Advertising Interviews

D Rajappa

President | 29 Oct 2010

“Everest has been lucky to have had some great leaders guiding it in its 60 year journey to stay focused on building brands with effective communications. In a highly competitive and dynamic environment, you retain business by the virtue of your understanding of brand dynamics, its performance in the market and how nimble footed and responsive you are in leveraging the opportunities and challenges.”

D. Rajappa has spent seventeen years with the Rediffusion Y&R group across Delhi, Colombo and Mumbai, working on half a dozen different assignments. He has gained immense experience across various categories, working on legendary brands such as Airtel, LIC, Maruti Suzuki and Parle Products amongst others.

From heading Rediffusion Y&R’s Delhi office to conceiving, running an experiential marketing division, to leading Rediffusion Y&R’s Sri Lanka operations and catapulting it among the Top 10 agencies, D. Rajappa has done it all.

The President of Everest Brand Solutions has been a marathon runner in advertising. A committed and passionate advertising leader, who has contributed, performed and delivered growth by adding value to the client businesses.

Leading a 100-strong team since 2006, Rajappa has helped Everest re-establish itself as a strong brand and marketing agency committed to enhancing health of a string of blue chip brands. Pallavi Goorha Kashyup tracks the new business wins and future plans of agency.

Q. Everest Brand Solutions is known for long client relationships. How do you manage to do this?

I firmly believe that building brands is about being passionately committed to learn and create communications that deliver results for the client’s business. There are no quick-fix solutions to brand building. Impactful results come with big brand ideas, which are sustained and evolved in an ever changing environment.Brands like Parle, Bombay Chemicals and Zandu have seen value in this lasting relationship. Everest has been lucky to have had some great leaders guiding it in its 60 year journey to stay focused on building brands with effective communications.In a highly competitive and dynamic environment, you retain business by the virtue of your understanding of brand dynamics, its performance in the market and how nimble footed and responsive you are in leveraging the opportunities and challenges.

Q. Could you tell us about your new business wins in 2010?

We are delighted with the new business wins. What makes us proud is the fact that we won new business because Everest offers the best of both worlds — the experience and maturity of a large agency and nimble footedness of a small enterprise. Everest has one of the finest leadership teams in the country in terms of cohesiveness and experience of working with large brands.

Today we work with some of the best brands from IOB to ACC, from Tata Housing to CNN-IBN, Akai to Tru Milk, KS Oils to Mount Shivalik Breweries. About 3-4 agencies were working for Zandu before it was acquired by Emami. Everest was the only agency to be retained because the client saw a great fit and value of being with Everest. Because Emami saw unwavering commitment, exceptional passion and quality creative ideas that performed, they proactively assigned a range of personal and skincare brands to Everest. We can say the same for our other clients as well.

Together with the recent new wins and the long relationship clients — Parle, Bombay Chemicals and Zandu — our portfolio today has a strong line up of blue chip FMCG brands across categories.

Q. What are the projected billings for 2010?

We have had a healthy first three quarters and we will close 2010 with a double digit growth. With the rich portfolio of brands and a strong team, we are gearing up for even a stronger year ahead.

Q. There’s a lot of 360 degree happening. What is Everest’s thought process on this front. How are you different from others?

My experience is that few agencies end up delivering the entire 360 degree communications from ideation to execution. Our approach to this is to create a solid brand idea. Then we take on the role of a conscience keeper to ensure that the brand positioning is created effectively across all touch points. We tend to partner with those with the right skill sets and domain expertise to implement it.

Q. Industry slowdown now seems to be behind for most agencies. How did it affect Everest Brand Solutions?

As you know, we work across diverse categories. This lets us have a finger on the pulse of the consumer. Additionally, we are continuously looking at the marketing dynamics and it’s likely to impact the economy. Through many lead indicators, we foresaw the slowdown coming and prepared ourselves.

We have always believed in running a tight ship where the focus is on brilliant minds. We sailed through this tough phase for the industry with no pay cuts, no retrenchments and rewards for the performers.

Q. What in your opinion has been some memorable advertising from Everest in recent months?

We have been fortunate to have created impactful campaigns for all our clients that delivered the marketing objectives defined by them. Watch out for memorable and blockbuster creative work over the next few weeks and months.

Q. How is the advertising market in Delhi different from Mumbai? Do you think Delhi has caught up with Mumbai in terms of business/billings?

Both Delhi and Mumbai are large, significant markets offering strong growth potential. The business is driven more out of market dynamics and the agency’s association with the brand and the need of the brand to communicate.

I see an upsurge in entrepreneurial activity in satellite towns. As these businesses become significant they will start looking for professional inputs from agencies in the metros to take their brands ahead. Business from satellite towns has the potential to carve out a significant part of the overall pie.

Q. We all know, awards makes one feel good about the work one has done. But how important are they for an ad agency as a whole?

We took a conscious decision, some time in 2008, to stay away from awards. Because we firmly believe that as an agency we work towards making the client brands known and recognised by their customers.

The value that we add to the client’s brands is the most satisfying part of our business since we partner with them in the pursuit of both mindshare and market share. The success of our client’s brands in the market place is what makes us better known.

Q. What are the concerns to watch out for in the industry? What are your personal work targets for 2010?

I am very bullish about the Indian advertising industry. The industry is eyeing another year of good growth. I also foresee new avenues to see a significant growth. This would include developing competence and building communities in the digital space.

We have added resources and collaborated effectively to drive value for our clients. We have a strong, committed and stable senior management team comprising of Naveen Saraswat (who heads our Delhi branch), Vinita Suri (holds the fort in Mumbai) and N Padmakumar (National Creative Director).

Everest is on the cusp of change with a great portfolio of brands and a strong team. With organic growth from the existing clients as well as addition of new categories, Everest is now prepared for a blockbuster performance in the year ahead as our business focus continues to be on the best in class.

Q. During the slowdown, many advertisers took steps to cut down on advertising spends. Now that things are back to normal have the cuts been restored. Have advertising agencies come up with solutions that offer better ROI or bang for the buck?

It is essential for the brands to achieve growth in a competitive environment and they have little choice but to invest. And what better time to invest than during slowdown, as the cost of gaining market share is the lowest in a slowdown. Any cut in investments in brand building is bound to cause a loss of mind share and affect market share.

At the same time the agency has to squeeze more out the media mix so as to stretch the rupee. We help our clients by creating more value since that is the only way to achieve growth — both for them and us.

Q. Any plans of beefing up your creative team?

We have a very stable and committed senior management team that is leading, guiding and mentoring creative and servicing teams.

We have strengthened our NCD, N Padmakumar’s senior creative team of Sanjay Sakharkar and Devesh Desai by bringing on board two experienced ECDs Samir Chonkar and Romeen Yarkhan. We shall continue to add more experienced and younger talent.

Q. The advertising industry has been under pressure over fee payable to the creative agencies. Has revival of the overall industry led to softening of the stand by advertisers?

The agencies have to continuously help enhance the value perception in the eyes of the clients. At the same time the clients when buying services need to demand quality and good value. Brand building is like nurturing a child to strong adulthood.

Q. Everest Brand Solutions seems to be an agency that is media shy, or which prefers not to be in the limelight?

I am personally, a strong believer in only delivering results for the client brand and creating value for all stakeholders at the agency. Marketing Communications is essentially in a B2B business where you need to partner with the client to help achieve marketing aspirations of the brand.

Everest’s performance and credentials are vouched for by its client partners and they are naturally our best word of mouth endorsement.

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