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Ad Land’s Young Guns: Sonia Sharda, WATConsult

A digital marketing professional with over seven and a half years’ of experience, Sonia Sharda, Regional Head - (West) Operations, WATConsult, has been successfully transforming digital presence of some key brands. Sharda has been associated with WATConsult for more than 2 years. With international and national experience in digital marketing, she has efficiently managed several government brands as well as OEMs in levelling up their Brand identity in the digital ecosystem.

How did you get into the role you are serving?

My interest in the marketing field led me to pursue my Masters in Public Relations and Post Graduate Diploma in Advertising & Media. When I started working, back in 2013, the digital ecosystem in India was rather nascent, which led me to explore international markets like the Middle East, where I built the digital arm of one of the bigger PR agencies, Orient Planet, from ground up. This marked the beginning of
my foray into digital and now at WATConsult, I continue my journey to help brands build their digital presence.

What particular skill sets do you think you bring to the table?

More than skill sets, it is important to be able to understand a brand’s vision and have the ability to translate it into a workable solution touching the pulse of the audience.

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

There have been many, but it is difficult to pick one. When it comes to digital, the key to success is to remain topical while touching the emotional chord of the audience and one such campaign that I am particularly proud of is the one we recently did for Tata Motors’ Harrier – #LanguageOfHumanity. The campaign was aimed at creating awareness on the importance of considering sign language and stimulate the feeling of inclusivity on International Day of Sign Languages. The campaign subtly took ahead the brand’s philosophy of positioning its flagship product, Harrier, #AboveAll in its true sense.

While working on the creatives how do you prepare yourself? What goes on in your mind?

Be it big or small, every campaign goes through the same journey of strategy planning, conceptualisation, followed by execution. Creatives form the core of any campaign, and personally, I ensure that the brand messaging is well represented, keeping the audience sensibilities in mind. The overall strategic approach should be at the forefront of any storytelling that help bring conversations back to your brand.

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

Fernando Machado, the Global Chief Marketing Officer at Burger King, is an icon I look forward to working with at some point. Fernando is known for pushing the creative boundaries to drive business growth and has been a big influence for me.

What are the five most productive things that you do in your everyday routine?
I’m a self-confessed OCD, and it works in my favour. I like things organised and planned; in our line of work, you always need to have a Plan B and being able to identify all the possible variables attached at the planning stage itself helps in managing the chaos that ensues with any last minute changes.

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

With the rise of social media and heightened internet penetration, integrated marketing communications becomes all the more important for businesses. Thus, opening up newer avenues for individuals looking to enter the field and now is as good a time as any to take the plunge.

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

Advertising, or marketing for that matter, is a burgeoning industry and to succeed in it, one has to follow the three key rules – know your audience, know your brand and know the trends. Success in this field is an amalgamation of the conviction you have in your ideas and how well you are able to integrate those with the brand. The ability to think out of the box and adapt yourself to the changing times will ensure success and longevity for one. Learn, Unlearn and Relearn is a three-tier process that will help you and your advertising ideas stay current and ahead in this ‘VUCA world’.

What would be your advice to youngsters planning to enter this industry?

Many believe that if you are creative then advertising is your field; what they fail to understand is that creativity can only take you so far. Your never-say-die attitude is what will take you places and earn the respect of peers and clients alike. My only piece of advice to youngsters planning to join this industry is that they should learn and grow on both creativity + management. They go hand in hand. None survives without the other.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

It is not about where but about what I make of myself in the next five years that is of importance. I should be in a place where I have honed my skills to a level that enables me to ride the headwinds brought on by the ever evolving business landscape and still continue to grow. Short-sighted gains by means of the next job or the next designation is the reason why many fail. Knowledge precedes success.

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

What I’m doing currently and the marquee brands that I’m associated with at WATConsult have helped me learn a lot and keep me in a good headspace. I am focusing on this role and the learning every day, ensuring I do good work.

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