Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Defining moments: Suman Srivastava: "It was good to learn the science of advertising at Lever"

A feature on me appeared in the Brand Reporter and now in Afaqs. Click here to see the original article. Text below:

You may take him out of the confines of the planning department, but there's no taking the planner out of Suman Srivastava.

Few may know that Euro RSCG India's CEO, Suman Srivastava, wanted to originally be a journalist. It took an acquaintance who spoke of his disillusionment with journalism and Srivastava's days in the Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad, that gave Indian advertising industry an established planner, and one who witnessed the emergence of planning as a separate discipline in India, at that.

Srivastava's first turning point arrived while at Lintas - his first job - when he was deputed at Hindustan Unilever for a year (after working on HUL brands for three years) and was further "Leverised."

"The rigour that Lever's had was great. In those days of the early '90s, there were very few clients who got into the science of advertising. I think it was good to learn that science at Lever's," he says.

Among his key defining moments are shaping two start-ups: Lowe Lintas' second agency SSC&B Lintas in 1994, and Euro RSCG India. "SSC&B was a part of Lintas and at least the infrastructure was right there but Euro RSCG did not even have an office. It was an out-and-out start up. It was great fun of course. Definitely a defining moment," Srivastava grins.

While he admits to have done a lot of "ghost planning" while working in the servicing team at Lowe (Lintas), he recalls his formal entry into the world of planners in 1999 at Euro, as one of the most important moments in his career. With planning then being a relatively new discipline in Indian agencies, there was uncertainty and his move was not considered to be a good one. Yet, Srivastava refers to the four years of undiluted planning as the best phase of his career.

"Planning then was underrated and everybody was suspicious of it," Srivastava explains. "The client servicing guys thought that the planner would do all the 'sexy' parts of their job and there wouldn't be any fun left, while the creative people saw it as yet another layer and another person who could say 'no' and kill an idea."

And despite being the CEO of Euro RSCG, Srivastava says he has not ceased to be a planner, and takes pride in the evolution of planning from a stage when the creative team was sceptic about it to today's theory of 'one planner for one creative'.

Two key men who influenced Srivastava greatly include former bosses Ishan Raina, chief executive officer, OOH Media and Ajay Chandwani, non-executive director, Percept.

"He (Raina) was my first boss when I entered advertising," he recalls. "I was interviewing with Contract Advertising but there was no befitting role for me. So when he started Euro RSCG and wanted to take Contract people with him, I was one of the first ones he took on board. Ishan is an amazing man-manager. He can bring out the best either by needling or encouraging a person."

For Chandwani, Srivastava says, "It is tough working for Ajay but he is brilliant. Our styles were very different, but I learnt a lot from him as a strategy guy," he says.

At Euro RSCG, another key hallmark moment for him was cracking the Set Max Deewana Bana De campaign which was all about the role of television in a person's life. "Our insight was that Max should be a friend you would like to watch movies with. We gave the channel the role of this friend who knows all the stats and is a reference point when you watch movies and cricket," he explains, and thus were born properties like Extraa Innings and Extraa Shots. The second insight was that when one watches great entertainment it stays with you for a while, which led to the words Deewana Bana De.

(Defining Moments is a regular column which talks about the incidents that shaped great advertising, media and marketing careers.)


Kaveri Pathak said...


luckmey said...

Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I'm impressed! Very useful information particularly the last part :) I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this certain info for a very long time. Thank you and good luck. replica iwc watches, replica Audemars Piguet