Q&A: Ruchi Sharma – ‘Creativity Just for Creativity’s Sake is Not Easy to Sell Anymore’

Ruchi is the Creative Chairperson at BBDO Lanka

Ruchi Sharma’s career spans 20+ years working in Mumbai, Bangkok, South East Asia, New York, the Americas, and Sri Lanka. She has an impressive track record, working on multinational brands and categories in diverse international markets and is adept at working across cultures and navigating large global platforms, seeing them through the regional and local implementation.

As Creative Chairperson for BBDO Lanka, she is highly respected in Sri Lanka as one of the country’s brightest creative leaders. Her work was instrumental in winning the country’s first Cannes Finalist, setting Sri Lanka on the global map for other agencies to follow.

I follow a simple philosophy – Under promise. Over deliver.

Since then, she has won several international, regional and local awards. The most recent being the only Spikes 2018 metal for Sri Lanka. And the only Effies 2018 Gold medal for Sri Lanka. Thus, proving that her work resonates equally on the creative and effectiveness scale.

She has worked on significant regional and global brands for Fonterra, Nestle, Coke, Colgate Palmolive, Unilever and P&G. She has held leadership roles at reputed agencies including BBDO, Young & Rubicam, MullenLowe, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Ogilvy & Mather.

Sharma, who sits on the jury for the next AME Awards, sat down to talk about why awards are an important part of the industry, her all-time favorite ad and more.


Tell us about your process of creating and delivering creative and effective results. Are your ideas inspired or do they come together as the result of a collective brainstorming session with your team?

I am not a big fan of brainstorming. Without a good moderator, it can encourage the most popular, and not necessarily, the bravest solutions. At the end of all the discussions, a sharp, creative or planner still needs to shut the door (and the world), collect their understanding of the brief and come up with a brilliant solution.

I do believe though that all ideas are inspired. The source of inspiration can keep shifting. I have often got my inspiration from my travels, the various cultures I interacted with, the great friends I have made in my expat stints, the Arts- movies, books, music. And of late, my creative muse is my 4-year-old son.

Increasingly, our clients are more concerned about the ROI and results of any piece of communication we create for them.

His curiosity for everything inspires me. His constant “whys” and the simplicity with which he comes to conclusions about the most complicated things. Isn’t that precisely what we are meant to do at work? Observe, ask the whys, and then simplify the communication & market challenge to the simplest human insight and emotion that connects with consumers.

Our solution should be easy enough for even a child to grasp. And yet, we tend to take our work and our ideas far too seriously. We debate far too much and complicate things. The most brilliant work always comes with a child-like curiosity and solve.

As a strategic creative, what stand-out attributes do you recognize in award-winning creative and effective advertising…what do ads that have taken the brief and turned it into a campaign that transforms opinions, evokes action and raises the bar for the brand have in common?

In almost all award-winning creative, strategic & effective work, a sharp human insight is the spine of that body of work. Central to this body is the heart- the emotions- that bring alive the connection to the insight. Without this spine and heart connection, the body is soul-less.

Why are effectiveness competitions important?

Increasingly, our clients are more concerned about the ROI and results of any piece of communication we create for them. More so, on large global multinationals clients. Almost every category of awards wants proof of results and how the work fared regarding sales, transforming opinions around the brand, creating awareness or evoking tangible action.

I am not a big fan of brainstorming. Without a good moderator, it can encourage the most popular, and not necessarily, the bravest solutions.

Creativity just for creativity’s sake is not easy to sell anymore. Effectiveness is becoming equally if not more important. Thus, award shows like AME are gaining stature as they precisely measure the effectiveness behind a leading-edge creative campaign.

Why did you agree to participate on this year’s AME Grand Jury and what do you hope to learn by viewing entries into this competition?

I am looking forward to seeing how different cultures address a creative challenge and how it fared in their market environment.

What is your all time, favorite most creative and effective ad and/or ads and why in your opinion did they triumph?

My current favorite is Ariel, Share-the-load campaign. It is a fabulously effective piece of communication that challenged and eventually transformed the patriarchal mindset of a country. The spine of this campaign was the insight that, across households in India, doing laundry is traditionally considered a woman’s job.

Rather than be preachy, the brand spoke through the emotional hook of a father observing and apologizing to his daughter on behalf of all fathers to their daughters. For setting an ignorant example for all men to follow. It evoked an emotional response and created unprecedented awareness & action. Besides winning every possible creative and effectiveness award. It is an inspiring piece of emotional content.

What is one secret of your success that no one knows about you (till now)?

There is no secret. There is just rule I follow. The more you keep at it, the more successful you become. I never give up.

What philosophy or iconic individual inspires you in both your career and life?

I follow a simple philosophy – Under promise. Over deliver.

You can get more info about the AME Awards here.

Gayle Seminara-Mandel
Gayle Seminara-Mandel
Gayle is the Executive Director/AME Awards at New York Festivals

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