Kiran Dhameja : Life of an Advertiser

A first-division mark sheet, that’s what symbolized a good student in the 1970s and got a person a nice job after graduation but Kiran loved the other side of her studies – the spur of creativity that she experienced when she was into extracurricular. Colors, paintings, crafts, and ideas kept her busy while other students were mugging up textbooks. Even when she joined Sydenham College for studying Bachelor of Commerce, she could be found engrossed in various forms of art ranging from paintings to creating craft items or making plans for cultural events to organizing them.

Generating ideas, creating plans, making arrangements, getting the stage set and actors ready for an applauding performance, Kiran was always on her toes. The creative spark inside her would tell her what she liked but the career path she would take was still a blur.  Who would have thought at that time that she was going to make a mark in the advertising world and that she was going to become an Associate Account Director within two years of her getting into advertising and Client Service Director in subsequent four years?

She got a peek into the world of advertising when she became a part of Sydenham Nature Club, a social initiative of Sydenham College of Commerce. She was developing creative messages that connected the brand with the audience.  Environment protection, animal welfare, wildlife, and plants were all topics she would use to create brochures and social adverts for, in the college club.

Her experience with the club changed her life as she had found the field that was perfect for her and decided to pursue her career in that. So, she joined Xavier’s Institute of Communications (XIC) to study Marketing & Advertising. At XIC, Kiran was one of the most enthusiastic students who would not leave any opportunity unturned to learn about her field of study.

When she passed out from college in 1993, she entered the corporate world with the agency – Concept Communications as a Visualizer. With an accommodating nature, buzzing inventiveness, and dedication towards her work, she climbed the career ladders over the years from visualizer to Account Executive to Associate Account Director, joining SSC&B Lintas within just 2 years of her career in advertising, and then she served several other big shot agencies and brands like Shoppers’ Stop, Vyas Giannetti Creative, DDB Mudra and Dentsu Marcom at senior positions.

Life in the world of advertising

Her first job as a visualizer in Concept Communications in 1994, gave her the opportunity to assist art directors for envisaging ideas with her imagination to create concepts that connected with the target audience. This was her foundation year when she learned about the backend of advertising, creation of artworks, ideation, and much more than prepared her for the next level.

Her real journey into advertising however began when she entered Grey Worldwide as an Account Executive where she connected with clients directly. There, she worked with clients like Akai, Gujarat Ambuja, and  Arvind Mills. She was like a self-appointed project manager who would manage entire operations from understanding client needs to deliver a suitable artwork without any expectations. Her work started to gain attention and she got the opportunity to work with SSC&B Lintas as Associate Account Director.

The world of advertising seemed exciting and interesting to Kiran but it also involved a lot of hard work. While working on an advertising campaign, at times, she would not sleep for days or not spend holidays with her family. Even in sleep, her mind would be occupied with ideas and plans to convert them into an effective advertisement that not only appealed to the client but also connected with the consumers of the brand. These demands of the profession made it challenging for Kiran as she had more need to take care of as a woman. She often upset her family trying to meet the professional demands when she skipped family dinners and many celebrations. Moreover, by the time she stepped into the shoes of a Director, she had big teams to manage.

Interactions with clients, brainstorming ideas, creation of artworks, managing deadlines were all part of her work but above that she would spend a lot of time with her team to keep them motivated. A typical day of her team would begin with checking emails, working on updates, brainstorming, creating artworks, and managing deliveries. With the end of official working hours, they would be stressed enough to need relief through partying as they were still left with more work for the day. As Kiran says, “We were all stressed out animals and partying had become almost an everyday affair”.

Partying was an exercise widely followed in the media circles as they always needed to refresh themselves with the dose of entertainment to keep their mind active even at night. Keeping the teams motivated was essential as people and their brains were her key resources.

Growing towards entrepreneurship

Over the years, Kiran kept going up in her journey and moved from Lintas to DDB Mudra, to Shopper’s stop, to Vyas Giannetti Creative, and then to Getty Images. By this time, the urge to start a business of her own started taking shape in her mind as she was already doing what an entrepreneur would do for her company for Getty Images. She was loved by the clients for her depth of knowledge and understanding of the field. They could rely on her completely for taking forward the process after briefing as she managed all the processes as well as people, always trying to exceed the client’s expectations.

By 2005, she was called back in DDB Mudra to take charge as the Group Business Director. After this, her move to Densu Marcom was a transitory one as she was already into a planning mode for her own business and within 6 months, she found herself sitting on her own business, chalking out plans to grow.

14 years in advertising had taught her to identify the pulse of her audience as well as understand the complex web behind advertising, brand management, social media marketing, media planning, business development, and product launches that the business organizations have to deal with when they hire an advertising agency today. She had identified gaps that she was keen to address with her incorporation. Her plan was to create a business framework that allowed her to handhold the customer into the brand-building journey and left some quality personal time for herself. In 2007, Lauburu Marketing and Advertising Consultants were born.


The Gap – The Challenge – The Solution – Lauburu Marketing and Advertising

Businesses are not built on ideas but on the takers of ideas – your consumers.

