Staff Reporters
Nov 23, 2023

Creative Minds: Swati Balani remembers her grandfather and his inked tales

"He was a better storyteller than most and had bigger tattoos than me. His first one was at nine, mine at 19," recalls the BBH India ECD.

Creative Minds: Swati Balani remembers her grandfather and his inked tales
In Creative Minds, we ask APAC creatives a long list of questions, from serious to silly, and ask them to pick 11 to answer. (Why 11? Just because.) Want to be featured?

Name: Swati Balani

Origin: Ajmer, India

Places lived/worked: Alwar, Ajmer, Kota, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Richmond (VA), North Carolina, Mumbai

Pronouns: She/her


Ogilvy, Bangalore, copy trainee, August 2009- Dec 2010
DDB Mudra, Bangalore, copywriter, March 2011- Nov 2012
FCB Ulka, senior copywriter, Dec 2012- July 2013
AutumnGrey, Bangalore, executive creative director, Apr 2014- Dec, 2022
Sideways Consulting, Mumbai, creative head digital, Jan 2023- Sep 2023
BBH, Mumbai, executive creative director, Sep 2023 – present

1. How did you end up being a creative?

In the 8th grade, I wanted to become a computer engineer. That was the dream till my Dad told me I would need to take up science as well. I was good at math, not science. So, I thought about what I wanted to do in life. But it was in my 10th grade that a friend pointed out something about me. In the same science classes that I hated, I would waste my time writing ads for test tubes and weighing scales. How else would I find science interesting! I took that as a sign and interned with Ogilvy right after the high school. I graduated in marketing and went back to Ogilvy to learn the art of advertising.

2. What's your favourite piece of work in your portfolio? 

My favourite work keeps changing. Currently, it is a campaign that I did for Netmeds (an online pharmacy app) that changed the narrative on cancer survivors.

I found a unique story of a cancer survivor named Anchal Sharma. While fighting against breast cancer Sharma would always wear a red lipstick to her hospital visits and treatment sessions. This visual was thought-provoking in real life and proved to be a powerful statement to the world that perceives cancer patients as victims.

Telling her story through a three-minute film brought a new perspective for those who are fighting cancer. The campaign told the audience to see cancer patients as fighters who haven’t lost the battle yet. This story resonated with many cancer survivors and their families, and a red lipstick movement was also started on social media to support this cause.

3. What's the one piece of work you most wish you'd done? 

'Still Speaking Up' was a recent campaign done by Publicis Mexico, that created real impact through technology and gave a voice to the journalists. From the story to the execution, everything stood out in this campaign. But most importantly it created an impact that started a conversation for journalists and their safety in Mexico. As a creative, this is the kind of impact I would love to create through my work.

4. What or who are your key creative influences?

This industry is run by David’s. And I look up to them all. But the influences that really impacted me are the strong female creative leaders. Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk became strong creative influences for me during Covid as they taught me how to be sure of myself as a creative.

5. What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

Got a drunk tattoo and figured out it was there only the next day with a hangover. It's random lines below my neck. Don't ask me what it means, your guess would be as good as mine! 

6. Who was the most important person in your life that wasn’t your parent?

My grandfather. He was a way better storyteller than most. And he had bigger tattoos than me. And his reaction to me getting a tattoo at the age of 19 was “hah! I had my first tattoo when I was nine. You’re late.” 

7. What's on your bucket list?

To travel all over the world, write a three-part book series about magical beings and run a farm-to-table restaurant in my own farm.

8. How would your co-workers describe you?

That girl who drives fast but still shows up late to work.

9. Do you have any secret or odd talents?

I used to get into underground racing competitions during college. So, try to cut me in a lane and you’d get a fast and furious movie trailer right on the road.

10. Do you work best under pressure, or when things are calm?

Under pressure. My dad calls it the principle of rocket. Unless my bottom is on fire, I don’t work.

11. What's your guilty pleasure?

Kardashian drama. Is it trashy? Yes. Is it a complete waste of time? Absolutely. But do I still get sucked into it and spend hours wondering why? Every single time!

Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

23 hours ago

Edelman global revenue falls 3.7% to $1.04 billion ...

The independent agency’s performance was impacted by a 9.1% decrease in the US, while Asia-Pacific rose by 1.7%, with Korea, India and Singapore all posting gains.

1 day ago

Google incorporates Gemini into Performance Max

The roll-out of Performance Max's enhanced generative AI capabilities will begin in the US in March in English, expanding globally thereafter.

1 day ago

Women to Watch Greater China 2024: Amanda Ma, ...

Ma’s deep understanding of the Chinese market and its nuances, and the ability to unify and inspire diverse functional teams are instrumental in her holistic strategy to develop talent effectively.

1 day ago

Looking back, looking forward: Tze Kiat Tan, BBDO Asia

In a fresh series, APAC adland CEOs share their hopes and fears for the year ahead and reflect on 2023. In this edition, we chat with Tze Kiat Tan, CEO of BBDO Asia.