Preeti Vyas Giannetti – one of the most powerful businesswomen in India.
She’s unique. The only Creative Director who is CEO and ranked as one of the 25 most powerful women in Indian business.
You can meet her here…and listen to her speak.
Her eyes are luminous. Like the space around her. Pastel shades of green, yellow, blue and cream. Mud architecture, with little niches in the walls. Glass bricks on the windows, partitions and mirrors. A rough finish on window ledges, a colourful china mosaic. No sharp edges in sight. Even her cabin walls are curvilinear. Doesn’t that inspire visions of a buoyant bottom-line?
Wait. Hear Preeti Vyas Giannetti out. ‘If a space were a person, this would be it. This would be me. It has warmth, it has colour. It’s graphic. It cocoons you,’ she says.
She’s talking about her own ad agency: Vyas Giannetti Creative. ‘I cannot live in a office which is dull and boring,’ she continues. ‘I always want to be full of life and vibrancy, and surround myself with great thoughts, great beauty, great ideas.’
‘I have a thirst to create,’ she declares. And lets face it, Creative is what takes the world ahead. ‘An idea is always a manifestation of the future.’ And so, being creative is all about ‘constantly looking ahead,’ imagining how much better it could be. If ideas make her happy, seeing them executed well gives her a high. Half-worthy work, to her, is unacceptable.
She traces her aversion to mediocrity to her growing-up years, when it seemed that she’d be the least successful of her family members. It drove her to excel in everything she did. But she confesses that she didn’t see herself as someone awfully creative when she entered advertising. But then, Mohammed Khan happened. ‘In Contract, when I was working with Mohammed Khan I learnt that sheer high of creativity something which is unique, which stands out.’ She learnt something else while working with Khan: creative judgment.
She admits, ‘For years it was a foggy question for me, but now I am completely clear. Judgment comes with experience, the right kind of experience. Watching Mohammed work the ideas that he picked, what he chose to like or dislike, was in itself a huge learning for me. The judgment and the crafting, the art direction, the photography, styling. I became very sensitive to all of it. I learnt to love the language of advertising – as opposed to the language in books. I also saw the results of the kind of work we were doing. Charms, Superphone (If you have to talk, you don’t have to walk)…you learn to recognise the root of an idea, without all it’s dressing. Whether the idea will work or not is actually a process of simplifying your brain, getting down to the core of the idea and asking, ‘will it connect?’ And ‘does the idea meet the core thought of the positioning?’ Then, to create a snowball effect, you can think of value additions.’
Creativity is an intangible, she believes, and she could go on about it. But it wouldn’t make anyone else the wiser, or more creative, would it? ‘It’s just something that one has to do. It is a way of thinking. Something than is passed down in the way our work, rather than by giving lectures. It could be in the genes, in the sense that being creative comes more easily to some people, although I believe that there is not a human being on earth who is not creative.’
As much as she thrives on being creative, she doesn’t like it if her agency is slapped with the ‘creative boutique’ label. ‘They have called me a creative hotshop because it’s very comfortable to dismiss somebody. You will find two things said about me. One is that I do design work, and the other is that this is a boutique. This is how I’m given a nice little chair to sit on which doesn’t tread on anyone’s toes. You’re sitting in your corner, and you keep sitting there.’
The reality? ‘I am not a boutique,’ she says firmly. ‘I do as much mainstream work as any one of them. For example the Filmfare campaign or the 34-ad campaign for Sheetal. Which agency would not have given it’s right arm for that kind of work?’
But do strategic inputs go into her work? ‘Creative is the face, since is what is seen in the media. People assume that I don’t have a brain to think! They think that I only produce some cute little ads. If I’m responsible for turning Charagh Din around, do you think it’s because some pretty ad comes to my mind? No. I do research. I think. I look at competition, and in fact, we’ve just had a huge strategy session for three of the retail brands that I am handling.’
She gives Khan’s example. ‘Creative people think strategy. Take Mohammed Khan. He is a creative director, but he influenced a whole marketing trend when he thought of the Denim pack of Charms. The client didn’t think of it. And a whole brand was born. A creative person is also an intelligent person, capable of doing serious thinking, for God’s sake.’
She talks about her Filmfare campaign. ‘Clearly, in Filmfare, there was no product uniqueness, as film magazines are more or less the same. So how do you make it stand apart? I said, ‘I want something that would project the influence cinema has on us.’ So we could do it in a way that was earthy and brought a smile to your face and laid claim to saying that cinema is so much apart and parcel of Indian life and Filmfare knows cinema.’ The campaign, which had photographs of day-to-day Indian life with ordinary people mouthing filmi dialogues, was successful.
But aren’t creative and strategic skills seen as divergent? ‘Not any more,’ she says, ‘and clients have started recognizing that.’
Yet clients do worry about creative agencies taking too much license. Doing their own thing. On their money. ‘The danger of the industry becoming very incestuous and creative people doing work for only two reasons – which is to win awards and to cater to each other – is real,’ she acknowledges. ‘Often they end up talking to each other rather than the target audience. Also, the Indian ad industry being so greatly influenced by the West compounds the problem. Agencies could find themselves using idioms that the masses cannot relate to.’
What about her agency? ‘We do not belong in one slot. I have this unique background of a lot of advertising and design work. I have been involved in multi-media so I have this pool of exposure which is not typical to an agency person. We are a creative independent. We are also structured differently. We are fee-based, which makes it possible to recommend things to our clients which are not necessarily regular ads that go into the media. Events, graphics. We are a holistic communications outfit. Even internationally, barriers between different types of communication are coming down…management consultancies are doing the job of ad agencies. So this is a niche which is correct for me. All these years, I could never see the dividing line between advertising, design, and publishing and I still don’t. Being blinkerless is going to be the way of the future. My universe is much larger.’
Giannetti says she runs her agency in a distinctive style. ‘I do not see this as a business of compartments.’ This is something she can speak passionately on. What’s needed for any significant value generation, according to Giannetti, are free minds. It’s in this spirit that she has laid no firm plans for her agency. ‘The future is limitless, open.’ She smiles radiantly at the thought.
So long as it’s about new ideas and she won’t get labeled on it’s basis – she’ll be pleased.
(The above article, written by me, was published in the Advertising & Marketing Magazine (A&M) some years ago. The photograph is sourced from agencyfaqs.)
Note: Preeti is from the National Institute of Design (NID) and the Chairperson & Executive Creative Director, Vyas Giannetti Creative (VGC).
Today, VGC is bigger than ever before. It is a part of the IN Network, which is a global network of independently owned integrated marketing communications agencies. VGC is a brand communications agency with capitalized billings around $ 20 million and has offices in Mumbai and New Delhi. It’s clients include blue chip companies such as The Aditya Birla Group, Birla Sun Life, The Indian Express Group, BBC World, Air Mauritius, the Hinduja Group, Discovery Travel & Living and many others.
Another achievement: Preeti was invited to be a part of the press jury for the prestigious Cannes International Advertising Festival this year. It was a proud moment for India as VGC is a home-grown agency without any international partnership.
A recent Economic Times Rankings in 2005 has placed Preeti at No.7 in the ‘creative directors’ ranking.
She was also ranked as one of the 25 most powerful women in Indian Business by Business Today, a leading Indian Business magazine.
And the very latest? This year Vyas Giannetti Creative launched a new division called Vyas Giannetti Creative Sports. It is India’s first sports concept company and aims to ‘create customised sports solutions for its clients.’