Consumers are nerves of a business. They power the life in it and ads directly connect with these consumers but advertising agencies have other businesses in midway as their direct clients.  Considering this, it might seem that an advertising agency works on a B2B model and helps business organizations build their brands, in reality, they are more clued into the needs, taste, trends, and aspirations of end consumers. For them, understanding their consumers does not mean understanding a single person or a persona but understanding different groups of people, business processes, their professional needs, and the brand personality that best relates to its audience. Their job is to connect their clients with their consumers through an appropriate message presented in an audiovisual form – an advertisement. When this advertisement flashes over a television screen or is printed in a newspaper or a magazine or heard on the radio, consumers create an expression about the brand – some favorable and some not so favorable. 

There are millions of advertisements that consumers see every day. Therefore, an advertiser not just has to understand process of communication which involves understanding of media, visuals, concepts, ideas, colours and different associations, but also the fundamental needs that a product or service caters to.

When the concept of advertising was new to the world, there was a pool of talent chasing it hard, and people spent hours coming up with ideas that clicked. Soon this world of advertising started to expand and reached millions. Companies started to realize the importance of this type of communication which could talk to millions of people at a time. Many advertising companies took shape and huge business formats were established with clear divisions of work. This eased the work for advertisers but for businesses, the story changed.

While earlier the client had to deal with a single person who managed the entire process from briefing to creation of an ad seamlessly, the new model divided the process into many roles played by different people. A plethora of Profiles emerged like media planner, client strategist, preprint analyst, advertising coordinator, communications coordinator, traffic manager, advertising assistant, production artists, advertising specialists, associate editor, chief editor, advertising producers, advertising directors, and so on.

This multi-layered structure confused the client. The clients would find themselves talking to a client servicing representative who did not have any idea of creative vision, a media planner who did not know the concepts of print formats, a communication coordinator who did not know the process of concept creation, and so on. And in the end, the final product was still not as per client expectations. Outsourcing work to advertising agency became a cost that also added responsibilities. But, the client wanted things to be simpler. They wanted someone who understood their brand as well as its and communicated the brand feel to its consumers in the most effective manner. They needed a seamless structure that was free of multiple levels of negotiations and interactions.

While MNCs or large companies had the bandwidth and resources to demand the attention of agencies, smaller upcoming firms and start-up promoters found it extremely difficult to find the right partner who could guide, handhold, and take ownership of building a great brand for them.

The Solution – Lauburu Marketing and Advertising Consultants

Kiran Dhameja identified this gap and saw potential in relieving early-stage businesses (early not necessarily in terms of existence but in relation to their brand-building life-cycle) of the stress of multi-layered advertising so that they could focus on their core work.

Kiran’s idea was to take her clients towards simplicity and work as their outsourced Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Thereby owning complete brand ownership. Let it be the most complex brand or the trickiest idea, but it is not the client who has to twirl around with it. It’s the job of the agency to juggle with the product features, benefits and consumer wants to create a perfect brand communication plan and strategy for the business to take off successfully. This was the idea behind the venture Kiran started in 2007. Since then, Lauburu has worked with several start-up brands and many of them are well-recognized names in the industry. Most importantly the relationship built with the promoters/founders is life-long.

Lauburu, the name that reflects the imagery of a swastika drawn with sweeping vertices,  actually has an allegorical meaning signifying the four heads of the Basque country – reflecting  4  summits. Kiran liked the historical and astronomical significance of the symbol and related the 4 Summits to Spirit, Life, Conscience, and Form, all essential elements of a successful brand. This is how the name Lauburu came about. She wanted to create a business that was different both in terms of creation and working culture.

At Lauburu Marketing and Advertising, every gap was addressed, whether it involved clients, the agency itself, or the people at the agency. The multiple levels of managers were dissolved, the trend of working late nights was done away with. The process was simplified.

 The structure of Kiran Dhameja’s business was simple:

 Kiran is the front-end and single point of contact for the client while her team is involved internally in creating visuals, scripts, videos, and coordinating with print. Once the team has worked out an integrated solution, the client is presented with the complete idea including designs, media plans, and schedules. Once the client is happy with the taken approach, execution is the responsibility of Kiran.

This is a big relief for her clients who can breathe easy and be confident that their brand is in the right hands. The major changes she made over the widely practiced advertising agency model are in ownership (positioning as an outsourced CMO rather than an agency), processes, division of responsibilities, and work culture. She takes a strategic and process-driven approach to her business in which time is considered an asset that should not be wasted. Moreover, she uses lean methods to optimize the utilization of all her resources-Time and People. She can proudly say that her methods have improved the net time utilization as what agencies can do in 26 hours, she can complete in just 6 hours. Her staff is not required to spend nights in the office but they were reserved for their families.

Kiran Dhameja is a simple woman and this reflects in her work too. The series of TV commercials that she created for Green Dust Refurbished Factory Seconds highlights the core benefits of its products in a few seconds and in a very simple language. The ad did not follow the cliché trends but focused on a clear communication with the audience which gets the benefits straight to the mind and makes a person remember the brand.

This is just the beginning for Kiran Dhameja and Lauburu Marketing and Advertising… who knows, this acts as a catalyst and changes the working culture in advertising world with time.



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