From creative to creating - an adman’s metamorphosis

He was a creative director at advertising major Ogilvy for eight years, handling brands such as Perfetti, Pidilite, Castrol and ESPN.

Jignesh Maniar, Founder, Onads Communication, an advertising and digital agency, did some 200 ad films at the agency, building brands such as Mentos, Center Fresh, Asian Paints and Pidilite’s Fevikwik.

“After a certain point in an organisation there is no growth. After creative director, there is chief creative officer, but the role more or less remains the same. It was not exciting me any more, especially since I had done a lot in eight years, what people generally take 15-20 years to achieve,” he says.

Moreover, as a creative head, “it is almost like living in a cocoon,” says the ad man. “The more you show your creative prowess, the more you are cocooned, because agencies want you to come out with brilliant advertisements each time and don’t want to dilute that, so you end up getting isolated.”

Jignesh, who did his MBA after obtaining an engineering degree, realised he could “come back to the advertising world if things didn’t work out as an entrepreneur.” That was in 2008. “I was 34 years old. I realised there was nothing more for me to achieve just by being a creative person and that there could be much more to learn by being an entrepreneur.”

“At that time, there were very few independent agencies, which gave me the idea to go solo,” he said.

Looking for right mix

Beginning with two partners, Jignesh did not find the mix right. “At that time, we used to work for government clients and to me it seemed we were largely a media house. I wanted to have more freedom. The partners were running the media part of it, and I was the one bringing in the creative. Actually,” he grins, “I was running the show and they were the investors, so to say. After 2013, we decided to part ways amicably.”

Jignesh believes pivots are necessary to take the business forward. It is far more effective to try something, discard it if it fails and continue refining it if it works, he said, than trying to theorise what is the most effective means of running a business. So began his stint as an entrepreneur in the ad tech domain. As for naming the company, “I wanted a name as short as possible. ‘On’ was the shortest name”, and so Onads came into being.”

Over the last three years, Onads has worked with companies such as Bajaj, Adani Realty, JW Marriot, JP Morgan and India Bulls.

Each day has brought in new learnings for him, along with new kinds of projects. It was a big win for Jignesh when his agency bagged the entire creative mandate of Bajaj Electricals in 2015. Onads was handling 30 per cent of the work earlier for Bajaj Electricals.

Jignesh insists the current advertising landscape poses several challenges and it is imperative to keep one’s eyes open for the next big thing.

“As an entrepreneur, you are in the business of blazing your own trail and taking as many people with you as possible. If you can’t find a readymade solution, you experiment until you have one,” he says.

Trial and error methods do work, insists Jignesh. “After learning everything you can and catching up on what everyone else is doing, it is necessary to push the envelope,” he says.