Meet the Publicis India Brand Services Director with entrepreneurship in her DNA and a seriously smart approach to advertising
In six short years, Trisha Satra has rocketed through the ranks. Currently a Brand Services Director in the Mumbai office of Publicis India, she has entrepreneurism in her blood and is intrigued by what she sees as the giant puzzle box of advertising. With her inquisitive nature and a business savvy learned from her parents, Trisha embodies that very Indian concept of ‘jugaad’, the ability to problem solve with the tools to hand.
These days Trisha manages key agency relationships with the likes of HDFC Mutual Fund, Zee Yuva, Zee Talkies, Mirror Now and Twitter – and prior to joining Publicis a year ago she was at TBWA\India.
She is also very funny, as LBB’s Laura Swinton found out when she talked to Trisha about why she’s so keen to pack as much as she can into her career as fast as possible, her take on India’s market, and the growing wave of feminism across the industry. And her grandmother, who also sounds flipping brilliant.
LBB> What was it that initially attracted you to a career in advertising?
TS> Puzzles, actually. Ever since I was young, puzzles have always fascinated me. And to me, the greatest puzzle in the world is the human mind. Advertising is my route to piecing together some pieces of that puzzle, in ways that go far beyond the daily social interactions that any other career would have given me.
But that said, it is something that I chanced upon – but there’s never been a moment of regret since Day One… never a “what-if” moment since the start.
LBB> And what is it about the client/account side that really suited you?
TS> I come from a family of entrepreneurs. Being in account management ensures that the basic business instinct that runs in my veins finds an apt outlet. At the same time, however, it ensures that I can get involved in every stage of the advertising process – from interpreting the client brief, to figuring out strategic spaces for the offering, developing the communication itself, selling it to the client and eventually seeing it through production and into media.
What’s more, being in this part of the agency / industry helps maximise my exposure to all that’s going on. It allows me to dabble in digital communication, experiential marketing, on-ground activations – the whole hog – while still working with a quintessentially “mainline” agency.
Over and above all this, “jugaad”, or problem-solving, is an inherent skill for me, given my born-and-bred Mumbai heritage. Finding solutions to problems of all magnitudes – right from the daily operational challenges to larger business problems, is practically second nature. And problem solving is a key trait that’s helped me on my journey in account management.
LBB> You’ve only been in the industry for about six years and you’ve really progressed pretty quickly – to what do you attribute that success?
TS> Ambition, coupled with a never-say-never attitude. Too broad? Hmmm…
I think it’s the ticking clock. Literally. My parents have/had their own set of business ventures – and in true Indian family style, I’m going to eventually be the one taking charge. Before I do that, however, I want to make my mark here, in the world of advertising. A tall order, considering at the end of the day, what gets remembered is great creative, not necessarily great people skills.
And when I speak about people skills, mine come from an inherent ability to multitask. This has helped me not just in juggling work, but also in managing interpersonal relationships. Especially considering at the end of the day, the relationship between every creative, account management person and client is delicate at best.
Additionally, I try and approach every brand I work on with a passion and zeal to match the client’s own. In order to do this, I deep-dive into every facet of their business, their industry / environment, which in turn enables me to provide solutions that go beyond the advertising mandate. All this, in turn, ensures the client sees me as their “inside” man at the agency – a trusted advisor they can count on. And strong client relationships have helped me progress quickly.
But over and above all this, I’d attribute my success to a great set of bosses and mentors, an even better bunch of clients, an understanding family and just a few “right time at the right place” moments.
LBB> What was the best piece of advice you got when you were starting out?
TS> While I was an intern, my boss once told me that no question is a stupid question. That has just ensured that through it all, I am able to be curious about everything around me, question everything – and I think therefore ensure better briefs for my creative teams, or better creative outputs for my clients.
LBB> Before getting into advertising I saw that you have worked a lot with kids – as a camp counsellor, interning at a school, at a creche – how has working with kids helped you with working in the world of advertising?
TS> It has helped me deal with all the children at office every single day!
On a serious note, it has taught me patience. Which helps me infinitely, especially in account management, considering the varied experiences this side of the business throws up, every day.
But more importantly, it has also taught me how to look at everything through a child’s lens – a perspective that’s pure and unadulterated, not bogged down by social mores. This, I believe, helps me evaluate the work that we put into the market in a very different light – especially in a world that’s increasingly asking for communication at a pace that’s real time, leaving little room for something as critical (yet perceived to be “old-school”) as concept testing.
