Shouvik Tarafder : In Conversation With An Advertising Creative

A seasoned wordsmith, Shouvik has spent a decade wandering in the world of Advertising & Marketing. Prolonged exposure to the madness has left him referring to himself in the third person.
Along the way, he has made friends with Burger King, Hersheys, Nestle, Bloomberg Quint, Times of India, Goodknight, Vodafone etc. He has also channelized his love for movies into movie channels like Movies Now, Romedy Now, MNX & MN+, spearheading their creative mandates in the process.
In terms of accolades, he has bagged a few Kyoorius Elephants as well as Spikes Asia award. He also came very close to winning a Nobel Prize, but then the alarm rang!
When he is not being chased by deadlines, Shouvik likes to Netflix & Chai. Once a vociferous reader, he now only has casual flings with books on weekends. His love for world cinema often takes him down rabbit holes, as he enjoys reading up about movies almost as much as watching them.

Why are you into Advertising?
To tell stories. Every brief is an opportunity to do so. Whether it’s through a TVC, a billboard or even over Instagram stories. The mediums are constantly evolving but the crux of it all still remains the same. Tell timeless tales in the shortest time possible.
Also, there’s no other job that pays you to stare at a wall during working hours.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I did my Bachelor’s in Media Science from NSHM School of Media Communication in Calcutta. Ours was the second ever batch. So one might say we collectively took a leap of faith. And it paid off.
The fun part however, was going back to college later on as the copywriter leading the account for my agency. From brochures to ad campaigns, I did it all for my college.

You have won so many awards etc. How has that impacted your career?
There’s no denying that awards open doors where none seem to exist. But to be invited in, you need to prove your mettle (no pun intended). Awards have done just that for me. They’ve helped start conversations as our work tend to precede us.
While winning them is always special, I do believe awards don’t necessarily define a creative professional. Remember, Christopher Nolan is yet to win an Oscar.

Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the

There was a time when awards were given solely on the basis of creativity. We’ve come a long way since then. Today, it isn’t enough to just have an innovative idea which appeals to our creative sensibilities. The same should also translate to success for the brand and increased market share.
Burger King, IKEA, Nike have been consistently showing us how to use award-winning work for effective brand building.

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
The inimitable Satyajit Ray. His craft across various disciplines continue to inspire me even today. Be it filmmaking, set design, editing or music direction, he is a testament to the fact that a person can be genius in more ways than one.
And to think his professional journey started off with advertising makes it even more fascinating!

Who was the most influential personality on your career in Advertising?
My first boss. He gave me my first break. He also told me I’ll never make it as a copywriter.
If only I had taken his word!

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Long walks. Apart from the obvious health benefits, they offer a peek into countless stories happening all around us. Chai ki tapri, bus stops, bustling markets, sleepy neighbourhoods…all we need is to keep our eyes peeled and ears open.

Tell us something about a campaign (that you worked on) you are most
proud of.

Exactly 8 years back, India woke up to the horrors of the Nirbhaya incident. A lot of outrage followed but it was mostly limited to armchair activism. So when Longhand 2.0 announced its briefs, one of them was around inspiring people to show support beyond social media and actively help Delhi police. The end goal was to make the city safer for women, as part of Project Fight Back.
I was still a rookie Copywriter working at an independent ad agency in Calcutta. The brief moved me but a long copy competition to be judged by the likes of Neil French and Luke Sullivan also seemed quite intimidating. When I did muster up the courage to give it a shot, I knew what to do.
Armchair activism is a luxury and the only way to sensitize people was to make them feel uncomfortable about it. To do so, the reality of what a rape survivor has to go through was laid out in excruciating details. The copy ended with what a reader would usually do, just Like or Share.
The entry went on to be shortlisted for the finals. It didn’t win but what it gave me was the reassurance that I was cut out to be a writer. For someone young, that can make a world of difference. And it did. Over the years, I’ve been a part of much bigger campaigns but the Fight Back campaign continues to be the closest to my heart.

Do you have any kind of a program to nurture and train young talent?
I spend time with every young talent that I get to work with. Getting to know their strengths, their ambitions, what drives them etc. and then helping them grow is what I like to do. More often than not, it involves helping them find their voice. Be it as a writer or a designer.

What about new and young film makers/photographers? Do you consciously keep looking for newer talent and try someone completely new?
There is so much talent out there, it’s mind boggling. I love exploring their work because of the fresh approach they bring to the table. Trying someone new is a risky affair and we don’t get to do it in every project. But whenever we do, it usually ends in magic.

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?

Honestly, it has seen better days. Print has taken a backseat as digital has become the preferred medium for both consumers as well as clients. Between Facebook posts and WhatsApp forwards, quality print work is becoming a lost art that needs reviving. Long copy ads, anyone?

Any notable digital campaigns?
I spent a very interesting year of my career at an agency where the most demanding client was the company’s Facebook page. The page had thousands of followers and brands hired us to create the same kind of witty content for them. So when I was roped in to lead their content team, we decided to take things up a notch.
What followed next, was a series of posts for every topic, every occasion, that 2016 threw at us. From Brexit to Demonetization, The Olympics to Kohli’s golden run, the year gave us loads of talking points. And we had a say on everything. The string of posts created a consistent narrative establishing the agency as one of the biggest names in topical marketing.
One of my favourites from that “yearlong campaign” was the Diwali post I created with my art partner, Pallavi. We wanted to do something really different, so we made a rangoli design that told people to literally bugger off. The post went viral. More importantly, the rangoli design was picked up by countless followers and continues to be replicated in homes during Diwali even now.

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Life’s too short to be sad over rejected ideas.

What is your dream project?
Public Service Announcements fascinate me. They are not your usual pieces of advertising. Instead, they serve a greater purpose. Take for example the Do Boond Zindagi Ki campaign featuring Mr. Bachchan. This was long before I had joined advertising but it stuck with me as that campaign single-handedly made the nation “polio free”. My all time favourite campaign also happens to be a PSA – Dumb ways to Die. It swept the Awards scene and rightfully so, by taking a topic like death and spreading awareness like it was child’s play. Brave, irreverent and so effective!
My dream project is a PSA that will make the nation finally wake up to the importance of mental health, especially amongst our older generation. The beauty of the “Do Boond” campaign was that it not only raised awareness but also made people act on it. While a lot of work has been done to spread mental health awareness in our country, we still have a long way to go. With my dream project, I hope to make depression and anxiety commonly acknowledged illnesses, putting an end to the ignorance and stigma.

Mac or PC?
PC (Nick Jonas likes this)

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Neil Gaiman. If Amanda Palmer wants to join us, even better!

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Neil Gaiman. If Amanda Palmer wants to join us, even better!

What’s on your iPod? Spotify?
The Beatles, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Keane, Oasis, Amy Winehouse, Gregory Alan Isako, Iron & Wine

What’s your Twitter Handle? Instagram?
Instagram: Shouvikspeare

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