Artistic Freedom in Advertising: A Day in the Life of Leo Burnett Dubai’s Creative Director, Kapil Bhimekar

Kapil Bhimekar offers a glimpse into his creative passions and inspirations that drive his day-to-day life as an advertiser and artist.

Most of us are familiar with the experience of purchasing tickets and standing in lines to visit an art museum or enjoy an immersive art exhibit. Our shared desire to integrate these experiences into our everyday life represents a longing that Kapil Bhimekar, Creative Director at Leo Burnett Dubai, calls “human fuel.”

When Kapil isn’t working on Leo Burnett’s high-profile campaigns like McDonald’s UAE “Swings” campaign or Bee’ah Camel’s “Race for Life” campaign, he’s focused on making art accessible to residents in his community—no tickets or lines required.

For Kapil, inspiring action through visual storytelling is the height of artistic freedom. It motivates him to create emotionally charged advertising campaigns that expel vapid slogans and stagnant product-centric narratives, instead putting people first to create poignant campaigns that challenge the way we view the world.

Kapil spends much of his time outside of work painting wall murals and creating art along Dubai’s city streets. He utilizes everyday objects to create conversation around disposable commodities and challenge our perceptions of consumption in modern day life.

When he’s not painting the city, he routinely conducts art and illustration workshops, teaching artists the skills he’s developed in his professional life and personal endeavors. Learn more about Kapil’s life below, and how his personal passions shape his role as a Creative Director at Leo Burnett.

What’s the thing that gets you out of bed every morning?

The urge to express myself through my work/art.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that most people don’t know.

I’m a trained singer in Hindustani classical music.

What’s the best piece of work advice that you’ve been given to date?

To enjoy the process of creating the work. Because the result, the reward, or the recognition are never as important as the process of creating. If we all create with love and passion for the work, the outcome will be honest and far greater than work created out of pressure and expectations of the end result.

In one sentence, what’s the most rewarding part of being a Creative Director at Leo Burnett?

Daily opportunities to solve problems creatively, for a great roster of global clients.

What are some of the pressing social issues or trending conversations in the UAE that impact your work for clients?

Creating work in a unified voice that can resonate with all 200 nationalities represented in the UAE is the greatest challenge. That said, there is work that focuses on cultural relevance to resonate with everyone – such as the Adidas Liquid Billboard done by an agency in Dubai. It was a powerful out of home marketing venture that launched the brand’s new swimwear collection for Arab women, powered by a beautiful idea that delivered on regional relevance while resonating around the world.

New advertising mediums are constantly emerging and evolving, as we find the latest ways to engage with audiences. What do you think is the next frontier and how will this impact creativity in advertising?

It’s less about ‘new’ advertising mediums emerging or evolving, and more about advertising just following its audience to the places where they already are. Today, a lot of us are on social media, OTT or gaming platforms – so advertising there is essential. Tomorrow, we will be ‘in the metaverse’ and so advertising will be too.

A clever strategy to seamlessly integrate our brands within these new-age platforms is much more important than following the latest advertising trend. Otherwise, we will just be the rude interruption that people can’t wait to ‘skip.’

Since childhood, you’ve had a passion for art and creative expression. How did your childhood experience lead you to pursue a career in advertising?

I was a very inquisitive and curious child – always experimenting with all the different materials I could get my hands on, watching my father working on his art projects and helping him. I think this was bound to lead me into a creative industry – but I never thought it would be advertising. My passion was animation, influenced by Disney classics and animated Indian short films of the late 90s and early 2000s. The idea that a sketch or a clay model could make us laugh or cry was truly fascinating. That’s why I chose illustration as a subject of my specialization at university.

It wasn’t until my final year that I crossed paths with advertising –an industry that promised me immediate opportunities to put my skills to use, as opposed to animation, which would have involved a master’s degree and additional years of education. And I have enjoyed every single day in the industry since then – no regrets.

Your father similarly pursued art as a passion. How did his experience influence you growing up?

My father was my biggest inspiration – an absolute creative genius, and I was fortunate to grow up watching him work. He had no formal training in art, and he wasn’t a professional artist. For him, it was just pure love of the work and the craft, which I found admirable. This selfless dedication to the work, needless of validation and recognition, made him an even greater artist in my eyes.

You founded a company, K100 designs, to make art accessible to the community, created outdoor wall murals throughout Dubai, and have taught art illustration workshops. Why do you think it’s so important that art be accessible to your community?

The right inspiration can lead to some of the greatest things in life. However, driving long distances, standing in queues to buy tickets – makes art inaccessible. That’s why I try to create work that is around people, integrated within the community – free to be consumed by us, impact us, and transform us.

Similarly, the art workshops that I host are also meant to encourage people to observe their surroundings more inquisitively to help them identify art in the things that are around them.

Is there a social issue or philanthropic endeavor that you’re particularly passionate about and/or involved with currently?

I’m deeply concerned about the way we are polluting our oceans with plastic. My last project was a series of hard-hitting visuals for our client, Bee’ah (a local waste management company), which depicted plastic objects made up of ocean life. I was also a part of the new campaign which came out last month for plastic pollution in the deserts of the UAE that kills thousands of camels every year.

You’ve already established yourself as a name in the creative community in Dubai. What’s next for you?

To be an artist. Without a doubt, that has always been my calling. To be a professional, exhibiting artist with the ability to comment on social and human issues through my art. I’d be happy to do that for the rest of my life.