<p>They are Indian advertising’s hottest creative duo and their over Rs 100-crore deal with Dentsu this week (under which the Japanese agency has bought 51 per cent in Taproot but has allowed the existing management to continue running the agency) has simply reinforced their position in the industry. 45-year-old Agnello Dias and 38-year-old Santosh Padhi had never envisaged being the cynosure of most eyes when they set up Taproot in January 2009. Through much of their two-decade-long-advertising careers, both men have opted to remain in the background, letting their work do the talking. But that’s only a distant memory now as the spotlight today is trained on them as they go from one campaign to the other.
Consider this: Taproot has just released its second campaign for Airtel after its popular Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hai series last year. This time the emphasis is on Jo Mera Hai Woh Tera Hai (Whatever is mine, is yours). And like last year, the campaign has created a storm, endearing itself in particular to youngsters at whom it is targetted. Padhi, who is co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot India, says that the idea was to look at the aspect of sharing among friends. “It has hit the nail straight on the head. The campaign has received positive reviews,” he says. That should be an under-statement.
Both Dias and Padhi are used to this adulation now as this will be the second straight year when their campaigns have cut ice nationally. Last year, it was Change the Game for Pepsi and Har Friend for Airtel.
Padhi says, “There are quite a few campaigns we are proud of besides Pepsi and Airtel. This includes the work for Bennett & Coleman and Nirma.”
The agency walked away with a Gold Lion during Cannes this year along with production house Ramesh Deo Productions in the filmcraft category for work done for Mumbai Mirror, the city paper promoted by Bennett & Coleman.
It emerged a strong second during Goafest this year walking home with six golds in comparison to traditional favourite Ogilvy’s 11 golds. Given that the agency is just three-and-a-half-years old, industry insiders say it is no mean feat. Arvind Sharma, chairman, India sub-continent, Leo Burnett, the agency that both Dias and Padhi were associated with for over a decade, says, “The two are very talented, yes. But above all, they are versatile creative people, who truly understand what the brand’s needs are. They are not looking to leave their personal mark or style on the campaign. Instead, their approach is to address the brand’s needs, which is why each of their campaigns is different from the other.”
Agency insiders say that both Dias and Padhi complement each other well - Dias is a copywriter, and Padhi, an art director. Besides Leo Burnett, where the two had the longest stints and where they also worked as a team, Dias has also worked with JWT, Lintas and Interpub, while Padhi was with Mudra. Years of working on brands, say agency insiders, have honed their skills, and the two understand what is required of them when assigned an account. Padhi admits that the two put in a great amount of effort when working on a brand.
On Pepsi, for instance, the duo was clear that the need of the hour was to break the clutter of advertising around the Cricket World Cup with something that stood out. The two borrowed a simple insight: Of how the game itself has seen a transition with cricketers using newer styles to bowl or bat. The TV campaign dwelt on the signature style of a few key cricketers to drive home the point. But Dias and Padhi didn’t stop there: they had an equally eye-catching outdoor campaign that showed a few select cricketers in body paint. Together, the different legs of the campaign helped Pepsi in standing out during the World Cup last year, and also landed Taproot the Grand Effie for their holistic effort during the Effie Awards in December 2011. These awards, unlike the Abby Awards, which celebrate the creative idea, look at how effective a campaign has been in the marketplace.
Both Dias and Padhi are experts at it now. In fact, when they quit their respective jobs - Dias as chief creative officer, JWT, and Padhi, as executive creative director, and national head, art, Leo Burnett, in September 2008, to set up Taproot, many questioned the timing of the move given that the world was reeling under the aftershocks of the collapse of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers.
But the duo has clearly put all doubts behind as they laugh their way to the bank.