For Deepesh Jha who recently took over the reins as the creative head at Lowe Lintas Delhi, getting into advertising was totally unplanned.
Hailing from an army background, it was no surprise when, close to the end of schooling, his father said, "You'd better give National Defence Academy (NDA) a shot." Jha, who graduated in Science, cleared the Sashastra Seema Bal's (SSB) written examination, but didn't go further. Exposure to advertising came in 1995 when he visited HTA (now JWT) with a close friend who was a summer trainee with PepsiCo. "I just didn't want a job where one is supposed to sport a formal look. I liked what I saw at the agency and soon, after clearing a copy test, joined Clarion (now Bates 141) in the same year with a stipend of just '1,250," he reminisces.
After completing close to two years at Clarion, he moved to Euro RSCG, then a start-up in India and participated in at least one pitch every week.
"Telecom has played a huge role in my advertising career and it started at Euro RSCG where I worked on Essar Cellphone - one of the agency's biggest accounts then," he recollects. As a junior copywriter, Jha worked on almost every aspect of the brand's communication - from product manuals to campaigns. There were just six people in the creative team and burning the midnight oil was routine.
In early 1998, he joined McCann Erickson as a copywriter. The agency was segregated as McCann 1 and 2 - a segregation based on different accounts. He spent close to five years at McCann 2 working on brands across categories including Sprite, Bacardi, Microsoft, Adidas and some brands of Reckitt Benckiser. Here, Jha learned the most about films.
Then came a second stint with Euro RSCG, which had just picked up the Reckitt Benckiser account globally and was getting back on its feet after a bad time. Ashish Chakravarty, one of his ex-bosses at McCann was also at Euro RSCG and was the main reason behind Jha joining the agency. He says, "In advertising, associations with bosses, peers and colleagues matter a lot. It's rare that appointments happen through cold calls or interviews."
JWT was the next stop. In 2003, he moved in as senior creative director and worked under Syed Usman, who "was a writer with an eye for art". Soon, it was decided that while Jha would write, Usman would focus on art. "We had a ball while working on the Boost and Dettol commercials. Though Dettol was not my responsibility, I could not let go of the opportunity as it reminded me of my McCann days where I worked on the account for the first time," he says.
He worked on nine films in his nine-month-long stint at the agency. "I lived out of my suitcase literally and when Usman decided to move on, I lost my anchor. I wish I had spent more time there," he confesses.
The duo was reunited at Cheil where the client (Samsung) had its offices just two floors above Cheil's. One disadvantage of having the client two floors above you is that "you could never tell them that we are on our way to the meeting," he jokes.
Cheil was followed by a stint at Publicis India, where he headed Nestle and ABN Amro, among other accounts. In 2007, Jha was called to head the Airtel account at Rediffusion Y&R.
He admires Lowe for its 'stability'. "The agency has always been in the news for it's work and my priority is to maintain the momentum of growth," he says.
Jha feels though many things have changed in advertising, intrinsically it would "remain a business of gut feel and last-hour job". First Published : September 30, 2010