Harshada Menon : In Conversation With An Advertising Creative

Harshada Menon is a Group Creative Director at DDB India. She started her career at FCB India before moving to Ogilvy.
In 2018, she was one of the 20 women across the world, chosen for the Cannes Lions See It Be It program. She was also on the jury for the first ever Gerety Awards, awards judged by women creative leaders across the world. With an experience of over 14 years, Harshada’s work has won recognition, nationally and internationally.
Apart from being a creative leader, Harshada is a mother of a five-year old girl. She believes that the industry needs more mothers in leadership positions to make ideas more relevant and to give younger women role models to look up to.

Why are you into Advertising?
While I got into advertising by accident, I choose to stay in it by choice. Where else does one get to work on potato chips on Monday, whisky on Tuesday, a bank on Thursday and condoms on Friday? Every day brings in something new. Something challenging. Something that needs solving. The unpredictability is what I’m here for. It’s exciting and fearsome, to tell a memorable story, build a brand and sell a product, all at once. Advertising gives you an opportunity to be part of culture, or make it even. Today, advertising is so much more than just advertising. It’s equal part technology, innovation and creativity. All this is just mind-blowingly exciting for me to stick around.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
Yes. I complete my Bachelor’s in Mass Media and then went on to study advertising at the Mudra Institute of Communications.

Tell us something about your experience when chosen by Cannes Lions for a “Women Leadership See It Be It”. Why do you think you were selected by Cannes Lions?
See It Be It, was a life-changing experience for me, both professionally and personally. As part of the program, I met some extraordinary women leaders from across the world. It made me realise that women everywhere face the same challenges that we do here. And also that we are doing very little to change that. It was mad inspiring to hear stories of these amazing women and how they did what they did. They spoke about everything from racism, biases at workplace, mental health, motherhood, acceptance and sexual preferences, and so much more. It showed me that leaders can be of all kinds. It doesn’t always have to be a macho, aggressive, foulmouthed man all the time. I met leaders who were kind, goofy, vulnerable, sensitive and above all, women.
The program is designed for women to learn from each other. May be they thought I had something to bring to the table. As a struggling mother and a creative leader, who was juggling many things at the same time.

Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
Definitely. Today, more than ever. Appreciation of any kind means your brand gets the visibility and screen time over others, in the market. Celebrated work gets shared and circulated within the industry, network, and audiences in different ways. It helps cement the brand trust and value in the market.

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
Not really.

Who was the most influential personality on your career in Advertising?
More than one. I am selfish when it comes to imbibing the good from people. I shamelessly take what I like from people. Someone’s great at presenting. Someone’s great at making logical points. Someone’s just great at getting things done. All the people I have worked with have influenced me in some way or the other.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
When I was at Ogilvy, I had the good fortune to dine with, the one and only, Piyush Pandey. He said one thing that will always stick to me. That ideas are nothing but little truths that you show people before they see it. It blew my mind. So simple, yet so true. Which means you can get inspired by anything and everything. Look for little truths in life and that could be your next idea!

Tell us something about the work environment at your agency…
Enter DDB and you’ll always hear laughter coming from one corner or the other. It feels like a big group of friends who have a great time together, and work in between.

Do you have any kind of a program to nurture and train young talent?
I am part of a group called Indian Creative Women. A very dear friend Sakshi Chaudhry started it a few years back. Our only aim is to help young women gain access to knowledge and other women, to help them in their creative careers. We have mentorship sessions, portfolio evenings, candid talks etc. Everything to ensure that women get the seat at the table.

What about new and young film makers/photographers? Do you consciously keep looking for newer talent and try someone completely new?
I believe in the power of new talent. They have the hunger, passion and drive to do something spectacular and that cannot be replaced. We always try and give new talent the chances it deserves. And trust me, we’ve not been disappointed.

Your favourite digital campaigns you worked on?
We did a campaign for McDonald’s last year called EatQual. That’s special for me.

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Do not give up.

What is your dream project?
Dream project is for you to make.

Mac or PC?
Mac. Always.

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
My husband and my daughter. I don’t think I get to spend enough time with them.

What’s on your iPod? Spotify?
Nothing.

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