Ad Chat - Priya Singh on going to "the dark side" being a creative on the client side.

This week we've gone to all the way to India, to speak to Priya Singh. She used to be an ad agency side copywriter, but now works for a large infrastructure & technology company we'll leave nameless as she's not a spokesperson for that brand - and part of her job is to keep things like that in check. Priya can be found on twitter as well at rimeswithcya. Our global tour of the advertising world shows us that there are universal truths in advertising, and clever people everywhere.

DB: What’s the one thing you love most about advertising?

Priya : That it’s still one of the most fun jobs you can have, and usually you get to work with smart, talented people who don’t take themselves too seriously.
Oh, and I love the product - a good ad done right is a joy to behold.

DB: You've recently gone to "the dark side" as they say, what is the difference when you're working as a copywriter on the agency side and then as a copywriter on the client side?

Priya : Well, I’m seeing a difference in copywriting on either side, writing copy or adapting copy to web-friendly formats has become less of a craft, maybe due to the sheer volume & versions of it you’re expected to generate. So it's all starting to look a little 'dark' to me. Oh, and I hate it when the term ‘content’ is used interchangeably with copy.

The biggest difference to a creative person moving to the client side is, I think, the fact that you have to be the ‘grown-up’ in the room when you’re being presented creative ideas. You can’t just fall for the clever stuff or the pretty pictures unless it also meets the business requirement.

You have to recognize the spark in the ideas that the agency comes up with and steer it through all the rough waters of “Does this meet the brief? What will it achieve?”… I’m avoiding the dreaded term, RoI. Your motivation is different because you’re not putting your creative ego into it, instead you’re making sure it works for the brand and the purpose that it’s meant for. Plus, you're actually in a much better position to push the good ideas through.

DB: What project that you've worked on are you most proud of, and why?

Priya : I’m not going to name a campaign here, because most of the work, when I look back at it, I feel I could have done better.

But there have been challenges that I’m proud to have tackled without caving.

The most recent of which was the complete transformation of our enterprise website, bringing multiple businesses across diverse sectors and geographies under one coherent design language & navigation structure. The biggest challenges were people challenges, convincing different teams with different marketing objectives to be true to a shared design & communication strategy so we could deliver a uniform brand experience.

You know Creatives are not often known for their patience, they get bored easily and start looking for the next exciting thing.
Well, I have the ability to work through the ‘boring’ to find something in there that can lift it and make it interesting - I guess I’m most proud of my ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ as it’s called, to just stay with the project and keep digging, when everybody else is ready to say F*** It, take a shortcut, or move on to something else. Patience is not often seen as a required skill in Creatives, but it’s useful.

DB: What was the trigger that lead you into the creative industry?

Priya : Ha! It was probably the complete absence of any idea of what I was going to do after college. I took a copy test because someone suggested it, before my college results were even out, and got accepted as a trainee in what was then a small-ish agency. It was meant to be a short stop till I figured out the next step.

Why I stuck was because I was lucky enough to have had good bosses early on. People who really loved advertising and I guess the passion was infectious. I was around some very talented people who were at the top of their game in the first 3 or 4 years of my career, and that’s the phase when you have no ego or preconceived ideas – so I was open to learning and I learned without cynicism.

DB: What’s something you wish you could change about the creative industry?

Priya : One word: Clickbait.

Persuasion is at the heart of advertising, but with this new currency of clicks and retweets and shares, creatives are just pandering to what’s popular.

DB: How do you snap out of a creative rut?

Priya : By stepping out of my box (see pic… haha).
Just because you’re responsible for the creative idea it doesn’t mean you can’t get involved with planning, or tech or even research. Sometimes good ideas come out of places you least expect.

DB: You work in the seventh-largest economy in the world, with an estimated one billion people. How fragmented does that market get? How does it compare to creating "world-wide" advertising campaigns?

Priya : In many ways it’s a different planet, there are so many cultural tics and idiosyncrasies about India that you only really get if you’ve grown up in the place – and advertising is so dependent on tapping into culture. And even within India there’s so many different food and language and habit zones, I’m sure it’s a huge challenge for western brands.

But then in B2B this isn’t so much of an issue, corporate culture is pretty homogenised everywhere. I mean, most companies have a certain template of brand attributes they want for themselves – credibility, efficiency, innovation, ethics - and they have to live up to the “world-wide” perspective of these if they want to be Global companies. Those words can’t mean something else just because you’re operating out of India.

DB: What's the one piece of advice that you wish someone had given you when you just started out in the industry?

Priya : I wish someone had told me to wait for and recognize the right moment before springing out the big idea. Especially when you’re trying to change the status quo.
You need to let it marinate and wait for the right context. You need to be able to gauge when the room is ready to hear a new thing. You know the saying, “you can’t stop an idea whose time has come”? The flip side is that you can’t sell an idea whose time has NOT come, at least as far as your audience is concerned.

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Jill Spradley Associate Creative Director at 160over90
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Bo Hellberg, Swedish ECD in France, at Brave and Billington Cartmell, Paris
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Jonah Otieno - Executive Creative Director 5ive Ltd, Nairobi
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Esther Clerehan, Headhunter, Sydney, Australia
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Edward Boches of Mullen
Dirk Singer of Rabbit, UK
Gareth Kay of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners
Tim Brunelle of Hello Viking
Rob Schwartz of TBWA\Chiat\Day
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