Karan Rawat : Interview With A CCO

Karan Rawat is the Founder and CCO of Autumnwinter Communications & Design

Started his career at McCann Erickson after graduating from the Sir JJ School of Applied Arts. He then moved to JWT, followed by Enterprise Nexus. Grey Worldwide was his next stepping-stone, which preceded him taking up responsibility as the President & Executive Creative Director at Umbrella Design. Karan also pursued his other passion and studied filmmaking from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) and went on to assist Ram Gopal Varma for a year. He started / founded his own design and advertising agency AUTUMNWINTER COMMUNICATIONS & DESIGN in 2014. He has handled the prestigious brand ‘Killer Jeans’ for more than 10 years and carved a niche for the brand. Other brands include Times of India, Femina, Coke, Close-Up, Lawman Pg3, Integriti Clothing, Reliance Communications, Raymond, Vimal to name a few. Karan has won more than 100 awards, national as well as international. In the first year, his agency AW picked up maximum awards to be at the no. 1 position in the design category and no. 6 in the overall rankings at Goafest 2014. In 2016, it retained its good form and claimed the no. 7 position in the overall tally.

Why are you into Advertising?
I was never an academic student. I hated studying, I hated sports, but I loved drawing. I loved sketching and expressing my observations on paper through a pencil, so the choice of going to JJ School of Arts was something that just came naturally. More than planning my future in advertising, I was organically drawn to the subject and then there was no looking back. It’s been 20 years since.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or communications?
I graduated from the college doing design and communication.

You have won so many awards etc. How has that impacted your career?
Fortunately all the awards I have won till date are for real work. My lineage is from the Mohammad Khan School of advertising where we did some great work for brands, which eventually converted into awards. He never believed in scam work and till this day I believe in that philosophy. On the design and art direction front I was thoroughly trained under Ramu (Bhupal Ramnathkar). These two people have greatly influenced and impacted my career. Not to forget all my clients, especially Killer jeans, Lawman Pg3, Integriti, Ruff, & Peppermint — who continue to put their trust in me, my team, our work and allowed me to execute some great campaigns.

Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
It’s actually other way round. It’s not that the brand wins awards and ads are then later released in the market. In most cases, they do very well in the market and therefore it becomes eligible for submission and the success of the campaign becomes a stronger case study for winning the award. But yes, there are exceptional cases where the work has been done only for awards and hence it has failed in the market.

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
Back in 90’s and early 2000, work from Trikaya Grey, Nexus Equity, Ambience, Contract & Enterprise — especially in print medium — was really ahead of its time. I distinctly remember the joy of waking up every morning to a newspaper full of beautifully art directed and well written advertisements. They were a source of inspiration for me. I would define those as the golden years of print ads in Indian advertising. So to sum it up, yes, I had many role models.

Who was the most influential personality on your career in Advertising?
Oliviero Toscani & Luciano Benetton
His advertising campaign is the one that inspired me greatly, and the one that I admire the most for its boldness and controversy. With “United Colors of Benetton” (Italian brand), he really broke all the rules in the fashion category and therefore it will always remain way ahead of its time. I also really admire the guts of the client, Luciano Benetton, who gave full power and creative freedom to Toscani, which converted into such a forward thinking campaigns that were released in the market.
This is a true example of a great client and great creative director coming together and making something legendary. This is the inspiration for every creative director, agency and client relationship.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Anything and everything inspires me. I don’t limit myself. Like for example, I truly like the simplicity and minimalistic approach towards design and architecture from Japan and at the same time the very busy, floral, gothic, vintage art and architecture from Europe. And not to forget our very own kitsch art and all the mahals, palaces, temple’s and paintings of the bygone era. And last but not the least…NATURE.
World cinema and selected mainline cinema inspires me a lot and that unknowingly reflects my work. I like Anurag Kashyap’s style of filmmaking. I think he is one of the finest directors we have in this country, also Shekar Kapur. He is such a treasure for our industry but I guess we have lost him. I really love Stanley Kubrick films, they were all truly brilliant.
The fashion industry is also one of my great inspirations. I truly admire the work of Manish Arora, Tom Ford, Renzo Rosso (Diesel) and Balmain after taking over by his Creative Director, Olivier Rousteing. I love the madness of the photographer David LaChapelle and simplicity of late Prabuddha Dasgupta.

