Ashish Chakravarty: A storyteller who connects with audience

NEW DELHI: In what’s bound to be one of the weirdest stories in the annals of advertising, Ashish Chakravarty, creative chief at McCann Erickson, Delhi, recalls an incident from the time he was interning at Mudra Delhi, at the start of his career in 1993. Having dismissed one of the print ads created by the agency as a ‘piece of crap’, Mr Chakravarty found himself quite literally grounded; having to work while seated on the floor of the agency after his chair privileges were revoked. That he decided to stay on in the business is a tribute to both his grit and his thick skin. Today he’s able to view the incident with an amused detachment.

“I was flying high, brimming with confidence and the thought that I would rip the ad industry apart with my talent, but soon I landed on earth.” Working across several agencies and locations, Mr Chakravarty has proved it’s a good thing both for him and the business that he stuck around. Apart from winning several awards, he’s a much sought-after copywriter who came up with lines like Desh Ki Dhadkan for Hero Honda.

After the misadventure at Mudra, Mr Charkvarty’s next destination was a full-time job with JWT (then HTA) as copywriter where he helped launch Hero Honda Splendour, Frito Lay flavours ‘Peppy Pudina’ and ‘Magic Masala’ and worked on a Boost commercial that featured two legends of Indian cricket — Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev. The two-and-a-half years spent at the agency, he says, taught him everything about ad film making: “It got me ready to be a filmmaker but I wanted to write and left the agency at the peak of my career.”

While at JWT, he took one of the more unusual decisions of his career, moving to the agency’s operations at Kathmandu, Nepal. The time he spent there is one of the few things he regrets about his career in advertising. After being promised and later denied a motorcycle, Chakravarty would soon leave the agency. He says, “I’ve always gone with my gut feeling but the Nepal decision got me nothing.”

He met his long-time creative partner Sujit Dass at TBWA Anthem in 1996 during the course of a brief nine- month stint. The duo moved across several agencies together including Mr Chakravarty’s first stint at McCann Erickson in 1997. He says, “It was a period of mad men under (creative director) Kaustav Niyogi. We were brash and arrogant because we knew we are the best.” He became a creative director at the young age of 27 with award-winning work on Nike, Mortein, Dettol and

Nestle

, among others to his credit. He bagged 18 gongs in total across festivals like Clio, Asia Pacific Ad fest and even a nomination at the Cannes Lions.

The next assignment saw Chakravarty moving out of his comfort zone and the city where he spent the bulk of his career. He left for Bangalore in 2000 to join Euro RSCG. At the time, Euro was among the hottest new agencies on the block and Chakravarty worked on brands like Weekender and MSN.

He then joined Publicis as head of creative but has very few pleasant memories of this year long stint: “It was a failed experiment: all responsibility without authority,” he says. This was also the time he had to part ways with Das as agencies began to balk at the cost of hiring them together. Das who went on to form his own agency called Salt recalls, “We had wild moments together. Back then, we sometimes attended meetings drunk.”

Later at Contract as VP and creative director, Chakravarty entered what he calls “the most creatively satisfying period” of his career, winning his first One Show Silver Pencil for Slim Zone and two Cannes finalists for Affection Aid and Blind School. He has also been a jury member at the Clios this year apart from being a regular at Adfest and Goafest.

With two decades on in the industry, he feels that English writing has died down but at the same time a welcome transformation has taken place—copywriters are no more wordsmiths but storytellers, which he thinks, “is the best way to connect with the audience”.