After spending a little over three years as an ad filmmaker, veteran adman and creative professional KS Chakravarthy (or Chax, as he's better known as in the industry)
is back in mainstream advertising - as national creative director of Rediffusion | DYR. Speaking to agencyfaqs! late last night, Chax confirmed the news of his appointment, and added that he would be assuming his new responsibility from "early August". The development also brings Rediffusion's yearlong search for a national-level creative head to a close.
Chax's return to advertising as Rediff's creative head may come as a surprise to most, considering he had quit Leo Burnett India in early 2001 to launch his own production house - Persistence of Vision (POV) - and pursue a career in filmmaking. In fact, in an interview with agencyfaqs! that dates back to mid-2001, Chax, in response to a question on why he had left Burnett, had said, "I did not want to spend the next 20 years running an agency."
Mention this to Chax, and he laughs. "When I left Leo Burnett and advertising, I genuinely wanted to be a filmmaker," he says. " And I must admit that the first two years in filmmaking was a blast. However, of late, I had started missing advertisingÖ missing the buzz and all that. That was when I started thinking that I just may reconsider my earlier decision on not going back. Plus my dear friends Pops (KV Sridhar of Burnett India) and Balki (R Balakrishnan of Lowe), and even my wife (Priti Nair, creative director, Lowe) kept telling to come back."
The actual decision to retrace his steps, Chax reveals, was precipitated by the offer that came from Rediff. "A mere 20-30 days ago, Preet (Bedi, president, Rediffusion | DYR) met me and put forth his proposal," says Chax, adding that Rediff had not even figured in his consideration set prior to his meeting with Bedi. "Preet spoke to me and made an offer, and I said let me think about it."
"I went back home and surfed the Net - and saw the agency has some incredible accounts," Chax continues. "I saw this was a goldmine of an opportunity, and the funny bit is that no one realizes it. As Preet rightly said to me, 'In reality, we are huge, but in perception, we are small.' This agency has a lot of talent, and but for a technicality, it could have been the No 3 agency at this year's Abbys. It got me positively inclined, and Preet being Preet, he kept piling on to me, and I kept getting tempted. So finally from a stage where I told myself I shall join by the end of the year, I've come to a stage where I shall be joining Rediff in roughly a fortnight."
When quizzed about what ultimately swung the decision in Rediff's favour, Chax replied, "The canvas here is awesome. Plus, the mandate I was given is crystal clear and challenging." And that mandate is reinstate Rediffusion on the pedestal that it so authoritatively occupied in the eighties. "The mandate from Preet was, 'Business-wise, we are successful; can we be awesome in creative?' And the mandate from Arun (Diwan Arun Nanda, chairman, Rediffusion | DYR) was that Rediff started as a trendsetter agency doing iconoclastic work. Do what needs to be done to get that quality of work back. The focus here is back on creative, and both Arun and Preet are committed to that."
Chax, for record, has served time at an array of agencies including Bates India (then Clarion Advertising), JWT India (then HTA), Enterprise, Lowe (then Lintas) and Burnett India. In fact, it was during his tenure as national creative director at Burnett that Chax, in association with Pops, led the agency into hyper-creative mode with widely-noticed campaigns for Bajaj Caliber, Bajaj Boxer, Fiat Uno, Reebok, Thums Up, Ariel, Complan and Standard Furukawa. It was also during Chax's time that Burnett claimed a bronze Lion for the 'battery-operated toy' film for Forte India.
While Chax successfully pulled a middle-of-the-road Leo Burnett India into the creative limelight, it remains to be seen how he alters the creative reputation of 30-year-old Rediffusion. Given the level of competitiveness within the industry and the standard of work being produced across agencies, Chax admits it's not going to be easy reviving Rediff's erstwhile days of thunder, but he adds, "At least the vision is clear. The clarity of the mandate is what has impressed me the most." ¬© 2004 agencyfaqs!