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Gearing for 2011: In conversation with Publicis' Nakul Chopra

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Gearing for 2011: In conversation with Publicis' Nakul Chopra

In all, 2010 was a year of quite a few changes for Publicis. Between its agencies Publicis Ambience and Publicis India, new accounts such as Aegis Global Academy, Apollo Tyres, Association of Mutual Funds in India, Cleartrip, Reserve Bank of India, TBZ and Voltas were added to the client roster. But for Nakul Chopra, CEO, Publicis South Asia, this was not enough.

He explained, “There have been wins, but they were not enough for the targets that we had set for ourselves. When you are a late entrant in the market and when you have your competitor so dominantly present, catching up is the strategic imperative. You don’t have a choice but to find a way to grow at twice or more the rate of industry growth. I don’t think our growth for 2010 is lacking if I benchmark it to industry’s performance, but it has not lived up to our personal expectations.”

A Year of Leadership Changes
Speaking to exchange4media, Chopra noted that the year 2010 had been a year of learning and experience. For him, Publicis Capital was the big thing of 2010 for the Group. He elaborated, “Publicis India is a culmination of four acquisitions, on the one side there is Publicis Ambience, which is the acquisition of Ambience, and on the other side is Publicis Capital, which is an acquisition of Zen, Madhyam, and now Capital. The ability to acquire and hold is a part of Publicis’ strategy in India. Today, in addition to some of our recent wins, we can boast of a client list that includes CitiBank, L’Oreal, Maruti Suzuki, Nestle, Nerolac Paints, Lakme and Unilever.”

However, Publicis Ambience saw two key exits in Aniruddha Banerjee (Chairman) and Prasanna Sankhe (National Creative Director). Chopra remarked, “We are not happy to see anyone go, but organisation is larger than the individual. As far as Prasanna was concerned, in 2007 we had put Ashish Khazanchi and Prasanna as Joint National Creative Directors. Certain decisions taken in 2009 with Ashish becoming Vice Chairman would have implications. The organisation had a choice to make and it made it, the individual had a choice and he exercised that and we must respect that. For me, this has happened in the most natural and systematic way.”

Publicis is not in the process of replacing the vacant CEO spot, even as the agency would be shortly announcing several key senior appointments. Chopra stressed, “I am not looking to replace the CEO, but there is a new organisational structure that has been mapped out and basis that mapping we will be finalising some senior level appointments – some in management, some in account management, some in creative and planning. We’ll have a new structure probably by the end of this quarter.”

Of New Benchmarks and Expectations
According to Chopra, since Publicis was fairly new compared to most of its competitors, the fastest way to grow was to set higher standards. He highlighted the ‘Maruti kitna deti hai’, ‘Main aur meri Maggi’, Nerolac Paints and the Garnier campaigns as some of the work that kept the agency busy last year.

“The other very significant achievement for us was our performance at the awards last year. In 2010, we were a very clear third, no matter which way you looked at it. We brought home our first ever Gold Lion too,” added Chopra.

Another significant development of 2010 has been the rapid establishment of Publicis Ambience in South India.

When asked whether digital had lived up to expectations, Chopra replied, “For the industry itself, perhaps no. The issue with digital is that at this point of time, the total digital pie in India is good, but it is virtually a no margin medium. Digital is like a tree, which will bear fruits soon, but it is not right now.”

While Chopra is confident of this growth phase continuing in 2011, he pointed out that as an industry, one must also be wary of the external environment. He was apprehensive about the price issue in 2011 and felt that with the cycle of prices and interest rates going up, several sectors, especially the likes of finance sector, would feel an impact. So far, Chopra said, he hadn’t seen signs of it and hoped that it did not happen in the future as well, though it remained an area of concern.

For him, a leap forward in the business could come by following a combination of continued focus on the creative product, aggressive expansion and geographical expansion.

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