If you thought the archetypal copywriter - pony, tattoo, guitar - is a figment of yore, think again. Meet Keegan Pinto, 37, creative head (West) and national creative director - branded content, FCB Ulka.
Recently, Pinto wrote and composed music for the song 'Bhaag Milky' from Running Shaadi.com, a Hindi feature film (starring Taapsee Pannu of Pink fame). Ads that he has composed music for in the past include ICICI Prudential's 'Bande Achhe Hain', music for Onida AC's 'Hum heat mein dheet hain' (his very first, while at Lowe Lintas) and 'Khaali khaali haathon se kitna de jaati hai Maa' (an ad written by his present day boss Swati Bhattacharya) for Horlicks.
So how did his music career begin? "I was in a band in college (RD National's College, Mumbai) which I had to move away from to get a job," he says. But that's where the clichés end. He then went to New Zealand to get a PG degree in advertising. "I thought there is no money in rock music. As a young person you can get dissuaded because you are not mature, you don't know the right network, you don't know about the right genre of music... you need guidance."
After getting his PG degree from Ad School, New Zealand, he worked with Colenso BBDO, New Zealand, briefly, before coming back to Mumbai. "I came back and started the journey of cold calling for the job of a trainee writer, junior writer and senior writer..." he says. Soon enough, Pinto landed a job with Ogilvy, where he spent three years, before moving to Lowe Lintas where he spent three years. "Lowe is the best training ground," he says, dubbing his journey at these two agencies as "deadly."
During this time, he also found expression for his music through the ad films he worked on. "Music wasn't happening in a big way until I began employing music in my ad films... " he says.
About his first music outing - an Onida ad titled 'Hum heat mein dheet hain', which he also wrote - he says, "I cracked a jingle around the way Indians are stubborn - seeing how they eat mirchi, wear sarees/blazers, drink hot tea - despite the heat and zeroed in on 'Dheet logon keliye dheet AC'... I scored the music under R Balki and Amer Jaleel at Lintas."
Doing both copy (or lyrics in case the ad was song-based) and music for the same ads wasn't easy. "... I had to do some convincing..." he says.
The music for the 'Bande Achhe Hain' ad for ICICI Prudential was created by Pinto but later recomposed by Shantanu Moitra. Pinto wrote the lyrics, which were later peppered by Swanand Kirkire. "Balki believed in getting in Bollywood people and I can't fight the word of R Balki and Lowe," he recalls.
Satisfying as it was to make music for ads, Pinto was secretly waiting to scratch the Bollywood itch. He got his chance when he met Amit Roy, cinematographer of the movies Sarkar and Sarkar Raj.
"I was on an ad film set with Amit Roy who was directing a film for Lifebuoy Sanitizer. The base line was 'Tiffin Ka Best Friend'. That's where I met Amit. He was working on his movie 'Running Shaadi.com. I told him, 'If the movie is not yet done, give me a chance... I am a musician...'"
Fortunately for Pinto, Roy liked his song and made it part of the recently released movie.
"... Prasoon Joshi is an advertising-to-Bollywood lyricist... I think I am the first advertising-to-Bollywood music composer," he smiles.
In the days ahead, Pinto wants to focus on mainstream music, rather than giving music for ads. "The percentage of music I give to films versus ads would be 90:10," he says.
Currently, he is collaborating with seven to eight singers for a "kickass music project" that's due to go live in two to three months.
At the end of the day, though, Pinto admits he's an advertising guy first and a musician later. "I am always a creative guy first. I am always an NCD. I always write the copy for the idea and strategy and if it needs music we will start making it... first one tries to crack a brief with an idea..." he signs off.