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The GPC Tradition and Why Creativity Thrives in Mumbai: A Q-and-A with Rajdeepak Das

Leo Burnett India’s Chief Creative Officer discussed the energy of Mumbai, generational change and creating a “let’s make it” culture.

For its Q1 2020 gathering, Leo Burnett’s Global Product Commitee met in the world-class city of Mumbai, where creative directors from across the globe came together and judged world-class work. Leo Burnett India’s Chief Creative Officer Rajdeepak Das took time from his hosting duties to share the excitement of making a home away from home for Leo Burnett creatives, and how he’s infused the Mumbai office with a unique creative energy.

1. Tell us a little bit about this week and what it means to have the GPC here in Mumbai.
It was an exciting week for us, if you ask me. Hosting a GPC is much more than just hosting it because you also have to have the best piece of work. Second, you have to host in such a way that makes you feel like it’s your own, so everyone from different parts of the world can feel like it’s their own home. In India, we have something called a joint family culture. In a joint family, a big family comes together for the holidays and everything. So, we bring a joint family culture to the GPC. Everyone is having fun and feeling at home, but they bring their work as well… It’s the best thing that can possibly happen for your city when you’re hosting a GPC and all of the best creatives from Leo Burnett come down here just to support one thing that we really care about: the work.

2. There is just a palpable energy in this office—you can feel it. Everyone in this office is fired up about creativity. I would love for you to tell us a little bit about Apollo. How have you created this?
The first part is when we started Leo Burnett here five years back, we had one question in mind: What are we going to stand for? Are we going to stand for what we did before? We love the legacy but the world is changing fast, so how do we change ourselves?

We have a term at Leo Burnett Mumbai and a term in India. It’s called aapko karana padega. It means you have to do it. We don’t care how, but you have to do it. It’s a maker culture. When you start that culture, people start fighting for work. They come to the office for one goal and that is to create the best piece of work for our best clients. We can’t have the people that understand the old school or the old world. We need to have something new. We started getting people from different colleges, such as “India’s MIT.” We started getting hackers, filmmakers, musicians, people with a social media following. We got this group of people and we called them Apollo 11.

Why Apollo 11? Because it’s the best ever technology created by human beings to go to the moon. The biggest hopes and the best content ever created. So, let’s create something that we think is going to be the future. The funny thing is we started Apollo 11 in Mumbai and a massive amount of backlash was happening because people wanted to know why we hired this bunch of young kids who don’t have an advertising background, but have a background in aerospace engineering, rocket engineering, product design… We believe in them because they are the future. They are not Millennial, they are Gen Z. Now the culture is young, relevant, “let’s make it.” That’s the culture that we have.

3. We’re in this vibrant, world-class city, tons of creativity is going around. What does Mumbai creativity mean to you and where do you go to get inspired?
Mumbai creativity is all about people and finding solutions for people. It’s that simple. We don’t have billions of dollars but we do have people and hope. We believe that we can do it and that’s the buzz of the city. The city is always running. It’s a buzz, it’s a hope, it’s a faith that we can change things. That’s Mumbai’s creativity for you.