‘As Chairman of Soho Square, I get to set the culture of the company...’

Submitted by admin on Mon, 09/04/2017 - 12:52

Sumanto Chattopadhyay, the newly appointed Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy & Mather’s second agency brand Soho Square, talks about his new role, priorities, young talent coming into the industry, and more…


When we meet Sumanto Chattopadhyay, newly appointed Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy & Mather’s second agency brand Soho Square, he is preparing to move from his office on the 13th floor of Commerz International Business Park, Goregaon - that has been his for the last 10 years - to a new one on the 11th floor. “People have been coming in to pick mementos from my cabin,” chuckles Chattopadhyay, arguably one of India’s best creative minds, and a man of many talents. Here, the charismatic Ogilvy veteran - who looks forward to shaping the agency’s culture while drawing up its new vision - chats with Christina Moniz about his new role, priorities, young talent coming into the industry, and more…


Q] What are your top priorities as Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Soho Square? What excites you the most about this role?

For me, Soho Square is an opportunity to be truly at the helm of affairs. I have been a Creative Director in Ogilvy, and of course I have worked on a large number of businesses across categories, but this is a great opportunity in a leadership role. In this role as Chairman, I am setting the vision for the company and I am driving and shaping it. That’s really exciting, and it’s also a big challenge and responsibility. It is more than just the creative function. I am now thinking about hiring people in other functions such as planning or client servicing, which is something I have never had to think about earlier. Also, as the Chairman, I get to set the culture of the company. So though I have not completed a month yet, I have written a document on what the culture of Soho Square is going to be.


Q] What is the new culture of the company going to be?

Well, I have written it and shared it with my senior colleagues, and got their points of view but I don’t want to talk about that just yet.


Q] How is the merger of Bates with Soho Square playing out?

Soho Square and Bates are both strong brand names in their own right. Both have distinguished themselves in different ways in the Indian advertising arena. The two have not merged. They are operating as two units working in tandem. And I'm heading both. What is exciting for me is that this dual portfolio has a substantial size and presence across four cities in India. My goal is to nurture and grow the portfolio further, while creating greater value for our clients.


Q] What is your comment on the kind of young talent entering the advertising industry today?

This is an interesting question. One thing which is very different from the time that I entered advertising is that today, there are far more opportunities for young, creative people. For example, Bollywood is a big draw. People are becoming screenplay writers, dialogue writers and lyricists in Bollywood. Then you also have Television. Earlier, every writer of this variety could only look at advertising as a job opportunity but now there are many other avenues; that means we have to compete for the best talent now. The young person today wants challenges, and if they don’t find it in an advertising agency, they have other options like Television and movies. Also, advertising is no longer just traditional advertising. Young people can now pursue digital advertising, and there are so many sub-divisions of that. There is also content writing. There are all kinds of opportunities for creative people. So as a big advertising agency today, we have to try harder to attract the best young, creative talent.



Adman, writer, poet, actor, photographer, mathematician by training… Sumanto Chattopadhyay wears many hats with equal ease.

In Ogilvy since 1993, Chattopadhyay has built brands like Dove, Pond’s and Star Plus, successfully re-launched UTI Bank as Axis Bank and helped launch brands like Pro-Kabaddi, Maharashtra Tourism and The Economist in India. This, while helping build the Mumbai, Kolkata and Colombo offices of Ogilvy.

He has won national and international advertising awards year after year at Cannes, the Clios, the One Show, the London Festival and the Abbys. In 2015, he won a Cannes Health Lion for the filaria eradication campaign he developed for the Government of India. In 2014, his Twitter-based initiative CleftToSmile for Operation Smile India won a gold and silver at Cannes. In 2012, his work on iFOLD, a paper-saving initiative of Ogilvy (implemented by Vodafone) was recognized at Cannes and elsewhere. In 2010, his campaign for The Economist won a Cannes Lion and other international awards.In 2008, his campaign for adoption awareness was ranked 12th in the world rankings, according to the Gunn Report.

Besides advertising, Chattopadhyay is passionate about writing, photography and acting, and has acted in films like Piku and Gorosthane Sabdhan. His short stories, poetry, photography and articles on advertising, culture, language and travel appear in prestigious publications. He has an MBA from McGill University, Canada, and an MS in Applied Mathematics from Clemson University, South Carolina, USA.


Q] Could you share with us a story from your career, something behind the scenes from your many advertising campaigns that we haven’t heard yet?

There are so many interesting experiences. You know, we all watch movies and the visual medium is something that every lay person consumes, but I don’t think that everybody understands what goes into making this happen, and that can be a challenge. For example - I won’t mention the brand - I was doing an ad film and it was during the monsoon, and we had to shoot in Mumbai. We were trying to get a budget to shoot somewhere else but that wasn’t possible. So, we told the client that this is going to be difficult, and the ad film involved showing a girl on a bike in the middle of a lot of traffic. But, obviously if it was going to rain, it would be very difficult to shoot that scene, and we couldn’t show rain in that particular shot. Though we checked with the Meteorological Department and the Navy and were told that we would get at least a couple of hours of dry weather, it started raining. Finally, we put a huge plastic sheet above the girl on the bike, and a few cars around her. But, it was not possible to get a large panoramic shot because the plastic sheet was small, and we couldn’t show the huge road full of traffic because the rain would have been visible. So, we had a more limited area in our frame. When we presented the film to the client, the client said, “You were supposed to get a wide shot of a road with lots of cars”. We replied, “Remember, we said if it rains, then there is nothing we can do?” He then told us to get the traffic from another film and just merge it into this one! We really had no response to that. People believe that technology has advanced so much in this field of video and films that anything is possible. The kind of requests we get from clients are sometimes really strange.


christina.moniz @exchange4media.com

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