'Stay hungry': Beyond the Brief with Nayantara Dutta, J. Walter Thompson

Nayantara Dutta, J. Walter Thompson

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)?

Nayantara Dutta is a trends researcher at J. Walter Thompson where she has been since August. In this position, she manages social media and SEO strategy across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as leading designs and conducting research for trend reports. Her latest passion project has been a consumer trend report on millennial Muslim women in the US, UK and Indonesia and how marketers can more effectively communicate with them.

In addition to her passion for diversity in the industry, Dutta has a background in music marketing, has recently worked in strategy at BBDO and is a member of The Jog, a community of young strategists in New York.

In her spare time, she volunteers with the Pajama Program, where she reads to young students during lunch, as well as mentors a low-income, first-generation high-school student during their college application process through iMentor.

Dutta’s passion for advertising and diversity in the industry, in addition to her volunteer work, shows she is living beyond the brief.

What makes you excited about going to work every day?

I am constantly inspired by the brilliant, thoughtful and expressive people I work with and how willing they are to teach and mentor young talent. I love that our industry celebrates all that people do outside the office — we have a culture club where employees can host events based on their interests (we’ve had pun-offs and wine tastings), a book club and speaker events that make it much easier to meet new people and feel a sense of community.

At the Innovation Group, we are the trends consultancy and consumer insights division within J. Walter Thompson. It’s exhilarating and challenging to examine how news shapes culture, develop insights across sectors, and forecast what’s next. As our industry questions what is relevant in an ever-shifting consumer landscape, it’s incredible to be immersed in culture.

Who or what influenced you to get into advertising?

I grew up in six countries and found peace on trains and in museums, in moments where everyone is a passenger. As a third culture kid who rarely saw media narratives like my own, I was delighted whenever I could connect the dots between cultures and wanted to create stories that make the world a little smaller.

What should we be talking about in 2017?

I have been thrilled to see diversity become an industry-wide conversation and think we can extend this through discussing mental health, neurodiversity and whether our industry is accessible to people of different nationalities and socio-economic statuses. We have a responsibility to make inclusion a priority and follow through.

What’s a virtue that you live by?

Stay hungry. Give yourself the assignment, go on field trips, create impulsively and follow your curiosities. Ask people you admire to coffee and share your ideas with them. Make your own opportunities!

What’s your favorite thing about your hometown? What (in)tangible thing have you taken from there?

Despite moving every few years, I felt at home with the expatriate communities in every new country. They taught me how to embrace being unrooted, develop a strong sense of self, lead with my values in unfamiliar environments and appreciate opinions that differ from my own.

Where is your happy place/space?

I’m happiest whenever I can surround myself with wonder — singing jazz, exploring secondhand bookstores and taking notes at planetariums.

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Haley Velasco

Haley Velasco is a writer based in Chicago, IL, who has a background in PR for a sports media company and has reported on a variety of topics, including sports, opinion, politics and celebrity news. Based in the Windy City, she covers industry happenings in the Midwest and throughout North America. She has been reporting for The Drum since May 2016.

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