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Creatives You Should Know: Rajeev Basu, Wieden & Kennedy New York

Intended Investment Banker Finds Big Success as a Senior Writer

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Rajeev Basu
Rajeev Basu

Wieden & Kennedy New York senior writer Rajeev Basu could have been a numbers and finances guy -- the London native studied economics at the U.K.'s Durham University, where he specialized in statistics and trained to be an investment banker. But today his life is all about making creative that, as he puts it, "messes with people."

After deciding banking wasn't for him, Mr. Basu found work photocopying and filing at BBH London for a week before deciding to take the Watford ad course at the U.K.'s West Herts College, one of the nation's best ad programs. He landed his first big job at Saint London, followed by stints at Fallon London, Crispin Porter & Bogusky Boulder and now, Wieden & Kennedy New York.

In his current gig, Mr. Basu, who goes by the nickname "Jeeves," worked on the agency's Gap holiday campaign, including an augmented-reality interactive experience that invites you to make music by "playing" the stripes on your clothing in front of your webcam. There was also a series of absurd films that showed the secret lives of Gap goods: PJ's hula-hoop while leggings jog on a treadmill and mittens high-five. The original brief was very product-focused, so Mr. Basu and the team "didn't shy away from product," he said. "Product is in your face 100% of the time." Next up, he's to debut new work for Southern Comfort.

But advertising is only a part of Mr. Basu's story. Over the years, he's also created a variety of far-out personal projects that together have generated over 120 million earned media impressions, he said. "Instead of 'ads," most of my projects are 'things.'" Whether he's making an app, a new technology, a music video or video game, "they all do the same job as an ad, but I hope they are things that people care a little bit more for than just a straight-up ad," he said.

For the band ManCub, he created arguably the most boring video game in the world to promote the track "Friends Listen," about not waiting around for what you want in life. The goal is simply to wait in line. You have to keep punching yourself in the face to keep from falling asleep -- although not so hard that you kill yourself.

He's also behind a pair of projects for Big Data, a band that makes music about internet issues such as privacy and surveillance. "Facehawk," an app for the track "Dangerous," turns all your Facebook info into a giant hawk to remind users of just how much data we reveal online.

More recently, he debuted "Nice to Hack You," an app that, with your permission, will hack into your browser history and use a special algorithm to reveal your most embarrassing stops: porn, bad TV, medical diagnoses, etc.

"My personal work has a very particular aesthetic and tone, and it's exciting to get to make things for my clients exactly as I envision," he said. As such projects have gotten more ambitious over the years, he formed his own shop, Basura New York, where he works with a collective of creatives from around the world. Balancing that with his day job at W&K makes for a very packed life. The Basura projects happen "usually really early before work, late into the night and on weekends," he said.

Overall, "I always try to create work that gets talked about," he said. "I like that the internet is brutal -- you have to have an amazing idea, or no one cares."

See more of the 2015 Creatives You Should Know.

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