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5 Minutes with… Aarti Srinivasan

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The executive creative director at BBH India on breaking taboos with Ariel and why being human is ‘the greatest thing’ to bind us together

5 Minutes with… Aarti Srinivasan

BBH India’s Aarti Srinivasan has been in advertising for 15 years. In that time she’s had three separate stints with the MullenLowe Lintas Group as well as at Ogilvy and BBDO India. Towards the end of 2021 she joined BBH India as its executive creative director, bringing with her a wealth of experience and knowledge that has greatly impacted Indian advertising.

Now that she’s settled into her role, LBB’s Natasha Patel spoke to Aarti about her career, Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad work and a passion for children’s literature. 

LBB> Tell us about your early years, where did you grow up and was creativity a part of your life?

Aarti> I grew up in Bombay and I've been in Mumbai for most of my life. I think there wasn’t a moment or a flash where creativity was a part of my childhood, but I feel that, like most children, there were make believe stories and having make believe brothers, friends and neighbours that didn't exist. 

LBB> Did you attend university, if so, what did you study and how did this direct you towards advertising?

Aarti> I did a Bachelor's in Management Studies and post that, I did a Masters in Advertising. It was started by Lowe Lintas and not a traditional course. They had started their own school in Khandala which is two hours outside of Mumbai and I felt like I should move out of Mumbai to do the 18 month course. There was a person who was spearheading the course who would come to our college but even before that, I was always interested in advertising. 

During the course, we were given an exposure into working in various departments at Lintas and I think that's what drove me to even do a course in advertising because it was a lot to do with the people, the best hearts and minds in the industry, sharing with us their story and experiences. Even while we were studying, I felt like I was part of an agency. That really groomed us into advertising professionals in every way possible. After that, I did a six month specialisation in copywriting and that's where I was hired by the creative team and Lintas.

LBB> Last year you moved from Delhi to Mumbai to take up your current role with BBH India, what prompted this move?

Aarti> The pandemic started, and we were all working from home and during the pandemic there was a flurry of emotions. There was this sense of moving back home, where you're closer to your folks, and everyone was working from home. But also, I thought the role and BBH made me feel that this is a place where I would learn a lot. It's a role where one needs to shape the leadership team and lead the way the work is going on. In terms of the work that BBH has been doing, I felt that it rang true to the kind of work that I had done and the kind of work that I would like to do going forward. Hence, I think it was a mix of both moving back to Bombay, and also moving to a place that's closer to the way my beliefs are.

LBB> Speaking of work ringing true, you’ve been instrumental to the Ariel #ShareTheLoad campaigns. Tell us more about the insights that have shaped the campaigns.

Aarti> ‘Share The Load’ is an idea that when I joined, every agency was talking about it. Perhaps in every boardroom and every meeting, there was someone who had said Share The Load. The first one awakened, in a sense, the shift that one needs to make in the perspective of the roles that men and women have at home and with a lot of prodding we felt that that's definitely coming from childhood. That's something that we are conditioned to believe, as a child, a girl automatically is given a kitchen set and boys are given a ball.

Also, because we were talking to the adults, it was to leave them with a question of are we teaching the boys what we teach the girls? The main thing when you want to say something big, you don't want to be preachy. You want to say something that's real, and something that makes people feel first and think later. Something that can make them feel a little more rather than just knocking them and making them think.

LBB> How have consumers in India reacted to this more ‘modern’ mindset? Is there a scope for boundary-breaking campaigns?

Aarti> Overall, I feel that what advertising and a video or a message can do is leave them with a thought. Leave them with a thought of change, made them reflect on themselves. Am I helping enough at home? Am I expecting a thank you every time I do something for my wife? I feel to answer what you're saying is it leaves them with the thought. But to make them act is really the onus on self to do that. I think that there are all kinds of ads.

Suppose it is about women empowerment. In the last five years, we've seen so much of that, more than we have seen before. When there's a constant bombarding of purpose driven advertising it becomes a part of popular culture and becomes a part of the way you behave and you're uncool if you don't think progressively. As advertising people, as well selling brands, it would be nice to also leave consumers sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a laugh and sometimes with a great message.

LBB> Tell us what is driving communications in India at the moment?

Aarti> Things are changing every single day. Something that's deeper and meaningful, needs to be always a part of what we try to do in advertising because that's one way. Whatever medium that you work on, I feel the core is still about talking about the product in the most interesting way.

I think we what we consciously do is try to resonate with people, to understand the world that the people are in, to ring true to the world. So I think authenticity is hugely relevant today, more than it was before. So I feel that relevance, context, in the world that you're in, will play a big role along with all the changes and the pandemic has made us realise more than anything that to be human is the greatest thing that binds us together.

LBB> Outside of work and advertising, what is life like for you?

Aarti> I'm an adult who is in love with children's books because of their simplicity. They tell you things about grief or depression, about love. They tell you things in such an honest way.

I wrote to this place called Magic Bus which was working with children and interestingly, I got so drawn into that world of children and children's stories through doing something in advertising. In the 10 years that I've been working with children in shelter homes, reading to them we set up libraries for them. There are real stories that are almost mirroring the child's life which become a window into a new world you want to talk about, things like fear and death. 

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BBH India, Mon, 21 Mar 2022 17:16:00 GMT