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‘If you wait for a brief, you are as good as done’ – 24 hours with… TBWA\Indonesia’s Deb Dutta

Apart from the hassles of traffic and the thrill of quickly turning around campaigns, TBWA\ Indonesia's head of transformation Deb Dutta's daily routine involves notes to himself to consciously disrupt 'automatic behaviour'

7.30 am: I’m perpetually woken up by the sound of a Wimbledon aspiring senior citizen. The court happens to be annoyingly close to my window. 

In the middle of scanning for news, weather and market conditions, and after some wisecrack comments on my friends’ Facebook posts, I have managed to get myself ready for the day. 

Half of the things we do in a day are meant to be automatic behaviour. The other half for me, are in many ways disrupting default thinking. Nurturing habits is an efficient use of time, but then there are some habits that potentially interfere with great things. What’s required is to find a combination. 

9.00 am: Having dealt with crazy Jakarta traffic, literally at a crawling speed, I reach work with a desperate bladder. On the positive side, I have made some mental notes, broadly in two areas: “What can I do better today?” and “What conventional thinking can I challenge?” 

Note to self: If you’re used to picking up the pen with your right hand, you’ve got to sometimes pick it up with the left. It shocks the brain out of complacency. 

9.30 am: At TBWA\ we have an open office culture, which pushes naturally for more collaboration.

With an espresso and some jazz in the background,  I jump into a quick conversation with three key people sitting at an arm’s length – our head of strategy, creative and operations. A chat about work and how we can engineer opportunities, puts us ahead of the day and our clients. 

10.30 am: I have managed to dole out necessary emails. It’s now time to jump into a brainstorm – one hour at the most – no long dreary discussion. It’s an interesting habit of thinking together and working separately. Expectations get set, guardrails sketched, ideas discussed and execution planned. On to the next thing.

12.00 pm: We eat together. Today it’s our CEO and I having a discussion on the economy, award winning work, brands, the advertising industry and most importantly, talent. 

Note to self: Never be repetitive. That is the trap the industry is falling into. As Groucho Marx said ‘I’d never join a club that would have me as a member’. 

2.00 pm: Off to a client meeting. We are ready as a unit to deliver a point of view, which today happens to be about an influence program designed to help a brand rekindle consumption behaviour. 

4.00 pm: Heading back to the office, and the phone rings. It’s our planning team. And apparently ‘Taylor Swift and Katy Perry have finally made up, after seven years’. A good opportunity to create a Gen Z conversation for brands. 

Note to self: If you wait for a brief, you are as good as done.

6.00 pm: A potent piece of work has been created in an hour, liked by the client and shared online. It’s starting to spread. Nice work, team. It’s been a good day. I’ve just sent the last mail, and I’m back in the traffic, surfing through the internet.  

8.00 pm: Time for dinner and a great conversation with my supercool researcher wife and definitely better half. We literally feed off each other’s enthusiasm at work. I’ve come to realise that wherever I work, I’m looking to create a story. Otherwise what’s in a CV? 

And in the effort to build a story, you need to galvanise the lot. That’s when perpetual crisis works. 

Note to self: Create a sense of ‘healthy paranoia’. It helps keep the radar up and be in control.


10.00 pm: I often find myself watching TV just to be able to not do anything. It’s a nice way to unwind. I’m through with two episodes of David Letterman. 

It’s time to retire for the day. A secret: I can never fall asleep if I don’t read my favourite detective stories written by two amazing Indian personalities: Satyajit Ray and Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. I have read them a 100 times; it’s an addiction.

11.30: The villain’s den has been raided, the nexus of smugglers have been brought to justice, and my eyes have given up.Deb Dutta is the head of transformation at TBWA\ Indonesia, based in Jakarta

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