Soham Chatterjee is a Senior Creative at Leo Burnett Chicago. While at Miami Ad School, he was declared as the most awarded advertising student in the world with over 120 national and international awards. He has also been named as one of the 30 under 30 most creative people in advertising by Business Insider. Twice!
Soham gives us a look back at the early days of his career and how he stays motivated, and shares his thoughts on entering the Burger King’s Fools' Challenge.
You're a copywriter. Describe how your career got started in two words?
Tomayto Tomahto. Let me explain. When you’re born and raised in a land where dads, uncles, aunts, and even neighbor’s sister’s husband’s in-laws judge you for not studying to become an engineer or a doctor, it was indeed a huge risk for my parents to invest in my education and send me seven seas away to Miami Ad School. After countless explanations on how Copywriting is not “Tomayto Tomahto,” and about 120 student awards later, I was able to cease people’s skepticism and ease my parents' worries. Getting hired at Leo Burnett Chicago certainly helped, it was a proud moment for me and my parents.
Tell us about a good habit you developed early on.
At school, to stay motivated, I got into the habit spending nights in my apartment surrounded by a fortress of award show annuals and archives. All I wanted to do was create. Something that’s often said is, “surround yourself with good people.” Well in my case, I was surrounding myself with good work. A habit that remains the same today, even after getting hired.
Where do your creative ideas come from?
I figured that in order to do great work, I had to stop thinking straight. So I developed a bat-like instinct. Staying up all night, looking at things upside down. This helped me to think in a weird way, and weird “stood out.”
You’ve won plenty of awards early in your career. Are they more important now or less important?
A few years ago when my agency decided to take a break from award shows, my world stopped spinning. The feeling was similar to sleep paralysis. Especially when winning awards got me a special work visa and a job at one of the best agencies in the world. But the pause on entering made me realize something important—it’s a privilege to be able to enter one.
Entering The King’s Fools' Challenge is also a privilege. It’s like a T-Rex mating with a Unicorn — one of the bravest brands in the world, Burger King, joining forces with one of the most prestigious award shows in our industry, the Clios. All for a submission fee less than the cost of a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte. Only a fool would pass on the King’s Fools' Challenge.
What would your advice be to students entering this competition?
This brief calls for the riskiest, bravest and craziest thinking. Be bold. Be daring. After all, these are two things that are embedded in Burger King’s DNA. My advice would be to tap into the pulse of pop-culture. Then try to take advantage of it to create something amazing. Clio is about the “Big Idea,” but also the way you present it. Craft is super important. After all, without the buns, lettuce and tomatoes, it’s just a patty, right?
How do you know if your idea is the right idea?
Here’s what I would say to that…don’t fall in love with your first few thoughts. Break up with your first few ideas. Keep thinking. Each time differently than the time before. Break up until you find “The One.” Sometimes it’s your 12th idea and sometimes it’s your 1,200th. So give it time. If it’s a big enough idea, the executions will fall into place naturally.
Any final thoughts or words of encouragement?
Definitely go through all the award-winning Burger King work. Be a sponge to the tone, flavor and attitude of the brand. Then vomit it all over your idea to make it awesome and on brand. To sum it up, I will quote Fernando Machado quoting Mark Zuckerberg: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk at all." So be risky. My last piece of advice is simply to HAVE FUN!
You got this,
See what Soham is up to on Instagram.