Shreyas Kulkarni

A peek into agency folks’ creative supply

What are they reading, watching or listening to that keeps them going in life and at work?

Creative inspiration, like the strutting of designer wear on the ramps of Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks, changes every season.

A decade or two ago, ‘The Copy Book’ was the go-to guide for many on timeless creative work. Piyush Pandey’s ‘Pandeymonium’ had its time under the sun for a while. And so did, and still does, the late Irrfan Khan’s monologue for ‘Hutch ka chota recharge’.

Books, however, are no longer enough to satiate one’s curiosity.

There’s the ongoing love for American writer/director Wes Anderson and on Instagram Reels. Many lounge to the rabbit hole like podcasts of Amit Verma. Some listen to or watch British chef Marco Pierre White go on about dream, discipline and chicken stock, while a big scattering is as addicted to lo-fi music as a baby is to a sweet lullaby.

There are as many open and diverse gates to entertainment and creative satisfaction as there are people who’re heading to work inside the crowded morning local train from Virar to Churchgate in Mumbai.

Vices like weed and cigarettes, don’t count. Also, watching the hit American TV series ‘Mad Men’ as an agency person, is worse than a trope. It’s a habit one must kick and search for an alternative; it’s done and dusted and archived.

We spoke to a few agency folks to understand what is on their mind, or playlist, if you may. What are they currently reading? If not, then what are they watching or listening to these days that not only excites them, but helps their work?

(Names are listed in alphabetical order of the first name).

Edited excerpts:

Ayshwarya Sharma, brand strategy partner, Leo Burnett

It’s a morning social experiment every day.

A cuppa and some tunes on my iMac at work, at least till the afternoon buzz kicks in. Call it the post-Backstreet Boys phenomenon, but I think classics are making a comeback, becoming a popular genre across the floor.

These are songs that we’ve grown up karaoke-ing, anthems from the MTV era, beats from classic games like ‘FIFA’ and ‘NFS Street’, and some pop icons who’ve re-defined identity and culture in the 1980s and 90s.

Like moths to a flame, the music draws in various kinds of people, attracting different conversations. The most interesting ones are with this new generation of creatives, who’re bereft of these classics, but are eager to draw cultural parallels with their social icons of today.

This pop culture pulse not only helps put the kick in my step, but keeps me mindful of the culture that we, as advertisers, create every day.

Manish Kinger, executive creative director, Schbang

I am currently reading ‘The Culture Code’ by Daniel Coyle, and ‘The Invisible Gorilla’ by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. Coyle’s book is about creating high-efficiency ecosystems using empathy as the lifeblood. I am finding it authentic and on-the-money so far, especially the clarity with which it makes the case for creating a safe work environment.

Behavioural economics is a subject I keep binging on, every now and then. Every book I have read on it, points me to the next one, and that’s how I stumbled upon ‘The Invisible Gorilla’. I think everyone should read it or the 'Nudge’ or ‘Predictably Irrational’ or ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ (okay, maybe this is not for everyone) to get at least a cursory understanding of the biases that dominate our decisions and the irrational, intangible forces that influence behaviour.

On that note, read ‘Influence’ too. Content-wise, I am on the last episode of the latest season of (British TV series) ‘Black Mirror’. It is the second-best written thing on the internet after American crime drama ‘Breaking Bad’, in my opinion.

Ayshwarya Sharma, Manish Kinger, Mansi Shah, Vasudha Misra (L-R)
Ayshwarya Sharma, Manish Kinger, Mansi Shah, Vasudha Misra (L-R)

Mansi Shah, brand planning and new business director, Famous Innovations

With the advertising world becoming extremely diverse, there can’t be one Bible for folks in the space. For me, keeping in tune with the advertising world means unearthing real reasons behind changing consumer behaviour.

One of my favourite books, in this regard, is ‘Everybody Lies’ by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. It takes on topics like what people say in research is often far from the truth and how data can unearth real behaviour. For instance, what percentage of white voters didn’t vote for (former American President) Barack Obama because he’s Black. Do parents secretly favour sons over daughters? Or, how does the most-watched porn format contradict the way we talk about our sex lives.

A few years ago, I laughed at a colleague who was reading ‘Economics for Dummies’, and questioned him for doing that. He believed that to be good at advertising, you need to be good with economics, politics, psychology, technology, food and more. That stayed with me forever and, ever since, ‘For Dummies’ book series have been my go-to method to learn about anything under the sun.

I also like to learn about pop culture by watching the relevant content – stand-up acts and OTT shows. Many Bollywood movies are also a rich source of insights on various demographics.

Vasudha Misra, regional creative officer, Lowe Lintas

Frankly, I’m not reading a lot. 10 or 20 years ago, advertising people may have taken inspiration from other agencies and their work. But today, the inspiration comes from other forms of content – creators, influencers, a great show, and even an odd meme.

And, in that regard, as my weekly iPhone usage charts would attest, I am knee-deep in.

Cover image: RELAX/YouTube

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