‘Experiment, fail harder and do what you are good at’: W+K India’s Santosh Padhi on his new role

Santosh Padhi, CCO, Wieden+Kennedy shares his gameplan for India

Wieden+Kennedy’s recently appointed chief creative officer in India fills The Drum in on his plans for this tough and growing market.

India as a market is known for its complexity around social systems, languages and diverse cultures. Global brands launching here have had to recalibrate their playbooks if they are to make an impact.

The globally acclaimed Wieden+Kennedy launched in India in 2007 with a base in Delhi. 15 years later it has expanded into Mumbai, the creative capital of the country, making India is the only country other than the US where W+K has more than one office.

The agency has also hired Santosh Padhi (or Paddy, as he is known), who is most famous for having co-founded Taproot with Agnello Dias, which was acquired by Dentsu in 2012. He quit Taproot Dentsu in 2021 and, after a break of about six months, is ready to wear his creative hat again.

The Drum asks Paddy to share with us what it was that convinced him to join one of the most well-known independent agencies still around.

On why W+K made sense after a long stint at Taproot

”W+K has produced many massive campaigns that resonated with consumers and reflected the mindsets of millions – some of them are still the best in our industry. Its work has always made me feel jealous, small and as if I don’t exist.

”Creativity is ever-changing in our industry and never-ending as a process of learning. I am here to unlearn everything and learn something new from the way it has been creatively communicating for years.

”Some of its beliefs are very close to what I have believed in and implemented in Taproot – around people culture and great work.”

On launching a second India office in Mumbai

”India is a key market when it comes to brands and consumers. There have been many brave new brands, marketers and entrepreneurs emerging who know the importance of brand building and creative delivery.

”Also, it is critical to understand that there are many Indias within this magical India and more than one office is required to understand the mindset of this new changing India. The two cities will become the hub for many clients and help in extending the agency brand’s presence beyond Delhi to tap into great clients and talent as well.”

On his mandate as the new India CCO

”After setting up Taproot, I realized creativity is the only thing that gives me a high. With God’s grace, the Taproot buyout by Dentsu has given me a safe financial cushioning that lets me be more fearless in the creative approach.

”Creativity is key to our business and my core task in the new role would be to keep reminding myself and the team, as well as the clients, of the importance of it in our business. W+K has a legacy of being brave and bold and its expectation is pretty simple: experiment, fail harder and do what you are good at.”

On what makes W+K work special

”I can go on raving about each work in detail for another 274 days. Its work always seemed complete, backed by an impeccable level of craft. The magical ingredient was always balanced, regardless of the medium, and yet its work always looked simple, effortless, relevant and modern!

”It has always captured the mindset of the society through iys campaigns for brands, be it Nike, P&G or Facebook. The work it has done on Nike has inspired the industry, every single time – the last being the beautifully seamlessly crafted split-screen film ‘You cannot stop us’, released during the pandemic. The P&G ‘Mom’ campaign still chokes me each time.”

On his first global meeting in Austin

”Despite the jetlag of the 32-hour flight, what kept me awake for those three days was the soulful and honest conversation with all of them. I felt privileged to be part of this gathering on my seventh day of joining. It was wonderful to see the network country leaders face to face – some of the best minds of our network and industry were present in that warm room. The gathering was a very casual one. There were no growth charts, no money chats, no dos and don'ts, no impossible tasks – it was all very honest, simple, do-able, realistic things that were discussed by the group.

”I feel lucky and honored to share a wonderful Indian small village narrative with all, which was from my native Odisha. Most of them were blown away to hear the amazing real human story.”