In a development that is aimed at raising the standard of art at the agency by vesting responsibility for the function with one individual, Leo Burnett India has promoted Santosh Padhi, creative director at Burnett's Mumbai office, to the newly formed, national-level post of Head of Art, Leo Burnett India. While Padhi will continue to fulfill his current responsibilities as creative director at Mumbai, his role in the agency has been expanded to a national scale, whereby he would be responsible for the entire art function at Burnett India. The appointment, which was firmed up internally a couple of weeks ago, is with immediate effect, and a memo to this effect was circulated within the agency yesterday.
Speaking to agencyfaqs! about Padhi's appointment and the rationale behind an all-India responsibility for art, KV Sridhar (Pops), national creative director, Leo Burnett India, explains that the idea is to lift the quality of Burnett India's art output - especially in print - across the board. "If you take the results of the top five international award shows over the past four-five years, you will see that Leo Burnett India probably has more Finalist nominations than any other Indian agency," he says. "But our conversion of those Finalist nominations into metal has not been very good, which means that we are falling short on execution. As they say, the good is the enemy of the great. If we are able to convert 50 per cent of those nominations into awards, it would be great for us and India."
Sridhar is of the opinion that Burnett India can achieve the distinction of regularly striking metal in the global circuit if there is adequate emphasis on detailing. And that is where Padhi is expected to bring value to the table. "Those Finalist nominations show that we are bringing the ball up to the goalpost; it will now be Paddy's (as Padhi is fondly called) job to push the ball into the post," he says. Sridhar adds that he and Agnello Dias (executive creative director, Leo Burnett India) are confident that Padhi will be up to the challenge. "Paddy is one of our senior resources, so we gave him the mandate. He is also extremely talented, hardworking and passionate, and he has the resilience to push for great ideas and execution. And he can lead by example. I think he and Rajiv (Rao, senior creative director, O&M India) are two art directors who can keep the Indian flag flying and take Indian advertising forward."
For Padhi, the latest appointment marks the high point in a fairly short but eventful career spanning nine years. Padhi got his first break in advertising back in 1996, when he joined Mudra Communications under Ganga (Gangadharan Menon, currently partner at Octane Communications) and Nalesh (Patil, now a partner at chlorophyll). Four years spent in the apprenticeship of the Ganga-Nalesh team did a lot of good in terms of understanding the craft of advertising, Padhi admits. Then, in 2000, he was hired by Leo Burnett, and worked under the likes of Bhupal Ramnathkar (executive creative director, Enterprise Nexus), Dias, Chax (KS Chakravarthy of POV) and Sridhar. "The first two years, I gained a lot of experience working under these four people," Padhi admits. "I worked on a lot of brands, and learnt so many new things about advertising."
Following the departures of Ramnathkar (to Enterprise), Chax (who got into filmmaking) and Sridhar (to Lowe) within a year of one another, Padhi started working closely with Dias in terms of steering the art function (along with Vikram Gaikwad, who recently quit to join Grey Worldwide) in Burnett, Mumbai. And Padhi is thankful to Dias for backing him and instilling confidence. "I had offers from two other agencies at that time, but Aggie insisted that I should stay and look after art. It was a big responsibility, but Aggie gave me full support. He said I won't regret staying back, and today, I don't. And I won't forget Aggie's contribution to where I am today."
If the responsibility that came his way three years ago was big, the current one is whale-sized. And no one knows it better than Padhi. "The standard of art at Burnett has to be improved and taken to international standards, and Pops told me that I am capable of doing it, so I should take charge," he says. "I also thought it was a good challenge to take up, so I said yes." And while Padhi agrees that the responsibility can be quite intimidating, he is banking on the support of Dias and Sridhar to see the job through. "There is pressure from the network to produce good work, so I can expect support from the network and the management," he says. "And Pops - who is a fabulous art director and a great leader - and Aggie are always there, so I feel I can meet the challenge confidently."
Interestingly, Padhi's new appointment comes roughly a month after he was jointly awarded the Art Director of the Year title at this year's Abby Awards (he shared the honour with Ogilvy's Rajiv Rao). Padhi admits that the last two-three years have been fairly good as far as the work he's produced goes. In 2001, for instance, he had to his credit the 'power failure' commercial for the National Association for the Blind. In 2002, the 'World Ozone Day' ad for Sanctuary Magazine won a lot of acclaim (and metal) at international award functions, while the work he art directed last year for Johnnie Walker, Darna Mana Hai, Skoda and Sanctuary Magazine went towards fetching him the coveted Art Director title at the Abbys. "Yes, this year has been pretty good so far," he smiles. "I hope I can carry on from here." © 2004 agencyfaqs!