The last time Pelle Sjoenell, the worldwide chief creative officer at BBH, was in India, two major events took place -- Donald Trump was elected and Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation.
This time around, barely a few days after Sjoenell left Mumbai, the city was hit by one of the worst rainstorms in recent years.
But BBH is creating the advertising equivalent of a creative storm in the global context. “I have the responsibility to take the BBH brand to newer places. This year we won a BAFTA. We have never done that before it's a big thing for us,” he says speaking about Black Sheep Studios, the video production unit at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and Somesuch that won a Bafta in February 2017 for a short film about the refugee crisis.
“We make actual real entertainment, that we have part-produced. Our agency has changed every year. We stand for difference and the difference is in changing ourselves,” says Sjoenell. So if 2017 has been about the BAFTA then what is 2018 going to be about? “Well, I hope it's about the Oscar,” he says without a second thought.
“It should be about other places we have never gone. It should be about things that we never saw coming. That's the exciting thing. But it's absolutely possible,” he continues. While BBH may be bridging the gap between advertising and entertainment globally, in India, the lament that one often hears is that global creative powerhouses like BBH might have giant reputations globally, but the magic is missing in India. Sjoenell is quick to defend that allegation. “I am very excited to see the work on Abbott, Coverfox and Uber. There is a great momentum here,” he says.
“I am looking at India as a place where the work goes global as opposed to creating great work that is created for the country only,” he says.
Globally, BBH has seen a lot of churn at the top including legends like Nick Kendall, Jim Carroll and Emma Cookson moving out. When legends move out of the brand then how do you retain the magic?
“Every legacy brand has to renew itself. You have to figure out which parts will never change and which parts have to change. The agency model of the future is the one that can change. If the world is going to move on, then we have to move with it. But their legacy will never leave. We still quote Nick, talk about Jim, Emma and the others whom I have had the privilege to work with,” he says.
(To be updated)