‘Thinkstr’ was established in January 2016 by Satbir Singh who quit as CCO from FCB Ulka. He described his solo venture as “Ideas for a digital world”. In the same breadth he also said, “Thinkstr is not a digital agency, but it will be at the core of our work. While communication is not going digital, consumers are, so what should be the communication to that audience”.
A Sardar who is a Bengali at heart, soft-spoken, man of few words with a great sense of humour. He still swears by Kolkatta, where he grew up and cut his teeth in advertising. He is also a great cook and a foodie! Like his first boss, Swapan Seth, who heads Equus. They belong to the boys of Calcutta who have over the years contributed a lot to the creative world.
In a career spanning two decades, he has worked with leading agencies and over the years handled big brands and also authored award-winning campaigns for ‘Incredible India’ for India Tourism and ‘Bajate Raho’ for Red FM.
In this Leaderspeak, we speak to Satbir Singh, Founder & CCO, Thinkstr, on his vision and way forward in the new normal world.
It has been 2 decades in the industry from studying law and to move into a completely different genre advertising how has the journey been?
It was the most legal fun you could have. Working in advertising used to be more a way of life than a job. It seems to have changed lately.
What made you venture out on your own?
There was a time when there were a couple of brands in every category. Today, there are dozens. Independent agencies find many takers today. Of course, network agencies have their upsides as well and independence can have downsides too.
What does Thinkstr mean?
Well, there are different stories I like to tell on different days. One of them is that ideas come to you when you start to think about them. And we added STR to make it sound like a Silicon Valley startup.
The agency delivers a variety of services, can you take us thru the various aspects?
While we are full service, we seem to be getting a lot of design, digital and production projects. Who are we to complain?
Under Communications, the agency is involved in content development, social & influencer marketing and measurement, are more and more brands going digital and these services are vital in brand building?
You have be where the consumer is. She is certainly online a lot more than earlier.
The agency is doing a lot of work for Niti Ayog, and Startup India how has your experience been in working with the Government?
Ironically, the government in many ways is more professional than some in the private sector. We have had fantastic experience working with the government, whether it was with NITI Aayog, Aayushman Bharat or launching Startup India.
The agency also produces TVC & Content Production, as a creative person yourself you feel this helps the agency to have control over the creatives?
It is a video-first world today. We now offer script to MP4 services and have figured there is a lot of demand for it. The process is faster, its single window for the client and there is the added bonus of creative control for both the client and us.
Today creative is not one size fits all, your thoughts?
Media was never as fragmented. Even within online, for instance, FB, Insta, LinkedIn, Twitter, Amazon, publishers, all offer such diverse platforms, your communication has to be custom-built.
The campaign for Glenfiddich, the making of unique cocktails, the thought and strategy behind the campaign?
The consumer today is experimenting and trying upscale experiences. Glenfiddich is amongst the finest whiskies money can buy. One of India’s top bartenders worked with rare ingredients to come up with fabulous cocktails. Our creatives for the project are amongst our finest too.
The story is Satbir comes out with path-breaking creatives when he is cooking, is it true? Also the penchant for wearing colourful socks?
If they distributed Michelin stars for enthusiasm, I would be a prime contender. I find it meditative and creative. While I have cracked a couple of campaigns while cooking, I do not think it is a large enough number to be called a trend.
I keep my suits mostly dark and my socks psychedelic and fluorescent. Just that tiny bit of colour keeps my creative creds alive. Having said that, I abhor cartoons on socks.
Your iconic campaigns?
You write hundreds of campaigns in 25 years. Incredible India and Bajaate Raho for Red FM are two that many would recognise. There are scores of personal favourites. I wish I had collected them. It is a pity, in the early days, we did not have the internet to preserve them through humble-brag social media posts.
Magazines on my iPad, cooking, catching up on cricket and football, nothing out of the ordinary, really.
Go to activities over the weekend?
Weekends are the busiest. Eating out with the family. Cooking. Changing bulbs that have conked off, plumbing woes and suchlike.