Giving the nation a new language of patriotism with the silent National Anthem to celebrating the comeback of Yuvraj Singh not just to cricket but to life, this creative genius has been grabbing the headlines forever for his path-breaking campaigns. Ad veteran Bobby Pawar has recently been named the new Director and Chief Creative Officer – South Asia at Publicis Worldwide, after his bold move to quit JWT. There was also buzz that the ad man planned to turn entrepreneur after exiting JWT. Accepting the irresistible offer of joining Publicis with Partha Sinha, Director, Chief Strategy Officer South Asia and Ambika Srivastava Director, Marketing and New Business India, the terrific combination is all set to bring a new revolution.
In an exclusive interview with exchange4media, Pawar talks about key focus areas at Publicis, the joys of working with a great team, creative freedom for young guns and making technology a part of every solution, among other things…
What will be your key focus area at Publicis?
Simply put, rewarding brand experiences. We don’t work for clients or brands anymore, we work for consumers. Our job is to create experiences for brands that give something of real value to the audience. The reward could be emotional, intellectual, or material. The greater the reward, the more memorable and shareable your experience will be. Our objective is to help clients, who pay our bills, actively engage the ultimate clients, those who buy their brands and pay their bills, in the storylines of their brands.
How will you leverage your extensive experience in this new role?
I have always believed that most of your work happens in the client’s office. It involves some asking, and a whole lot of listening. You aren’t going to solve very many problems, let alone solve them brilliantly, if you don’t know what the real problem is. We’ll be doing more of that.
The second part of the job lies within the walls of our offices, and it starts with breaking them down. In Publicis, creative won’t be a department, it will be a mindset. Anyone, including the client, will be encouraged to come up with concepts, notions, drib-drabs of premises. And they’ll be able to share them, without the risk of getting a smirk in return. Why? The best creative companies are those where anyone can unleash her left brain. Plus, how on earth can you expect consumers to share and participate in your ideas if you are unwilling to let your teammates share and participate in yours?
Partha, Nakul, Ambika and I would like this to be a place where incredibly driven, talented people do the best work of their lives, have fun doing it, learn a lot and teach some. We’d like it to be a place that is preferred by businesses that at least try to put the consumer’s interests ahead of their own and are looking to build strong, mutual-rewarding relationships with them.
How will the terrific duo of Bobby and Partha work together to strengthen offering to the clients?
You got it wrong. It’s not Bobby and Partha. I am the second fiddle here. While everyone celebrates the great work on Nike, Coke, Volkswagen, we all forget that all of it based on great thinking. Killer strategic ideas create the grand stage for creative ideas to perform on.
Also, our relationship is not one of planner and creative. We are solutionists. We don’t care about the debate of supremacy of message versus the medium. It’s stupid and we’ve moved past it. We have a WIT approach to work, ‘Whatever (the heck) It Takes’ to solve the brand’s problem and get market-share moving in the right direction. Both of us are totally into music and one of our favourite songs is the ‘Cha-ching’ of the cash register.
Publicis hasn't done very well in terms of winning awards and clients. How are you planning to push the mandate forward?
Actually, if you go back year or two, they consistently did quite well in the shows. As far as new clients go, they did win a fair bit, though the ambition is to win far more. Honestly, Partha and I are not going to do a darned thing about either of those things. Our focus is on creating brilliantly effective solutions that are ‘buzzy’ (how I hate that word) and pushing our people to go beyond the best they think they can do. If we do that successfully, the rest will take care of itself.
Ashish Khazanchi, the NCD, quit recently; are you looking at some new appointments?
I’ve got to thank Ashish for all that he’s done for Publicis. We wish him nothing but the best. About replacing him? I don’t know just yet. I’ll decide once I’ve been on the job for a month or two.
How are you looking forward to representing the agency at Cannes 2013?
A lot. There are a lot of great seminars, great work; so lots of learning. Plus, I’m looking forward to meeting Monsieur Jean-Yves Naouri, Eric Vervroegen and the rest.
How much of creative freedom should be given to young guns at agencies?
More than they get as of now, but less than they think they should.
How important will digital be in your plan of action given that Publicis recently acquired iStrat?
This gives us the ability to make technology a part of every solution that we come up with. Obviously, the key is to put it in the mix when the problem, and not your creative ego, demands it.
What are the key challenges that you might face in the new role?
I’ll know when I face them. If I speculate now, I will just be walking into this mission fighting imaginary demons.