towards the campaigns. The formula behind success is to build trust and the agency will die for you.”
Campaign India

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