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Ad land’s Young Guns: Prashant Kohli, The Glitch, Delhi

Prashant Kohli, Creative Director, The Glitch, Delhi, truly holds one of the strongest associations with the agency and has been that one person who has grown The Glitch Delhi’s team and has introduced creative fluidity within the structure with absolute ease.

Graduating from the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Kohli has been a master of all things stories. From narrating to crafting, Kohli’s fascination with stories was not just limited to himself, it grew beyond audiences and across mediums.

Today, Kohli owns and is truly the face of the creative status that The Glitch is famous for. From crafting strategies for variety of brands and products, to delivering equal magnitude of business solving ideas for them, Kohli’s love for stories continues and he, therefore, is the perfect Creative Director The Glitch could ever ask for.

What does it takes to climb up the ladder in advertising? Here’s Prashant Kohli in his own words...

How did you get into the role you are serving?
I started my professional career as an engineer and happened to work with under a wise leader at TCS. On a rather unproductive day (for me), he suggested that my heart didn’t belong in software consulting and that I should consider a career in Media. He went onto say, with all his wisdom, that why can’t I be the next Prasoon Joshi. I was blank. I went back to my work desk and googled Mr Joshi. That was my first exposure to advertising. Everything from there has been a stiff cocktail of good decisions, bad mistakes and amazing people who have influenced me. The role I am currently in – Planning & Creatives – is something that I have walked into very recently and am still trying to wrap my head around it. 

What particular skill sets do you think you bring to the table?
Creative confidence, backed by strong planning and understanding of the consumer need and business goals, ability to grow with people and most importantly, a huge appetite for disruption.

One campaign that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Please take us through the making of the campaign.

This is the most recent one in my memory that had a significant impact on my professional outlook – ‘Strong To The Bone’ for Women’s Horlicks. 

I have always been a very realistic professional. But this campaign made me realise that a story, true to the soul of the brand, told creatively with empathy can truly impact – even if it is to one person. 

When we started work on this, I had never been exposed to health and nutrition category. While each business has its own nature, the very essence of healthcare is to be empathetic towards people you are serving. Empathy, which manifests itself in what you say to them, how you say it, and what you hope they will feel when you’re done talking. 

We had made ‘Strong To The Bone’ pocket badges to be shared with our audience through the campaign. A few months after the excitement of brand lift studies and mind-boggling number of impressions was over, I came across a Facebook post. A lady had written:

“It is one of those emotionally draining days

As I sat quietly, controlling tears,

Sonny walks by, flashes a warm smile, puts this badge in my hand

and walks off

No words spoken. None needed.

And the spring is back :)”

Along with it, she posted the picture of the same badge in her hand. 

I don’t think she was thinking bone strength that day. I don’t think her Sonny realised what the badge was about. But the fact that you created something simple enough for even a child to understand, and moving enough for him to give it to his mom in a weak moment, is an ROI only empathy can create. 

While working on the creatives, how do you prepare yourself? What goes on in your mind?
It starts with dropping the garb of an advertiser and stepping into the consumer’s shoe. See what fits, what feels good, what looks good, what about the shoe wouId make me talk to my friends about it and reverse engineer the shoe to be in sync with the brand personality.

My mind is always full of questions – Does it excite me? Does it meet the objective? Will I be able to justify the ROI? While finding answers to these questions is a matter of good teamwork, one question I always spend a lot of time on, is how to package all of this as a good story – Engaging enough for the brand to invest in, and Exciting enough for the consumer to engage with.

Icons in advertising you look up to and how they have influenced you and your work?

There are quite a few, but on top of my mind are some people whose work I always look at for pure inspiration, which includes George Lois: “I want My MTV” campaign. Most of the brands today are dying to connect with the ‘Millennials’, but I’m sure Lois has a thing or two to tell them. He also pretty much set the platform for Tommy Hilfiger to either make or break his business. 

Lee Clow: I don’t even need to say anything except that he was the brain behind Apple’s ‘1984’ Superbowl commercial. Also, as a side note, he also created the Energizer Bunny. 

Dan Wieden & David Kennedy: True Legends – Nike, Coca Cola, ESPN, Honda. The Indian chapter of W+K handles some of my personal favourite brands – Enfield and Indigo, along with other global alliances. 

And one man, I absolutely adore would be Piyush Pandey. The reason is simple, whether it’s ‘Dum Laga Ke Hai Sha’ for Fevicol, ‘Kya Swaad Hai Zindagi Mein’ by Cadbury’s, or the epic ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ – he has pretty much been at the helm of the forces that have shaped Indian Advertising. 

Being a part of the Indian advertising community, I can relate very closely to his work. And his consistently disruptive creatives, backed by a strong cultural context, is something any and every aspiring advertiser should watch over and over again. I still do. 

What are the five most productive things that you do in your everyday routine?

  • Make action items out of every discussion at work
  • Accept only necessary meeting invites
  • 15 minutes of planning the day
  • 60 minutes of crossfit
  • And one thing I am trying to make a routine – Checking e-mails before it is too late. Can anyone help on how to make this happen?

Do you think a career in advertising is a viable one in the long term?

Advertising for me has brought heartache, recognition, mental peace, a realisation of importance of good health – while all this has added up to the person I am now, it has been extremely overwhelming at the same time. The one thing that has kept me going is the discovery of who I am not, and what I cannot do – I think an advertising career is viable in long term so far as I get to experiment with, fail, learn and succeed in different roles. 

Professions by their very nature can be restrictive. They can make ambitions seem smaller than what they truly are. My hack is to find new things within advertising that keep fuelling my ambitions.

 

What does it take to succeed in a career like advertising?

Advertising is a little different from other careers in my opinion, because of the chaotic nature of ecosystem we exist in. The same chaos that allows everyone to bring their true personalities to the work place, adds further to the madness. 

In such a high entropy state, being able to attach, detach and reattach yourself goes a long way. I try to not get married to my ideas, but I do love them with the madness of Romeo while they last. I try to not let people get to me, but I do give them my honest consideration, while we are still engaging. It’s something I have learnt watching MS Dhoni at work – Don’t take no sorries or thank you’s home. But deliver them genuinely and accept them with humility.

What would be your advice to youngsters planning to enter this industry?
We are in a business of constant rejections. Assuming you get 10 ideas in your head – you reject four of them, your Creative Director rejects three of those, and Business Director two, and if there is anything left by then, be assured the client will reject it 50 per cent of the times. And this goes on day after day, everyday – for years – till you move from lower rungs of being rejected to higher rungs of rejecting others. The one thing that stays constant – Rejection. 

Your ego will be hurt, your confidence shattered, and you will drown your pride in unlimited pitchers of cheap beer – and after years of this – you will MAYBE strike creative gold. 

So don’t be an ass. Learn to accept rejections; learn to accept people around you. Work with them, celebrate small victories, and give each other a pat on a back once in a while. Just try not to get desensitised by overexposure to human emotions and follies. And whatever is thrown at you – make it better. 

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Teaching for sure. Traveling a lot more. One of my close acquaintances professionally is an Australian gentleman, whose advertising career spans across four continents – building brands, conversations and businesses. I definitely aspire to experience different cultures, and I do believe business of communication is a great way to achieve that. 

Is there any agency/ organisation that you would like to work with in the future?

I am extremely excited about the future of The Glitch. I have been a part of the journey since the very beginning – actively and passively. And standing where we are today, I believe this is the set of people and culture that I want to be a part of, for foreseeable future. 

I do, however, wish to jam with Dan Wieden, Lee Clow and Piyush Pandey on a campaign someday – at the same time. Now wouldn’t THAT be something?

 

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