Shikhar Mohan is creative group head, Grey Worldwide India, an advertising agency of the WPP network, and the youngest person to be a part of the New York Festivals jury for the Outdoor Poster panel. The 25-year-old started his career in a creative shop called The Joint (now K-Factor) in New Delhi, and has worked at agencies such as the Mudra Group, Draft FCB Pvt. Ltd, Everest Brand Solutions Pvt. Ltd and Leo Burnett Advertising Pvt. Ltd.
He has handled a range of accounts, including General Motors India Pvt. Ltd, Philips Electronics India Ltd and Mitsubishi Pajero from Mitsubishi Corp. In a span of five years, Mohan has won 10 awards at several award shows. He is upbeat about Indian advertising finding more space at global awards. Edited excerpts:
What is the New York Festivals (NYF) about? And what’s your role on the jury?
New York Festivals, now in its 50th year, is an International Awards Group company—the third largest advertising award company in the world. Covering everything from film, print to outdoor and design, it honours and recognizes the world’s best advertising.
I will be judging entries in the outdoor category. These could be anything from Guerrilla Advertising (and) Innovative Use of Media to conventional posters. Considering that the maximum entries at any award show today are in the outdoor category, I am looking forward to some great work and fun.
Young gun: Mohan says creativity is often the only differentiator between a dozen products which look, feel and do the same thing. Photo: Madhu Kapparath / Mint
What factors led to your being picked as the youngest member of the NYF awards jury?
Advertising is a profession which survives on young blood, but there are few occasions when young professionals get a chance to lead from the front. Young energy is what keeps this profession going, and should be applauded. I see my appointment as a jury member as a nod to this energy. At the same time, you have to work hard, win the same awards as the veterans, and get noticed to get such an opportunity.
Besides this, what could have played a role would be my being creative group head at 25—within a short five years in the profession. I am ranked in the Top Creatives in Asia by Campaign Brief Asia magazine, and have almost 10 international and national awards to my credit during this period. These awards include ‘YoungGuns’, Campaign Brief’s ‘The Work’, multiple wins and nominations at NYFs and awards at the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) GoaFest.
What has India’s performance been like at these awards?
India’s share in (advertising) awards has been rising steadily at all award shows. NYF is no exception. Traditionally, the UK and the US have ruled international award shows but now, our share—along with Brazil’s and Singapore’s—is on the upswing. As we rise as an economic power and avenues for advertising increase, speaking out and, more importantly, being heard becomes important for brands.
In this scenario, creativity becomes critical. Often, it’s the only differentiator between a dozen products, which look, feel and do the same thing. With more such creative work being produced in India, more awards are coming in, too.
The recent Gunn Report puts India at No. 14. I see India rising very soon into the Top 10. We have a very strong bunch of people. What we need are more adventurous clients.
And one more thing. I would like to see less scam. Trevor Beattie made an appeal to Indian advertising to resist the all-alluring ‘patli gali’ (a euphemism for short cuts). India has been walking down it pretty often lately, and I sincerely hope we can switch tracks. Awards are meant to be quality control. The absurdity of scam becomes crystal clear when you take it out of context. For a moment, imagine a car manufacturer which makes awful cars the whole year and then, come December, churns out one that works perfectly. How absurd is that? The other thing is that creative people actually suffer in the process. While it provides some much-needed catharsis, it does nothing to develop the creative’s potential for handling communication on everyday briefs—which requires knowledge and years of dedication to understanding the craft.
What is needed to win at these awards?
Clichés such as cutting-edge advertising are clichés for a reason. That’s the only thing that is respected at shows such as New York Festivals, One Show, Cannes and D&AD.
Any new features being added to the NYF awards?
Not really. Last year, the other award shows of the International Awards group, such as the Midas Awards (for financial services communication), AME Awards (Advertising & Marketing Effectiveness) and The Global Awards (for health care communication), were all brought under the New York Festivals banner. No change has been introduced post this.