Shinmin Bali
Nov 19, 2014

Close up: ‘I would love for advertisers to believe in us a lot more'

Anjali Rawat, ECD - art, Scarecrow Communications, tells Shinmin Bali about her love for everything creative, mentorship and the advertiser-agency relationship

Close up: ‘I would love for advertisers to believe in us a lot more'

The toughest part of Anjali Rawat’s career thus far in the industry, she says, was when she had to take a year’s sabbatical. She can be described as someone with a constant urge to be creative in her expressions. Hailing from a ‘family full of doctors’ and not wanting to wield a scalpel for life, advertising was what she always knew she wanted to work in.

She recalls, “I come from a family of doctors but I was never inclined towards that profession. I was very artistic. I got my Bachelor’s from JJ Institute of Applied Arts in 1996. But that wasn’t enough. After that I did my post graduation and got my Masters from Academy of Art College in San Francisco in 1997.”

Upon her return, she remembers making a conscious decision to not work at a ‘big’ agency. Her decision was motivated by a will to spend the required time and effort into honing the skills learnt. Not to say, that big agencies aren’t the ideal place to hone one’s skills, she clarifies. “When I came back to India, all the big agencies were out there. So, there was a chance of going into the Ogilvy and Mathers and Lintas’ of the world. But I wanted to be in a small agency so that I could hone my skill which is how Lemon happened. I learnt a lot there. It was only after that, that I joined Ogilvy and Mather, where I was for four and a half years.”

Rawat remembers her year post Ogilvy & Mather, personally, with a great degree of fondness and professionally, as the sabbatical that never ended – or so it seemed. “I took a sabbatical for a year and that’s when my daughter, Riti, was born. It was lovely that I got to spend that time with her. When I quit (in August), it was just before the festival season starts. So in those initial months I was very happy, enjoying life, celebrating and eventually shopping when the festival season did begin. But a few months down the line I wanted to be back. Advertising is so addictive that if you’ve been working throughout you keep itching to come back.”

One would think that she would have missed deadlines the least during her break. But she corrects that notion saying that as long as there’s creativity involved, other issues don’t matter as much. “I was missing the creative part. In all the agencies I’ve worked at, none of them have been so pressurising in terms of deadlines. Deadlines are a part and parcel of the job. There’s not much you can do if you’re at home. But I was trying to balance out both my worlds and started doing some stuff from home, so that I don’t lose touch completely.”

When she did get back to work, she did so with the same zeal for learning that she had when she had moved back to India, she says. “I, again, wanted to be in a smaller place. Next, Metal happened as they liked my work. I was there for about three and a half years. It was a nice, warm and friendly place. And now, I’m at Scarecrow, which as a journey that’s only recently just begun I’m thoroughly enjoying.”


Rawat notes that observing one’s surroundings is the key to arriving at an idea – big or small, simple or complex (it’s always simple though, she insists). “As a creative person, you need to know how people behave, act and react. You should know about the people that you’re trying to sell a product to. If you see, all great campaigns have had the most simplest of taglines or (simplest) idea that’s at the core of it all. Taglines are a connect with the mindset of the audience. Once you know what the audience is thinking then everything falls into place. A person’s personal intuition about the environment around them is very essential to an idea.”

In some of her agency stints, she ensured encouragement for her juniors to go out and just observe. She justifies the necessity of such an exercise: “We live in a very utopian world where we think of ourselves as these creative people who create things. The truth is that the people or the audience feel and see things very differently and so you need to get out there and understand the mood of the people. I like real work which is drawn from real insights. I don’t like the ‘thinking-out-of-thin-air’ which sometimes can also mean being creative just for the sake of being creative. Any creative idea that has a level of insight to it is the most powerful.”

Mentoring ideas...

The problem with drawing an idea from observation and insights is that everybody observes things differently and at different levels. What can possibly bridge this gap? Can someone ‘teach’ how to observe and provide mentorship? She points out, “We, as an industry, lack good mentors. We come from a time where we were very rooted but what we see now is a generation that is very adamant about what they observe. For long term sustenance of talent, you do need mentorship. Everybody is wired to think that their idea is great but only a mentor can take it to another level where an observation becomes a creative insight.”

“I don’t think we’re doing enough. Even when we’re looking for talent, we don’t exactly know where to look. The industry does have a few annual initiatives that bring the talent and industry personnel together but we certainly need more of these. As seniors, we’re not as connected to the juniors as we would like to be. We know that there is a lot of new talent out there but we find it difficult to source them,” she admits.

The onus of discovering talent from the crowd lies fairly on both the agencies as well the advertising bodies, she explains: "The ad bodies, being what they are, can do a lot more about it. Having said that, I don’t think it stops the agencies from doing something. If you need something done you have to go out there and do it, we can’t sit and wait for other people to do it for us. I can only speak from what I’ve seen at the agencies that I’ve worked with and I think that they are capable and ready of coming together to resolve this issue of mining talent.”

The advertiser

But when observations have been made and ads have been created, there’s still a lot to be done. “An advertiser’s job does not end at that - it also includes judging how the work has behaved in the market. If the ad hasn’t done well then we need to look into changing the strategy. Sometimes you also need to explain to your clients why the particular ad is not working. Many a time, this is an area where the client doesn’t fully understand where the communication has not been successful. Sometimes the product in itself needs to be looked at again or the strategy needs to be worked on to make it better.”

There do exist some clients, she notes, that actually take the time out to listen to the feedback the agencies have to give and even work towards bettering their communication. She explains, “The advertisers themselves have evolved as they have some advertising people working for them internally. Somewhere, that has helped as it makes life easier for agencies because there is somebody similar to us on the client side who understands what we’re talking about, the processes that have to be gone through before an ad can be called complete or understanding
the context in which we provide feedback.”

Rawat would like advertisers to allow agencies to be 'more creative'. “When we were entering in the industry, people used to look up to industry seniors (they still do) like Mohammed Khan or Piyush Pandey. Advertisers had faith in them that they are the people who equally believe in advertising and the brand they are advertising for. Going forward, I would love for advertisers to believe in us a lot more. Most of the time the advertisers think that because they are paying an agency, we just have to do what we’re told. It then becomes difficult for us to explain to them why a certain piece of communication will not work and how to fix it.”

Work wish

Ask Rawat which is the brand, whether closer to home or abroad, she would like to work for and pat comes the reply: “Diesel! I’ve always wanted to be a part of the Diesel campaigns because they’re so like me. I can relate to those ads and I just wish I was a part of them. They keep coming out with edgy stuff every time so they’re never predictable. I just love their work.”

(This article first appeared in Campaign India issue dated 31 October 2014)

Campaign India

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