The Hot Seat: Sudeep Gohil

Published in The Music Network

 

Sudeep Gohil knows brands. He knows music. And, importantly, he has ideas on how both can get together and play much nicer. A former DJ and promoter, Gohil is chief executive of Droga5, an ad agency whose clients include blue-chip businesses Woolworths, Telstra and Qantas. Gohil has had stints with ad powerhouses BBH and W+K, and packs a lot of international experience into his CV. TMN sat down with Gohil to chat about how music can make a bigger noise in the advertising world.

How does having a DJ and promoter background shape your work?
I don’t know if it shapes me. Many years ago I had to make a choice. I was doing events until about ten years ago–Ministry, Cream, Renaissance–and I had to make a decision. The advertising thing has worked out alright (laughs). The biggest thing for me is to have a genuine understanding and empathy for people on both sides of the fence. That’s the biggest piece of advocacy that exists.

What are brands looking for in music?

There’s been this full circle. It’s not just about whacking a logo on a page anymore. That whole authenticity and genuine connection piece is important. You have to ask yourself, what does your brand stand for? And start from there. We’re all brands. Artists in particular are brands, so they have to think first and foremost what do I stand for, what am I interested in and can I find someone with a similar shared interest or goal and build something progressively from there? The worst way of doing it is to say, “Who’s got the most money?” and chase them down. Big brands aren’t big just because they’ve got a lot of money. They’re smart and they’re even more ruthless than the little brands who will take a punt on someone.

Where’s the reality about being an artist involved in a big campaign?

The real opportunities are to find some overlap, some common ground. Knowing what you have as an artist is where the real opportunity is. The sync deal is probably the icing on the cake. But if you can do something really deep and meaningful, with a brand, that infuses everything they do, it’s a lot more interesting. We do Woolies and they do a lot of stuff with music, and they’re involved in TV shows with music and stores that play music and sell music. You have to look at their entire portfolio. As a retailer that has something like a million customers a day, you’ve got to think what do they have that you don’t have, and what do you have that they don’t have. How can you finish each other’s sentences?

For better or worse, Coles has that “Down Down” campaign. Is that the sort of deep campaign we’ll see more of?

Absolutely. That is a bad example of what a good campaign could look like. But obviously there’s an audience that it works for with, right? The smart thing about that campaign is it’s pretty committed, to the extent there’s even a joke in the ad where the band is saying, “Do you think that’s annoying?”

So what could a good campaign look like?

Coldplay’s deal recently with the mobile phone manufacturer (Huawei) is one. It’s interesting when you can find a brand who wants to do something above and beyond the norm. Take a brand like Woolies. They have big aspirations to do interesting stuff with different people, where it’ll appear on TV, but it’s also in-store, it’s being part of their distribution points. Brands run out of road in terms of stuff they can tell people. So they want to engage and do something more interesting. That’s where artists have a huge advantage because their content is inherently interesting to a number of people.

How do you find the music?

We work with sync agencies when we have to. We have good relationships with the record labels. If we’re after a particular type of thing, we’ll send a brief out. Our creative guys often have in their head a view of what it might sound like. We’ve got a good network that surrounds us.

Are brands actually keen to have artists front their campaigns?

The music industry doesn’t do itself any favours. I’m sure some of the bigger brands have had worse experiences working with the music industry than they’ve had good experiences. The sporting industry is way more sophisticated in terms of locking down a strategy and marketing plan, whereas the record industry will say, “I might have something happening next year.” That’s where the music industry can learn from sports. They understand and they speak in the same language, which is the big challenge.

 

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