From creative director, to signed rapper, to record auteur, Rana Chatterjee has lived many lives, but he’s always found a way to balance them. His love of hip hop has led him from the public libraries of the post-millennium suburbs, where he cut his own beat demos using borrowed tapes, to the recording booth as Arcee. At the same time, he was cutting his teeth as a copywriter in Toronto.
Though he’s passionate about hip hop, Rana’s practical side has kept him in advertising. And over the last two decades, he has moved through the ranks from writer to agency leader, becoming the first co-creative director at LG2’s Toronto office in 2021.
Somewhere in there, he also found the time to host a series of radio shows, help launch a potluck-inspired mixtape podcast in Cratery, and start Live Convention, a festival for record collectors. He even curated a vinyl box of samples used to build Nas’ Illmatic -- which he presented to Nas.
Much like the way he approaches the art of digging for records, Rana believes that creativity is the act of seeking, more than it is finding. On the days where he hits a wall, he prefers to shake up his surroundings with a walk by the river, or by changing his sonic environment.
By putting on one of the thousands of records from his collection, Rana can get into the headspace required to answer a brief in unexpected ways. And over the years, that unorthodox thinking has helped Rana (and his team) deliver pizza through an apocalyptic wasteland for Domino’s, and rejuvenate the identity and sales of Canada’s oldest brand for The Bay.
A bit of a creative chameleon, Rana eschews a trademark style in favour of adapting to whatever serves the idea. He also believes that good advertising is often imprecise at first. “You gotta leave room for mistakes,” is a phrase you might hear him say. “It’s how you learn.”
Rana credits his discerning ear as part of the reason he’s been so successful; the visceral reaction he has to a record is the same filter he applies to his work. Rana views – and uses – music as an emotional lever. Whether that’s to create joy or pull at your heartstrings, he believes music should resonate with its audience quickly
Rana cites growth as the reason he keeps coming back to advertising, even on hard days. The idea that he can be a stronger creative with every year he spends in the business, and that there’s another trajectory that he’s unlocked by virtue of becoming a creative director, is motivating to him.
He also feels that he has a role to play as an Indian creative leader, in an industry that has struggled with diversity. Ironically, it’s diversity that Rana also believes to be advertising’s greatest strength. He thinks it’s important for people of colour to see themselves in leadership positions – or anywhere in the agency – for that matter.
Rana upholds the need for representation in creativity, whether speaking at an ad panel or planning a record swap. He holds fast that it is his duty as a cultural programmer to understand who is out there, and how to connect with them authentically.
At the end of the day, however, Rana believes that creativity should be fun, first and foremost. Whether curating a personal project like the Illmatic Samples, or writing a script that calls back to the lighthearted advertising of his formative years, Rana prefers to be creative for creativity’s sake.
Rana Chatterjee, Creative Director, LG2 Toronto