Shreyas Kulkarni

I am in advertising. The Copy Traineeship is about advertising; I thought I should totally create an ad: Bodhisatwa Dasgupta

The brains behind one of India’s most popular copywriting programs on making a music video, and why India will see a shortage of skilled writers.

If 'Practice what you preach' was the brief, then adman Bodhisatwa Dasgupta’s video for The Copy Traineeship would receive the coveted “approved” reply from a client on first viewing.

Set to the tunes of Ice Ice Baby by rapper Vanilla Ice, Copy Copy Baby is perhaps the first ever music video to promote a month-long copywriting course from Bodhi (that’s how he wishes to be called; ‘Bo’ works too).

“I am in advertising. The Copy Traineeship is about advertising; I thought I should totally create an ad for it. That is the whole point, isn’t it? If I am teaching advertising, I should create an ad for myself,” Bodhi exclaims.

Produced by Uncommonsense Films, the music video didn’t come cheap and cost in lakhs but Bodhi is not too concerned about the expense. For starters, he considers it an investment which he believes he will recoup.

“A month-long digital traineeship on advertising copywriting. The ins, the outs, the tricks, the traps. Guest speakers, whiteboard sessions and constant reviews.”

This is the definition of the offering on its website, and one can trace its origins to the early 2000s when Bodhi worked at the advertising agency JWT (now VML), and saw interns learning zilch. 

He’d formulate a structure for the agency’s interns because “the really shitty jobs are given to them, without them having any understanding of what advertising is, what copywriting is, what is design… nothing.”

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta
Bodhisatwa Dasgupta

Bodhi has spent over 18 years in advertising, including stints at Ogilvy, Wieden & Kennedy, Rediffusion, Grey and Dentsu. He has worked on brands like Pepsi, Honda, Jabong, MG Motor, Motorola, Sprite, and Milkbasket, and today runs The Voice Company, an independent content and advertising agency.

What started as a structure for the clueless workdays of interns was moulded into a copywriting course. He remarks that when he started his career, there were hardly any institutions offering such teaching and he, like many others at that time, had to learn on the job. 

At the same time, advertising during Bodhi’s early years, "was a niche profession and the assumption was one joined it because they could not make it anywhere else,” says the adman. 

Adding to this, another relevant reason for the course’s existence is the flood of writers on LinkedIn. “Today, if you open LinkedIn, everyone is a content writer, a storyteller, a ninja writer. The concept of copywriting and content writing has changed. For some reason, people have figured out that there is money to be made here, which is a fallacy.”

He blames this spike in writers on hustle culture, and that it has prompted people to bestow upon themselves such titles “without actually knowing how it is done.”

I am in advertising. The Copy Traineeship is about advertising; I thought I should totally create an ad: Bodhisatwa Dasgupta

Bodhi launched The Copy Traineeship in November 2022, and the first couple of months went into tinkering and bettering the offering. It, he says, took off in January 2023 and since that time Bodi has opened the copywriting program to 30-35 participants every month.

The month-long session takes a deep dive into what makes a good writer and some of the lessons include Decoding a tagline, Crafting an ad, and How to sell an idea, among others. There are multiple WhatsApp challenges too (Think being messaged a brief on WhatsApp, you’ve to respond with a copy or tagline). 

The Copy Traineeship’s biggest challenge, as per Bodhi, was to make the students understand that it wasn’t a classroom and that he was the headmaster. “It is not that. It is a vibe,” he remarks.

The only mandatory aspect of the traineeship is for the students to have their webcams on. One can eat, drink, and do whatever they want as long as they are paying attention. 

“It's a fun vibe. And that's what I wanted to sell. I wanted to sell the vibe. And I thought the best way to sell the vibe is to show the way and that's how I think the video was born.”

I am in advertising. The Copy Traineeship is about advertising; I thought I should totally create an ad: Bodhisatwa Dasgupta

His students include marketers, people new to advertising, and those who’ve spent four to five years in the field. 

He says he is here to bring the creative person out of his students “whether it is through assignments, whether it is through storytelling, whether it is through little doodles and posts that I make people do. It is a very childlike sort of process, you know, and everyone loves that whole process.”

And making sense of all this are the little ah-ha moments for the students. “If I can show you how that little doodle is the starting point of a campaign. So, it starts from a small little thing and then it grows and grows. That's how I teach.”

The program has a new cohort every month, and once a particular batch graduates, it is added to the Copy With Bo (CWB) WhatsApp group that helps them keep abreast of the latest job opportunities, discuss advertising trends, and Bodhi often throws those quick briefs at them.

“My ambition: “I am trying to grow India’s largest copywriting community.  Right now, I’ve around 1,400 people.” 

At the end of a batch, everybody is sent a report card with genuine feedback, and sometimes it is not easy for one to take it all in. 

While Bodhi takes care of everything, there are guest lectures from advertising folks. The recent batch saw BBDO India chairperson and chief creative Josy Paul take a class on writing and simplicity. 

Bodhi feels there is a generational change taking place where the old guard is making space for a new crop of writers. Unfortunately, he believes the new breed “does not know what it takes to be a copywriter and companies in the next 10 years will feel the dearth of skilled writers.”

“They want to be writers, but they don't want to put in the work… Pick up any writer on LinkedIn and ask, ‘Hey, listen, can I look at your portfolio?’ I guarantee you that out of 100 people, 90 people won't even have a book. They won’t even know what a portfolio is,” he exclaims. 

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