[Interview] Celebrating Mother's Day & then returning to life as usual is tokenism: Burzin Mehta, Ogilvy

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Burzin Mehta

Being in the industry for more than two decades, Burzin Mehta has managed some iconic brands like Johnnie Walker, Dove, McDonald's, and more. He takes us through the changing nature of the Indian ad industry & the need for the hour.

Burzin Mehta, Group Creative Director, Ogilvy believes in having the right attitude to work in the advertising industry. The industry expert sheds light on the essence of branding, shares tips for freshers, and more in this exclusive interview with Social Samosa.


Do you think the very definition of creativity has changed over the years, wherein campaigns are more story-oriented as opposed to brand/product-oriented?   

Not really. David Ogilvy sold Rolls Royce leading with the story of a clock. Neil French sold Beck's with a few encouraging words for the totally incompetent. And Piyush Pandey used an ingenious fisherman to sell FeviKwik. 

What's probably changed is that brands are now consciously more purpose-driven. As a result of which, the stories they tell are increasingly more purpose than product-driven. 

Ogilvy as an agency has some of the longest-running client-agency relationships. Please share the secret sauce with us.

I don't know about a secret sauce but if there's one key ingredient, it would be 'respect' for what each one brings to the table. It sets the basis for challenging tasks, analyzing things, and creating work in the right spirit. Because irrespective of the process, we all succeed or fail as a collective.

In terms of regional languages, differently-abled individuals, and other such diversities - how can the advertising industry be more inclusive? 

A good start would be to stop viewing things we're not familiar with, or don't readily relate to, as not normal. Whether it is people, cultures, habits, languages, points-of-views, the differences are as normal or otherwise, as we choose to make them. 

As an industry, we need to partner with clients to make the inclusivity part of a brand's DNA. And the first step would be to avoid making a film celebrating moms on Mother's Day or a Facebook post on World Mental Health Day and return to life as usual. That's mere tokenism.

Can we move on from simply showing people of varying body types or people from the LGBTQ community or people in wheelchairs, in our ads and start hiring them? Can we make them part of the creation process? Because only then will it be possible to actually reflect the world we and our consumers live in. And there's enough evidence to show that reflecting life in all its diversity is not only good for the world, but it's also good for business. 

The more normal we make it look, the more normal it'll become. 

The Unstereotype Alliance, the 3% Conference, Free The Work, Creative Equals, See It Be It are just some of the many initiatives individuals and organizations have taken to set the industry on the right course. Actively participating in them would be the quickest way to begin making a lasting difference.

What will be your advice to freshers who wish to be a part of the advertising industry? 

Find out as much as you can about the business. It's not everything Mad Men portrayed it to be - for better or worse. The best way to do that would be to intern at as many different places as you can. And if you do finally decide to take the plunge, do it for the right reasons. Do it because there's nothing in the world you want to do more. 

Also read: Digital doesn’t have few metrics like that on television: Amogh Dusad, SonyLIV

As Marketers and Advertisers set out on the Road to 2020, what are the-

3 Trends they should follow

  • Mass Personalisation. It sounds like an oxymoron and probably is, but a clever combination of technologies and tools is making it possible to customize communication like never before. In an environment that's chasing marketing efficiencies, this will probably attract a disproportionate amount of attention.   
  • Consumer Privacy- As the use of data, big and small, plays a larger role across the marketing spectrum, it is data leakage and consumer privacy that's likely to hog the conversation in 2020. Especially with the US elections on the anvil and regulations like GDPR and from January 1, CCPA also coming into play. All of which will force us to rethink how we manage and safeguard customer data. 
  • Micro-influencers - They score higher on trust because they're perceived to be more 'like me'. They offer greater engagement. Because there are so many, they also provide substantial reach. They don't cost as much because they're not celebrities, yet resulting in greater ROI.

3 Changes they should bring about to build a Trusted Brand

Avoid tokenism. Do it, because you mean it.

For example, it's perfectly fine not celebrating Women's Equality Day. As opposed to releasing that mandatory post on social media and having a gender pay-gap or a board with unequal representation.

Be Accessible

Since so much communication now involves a direct dialogue with customers, being accessible always helps. Especially on social media, where consumers expect to not only be heard but responded too in a hurry.  

Stay Human

Avoid being a faceless entity headquartered in a faraway land. Or an IVR that offers no access to a real voice. In a world that's perfecting the art of machine learning, don't we all still prefer interacting with humans?

As a jury member for #SS30Under30, what is the one quality you will look out for in the participants?

A positive, winning attitude.

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