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Ad land’s Young Guns: Karan Rana, Cheil

Karan Rana, Director of Planning – Digital, Cheil, has been working for eight years and has played multiple roles in various digital advertising agencies. He has handled clients like Maruti Suzuki, Tata Docomo, GAP, Max Life Insurance, and Coca-Cola, among others. Currently working as Director - Digital Planning at Cheil India, Rana joined the company in October 2015 and has been handling select businesses of Samsung India. 

Here’s a look at what gets this young gun blazing... 

How did you get into the role you are serving?
I have always been a reader from my childhood days, I read anything and everything – from a newspaper ad to a soap-packaging. This meant I ended up reading, remembering and retaining information, which further helped me when I got into advertising. Soon after completing my Mass Communication, I started working as a digital marketing professional and while everybody else around me were getting trained by reading up marketing theories in their MBA, I was getting trained in the real world. 

I started my career almost eight years ago when digital media was at a nascent stage, since then I have worked in various aspects of digital – be it social media, SEO or client handling. I have always been looking for newer challenges because of which I have had diverse roles throughout my working stint. My decision of coming into Digital Planning at Cheil was the next big thing for me as I had to use all my experience in order to take some of the most evolved brands on digital to the next level. 

What particular skill sets do you think you bring to the table?
I truly believe that there is no original idea in this world, everything is inspired. Inspiration can come from anywhere – be it a movie, an ad or a real life event. My specialty is the fact that I have always been very aware of my surroundings, which helps me articulate a particular brief with examples. 

The second most important point is the fact that I have worked in various departments of digital media, hence I understand how the platform works. Understanding the platform, I feel, is the single biggest challenge in my domain because unless you know the game you can’t be a player. 

One campaign that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Please take us through the making of the campaign.
The launch of the recent Samsung J2 and J2 Pro mobile phone is my personal favourite. The J2/J2 Pro was all set tolaunch in a market set-up, where Chinese brands offer GBs of RAM and higher processing speeds while Samsung wanted to focus on the actual user experience. The phone had certain software advancements that boasted the speed of the phone and provided a smarter and lag free performance. 

With the product and our communication we were not just challenging the existing mindset, but were giving the youth bragging rights to own a Samsung J2/J2 Pro. Our ‘ideal’ was that the true value of a phone should never be summed up by numbers, but by the experience one deserves from it. Ultimately, the campaign was about shifting the conversation from specifications to the experience of the phone. 

The idea was expressed in the campaign with the overarching message of ‘Live Non-Stop’
Here is the link to the film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW9OTjDnpZo 

One of the reasons why I love working at Cheil is the fact that we work in synergy. Hence, everything is planned together and every medium plays their role perfectly. Hence, once the TVC was out to the masses, we planned an activity around the Friendship Day using Shahid Kapoor and Johnny on social media.
Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYa9rxOs_Rw 

The campaign gained instant recognition in the digital space with us receiving thousands of entries. The campaign was well appreciated across channels and the TVC was ranked No. 1 for the most loved ads of 2016. 

While working on the creatives how do you prepare yourself? What goes on in your mind?
There are a set of websites that I need to visit in order to get my creative juices flowing. Before I start to comprehend a new brief, I make sure that my research has given me enough and more thought starters and finally I work with the process of elimination. The second most important ritual for me is to ask as many questions about the product/service, ‘I have to believe in the product before I can market it’. 

Icons in advertising you look up to and how they have influenced you and your work?
I don’t really have icons that I follow, but there are people who I really look up to for their creativity. Mathew Inman (the owner of Oatmeal.com) is one such individual who I routinely follow, as he is one guy who can create humour from his everyday life. Another guy who I always look up to is Tim Urban, who is the creator/ manager/ sustainer/ coder/ sketcher of WAITBUTWHY.COM. This website has a scientific explanation to everything that you can imagine. 

What are the five most productive things that you do in your everyday routine?
1) Visit Mashable.com first thing in the morning and make sure I get one piece of information which is share-worthy.

2) I internally prepare before making final presentation in front of the client. I completely believe in 99 per cent planning and 1 per cent execution.

3) I love reading. It just gives me more topics to discuss and keeps me aware.

4) I download one new app every week. Love downloading the most random apps on my phone to just keep myself updated.

5) I write everything down on a piece of paper before I put it down on a presentation slide. This really helps me visualise as to how it will eventually look. 

Do you think a career in advertising is a viable one in the long term?
Advertising is meant for a certain breed of people, it is definitely not for everyone. I personally have seen people who have spent a lifetime in advertising and still love doing it from the bottom of their heart. Hence, a career in advertising is not just viable it is probably one of the better options available given that you have the hunger for it. 

What does it take to succeed in a career like advertising?
You should have an open mind and be a learner. As a trainee, you can be taken to school by your boss or as a boss you can be taken to school by a trainee. Stay grounded and keep learning. 

What would be your advice to youngsters planning to enter this industry?
Youngsters who are planning to enter advertising should be very receptive; there is something to learn at every turn. Another very important thing is to become an early adopter of technology; you should not be against switching from one platform to another. 

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I have been a part of some great campaigns in the past eight years and have learnt something new every day; I would really want to continue that. To gather enough knowledge and influence so that I can spearhead digital marketing as the primary point of focus across agencies and brand. 

Is there any agency/ organisation that you would like to work with in the future?
I would love to work for a major automobile player in the world.

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