The face of unlimited creativity

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By Alokananda Chakraborty

Within hours of OgiIvy Worldwide announcing that Indian-born Devika Bulcandani would become the global chief executive officer of the advertising and PR agency group, there was a flood of news about how Bulchandani would now join the growing league of Indian descent Managing directors – mostly male – at the top of multinational corporations.

Piyush Pandey, Chairman, Global Creative, & Executive Chairman of Ogilvy, India, disagrees: “It’s not a gender issue at all…it’s their achievements that brought them here,” he says, adding, “Bulchandani has a phenomenal talent and is truly a citizen of the world”.

Ogilvy is part of the world’s leading marketing and communications group, WPP. Bulchandani, who until recently served as global president and CEO of Ogilvy North America, succeeds Andy Main, who will serve as senior advisor through the end of the year, the company said in a statement. Bulchandani joined Ogilvy in 2021 and will now also join WPP’s Executive Committee, the statement said.

In her new role, Bulchandani will be responsible for the creative network’s business across 131 offices in 93 countries, spanning advertising, public relations, experience, consulting and health. “She believes in Ogilvy’s professed policy of unlimited creativity,” says Pandey.

“My focus and passion is seeing how meaningful creativity and commercial success form a symbiotic relationship,” Bulchandani writes on her LinkedIn profile.

Dev – as Bulchandani is known in her industry – was born in Amritsar, spent most of her early years in India and completed her schooling at Welham Girls’ School in Dehradun. She earned degrees in English and Psychology from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, before transferring to the University of Southern California, where she earned her master’s degree from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Bulchandani, described by her peers as a human, spent more than two decades at McCann, the American global advertising agency network, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, one of the four major holding companies in the advertising industry worldwide. She has played a key role in some of the agency’s most memorable campaigns, such as Mastercard’s long-running Priceless, as well as True Name, the 2019 initiative that urged transgender and non-binary people to display their chosen name on their MasterCard.

As Ogilvy puts it, Bulchandani is popular for ideas that capture the “cultural zeitgeist”. “She believes that creativity is the solution to customer needs, regardless of the medium,” adds Pandey, adding that she’s cast in the mold of Indra Nooyi (former CEO and chairman of PepsiCo). She is also a founding member of Times Up Advertising, where she campaigns for equality for women in advertising.

Importantly, Bulchandani is behind the International Women’s Day installation Fearless Girl (2017), which dropped on Wall Street in the middle of the night and became the talk of the town within 24 hours. The campaign remains one of the most honored in the history of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

In an interview with Vogue, Bulchandani said during her days in Amritsar that she enjoyed climbing trees and riding bikes that were too big for her. As a child, she enjoyed watching American TV shows and hoped one day to become like the characters who came home tired from work at the end of the day.

Role life and real life have finally become one.

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