Swati Bhattacharya






Never before has New York Festivals assembled an Executive Jury panel of this magnitude and executive level. The 2018 Executive Jury, is an elite dream team of Global Chief Creative Officers and C-Suite creative executives. Words like iconic, visionary, accomplished and influential, come to mind when describing these prominent award-winning creative leaders.  This April they will assemble in New York City for 4 days of live judging across all mediums—one panel of advertising giants, 30+ strong, all coming together to select the World’s Best Advertising®.

2018 Executive Jury member, Swati Bhattacharya is Chief Creative Officer for FCB Ulka India. Swati's work focuses on gender, feminism, religion and urban life spanning many forms including advertising, documentary, short films & blogs.

Apart from writing some of the most beloved, iconic ad campaigns in her 24-year career for brands like Pepsi, Maggi, Horlicks, Nescafe, Kitkat and others, her work has fought against the usual stereotyping of women in advertising.

Her writing has been published in all kinds of media from national newspapers to viral content sites on the Internet.

Having started life as a Junior Copy Trainee in JWT, she went on to become the National Creative Director and then moved on to her present role as Chief Creative Officer, FCB.

While she stays married to advertising, her short films are what she calls her ‘legitimate affair’.

Her films have won Spikes Gold and featured in the Vancouver, Toronto and Miami shorts. They have also won the Best Short Film title at the Kolkata International Short Film Festival and the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke for the Best Screenplay.

Her latest film, Saints Of Sins, is currently creating waves in private screenings as it gets ready for the global film circuits. It has already won many hearts and garnered immense appreciation and applause at celebrated forums, such as, Miami Independent Film Festival 2018, semi-finalist in Atlanta Docufest 2017, Winner Laughlin International Film Festival 2017.  A series of untold stories of 8 urban women, each identifying with one single sin, the film pushes the boundaries of Swati's oeuvre.

Being a Juror:

New York Festivals: Why did you decide to accept the invite to NYF’s Executive Jury?

Swati Bhattacharya: When you look at the lineup of the jury, you want to belong to that list. Everything that gets spoken or felt in the jury room will add to my life as a CCO and also to my craft as a writer.

New York Festivals: What are you most looking forward to with this experience?   

Swati Bhattacharya: When you’ve worked in the industry for a bit, there’s one feeling that truly tingles you. I’d like to call it the feeling of ‘sweet jealousy’, and that’s the feeling that I’m looking forward to the most. It’s this whole feeling you get when you see some great work and experience this whole surge of emotions that basically translates into “Why didn’t we think of this?”. It just opens your mind and after a great judging experience you just want to go back home and put your mind into creating something truly beautiful.

Working in Advertising:

New York Festivals: Tell us an experience (or two) that shaped the course of your career.

Swati Bhattacharya: I feel I’ve had two such experiences, the first happened quite early on in my career. I was a 21-year old, bright eyed copy-trainee and was working on the Maggi hot and sweet sauce, ‘it’s different’ campaign. My boss then, Dennis Joseph let me work with the filmmakers for a month. All on my own. That experience really opened my eyes.

I think the other one was when I became a mum for the first time. I remember, the first 8 months, I didn’t move from the couch. I was stuck to my baby…not wanting to leave her for a second. I was apprehensive about going back to work as I had no idea how I was going to do all of it. But in the first week at work I got absorbed in a massive Pepsi campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan. It propelled me back to work and I realized that work-home balance isn’t an urban legend, it was achievable.

New York Festivals: Best client story ever?  

Swati Bhattacharya: Every brave piece of work has an interesting client story. Very difficult to choose one. But yes, my women clients have been more sassy than my male clients. Shivani Hedge from nestle. Vibha Rishi from Pepsi. And Sucheta Govil from GSK are my best portfolio makers.

New York Festivals: What is the most outlandish request you’ve ever gotten at work? 

Swati Bhattacharya: I had to carry Katrina Kaif’s (check her out in Instagram) water. We were shooting in a village near Rajasthan. She drinks a specific brand of water, so we had to carry her water to the shoot.

New York Festivals: What’s an idea you were excited about, but just couldn’t carry out because of logistics?

Swati Bhattacharya: I’m a bit of a Rottweiler when it comes to ideas. When I set my mind and my heart to an idea, I always get it done.

New York Festivals: The world may have changed since you started in the business. What kinds of accounts were you working on back then vs. now?

Swati Bhattacharya: Who I am selling to is more important to me than anything else. I have always been more about understanding humans and what’s interesting is that human beings have changed with technology as well. Like selling love 20 years back, and selling love now, it’s become totally different.

Favorite Ads:

New York Festivals: Share an ad you are particularly proud of.

Swati Bhattacharya: The Sindoor Khela campaign with Times of India.

New York Festivals: Share an ad that changed the way you view the business.

Swati Bhattacharya: Apple 1984 ad.

New York Festivals: Share your favorite ad that illustrates how advertising can change the world and tell us why you love it.

Swati Bhattacharya: I loved the work Benetton was doing in their kiss campaign. It really showed me how good politics can change our world faster than the newest technology.

Creative Leadership: 

New York Festivals: What do you look for when hiring new talent?  


New York Festivals: What are some missteps you see from up-and-coming creatives that might impact or stall their career if that don’t learn a better way? What are some new things you are happy to see?

Swati Bhattacharya: Often, I find that the young get disheartened very quickly.so if ever there is a second round with the client they get so busy managing their hurt and disappointment they stop pushing themselves. They seem to panic about where the next idea will come from??all I want to tell them is there is no dearth of ideas. Keep pushing...keep reinventing…keep at it.

New York Festivals: What kinds of things (positive or negative) did you learn about being a creative leader from people you worked for along the way? Anything you wish your creative leaders had told you?

Swati Bhattacharya: When you are young, it’s such a quantity game, and kids keep chasing that, “How many brands do you work on”, “how many films you’ve made”. Doing that one thing but doing it very very well… something that would change lives or change the path of the brand is really what makes a difference in the long term. that’s something I only learnt in the latter part of my career.

New York Festivals: What’s the toughest part of your job? Favorite part?

Swati Bhattacharya: The toughest part of my job is to be clear and patient. How to be gentle with a person and yet be tough with their ideas. My favorite part is getting an opportunity to interact with young people about the world and advertising.

This and That: 

New York Festivals: If we asked for three adjectives to describe you, what would people who know you say?

Swati Bhattacharya: Foodie. Romantic feminist. Doormat to a beagle.

What are you most excited about in 2018?

Swati Bhattacharya: The theme of more women at the workplace. I want more women CCOs in India. I feel self-conscious of being the only one.

New York Festivals: Who’s a creative icon you admire and why?

Swati Bhattacharya: I totally admire my bosses Susan Fowler and Fred Levron. Their interest and commitment towards my work and also towards me as a person is very very humbling. I come from a different culture and my work is very idiomatic, but they just get every little nuance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New York Festivals: How do you find balance (or do you?) between your high-powered job and life/family/outside of-work fun? Any ‘secrets’ you can share?

Swati Bhattacharya: It isn’t easy. Every week I drop a ball. Someday the mother ball, work ball or the daughter ball.

My mantra for motherhood is benign neglect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New York Festivals: Anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to share?

Swati Bhattacharya: No. I think this has been adequately exhaustive.

EJNewYork Festivals