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India needs to be a creative beacon for our company: Carter Murray

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India needs to be a creative beacon for our company: Carter Murray

“My brief to Rohit, wasn’t like in some markets, I need you to triple the size of the business in the next three years. What I said is that I want to elevate, take FCB ULKA to the next step of its journey. Like we are doing globally, it is all about the creative product because that’s why clients come to us,” says FCB’s Worldwide CEO Carter Murray  

Murray confesses having a healthy paranoia about the agency losing its momentum. He also talks about the importance of building a culture, the talent pool at FCB ULKA and more...

What are the timelines for Rohit (Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman and CEO of FCB Ulka) to get FCB to where it was in India few years ago?

Of course, top line growth is what you want in a market like India, but my brief to Rohit wasn’t to triple the size of the business in the next three years, unlike some other markets.

We have one of the largest agencies in India and relationships that we are really proud of. What I said is that I want to elevate, take FCB ULKA to the next step of its journey. Like we are doing globally, it is all about the creative product because that’s why clients come to us to make sure that we give them a brand and a creative work that gives them a significant competitive advantage.

Whilst Cannes is not the destination, it’s part of the journey. I would like to win regularly in Cannes, especially from our India office, to demonstrate how important creative is to us. India has a natural birthright to creativity. India needs to be a creative beacon for us and our company. One of the things that I love about Rohit is that he is an incredible businessman and has got a real passion for creative products.

We have strong foundations in India, in terms of our people, our clients and our scale. To take us and our clients forward, the challenge is to come out with the most innovative and creative work from India.  Also, we have to win new business, which is the life-blood of any agency. Having just arrived, Rohit has already won three new pitches, I don’t think they are huge pitches but they are important pitches to us. Now, when you look at the creative work coming out of India you can see how the standard has not improved, but changed.

There are some really interesting creative campaigns coming out of India which I am really proud of.

We want India to continue to grow in terms of creative reputation, partnerships with our clients and make sure that our people want to run to work every morning. When you are as big as ULKA, it’s difficult to have every employee feel that way and it’s a hard task.  Rohit is working really hard to make sure he makes it even more enjoyable to work in our agencies.   

What is the next leap for you?

I never aspired to be a CEO; what I aspired to do, when I entered advertising, was to do my job really well, learn everyday, which I am still doing. I am really blessed that I get to choose the people I really want to work with. We have hired these very talented people and promoted these really fascinating, creative, talented people. I feel so lucky to have the support team around me, to work with some of the brilliant people and I really feel responsible for my clients and my team.

I hope in the next two-three years at least and beyond, I want FCB to have a really special culture and to go to work every morning and be a part of that. This company is 150 years old and I want it be around for 150 years more after I leave. This company is much more than about any one individual; it is about greatness. I hope I play a role in the company and leave the company healthier than what it was when I took over.

What is the biggest barrier for you to get there right now?

I have removed the biggest barrier by hiring the best people.

So, when do you get there?

Never, in the most optimistic way. If you look at the technology companies, they are never finished. I think successful brands and successful people are never finished. So, if ever you think you are at the destination, you are going to start failing. When you ask how are you going to achieve greatness, I say never. When we achieve greatness, we say we what’s next. I think the days of arrogance and big egos are gone.

What are the factors that re-iterate you are on the right path from a global perspective; it can be quite daunting at times?

When I get personal notes from people - who have given more than 10 years to the company, saying I am proud to work for this agency, I really value and appreciate what they have done. I am proud of what this agency stands for. Those are the moments that really mean a lot to me, more than anything else.

I mean, winning a Cannes is great; winning a new business is like a drug. But when you have people who are so dedicated and have been in this company long before I arrived, you know that they are genuine. 

FCB is now in a very different position, in the last two years we have taken the company to a totally different place.  And now, we have proven we are amongst the best networks of the world in global new business. We have won four Grand Prix, four years in a row. We are in a different stage and we just don’t have to be at Cannes; we have to try and be the very best in everything. And I think that’s the next big hurdle for us. 

If you just look at the talent we have, in Canada, I have a 32 year old CEO, who has won $5 million in his new business in the first six months of his new job. In India we have Swati, who is such a creative soul. I look at Rohit and what he wants to do and how quickly he is taking our company to the next level. When I look at Fraser in London, he took BMW from an agency which had it for 50 years and is now one of our biggest clients, and he won two Grand Prix in the last two years. When I look at all of that, the next big thing is to say- with people that are this good, we need to be the very best, everywhere, consistently. That’s hard and that’s the next big challenge, that’s the biggest step up. 

As I get older I get the more experience I have, the importance of driving a culture that is special and unique, is what I see as becoming more and more important. A culture that imparts values people want to belong to, I am really excited about how our culture is continuing to evolve, grow and become more defined.

What keeps Carter Murray awake at night?

I am worried about everything, I think you need a healthy paranoia to become a CEO; I have healthy paranoia about everything. The biggest thing that keeps me awake all night is, us losing on momentum. We are in the momentum business, and there is so much momentum around the world. You always need to be learning and growing, building and succeeding and I am terrified what if all the success that we have started to have slows down because once you lose that momentum. You cannot get it back, so that keeps me up at night. You are only as good as your last campaign and the last thing that you did for your clients. We have two client relationships that are over 100 years old. And as I say to my team, it’s a 100 year old relationship but we need to earn it every day. So, I get worried about complacency. I get worried about the change in the industry; are we being smart to embrace all the new technologies, are we being the smartest in how do we get the best out of each other? Are we being smart about how we invest our money when we take that position around the world?  I am worried about my people, are we looking after our people properly, are we giving them the right scope?

Tags Carter Murray FCB Ulka Gran Prix Cannes

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