Ms.Lalitha Vaidyanath (Senior Creative Director at J.Walter Thompson Hyderabad) recently visited IIM Indore as a speaker at Colloquium – the annual business conclave organized by the Industry Interaction Cell of the institute. The theme this year was ‘Marketing – Strategy, science or sorcery?’. Ms. Lalitha delivered an engaging talk about how targeting the right people the right way through advertising can change lives and even impact communities for the better. She added that advertising as a process has changed from being a one-sided monologue to an enriching conversation or an experience that has become pervasive. We caught up with her after the talk, and here is what she had to say about the field of advertising–
Jasmine: So one very interesting thing that I found out while reading up about advertising was that the first female copywriter was from JWT. In fact JWT even has a scholarship for young creative women in her name – the Helen Landsterne scholarship. It definitely appears then that JWT has particular interest in encouraging women to join this field. How strong is that spirit in the Indian advertising industry? How are female copywriters treated here? How far do they go?
Lalitha: Women actually do bring a lot to the table in the field of advertising. In fact, not just as copywriters but across the board, you have a lot of women making significant contributions in JWT and every other agency. But then advertising itself as an industry has quite a few women. There aren’t a lot of hierarchical issues, as the organisational structure is relatively semi-flat and flexible, so the concept of glass ceiling is perhaps not as reinforced in advertising because of that.
Hence it draws women to these jobs. Personally, I also feel that on an average, women have good aptitude for writing and graphic art. So there is a lot of scope for them in art and copy, and now a lot of women are playing a huge role in planning as well. Advertising is all about striking a chord with the consumers. By nature women are empathetic, so perhaps that’s why they fit in so well here. Honestly, it’s a very fascinating and interesting industry to work in, whether you’re a man or a woman.
Nike’s Da Da Ding song ad
Jasmine: That’s right. Even as outsiders, we see advertising as a very dynamic industry. In popular culture, like say movies, if one of the characters is from the advertising industry, they’re shown to be staying up nights, doing a lot of creative brainstorming, and also being quite a bit of a social butterfly. How true to reality is this image?
Lalitha: There’s actually a lot of hard work involved. What you see there is the glamorous part. For example, when I showed you guys the Da da ding ad for Nike featuring Deepika Padukone during the presentation, I could see all of you collectively thinking ‘wow this looks really amazing’. I myself have shot ad films with different celebrities. And I can vouch for the hard work which goes on behind the scenes. You can’t be over-awed by these elements while working. What you see as the consumer is a very snazzy TVC; what we see as the creators is the grit that it takes to make it.
Jasmine: So on an average how long would a good TVC like that take to make?
Lalitha: It depends. If you’re talking about going right from the ideating process, then it could range from anything between a week or two. Sometimes you just get a good idea in a flash; sometimes it takes a lot of time. It depends on the product, on the briefing, on the approval etc. Some clients just lap up the first idea because they liked it instantly. Some clients keep coming back to you asking for more improvements, giving suggestions, till they get the wow factor. But usually for a TVC to be produced , right from the ideation, going through the pre-production, going to the shoot, then the post-production, and then finally the final edit and bringing out the film, it could take 30-45 days.
Jasmine: At the beginning of your talk you spoke about how being right brained or left brained can change your approach to things. As management students a lot of us aren’t very sure which side we come from because we more or less learn just about everything between hard core analytical skills to interpersonal skills. How likely is it for management students to enter a creative field like advertising and make it big there?
Lalitha: I’d say most management students are left-brainers. I’ve seen them to be more verbal and analytical. Right now there are so many management grads in advertising. Recruiters from advertising agencies are loving the mix of skills that they get from these graduates. So I’d say the chances of management student making it big in advertising are pretty high.
The Life Saving Dot campaign
Jasmine: Another thing that we regularly get to hear in management school is the whole spiel about how we need to brand ourselves as individuals. ‘Self branding’ as a concept is becoming so important now because everyone is becoming increasingly competent and in order to make yourself stand out in the madness of the job world, you need to work smart. As someone who deals with the concept of branding on a daily basis, could you tell us how to get it right as individuals?
Lalitha: It’s true that ‘self-branding’ is becoming really important these days. Even recruiters today don’t look at students as just black and white. They recognise that there are many parts of you and they actively seek out more well-rounded individuals. They don’t just look for pure academics anymore. There is so much more beyond that, especially in a field like advertising.
Jasmine: One last question that I’d like to pose to you is this – since creative industries like advertising are so much about real time reactions, could you give me one example of a crisis handling situation that you’ve had to go through which really taught you a lot.
Lalitha: Every campaign is a crisis, Jasmine *laughs*. I say that because every client believes that they need to have what they want right NOW otherwise their world will end. They want their campaigns out within unrealistic deadlines, which is why it gets pretty crazy in there sometimes, but we signed up for the challenge!
About Lalitha Vaidyanath: As the senior creative director at J.Walter Thompson India and an advertising doyenne, Lalitha has worked on a hard range of sectors and clients like Hyundai Santro, Royal Enfield, Mitsubishi Motors, TTK Healthcare, Sun Direct DTH, ColorPlus, Sify, Eenadu, Murugappa group, Cholamandalam Finance, Muthoot Fincorp, UNICEF, World Vision among others. She has been at places like Saatchi & Saatchi, Everest, Maa Bozell, Mudra, McCann, and a clutch of creative boutiques across Hyderabad, Bangalore and at Chennai. She brings over 2 decades of experience to the table besides enthusiasm and passion for the written word. Her interests include yoga, voluntary service and armchair psychology.