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Interview to Shalina Dam

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Mar
27,
2009
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Shalini has been with the organization, Grey India, close to a decade. As a young Creative Director she created “Hungry Kya” a platform for Domino’s to launch Pizzas in India; created an integrated idea for re-launch of Samsung durables “Tumse Hai Zindagi”. While at Grey, she has worked across categories ranging from durables to FMCG – Medimix, Revlon, Hindustan Times, Bharti AXA etc .

Her last assignment was as Executive Creative Director South East Asia, where she worked on special projects across that region. Now she is National Creative Director of Grey India.

Shalini comes with a graduation degree in Economics, from Delhi University and her work experience prior to Grey is with agencies like Contract, TBWA and Leo Burnett where she worked on brands like Coke, Thumbs up, Limca, Airtel, NIIT, Maruti.

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AdWomen: First of all, we would like to congratulate you for being selected a jury member of as significant festival as Adfest. How one feels when gets a new like this?

Shalini Dam: Well one obviously feels privileged. And it is. A privilege that your industry offers you with the understanding and expectation that you will do your best.

AdWomen: ¿Do you think that Adfest, since its first edition, has influenced the advertising industry in the region?

Shalini Dam: Oh yes. Hugely. It is an award show that is in tune with the voice, cultural nuances and the pulse of this region. And again, the past couple of years have shown that this region's SOV [Source of Volume] has increased by many decibels.

AdWomen: Just some years ago there were almost no women in the juries of international advertising festivals. Do you think that since their incorporation the type or style of awarded campaigns have changed?

Shalini Dam: Different people have different sensibilities. And it must be so between genders too. However as a professional, it is always about putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and then judging if it works. Be it an old man, an unemployed youth, an Indian farmer - we have to draw on our understanding of the consumer. But yes diversity is good; it brings more understanding on the table. And just as it helps having a jury representing different parts and cultures of the world, I'm sure gender representation also makes the understanding richer. The style and type of awarded campaigns has changed, but I see nothing that makes me want to attribute that to women alone. All I can say is that they obviously did a good job, the awarded work is fantastic!

AdWomen: You work as a National Creative Director for Grey. Without any doubt you needed to work hard to get where you are. What was the clue moment in your career until the moment? And who is the person that has taught you/helped you the most in the word of advertising?

Shalini Dam: Well all my bosses, all my juniors, the clients, the account planners, the account executives - good or bad - have contributed to me learning more about this profession. But the person who has helped me most in the world of advertising strangely has nothing to do with this industry, except that his daughter works in it. Because every time I've been at the ¨giving up stage¨, with cribs about impossible situations and so on, he's cut me short with - I'm sure there must be some change, however tiny, that you can influence, so why don't you do that.

So I've always been back to the grind again, till I'm ready to repeat the cycle. But his campaign is the most consistent-not once has he changed his stance!

AdWomen: A woman in the territory dominated by men. How did you survive and what's the experience you're living now?

Shalini Dam: Well in our industry everybody has to work hard. Yes, I believe women have to work harder for acceptance.

I mean you have to work like a dog, before the guys pat you on your back and tell you - "hey, you're a guy - you're one of us". That's their way of paying you a compliment! And they don't mean it any other way. But I'm always ready with my retort - "No thanks, but I'm happy being a woman!"

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AdWomen: Presently, the number of women working in the creative departments is increasing, little by little. Does it change somehow the way how agencies and creative teams work? And what about the influence on realization of ads and campaigns?

Shalini Dam: To have different voices is always a good idea in our field. That sparks creativity. And makes richer the creative department.

As a woman I would like to see greater representation of women - till the ratio more or less mimics our representation in the overall demography. Or better still, till advertising is accused of it being an old girl's club!

AdWomen: The data show that the majority of women do not feel identified with advertisements. What are the creative keys that make it possible to connect with women successfully? And the most efficient techniques and advertising strategies that work with women the best?

Shalini Dam: Well I don't know about this data. Bad strategies, poor insights, insipid creative ideas: if they don't bring result with men or children, I don't see why they should work with women.

Apart from that I really do believe that we have to understand that women consumers can offer us insights beyond their roles. Beyond, mother, daughter, professional, doctor, lover…you know the list.

AdWomen: You have mentioned one of your mentors. Could it be that the scarce presence of women in creative teams is a consequence of the lack of female role models in this field? What can be done in order to change this status quo?

Shalini Dam: Well there are plenty female role models - from great leaders to great writers. From entrepreneurs to activists. Artists to scientist. The list is long.

But yes, as we have more and more women enter our industry, it will provide a more positive environment for women to operate in. No it's not that women are easier on other women - we use the same exacting yardstick irrespective of the gender! But I can see a shift in the water cooler conversations, at the least!

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AdWomen: To end up a brief questionnaire:

Your best campaign:

A series of ads for CII when Bill Clinton first visited India as the president of the USA.

The recent campaign that you like the most:

Nakka mukka - Times of India

A friend from work:

many! I have worked in this agency for close to a decade!

One creative woman:

I'll name my fellow jury member - Ruth Lee

Your tip for young creative women:

Be bold. Be fearless. Make sure your voice is heard!

A farewell:

Only fabulous work builds brands!

Find out more interviews, here.

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