BTS with Insiders: The stories behind some of Taproot Dentsu’s most iconic campaigns
Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi share the stories behind some of their most well-received adsTaproot Dentsu
Agnello Dias (Aggie) and Santosh Padhi (Paddy) share the stories behind some of Taproot Dentsu's most well-received ads

BTS with Insiders: The stories behind some of Taproot Dentsu’s most iconic campaigns

Agnello Dias (Aggie) and Santosh Padhi (Paddy) share the stories behind some of Taproot Dentsu's most well-received ads
  • In our latest episode of BTS with Insiders, we got chatting with Agnello Dias, Creative Chairperson, Dentsu Aegis Network India and Co-Founder, Taproot Dentsu and Santosh Padhi, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Taproot Dentsu about a few campaigns close to their hearts.
  • They took us behind the scenes of popular campaigns like Pepsi's Change the Game and Airtel's Har Ek Friend Zaruri Hota Hai, among others.

It was in 2009 that Agnello Dias (Aggie) and Santosh Padhi (Paddy), two people pegged as the hottest creative stars in Indian advertising came together and founded Taproot. Within just a few years of starting the agency, it boasted of an enviable roster of brands it had created campaigns for including PepsiCo, Airtel and Bennett, Coleman & Company.

Three years later, Japanese advertising major Dentsu acquired a majority in the agency. Over the past 11 years, with Aggie and Paddy at the helm of affairs, the agency has come up with some memorable, powerful campaigns that have helped brands tell wonderful, engaging stories.

As a part of our latest series, BTS with Insiders, we spoke to the creative duo about some of the most memorable campaigns they have created together. Here are a few of the stories they shared with us.

Pepsi ‘Change the Game’ campaigns

We all know about the cola wars of the past when players like Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Thums Up would all try to come up with irreverent campaigns, poking fun at each other.

In 2011, Pepsi was the official World Cup sponsor. It was a brand that had always stood for irreverence, and everything that was anti-authoritarian and anti-establishment. In the past, it had roasted Coca-Cola when it was the official world cup sponsor with its cheeky, ‘Nothing Official About It’ campaign.

So in 2011, when it was the official sponsor, its brief was unique. It wanted to say it is the official sponsor, while also making a statement that it is proudly irreverent. “During the discussion around the campaign, we stumbled upon the insight that the game itself had become far more irreverent than it was say 15-20 years ago,” said Aggie.

The agency then decided to manifest this irreverence of the game by depicting a few key shots that the newer breed of cricketers had started playing. “Once we came up with the idea, the client was perceptive enough to see its power straight up,” added Aggie.

The agency came up with five films featuring star cricketers and their trademark shots - MS Dhoni’s ‘Helicopter shot’, Virender Sehwag’s ‘Upper cut’, Harbhajan Singh’s ‘doosra’, Kevin Pietersen’s‘Switch hit’ and Tillekratne Dilshan’s ‘Dilscoop’.

The campaign went on to become a huge hit, so much so that Pepsi replicated the idea in other markets like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. “It also was a very special campaign for us because it was perhaps for the first time that such a huge brand chose to work with a smaller, independent agency. It totally changed the game for us,” added Paddy with a smile.

Airtel’s ‘Har Ek Friend Zaruri Hota Hai’

Before Airtel’s friendship campaign, the brand every year would come up with a campaign that would put out a world philosophy that could be appropriated by mobility, shared Aggie. “That was the time when all brands were trying to build the category, nobody was trying to take each other's market share. The brief given to us that time was that we don't see anything wrong in what we are doing by putting out a life philosophy about how the world is getting more connected except that our tone and manner is making us sound old-fashioned. The brand said that they didn’t want to become younger or exchange market shares. It just wanted to keep its philosophy, while saying it in a younger manner,” he explained.

That’s how the agency thought of giving out a philosophy but not from a pulpit. The idea took birth when the agency started discussing about 3 am friends who one could turn to if someone was in trouble. And that’s how the campaign took shape.

What also makes the ad memorable is the jingle created by music composer Ram Sampath, who was given the task of creating a song without using any real instrument. All the percussions in the ad come from things one might find in a classroom, including notebooks, dusters and even dustbins.

The campaign went on to become a huge hit.

Adidas’ Odds

In wake of the 2016 Paralympic Games, Adidas came up with a unique initiative called ‘Odds’ where para-athletes, primarily blade runners, were given a pair of the same side footwear instead of the usual pair that is sold to consumers. The campaign spoke about the inspirational story of Major DP Singh, a Kargil war veteran who lost his leg but not his determination.

“We got the insight for the ad from a simple idea. One of the kids at the agency said what if we dedicate 2 left or 2 right shoes to para-athletes? We thought it must already have been done by some brand. We were really surprised to see that it had never been done and its such an injustice on the community that for years they had to buy a pair of shoes from which they could only use 1. So we thought we had to make this larger than life,” shared Paddy.

They approached Major DP Singh who agreed to be a part of the campaign and the rest, as they say, is history.

Paddy also shared a life lesson that he got from Major Singh. “On the first day of the shoot, we went to the top of a mountain at 4am where he used to practice to capture the early morning sunlight. Since the spot was far from the city, we travelled for an hour. He was an army guy and wanted a proper schedule. We gave him one and told him we will finish the shoot in 2 days. The packup for the first shoot was supposed to happen at 8 or 8:30 which got delayed by an hour or so. By the end of it, he wasn’t happy and went home. And he didn’t come to the second location. When the producer tried to reach out to him he said, ‘Please tell Adidas, Taproot and Paddy that I am done with my shoot.’ We were really shocked as we had a packed schedule. So I went to his house and asked him what happened. So he said, ‘I am an army guy and I follow schedule. If your shoot was getting delayed, someone should have come and informed me. I respect time and if I respect time, you should respect me.’ I apologized and assured him that something like this never happens again. So this wasn’t just a learning for me but for everyone else who was present at the sets that day,” reminiscened Paddy.

Mumbai Mirror

Mumbai Mirror is a tabloid from the stable of the Times of India group, a brand that Taproot had been handling for a while. The brief given to the agency for the campaign was simple, “The client said here are 6 stories we have broken, please showcase these stories. It was from there that we took the leap and said that newspaper is the voice that amplifies the voice of the oppressed. There were stories that would not make it to the national newspaper but its players like Mumbai Mirror that take these smaller oppressed voices and amplifies them,” said Aggie.

Those who have watched the campaign know that it makes its point heard loud and clear. The idea was to deliberately make the campaign disturbing. “There have been opinions about why the film was so shrill, it could have been toned down. But in my opinion, when you are taking this stance it can be either disturbing or it can’t be this at all. Then it would just need to be a completely different thought. And that’s why we decided to make it that aggressive,” explained Aggie.

Times of India – Farmer Suicide campaign

The last campaign that the duo spoke about went on to become one of their most awarded one. Our country is no stranger to the disturbing news of farmer suicides ever year. It’s still an ongoing issue and the agency wanted to bring out the stories of these farmers who simply become a statistics every year.

The agency used burnt hay to make portraits some of the farmers who had committed suicide, leaving behind families of 4-6 members. “These paintings were sold and whatever money we made out of, we gave to the family members because once the earning member of the families pass away, the others also die a slow death. This was what we did in the first year. In the second year, TOI got on board the Samaj Seva Charitable Trust. We did a TV commercial and some billboards, as a second leg of the campaign. Because of the simplicity of the campaign, it did really well. It did well for us too as we picked up a lot of awards. It looks like something made out of something but how lovingly you do it and how relevant you are, makes or breaks the campaign,” said Paddy.