Shreyas Kulkarni

“The plan was to not write a book”: Anindita Das, Wunderman Thompson’s senior creative director

She chats about writing a book amid a pandemic, self-publishing and marketing it, among other things.

As a kid, I’d pore over the ‘Tell Me Why’ book series - giant piles of knowledge that combined words and illustrations to keep me occupied. From space to nature to seas, nothing was off limits in these books.

I was taken back to my child momentarily while reading ‘What the Pandemic Learned From Me’, a book by Anindita Das, senior creative director at Wunderman Thompson. She's spent over a decade in the advertising industry with stints at Percept H, August Communications, Cheil India, and Dentsu Impact.

If the title of the book is striking, the chapters are soothing. Das’ book is filled with letters and each one has subsections and notes that, for me, was like those encyclopedic books we’d pester our parents to buy at Crossword Bookstores.

All the letters and chapters in her book are about us. What we missed, observed, lived, and dreamt of in the last year-and-a-half that, for some reason, is hard to quantify.

“The plan was to not write a book”: Anindita Das, Wunderman Thompson’s senior creative director

“The plan was to not write a book,” confesses Das. She only started writing to gain some relief from all the negativity around her. Adding to this was the fact that she was living in Bengaluru, alone and away from her family.

“Imagine you’re secluded and don’t know your neighbours. I had to find ways to amuse myself and keep myself sane.” Das remarks that she “started writing to process my thoughts” and it helped her tune out everything else.

But how did the writing transform into a book? “I thought I may not be the only person who is doing this, and may need a slice of normalcy..."

Das also tells us that she wanted to bring out the book quickly because if it came out later, it wouldn't serve its purpose. "That’s the reason why it is a short read." It is 111 pages.

Poring over the book feels like peeking into someone’s diary. Only this time, we would not be beaten up by the writer for doing so. Because she was writing a lot, we wondered if she’d considered experimenting with other writing styles and formats.

Das says that she could have written a fictional story, but then, it requires a lot of time to make it into a great novel. “This was written in the time frame of one to one-and-a-half months. I started writing it after the first (COVID) wave.”

But like every writer, she too deliberated if she could do something apart from letters… “Maybe, in future.”

And, like many writers, Das also took the self-publishing route. While discussing the process, she remarks that in India, traditionally, published books have a certain image of respectability. Maybe, it is because “somebody has approved it." But, it’s not the same for a self-published book. She talks about author Amish Tripathi, whose first book was self-published.

“It is not true that if your book is rejected by traditional publishers, it won’t do well,” says Das and goes on to add that “writers choose self-publishing because they feel their book won’t be picked by publishers, or if they feel they will have more control.”

She sums up her choice to self-publish by saying, “I did not have the luxury to wait for three months for publishers to give a response… that’s why I opted for self-publishing.”

Her book is print on demand. Her publisher has a tie-up with a third party, who is the printer, and Amazon takes care of the delivery.

While the book is her antidote to negativity, its introductory notes have a sly mention of her clients. Das thanks them because they were kind enough to not make her execute all the campaigns.

As soon as the above point is made, Das’ quick response is, “What I’ve written in the book is all in good humour.”

Das explains that her clients are also facing a novel situation, and many from the retail and aviation sectors have cut down on their spending because there’s no business. Speaking about creatives like herself, who’re on the fence waiting with several ideas and campaigns, she says that it is painful for them to see their ideas not being executed.

From coming up with ideas for clients to personal branding, the world has changed. Today, we see many folks from the advertising and marketing world tweet or post on LinkedIn incessantly… Is Das tired of all the personal branding?

She says that social media can get exhausting and tiring for us (advertising folks), who help the clients with the same every day and "the saturation point sets in quickly."

But she is also quick to add that there is a new breed of creative, who no longer feel it’s uncool to talk about what they’re doing. “The day/age demands it,” she signs off.