2020 Grand Jury POV Interview: John Thangaraj – National Planning Director at FCB Ulka

John Thangaraj is National Planning Director for FCB Ulka. In a career spanning close to two decades, John has worked across every form of marketing communication from brand marketing and consumer research to media and strategic planning. His roster of blue-chip brands include adidas, GSK, Unilever, LG, Whirlpool, PepsiCo, Domino’s, Expedia, Yum!, National Geographic and many more.

For the past three and a half years, he’s been the National Planning Director of FCB Ulka in New Delhi during which time he’s lead the agency to multiple new business wins, creative and strategic effectiveness awards including Gold Lions at Cannes in both 2018 & 2019 and the APAC Gold Effie for Good.

As a strategic creative, what do ads that have taken the brief and turned it into a campaign that transforms opinions, evokes action and raises the bar for the brand have in common?

In a word, authenticity. Of course, all these campaigns require a strong insight and an ability to use that as a springboard for a groundbreaking creative leap. However, I’m a strong believer that in 2019, consumers are like dogs. They can sniff out inauthenticity and empty, hollow ‘advertising’- and they don’t like it. Authenticity is the secret sauce that builds consumer connect, and connection is the first step towards genuine attitudinal & behavioral change.


What is your favorite most effective ad and why does it hit the bullseye for the brand?

Currently, it’s Whopper Detour from Burger King and FCB New York. For me it hits the sweet spot of delivering stellar business results and doing so in a manner that is fundamentally, authentically Burger King- by trolling McDonald’s. It’s simple, it’s fun and it works- what else needs to be said?

What do you do to keep your creative and strategic juices flowing?

As simplistic as it may sound, I watch lots of movies, read lots of books and observe lots of people. Insights are everywhere. They’re in the season finale of that show you love and in the first app that guy sitting next to you on the airplane opens up once you land. All you need to do is keep your eyes and ears open and absorb. Award showreels are fun too- but I sometimes find they box one’s thinking.

Who is your inspiration and how has this philosophy made you who you are today?

I’m going to be a little controversial here and say Bob Hoffman. I mean, the guy wrote a book called Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey- he deserves the prize basis that title alone.

    In a world where marketers are under increasing pressure to deliver results, truly breakthrough, effective advertising needs to be courageous.


Jokes aside though, Bob’s abject rejection of advertising catch phrases and buzz words and his and single-minded focus on quantifiable, hard fact is what has shaped my approach to advertising & strategy over the years. He’s often rude and obnoxious but his words have always rung true for me.

Why are effectiveness competitions like the AME Awards important?

In a world where marketers are under increasing pressure to deliver results, truly breakthrough, effective advertising needs to be courageous. It needs to get consumers to not just buy, but to buy into a product, its purpose and its philosophy.  Which is exactly why the AME Awards are so important- they show us the way, they inspire, and most importantly they acknowledge the tremendous impact that brave advertising delivers.

Any advice for entrants? Will you share your tips for entry success?

Don’t write an entry, tell a story. Be real, be relevant and be readable.

To find out more about entering the AME Awards, go here.


Read More

Creative Work

subscribe & get more brand in your diet


get more brand in your diet

We never share your info,
we only share ours