Tista Sen, the Regional Creative Director of J Walter Thompson, South Asia, deeply relates to her Twitter bio: super mom, super boss, super something, super tired. “Yup, that’s me,” she adds.
Sen was recently selected as the Indian Brand Ambassador at the Gerety Awards, which recognises global talent, mentors and allies within advertising. This year, the prestigious ceremony had an all- women jury to shed light on the lack of diversity in creative award shows. In spite of such a prestigious honour, the Bombay native feels that her biggest milestone is yet to happen.
Women are essentially the same person. A bad day at home is as possible as is a bad day at work.
“My career and my life have pretty much intervened and I have never separated the two. I can be a better creative leader when I am a better mom and the same holds true the other way round. Women are essentially the same person. A bad day at home is as possible as is a bad day at work. It’s the same me dealing with both. Through marriage and being a mother, to creating iconic communication that has won awards, there are many moments that tear me up. I don’t consider them milestones but just different chapters in this journey of life.”
Sen recounts her childhood as being crammed with too much to do and too little time and that’s pretty much how she continues to live her life even now. She has always loved stories and grew up on folklore – “And as cliched as it sounds listening to my grandma telling us cousins bits of family history over summer holidays in Shantiniketan. Reading was and still is my me time. Books create a visual world with characters who live with you long after you turn the page. And the power of visual storytelling is pretty much what counts even today. I am a student of English Literature and life.”
Through marriage and being a mother, to creating iconic communication that has won awards there are many moments that tear me up. I don’t consider them milestones but just different chapters in this journey of life.
With close to two decades of experience in the field, she says that advertising like any other industry has changed over the years. The idea is now the creative solution and it can come from any department.
“We don’t work in silos. Digital data, consumer insights and media are all invited to the table to brainstorm. In a rapidly changing world where tweets and Insta and influencers rule, ideas must adapt to different channels. The pulse of the consumer and the purchase decision is vastly complicated and different from when we began. The television commercial while still being important is challenged by entities like Netflix and Amazon. E-commerce is a huge opportunity as is retail. So yes everything is vastly different, yet everything is much the same.
Eventually it is a good idea that drives business and converts market share. The difference is it no longer sits just on television or print. But on Facebook and YouTube. I am also delighted that I see so many young women pursuing careers and succeeding in what was considered a male bastion. And that includes writers, filmmakers, editors, directors of photography, sound engineering and creative directors. Above all we want to encourage and create a safe environment for young people irrespective of gender and this is what we are striving for.”
Eventually it is a good idea that drives business and converts market share. The difference is it no longer sits just on television or print. But on Facebook and YouTube.
Recently, in context to the all-women jury at the Gerety Awards, Sen had said that there is still a lack of equal representation. Having occupied a leadership position for quite some time now, why does she think that's the case? Why does the glass ceiling refuse to get shattered?
“When it comes to judging work it’s just that women see things differently from men. And that’s because we are meant to. Different perspectives start right from when we are little. It’s not rocket science but just what we need to acknowledge and embrace. Because it is this perspective that changes the paradigm and challenges the status quo. Leadership positions firstly have to be earned. Tokenism that involves having a woman at the table to adhere to some norm is as much damaging as having no women at all. So while the shattering of the glass ceiling may not be what we hear with a resounding crash, we are definitely seeing the cracks. And that is heartening.”
With the all-women jury, Sen is not so interested in the altering of the platform, but the discussion around the table. She feels every jury knows it’s the conversations before you award a piece of work, that are the most meaningful and insightful. And that is what she looks forward to – “Hearing and seeing things that may have missed me completely, nuances about the work you may not pick up otherwise and hearing from women as a collective force is liberating and empowering.”
Leadership positions firstly have to be earned. Tokenism that involves having a woman at the table to adhere to some norm is as much damaging as having no women at all.
Can advertising - now spread across print, television and digital mediums - change the way people think or influence people's mindsets in the slightest or does she think it is meant to just reflect how our society is at the moment?
Sen feels that a lazy idea is a reflection. A truly brilliant idea heralds change, “Makes you think and empowers you. Change for any society is what propels a nation and keeps us on the tricky path of progress. We need to usher in and be part of that movement. The cynic would say it's only advertising in a world plagued with so much conflict but the optimist in me says ideas can truly make a difference and be the beacon for hope and invention. After all, what is living without dollops of hope thrown in!”
Her advice to young women and men joining the industry now would be the same as her experience when she started out, to have fun first and enjoy what they are doing.
“This is an industry where how you feel reflects in your work. Be curious. Every single hour of every single day. You are as interesting as the work you put out, so do that and more. Devour the internet for information. You are blessed everything is just a click away. And above all else keep conversations real. Listen don’t just hear. Speak don’t just text. And do not take yourselves too seriously. Don’t look for fame it will come. Look into your lives for solutions. That’s where most great ideas reside.”
In the next five years, Tista Sen hopes to be giving another interview, filling another questionnaire, creating the next big thing. She says, “I love what I do and hope to be doing this for the next how many evers! Still making mistakes and still learning. That’s what keeps me going.”
Picture Credit : Tista Sen