Shreyas Kulkarni

Rajdeepak Das on AI, whether advertising is fun or not, and creative mediums

A chat with the CCO of Leo Burnett that won the most metals at the recent Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

It’s hard to imagine Rajdeepak Das in clothes that are not black and shoes that are not white. He is also always seen with headphones around his neck. All these form a part of his ‘Batsuit’.

Even if you are speaking to the chief creative officer at Leo Burnett South Asia over the phone, you will picture him in black. His life is anything but that.

Leo Burnett returned from the 2023 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity with the most metals for an Indian agency. Its metals haul included a Gold Lion for ‘Airtel 175 Replayed’ in the Brand Experience and Activation category.

Das was in Cannes, France, not only as a proud Lions recipient along with his colleagues, but also as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals category jury.

Alongside the many panels, events and awards, artificial intelligence (AI) was a hotly contested topics at Cannes. Back in India, this writer wonders if the threat from machines to a human’s creative intelligence, is what advertising needed.

Rajdeepak Das on AI, whether advertising is fun or not, and creative mediums

Why? Because many people believe that advertising is no longer fun. It’s all bland and transactional.

Das, as an antidote to the above belief and the possible AI threat, recounted a humorous remark by David Droga, founder of the advertising agency ‘Droga5’, at Cannes Lions.

It was on the lines of “When was the last time you heard of a client saying we’re fuc*#d, let me ask ChatGPT to save my ass.”

Funny, irreverent and still making a solid point, this is what advertising is all about.

Das is vehemently against the notion that advertising is no longer fun.

“People who say this are the ones who messed up the industry and are now saying advertising has no fun.”

He speaks of the likes of Ogilvy, Talented and Dentsu that are creating something. “How can you say there’s no fun?”

Whilst having fun, Leo Burnett’s sole objective is to find solutions to human problems. When asked about how the agency, seeing its work, balances digital-first thinking, alongside traditional creative thought; a common idea is applied to mainline and digital, Das nearly rubbishes the question.

Dheeraj Sinha/Twitter
Dheeraj Sinha/Twitter

“We don’t (believe in) balance. We wake up in the morning thinking about how we will come up with a solution.”

For Das, there are many mediums to get the job done.

Bajaj V wasn’t advertising, Biochar wasn’t advertising, ‘Roads That Honk’ isn’t advertising. It was a human problem, we will find a way to do it, and it can be any medium.”

And, they do it quite well. Leo Burnett won the Agency of the Year at the Abbys, India’s leading creative awards, in 2023 and 2022. It has also won several metals at the Cannes Lions in the past few years, including a Sustainable Development Goals Grand Prix last year.

Das says that there is no set process, when it comes to the awards at Leo Burnett.

“We think, what is the one (campaign) that we are proud of to show the world.” And, that campaign(s) are entered into various (award) categories.

And, speaking of making case studies for the awards, Das says that they don’t struggle too much with it.

“… the feeling we get from our work, how do we get the world to feel the same? That’s it.”

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