LBB> And talking of kids – what kind of child were you, where did you grow up and was there any hint that you might end up in advertising?
TS> None, actually. I kept changing my mind on my career path till my final year of college.
For the longest time, I was convinced that I wanted to be a doctor. High school saw me oscillating between aerospace engineering and law. I entered college wanting to pursue journalism. And then event management.
It was only during my last internship that I actually stepped into the world of advertising. And it was love at first… well, brief.
LBB> What projects have you been proudest of in your career?
TS> There are two that stand out.
The most recent one was a piece for HDFC Mutual Fund – a campaign for a new fund offering called the HDFC Housing Opportunities Fund. This was a campaign with some of the strongest business results I’ve seen – the fund overachieved its target by 120%, with a communication-generated lead to final conversion ratio of 21%, a number practically unheard of in the case of this business-to-business-to-consumer category in India.
A project that I absolutely loved working on, however, was for Channel 9 – a new entrant in India in the women’s innerwear and sportswear category. The launch campaign we worked on for them celebrated a critical change in Indian society – visually depicting the journey most women here today are taking, of breaking free of the shackles society has placed on them. The visuals were beautiful and powerful, and I wish they had gotten the visibility they deserved.
LBB> You’ve been at Publicis for a year – what was it about Publicis that drew you over?
TS> The true human stories that Publicis has, over the years, managed to bring alive through communication is what attracted me the most.
But very, very honestly, it was literally one ad – this ad.
LBB> And what has that journey at Publicis been like?
TS> An exciting roller-coaster is the best way to describe it. It is practically my first ever “new” job – seeing as I spent five years at my first. And the year has been full of new things learnt.
This year, I’ve been working across a few diverse categories, some of which are extremely familiar and some of which are completely new. I’ve had a chance to work with some incredible talent – across our agency as well as the larger Groupe. I’ve had a chance to work on campaigns that are truly cohesive across various marketing / communications solutions, and it feels good to be able to say that “integrated communications” is real here, not merely an overdone sales pitch.
LBB> And what is the most exciting thing about the Indian market right now?
TS> There are a few things that excite me about India.
The first is the higher propensity to spend among the Indian consumers today. Gone are the days when Indians were conservative with their expenses – the country we see today is a booming consumer market, with manufacturers and service providers working double-time to catch up with the consumption.
The other is the advent of mobile-first internet users. People who are consuming content of all sorts, in a multitude of regional languages – including subtitled or dubbed versions. People who suddenly have access to cultures and thought-processes from around the world. People with a renewed voice, a renewed sense of empowerment – a generation unafraid to make their presence felt, their opinion heard.
And the last (and in my opinion most heartening) is the wave of feminism that’s sweeping the country. Not to say that everything is suddenly rosy – but there are radical changes being made. People are starting to have conversations around women-centric topics that have always been taboo – a change spearheaded to some extent by popular media and advertising. For instance, “Padman” is a movie that focuses on issues around menstruation and female hygiene – a conversation that was never had in the open till Whisper, a sanitary napkin brand launched their “Touch the pickle” campaign.
All this, put together makes India poised to truly take its place as a force to reckon with, as well as a market to focus on, going forward.
LBB> And the most frustrating?
TS> Advertising pay scales! But on a serious note, it is this wave of increasing fear I’m seeing among a large set of marketers. They want to play it safe in a time of experimentation, they want to conform to the norms in an age when the consumers are breaking free of them. Not to say that this is the entire marketing fraternity – there’s some extremely bold communication that’s happening in the country today. But I’d just like to see more brands and marketers trying new things, rather than sticking to the mundane, even if that is primarily seen as a reflection of what’s happening in culture.
LBB> Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
TS> Probably doing something on my own. Entrepreneurial blood, entrepreneurial dreams, after all.
LBB> Outside of advertising, what inspires you?
TS> Books. Mountains. Forests. Food. Human beings. Dogs and cats. Stars. Interesting buildings. Children. Butterflies. And bubbles.
Most of all, bubbles.
LBB> Who are your heroes and why?
TS> At the risk of sounding a little clichéd, my grandmother is my truest hero. She was absolutely unafraid – of the world, of society, of just about anything – you’ve got to admire a 64-year-old sari clad Indian lady who went on every single ride in Disneyland twice over, and cooked an extraordinary lasagne, right in her home kitchen.
Closer to the world of advertising, Lee Clow is someone I look up to – not just for his creative prowess, but also for his perspective on the business of advertising. Especially since at the end of the day, telling stories on behalf of brands is what I would like to do all my life.