N. Shatrujeet

JWT, Mumbai, adds creative talent; explores 'script writing' cell

Varun Mehta and Pankaj Ramnathkar of TBWAIndia, and Senthil Kumar from JWT’s Bangalore office have been absorbed by JWT India’s Mumbai office

JWT India's Mumbai office is in the process of strengthening its creative department, and to this end, the agency has recently made a couple of senior- and mid-level appointments. Significant among these are the hiring of the copy-art team of Varun Mehta and Pankaj Ramnathkar (who have moved from TBWAIndia), and Creative Director Senthil Kumar, who is being transferred from JWT's Bangalore office. While Mehta and Ramnathkar moved into JWT a week ago, Kumar is expected to join the Mumbai office in June. These movements come in the wake of ex-Lowe hand Zaheer Mirza's appointment as associate vice-president & senior creative director in October last. The agency has also hired Jaideep Varma as a consultant for a "special project" that it is exploring.

Speaking about the developments in the creative department over the past one year, Ramki (D Ramakrishna), creative head of JWT, Mumbai, explains that for most of 2003, the focus at the Mumbai office was on regrouping, getting teams and accounts aligned, and motivating the teams. "The whole thrust was on consolidation, which is why the whole of last year we didn't make any new appointments, with the exception of Zaheer," he says. Explaining the reasons for bringing Mirza on board, Ramki adds, "I needed a partner in creative to help me do what I intend doing here. I knew Zaheer and his capabilities as we were partners at Lowe working on Levers, and Zaheer enjoys the respect of Levers." Mirza, incidentally, has close to 13 years' experience in the business, eight of which were spent at Lowe (the remaining part of his career has been with Clarion Advertising and Mudra Communications).

Ramki is of the opinion that with the creative focus having returned, "The stage is set to do exciting things - and we need exciting people to do these things." Which explains the appointments of Mehta and Ramnathkar, and the transfer of Kumar. "Senthil will be here by June, and we are very excited about his coming," he says. Kumar, for the record, has been with JWT, Bangalore, for a while now, and his work includes some of the very noticeable advertising for Spice Telecom, and more recently, the attention-grabbing ‘double agent' film for Levi's Sykes Reversibles. On the other hand, Mehta and Ramnathkar (who have been working as a team for roughly four years now) have been with TBWA, McCann-Erickson Indian and O&M, and have worked on brands such as BPL Mobile and Samsonite. "They are a young team with drive, and have done some noticeable work," says Ramki, speaking of the duo. "I think their and Senthil's arrival should spark something interesting."

While the new appointments are also linked to a host of new businesses that have come into the agency over the past six to eight months, Ramki and Mirza believe that with new talent in place, the agency is "poised for the leap" in terms of the output. "The self-doubt is over - it's now just a question of going out and doing great work," says Ramki. "After all, we now have a very nice bunch of group heads and a second rung consisting of some terrific guys." He adds that even the agency's clients are taking cognizance of the agency's new product. "They see us delivering high quality work all the time, be it for Philips, Lux, Sunsilk, Rin, DTC (Diamond Trading Corporation), Standard Chartered or Balsara," he insists.

Speaking about the new project that the agency is exploring, Ramki reveals that the agency is testing the waters to see if a cell that specializes in producing scripts for feature films is a viable option. And Varma's appointment is the first step in that direction. Varma, who has been with agencies such as Mudra, O&M, Nexus-Equity and Cornerstone in the past, has been writing scripts for ‘alternate' feature films for the past few years. In his new role at JWT, Mumbai, Varma will have to identify good scripts and help them grow into full-length films. "The focus is purely on creating and developing scripts, and we are not looking at getting into the production of films," Ramki clarifies.

Elaborating on the embryonic concept, Ramki admits that the thinking and planning is only "60 to 70 per cent in place", but he believes that the details can be filled in "as we go along, as this is virgin territory". Speaking about the genesis of the idea, he says, "The basic idea is that there are lots of creative people both inside advertising and outside who have very good story ideas, and want to write interesting scripts. At the same time, there are people in the film industry who want good scripts, but don't know where to look. There seems to be an opportunity in bridging that gap, and we thought why don't we look at it."

Ramki admits that the idea also has a degree of self-preservation built into it. "Many creative people in advertising want to write scripts for films from time to time. Instead of losing them and their talents altogether, we said let's keep them in the industry by trying to help them ride two horses." He believes there is an opportunity for alternate or parallel scripts to find buyers due to the gradual rise in "small cinema" fueled by the DVD and multiplex phenomenon. "If the concept does well, maybe we'll look at creating a whole division," he smiles. "But it's early days…" © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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