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5 Minutes with… Kalpesh Patankar

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Chief creative officer at Leo Burnett UAE on his Indian advertising start, Ariel ‘Clothes Line’ campaign and finding inspiration everywhere, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

5 Minutes with… Kalpesh Patankar

BIG KAHUNA FILMS, the award-winning creative production house based in Dubai and Beirut, is proud to support creativity across the Middle East. Over the coming months, as part of our sponsorship of LBB’s Middle East edition, we’ll be speaking to some of the great minds driving creativity forward across the region. 

In this interview, we speak to recently appointed CCO at Leo Burnett UAE, Kalpesh Patanker, who is no stranger to Middle Eastern creativity. His journey began in India, working for Saatchi & Saatchi Mumbai, and together with Procter & Gamble, he created Ariel’s ‘Clothes Line’, a campaign which made him the number one ranked creative in India.

Leaving his native India, Kalpesh moved over to Ogilvy Singapore before making the UAE his home. What he believed was a “quick stopover” turned into a more permanent move. Having been in Dubai for the last 13 years, he’s been instrumental in shaping the MENA region and his work has made him one of the most influential creatives in the UAE and beyond. 

With his ‘There Ain’t No Rules’ mantra, Kalpesh doesn’t believe in creative confines, a sentiment that he shares while speaking to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani.

LBB> Firstly, congratulations on the new role at Leo Burnett UAE! You’ve worked at various agencies globally, but can you share how you first found your way into the industry?

Kalpesh> I think it’s been a myriad of collective experiences versus a particular ‘first’. From as far back as I can remember, I was always drawn to art and creativity as a child, which eventually led to me pursuing a degree in art at university. After graduation, I was offered a job at an agency and discovered there is an entire industry where my passion for art and craft can find more purpose. And I never looked back.

LBB> Do you remember the first ad that made you keen to learn more about the process behind it?

Kalpesh> I started my career during a major turning point in the Indian advertising industry. Local and regional advertising styles were being married with international schools of thought and this was birthing a very unique, new culture of advertising in India. I could feel that there was something momentous about what was happening, and I wanted to be a part of it.


LBB> You’ve described your Ariel ‘Clothes Line’ campaign as a particularly significant turning point in your career. What was it like to see your work celebrated so widely for the first time?

Kalpesh> The work being celebrated was great, of course. But more than just the joy of seeing it succeed, it taught me a very important lesson – sometimes, we may not know how big the opportunities we get can really be, and how they can eventually become a turning point in our careers or for the brands we work with. This is why I strongly believe until this day that every brief should be treated as an opportunity.


LBB> You’ve helped shape Middle Eastern creativity over the last 13 years at VMLY&R. What were your initial thoughts when you took the opportunity and what’s the most exciting aspect of the region now?

Kalpesh> When I first came here, there was a perception of this region being just a ‘quick stopover’ en route to bigger advertising markets. We began to change that through the work we were producing. Work that was rooted in the region, yes, but very much of an international calibre.

Today, the region is no longer a place for passing through. Clients have evolved. The work has matured. And it is possible to have a solid body of work in your book without needing to go anywhere else. The result of this is seen in all the major shows where the region is always well represented. At the same time for multinational clients, the country and region have also become a hub for creativity that travels.

LBB> Your mantra is ‘There Ain’t No Rules’ – can you tell us what this means when it comes to pushing boundaries in your creative work?

Kalpesh> We’re in the business of creativity. And creativity cannot have rules. This isn’t something I’ve invented. It’s just true. Your craft can follow rules, or guidelines rather. It needs discipline and rigour. However, creativity and ideas cannot be bound by rules. It’s a journey and you just have to let it lead you to unexpected places, and hopefully – enrich you along the way.


LBB> What changes would you like to see from the industry in the next five to ten years?

Kalpesh> The landscape of our work is changing. Clients are getting bolder – taking purposeful stances. A new generation of talent is entering the industry, driven by passion and purpose and ideals they believe in. And people, on the whole, are aware of not only the influence they can have on brands but the influence that brands can have on their lives. There’s no better time to be a part of our industry.


LBB> Across the many clients you’ve worked on over the years, are there any pieces of work that you’re particularly proud of?

Kalpesh> I’ve been fortunate to work on some great brands – Harvey Nichols, Land Rover, Coca Cola, Colgate, McDonald’s, the list goes on. Too many to count. Touch wood!

LBB> Aside from work, where do you go to find inspiration?

Kalpesh> Everywhere. If you’re looking for inspiration in just one place, you’re probably limiting yourself. The world we live in today has an inspiration overdose all around us. Take it all in, I say.

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Genres: People

BIG KAHUNA FILMS Dubai, Wed, 25 May 2022 16:26:00 GMT