“Go to a pitch with your point of view, not necessarily what the client wants, because at the end of the day they come to you because they want your thinking,” believes Arun Iyer, Chief Creative Officer, Lowe Lintas.
“We don’t carry options for pitches we go with a point of view, we strongly feel about, which is also why about 80 per cent of the pitch work is actually the first piece of work that we do for a client,” he shares.
Iyer, who took on the mantle of CCO last year, was earlier joint NCD with Amer Jaleel. As CCO, he believes one of his jobs is to make sure that while today is good, the next six months are lined up well.
The agency has consistently been in the news be it for kick-starting the year with its winning performance at the Effies or its recent work on Google’s photo feature that is being widely shared.
“I would like Lowe Lintas to be seen as an agency that a client would want to go to because they want a good idea on their brand which is medium agnostic,” adds Iyer. The world is headed towards ‘hyper-bundling’ (with clients getting tired of handling multiple agencies) he believes, even as he lays emphasis on getting mainstream teams to think digitally.
A candid Iyer shares his views on correcting the perception about Lowe just being a TV agency, why the move from NCD to CCO was not a dramatic one, what prompts ‘Ghar wapasi’ at Lowe, why he thinks there is a lot of ‘gas’ around ‘digital’ and more …………
What are your expectations from Cannes for Lowe Lintas?
We don’t enter from India so some of our work maybe entered from our global offices. My guess is that Lifebuoy Chamki entered by our Columbia office will do well at the awards.
When you say ‘well’, it translates to Gold, Silver, Grand Prix?
To be honest, I don’t understand that game too well, but I have feeling that it will be Gold.
What are the changes that have been on your agenda as CCO?
I am personally working very consciously towards correcting the perception about Lowe just being a TV agency. Chamki is a step in that direction, what we did for Paper Boat with ‘Hum Honge Kamyaab’ is a piece of content. Again what we have just done for Google Photos is actually content, there are many more things in the pipeline.
TV is still important and we do a lot of TV but somewhere, the world needs to start recognising that we are an agency that comes up with big ideas and that they sometimes happen to be led by TV. Even if you take for instance Tata Tea’s Power of 49, it’s actually a far bigger idea than the television commercial we created. But somehow the world still considers us only a television agency. That’s been the big shift that I have been working consciously on over the last one year.
I am not trying to change Lowe Lintas; I am trying to reach out to the world and actually tell them what we do, which is that we come up with ideas that are beyond television.
If you take Kissanpur, it is an idea that was born in our agency and the fact of the matter is that Kissanpur manifested itself in one TV commercial, and a whole bunch of forms like a huge activation idea, we have, in fact, created a great platform for the brand, on the back of which we won global effectiveness awards.
How has this one year been for you?
It has been exciting because we took the opportunity and we were confident enough to think that we can actually start another agency; it was a big call at that point of time.
The good part is that Mullen (Lintas) is doing very well and I think they are doing some nice work. This one year has been very hectic but we have managed to consistently put out work that has generated enough conversations for the agency, we have managed to put out great work, and create a culture that people want to belong to.
In fact, we have a term that people joke around in the agency called ‘Arre iski bhi Ghar waapsi hogayi’; there are so many people who have left us and who have pretty much come back soon. One of the things I am quite arrogant about is that when people go out of our system, they realise the value of our system.
How has it been on an individual level?
I have spent lesser time than I would have liked with my family but they have been supportive enough. I know the Mumbai Airport better than anybody in the city right now. It’s been a lot of travel but what I have absolutely enjoyed the most is, working with a lot of creative people and that number has increased a lot more now. For me, the trip in life is to actually sit and jam with creative people and come up with solutions and I have got more opportunity to do that so, it’s absolutely fantastic.
You have been with Lowe since 2003, how did things change for you from NCD to CCO?
I joined as a copy writer in 2003 and I have grown through the ranks.
When I became NCD in 2010, it was a dramatic shift for me. There are three levels between GCD and NCD. Balki picked me and said sit here, so I skipped three levels to run one group in the office on the 13th floor and suddenly, I was running half of Bombay, all of Bangalore and Chennai. So, that year was dramatic in my life. Since I have worked for six years as NCD, this was a smoother transition.
You never wanted the option of running Mullen Lintas?
That’s actually a conversation between Balki(Group Chairman of MullenLowe Lintas Group) Joe (Regional President, South & Southeast Asia, Group CEO India, Mullen Lowe Lintas ) me and Amer (Chairman & Chief Creative Officer Mullen Lintas) and it was a good three-four rounds of discussions until we came to a consensus on the structure we want. So, it wasn’t a diktat or a personal decision, we sat together and we said, okay, this is what is best to do.
What are the challenges you face currently?
The biggest challenge is to drive consistently good work. I think it’s a huge challenge because the only way to do that is to empower your people, align with the kind of stuff we need to be doing, and communicate clearly that this is the level at which we need to operate. Set a base level and let nothing drop below that - which is a continuous challenge. The only thing I worry about, fuss about and I keep telling my teams is; what’s coming up? What can we do better?
The challenge is also to continue the great creative culture that we have. To be honest, I have been really lucky, I have got really great people a really great team - the creative heads including the creative team.
Do you think there is an over-emphasis on digital these days?
Yes, 100 per cent, whilst digital is important because the mobile phone is transforming our country, and we cannot run away from that, but the noise around it in our industry is a lot of gas around this word ‘digital’.
Somebody needs to cut through it and get to the point of what is it that needs to be done. And that is what we are attempting to do with LinTeractive’s new framework Deep Digitisation, which we have been working on since the last eight months.
We are trying to not let the clutter get to us and see how we can genuinely transform into an agency that thinks well digitally.