Tell us something about the work environment at your agency…
We love to create good work. We love to enjoy life too. We work hard. We party hard. There are no rules since it’s a small outfit. The brief from the client decides the number of hours we need to put in. And the weather decides if we need to go home. Happy place it is.

How do you motivate your team to push the envelope repeatedly?
I believe in the philosophy “you are as good as your last piece of work”.

Do you have any kind of a program to nurture and train young talent? 
I am really very particular about hiring new talent, I look for people who are passionate, honest, hardworking and most importantly, a bit twisted in their thinking. It’s not that easy to get into AW.  About nurturing young talent, I just throw them into a deep end and surprisingly watch them swim instantly. The invisible float is always at help, which is eventually removed as they grow. It’s a different way of nurturing but trust me it works and they become experts very soon. Young talent has always inspired me and in this process I too get nurtured. I believe that young and old should always co-exist.

What about new and young film makers/photographers? Do you consciously keep looking for newer talent and try someone completely new?
I always work with the best in the industry, but at the same time I do give chance to the young talent. But only someone who thinks differently and has freshness to his or her work. I also like to work with international talents, be it a director, photographer, editor, illustrator or a musician. I like to take risks with unexplored talents, and till date I have always got fantastic results.

What do you think of the state of Print advertising right now? At least here in India, the released work is most often too sad? 
India has more than 70,000 newspapers and is the biggest newspaper market in the world, over 100 million copies sold each day. Magazines are also on the rise, though less compared to newspapers. It is so ironic that with print being such a big industry now, we are at the worst phase where agencies and creative people are taking less interest in the medium. 95% of print work is garbage here in India. Every morning reading the newspaper has become an eyesore because of extremely bad advertisements, with no sense of art direction and writing. I am surprised that now even top agencies do some of the worst print ads in this country. We used to look up to them earlier. But now most of the agencies mainly focus on film and digital content, and that is the core reason why print has been neglected. The art directors have lost interest and are diverting their focus on other mediums like filmmaking or ad films. I see most of the good print ads in the awards show only. There are very few agencies that take this medium very seriously. ANC (Alok Nanda & company) is one of them. I think they have kept the fire of the print medium alive. But my hope is that it’s a phase, which will pass soon.

Any notable digital campaigns?
Diesel’s Pornhub ads specially made for the digital space is a very successful campaign. In this complex digital world they proved that a simple idea is the key to success. It was the first fashion brand to place ads on a porn website with the content specially designed for the site…it was a very brave move and hence paid off very well.

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals? 
1) Think of an idea from your mind and not from a computer…don’t let machines take over your creativity, use the computer as a tool.
2) Make brands, not awards. You will survive for long in the industry.
3) If you are an art director, make sure you read and understand the copy before you start art directing. And if you’re a writer, understand the essence of art direction. And for both sides, try to understand the problem of the brand and come up with a solution but not at the cost of the so-called “award winning work”. Do real solid work and if you change the course of the brand with fresh thinking, then awards will follow.

What is your dream project?
I don’t believe in dream projects…I believe in the real ones. All the good work I am trying to do for all my clients are what you can say, my dream projects. It’s been a fruitful journey of 3 years and from 2 people we have grown to 12 with our own little office. We are content and happy with all the work we are doing. I want to grow organically.

Mac or PC?
Mac of course!

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
If it’s a dinner date then I would like to take Charlize Theron, just because of her beauty and the way she portrays her role in each movie. I think she is one of the finest actors in Hollywood. And if its something related to creativity and conversation then definitely, I would have loved to meet Stanley Kubrick. But sadly, neither can really happen!

What’s on your iPod?
I don’t have one

What’s your Twitter Handle?
Not on there too, yet!






2 thoughts on “Karan Rawat : Interview With A CCO

  1. Saumya says:

    Completely agree with you on the state of the print. But why do you hire so many firangi models for your ads? Indian models are not good enoigh?

  2. karan says:

    hi saumya…AW specialises in fashion and lifestyle and most of our brands if you see we work or i have previously worked upon are all denim/jeans/western clothing category. also we compete with all the international brands and hence to keep up to the competition and aspiration we use international talent..but once around 15/20 years back here it was a strategy and now its a necessity.

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