Q&A: Tista Sen – ‘I Like Simple. But I Like Big Impact Simple.’

A conversation with the former Regional Creative Director of Wunderman Thompson South Asia and a creative leader who has been ranked amongst the 20 most creative people in Asia.

Leading up to her role as a juror at this year’s Gerety Awards, we recently caught up with Creative Brand Consultant, Tista Sen.

Formerly with J. Walter Thompson, where she joined in 2001 and rose to Regional Creative Director of Wunderman Thompson South Asia, Tista has been involved with campaigns for globally recognized brands including Unilever, Sony, Godrej, GSK, Aditya Birla, and others across a wide range of categories.

Over the course of our conversation, she talks about Ladyfinger, an all-women agency she launched to provide gender balance in advertising and creative excellence, her co-founding of The Collective, changes she’s seen in the industry across two decades, her upcoming juror role with Gerety, and more.


 

Can you tell us more about The Collective and its work giving a voice to young women in the industry when it comes to discrimination and gender inequality?

As senior creative women we were alarmed to find that the number of young women joining the industry was decreasing as well as those who joined and decided to opt out. There are numerous industry bodies for all kinds of issues but nothing that really pertains to women. Honestly, nobody thinks it’s important. So, we started The Collective. We were a group of women across agencies who have grown up in the sewers and know the drill.

This was also around the time of MeToo and there was just so much power play in the workplace. We wanted to create a space where young women could have a voice. Not just have a dialogue with some HR department but with women from the outside who heard them and genuinely wanted to help.

We have a lawyer and a Life and Leadership Coach who specifically deals with issues of harassment on our panel. We are neither judge nor jury. We listen we advise and then intervene with the agency in question.

You recently founded Ladyfinger an agency that talks to women specifically on issues they can relate to while helping brands adopt an insightful communication model. Tell us more about that.

Ladyfinger was born out of a desire to communicate to women in the right tonality. Not one size with all but really to do a deep dive into what do women really want and why. How do they like to be spoken to. We are in a country where women have much more spending power, are gaining financial independence and working towards creating their own identity.


 

“The endeavor is to grow the business of brands. Find the sweet spot and talk to women like they are human not some vacuous fillers who mostly hang around the family and are obsessed about cooking the perfect happy meal.”

Separate from the husband or family. But these women don’t exist in most brand communication. And I don’t mean just obvious beauty brands. I’m talking about banking, the financial sector, automobile, and even real estate. The endeavor is to grow the business of brands. Find the sweet spot and talk to women like they are human not some vacuous fillers who mostly hang around the family and are obsessed about cooking the perfect happy meal.

Having been in the industry for over two decades, how would you grade progress with gender issues on the agency and the brand side?

I think it’s better on the brand side than the Agency side, and the data is all out there staring at us in the face. Of course, there are valid reasons but the underlying issue is are we doing enough. Are we creating enough opportunities, are we creating safe places where women can flourish? And most importantly where women have a voice and are heard.

At the risk of understatement, AI has become a bit of a thing. What AI tools have become “must-haves” for you and your team? How is AI changing the way you work, both for yourself and your clients?

I want to answer this differently. Leaving the tech tools aside and everyone has their go-to models what scares me is that clients do their own little dabbling on their side. It’s like discovering those insta filters or the Snapchat funnies. Yay. This is fun and wowza I can create my own stuff. I’m creative. Sack the agency. No you are not. You still need an idea. You still need to sell your brand. You still need the agency creative expertise.

What kind of work are you looking forward to seeing most as a Gerety Awards juror this year?

I want to see work that hits me hard where it hurts. Where technology is used to build, not be the idea. Where creativity is classy and impeccable. Work that is audacious and breaks new ground. With AI like you mentioned what are we awarding? Sometimes it is just always the insight and the idea. I like simple. But I like big impact simple. And execution that leaves me gobsmacked.

“I want to see work that hits me hard where it hurts. Where technology is used to build, not be the idea. Where creativity is classy and impeccable. Work that is audacious and breaks new ground.”

In general, do you think awards shows are important?

Yes, most definitely and not just creative but effectiveness and craft and everything. As an industry we need our Oscar moment. Otherwise, it’s the how big you are P & L conversation that’s anyways lurking across agency corridors.

We are a very incestuous industry in the sense that we know each other, and the work and we talk about it among ourselves. I just wish award shows had a bigger reach not in terms of entries obviously but in terms of interest. We contribute to a business and as lofty as it sounds want to change the world. Or attempt to! All industry forums have their clubs we need to belong to them as well.

Can you share some of your favorite creative work from 2023 that you’re hoping to see entered at The Gerety Awards?

Surprise me Gerety!


This Q&A was published in partnership with The Gerety Awards. To learn more,  including how and when to enter visit www.geretyawards.com

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