Santosh ‘Paddy’ Padhi is behind some of India’s most memorable advertisements – campaigns like the intricate “Colours of India” print campaign for Conqueror Paper and “I’m Mumbai” for Times Of India.
Himself a winner of over 200 international awards, he’s joining AdFest this year as Jury President, overseeing Outdoor and Press.
Barbara Messer recently caught up with Padhi to find out more about life at Taproot Dentsu, eight years since launching the agency in 2009.
Conqueror Paper has gone down in history as one of the world’s most awarded print campaigns. Can you share the story of how it was made?
The Conqueror Paper campaign is close to my heart. For more reasons than one. It was our (Taproot’s) first campaign and it was encouraging to win Golds – whether that was at Cannes, Clio, ADFEST, Spikes, etc – in our first year itself.
You could say it literally underwent a trial by fire before it could even find its way to the judging table. We lost the first set of originals to a fire that broke out in our office, gutting the entire place. We had to beg for more time to redo and release this beautiful campaign.
Because it was a B2B campaign there wasn’t big money, but we saw a great opportunity here, we hired a fresh college kid straight out of college who had a wonderful grip on the form of art, who took six weeks for the first set of masters and three and half weeks for the second set.
‘I’m Mumbai’ remains so powerful to watch, even today. How does Mumbai inspire you?
It’s heartening to see work that is so rooted in culture make a mark on the global stage. Of course, Mumbai was the inspiration behind the TVC, but it has also been an inspiration to me and to millions like me. I was born here, brought up here, and I grew in this lively, messy city.
The streets and bylanes are where I made some of my most wonderful childhood memories. And it is these streets that I want to thank for everything that they have given me. They have kept me grounded, my roots run deep here. The bond I share with the city is what has not allowed me to consider jobs from foreign seas that came knocking on my door.
It has been five years since Taproot and Dentsu joined forces in 2012. How has the agency evolved since then?
Absolutely nothing has changed. Except our bank balances. Jokes aside, money never mattered to either of us. It was always a secondary concern. We always believed in doing great work and by god’s grace, everything else followed.
For me, beating my own record and creating something new, something exciting every single time gives me a great high.
When it comes to the network, you could call us the blue-eyed boys. The network respects us immensely. It is amazing how much love has been showered on us. There is no pressure of meeting aggressive targets or goals or award tallies.
What are your goals for 2018?
For me, beating my own record and creating something new, something exciting every single time gives me a great high. Today, the industry is going through massive changes and it is my aim to keep pace with it while delivering work that makes me happy.
You have over 200 international awards. What’s your secret to continually coming up with new ideas?
I try to dial up my passion and excitement to the highest setting. It is almost as if I am working on my first brief. I try to never discriminate between the briefs, as I think of every brief as an opportunity.
My advice would be to become ruthless to yourself and never be in a hurry to finish your ideas. I think that we and our brains are capable of doing a lot more than we are used to doing. It is just a matter of being in the right frame of mind and having the right amount of excitement. That’s when the magic happens.
That being said, it’s not possible to have a winning idea every single time. Failure is a sign of being human. So I’m glad I fail and go wrong sometimes.
You’re judging Outdoor and Print at AdFest 2018 – why are these categories close to your heart?
When it comes to storytelling, print or a single frame is, and has always been, a challenging medium. Over the years, we have seen Asia produce numerous beautiful, magical print ads, which have set a new benchmark. Our region has a rich culture of bringing single frame storytelling to life using incredible craft.
I think that we and our brains are capable of doing a lot more than we are used to doing. It is just a matter of being in the right frame of mind and having the right amount of excitement. That’s when the magic happens.
And then there’s outdoor, a truly versatile medium. A lot is happening in the outdoor media space. In fact, other mediums like promos, direct, digital, even television have to take help from the outdoor medium to speak to a larger audience.
What I’m looking forward to is a wonderful contrast between one of the oldest traditional mediums – print – and the experimental, new age stuff happening on outdoor.
Even if I’m not invited as a member of the AdFest jury, I visit this wonderful festival as a delegate every year. Just taking in the amazing work that is rewarded here inspires me.