Advertising Interviews

Jarek Ziebinski

President | 07 Oct 2011

Digital and shopper marketing are the two pillars of growth. While advertising spends are growing 4-5 per cent, the growth in these areas is 25-30 per cent. Who wouldn’t want to be in something that is growing 4-5 times faster? Clients want it, marketers need solutions for it and thus we have to be experts in it. Half of Leo Burnett’s revenues are expected to come from these areas in the next 2-3 years.

The Humankind marketing approach with People at its core is reaping huge returns for Leo Burnett, especially in India. In times where clients are changing agencies every now and then or assigning important campaigns to smaller creative hot shops, the group has been able to retain most of its businesses losing mere 0.5 per cent of revenues last year. Digital and shopper marketing are now the two main areas of focus for the agency, as Jarek Ziebinski, President, Leo Burnett, Asia-Pacific, believes these are the streams that will account for half of the revenues of the group in the next 2-3 years.

Ziebinski has 25 years of experience in the advertising and marketing industry, including 16 years of which at Leo Burnett. He was Chairman and CEO of Leo Burnett Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) for close to a decade before relocating to Singapore in 2009 to take up the helm as the President for the agency-network in the Asia Pacific region. He is also a member of the Leo Burnett Worldwide Global Leadership Council since 2006.

A true believer in the power of creativity, Ziebinski spearheaded an unconventional approach to driving and inspiring creativity with the launch of Internal Product Committee (IPC) for the network in Asia Pacific in 2010. In place of a regional ECD, four senior ECDs were assigned additional geographical responsibilities. IPC taps into the collective talents of the network to drive the quality of its creative output and reaches out to more employees who may not be directly involved in the creative product – enhancing creative education and culture.

exhange4media’s Deepika Bhardwaj caught up with Ziebinski during his recent visit to India for IPC, where he shares the growth of Indian operations, reasons for success, the road ahead and the mantra for retaining clients...

Q. What has been the development on your plans of acquiring a digital and a shopper marketing agency in India?

We are very close to making the decision. I was optimistic that it would happen by mid of this year, but it has taken longer than expected. The deal is about to happen, but I can’t share any details as it is confidential. While decision on the digital agency is about to close, shopper marketing will take more time. While digital will happen this year, shopper marketing might roll on to next year.

Q. There are strong rumours that you have partnered with Indigo Consulting. Is it true?

I cannot comment on that. It is too early, nothing has been finalised yet.

Q. What have been the requisites for choosing these partners?

We have been in talks with the best and the most experienced players in the market, those who have a modern approach to shopper marketing and advanced techniques for connecting with people, understanding their behaviour and impacting them. Retail has become more complicated and sophisticated and its knowhow is absolutely crucial to make the campaigns effective. To make an impact at the final stage of purchasing is important in the marketing business, and our clients today expect us to be competent, effective and fully prepared in this area. We are on the last stage of the buying process and this will definitely add to our existing expertise.

Q. There are many players in the retail space right now, shopper marketing particularly. How does Leo Burnett plan to differentiate?

Leo Burnett has always had a different point of view. We have always believed in people – the humankind marketing. In an era where people are hugely empowered, we have stopped talking about consumers and started focusing on behaviours. Our 4 Ps are not Product, Price, Place and Promotion but People, Purpose, Participation and Populism. People - we are looking at marketing through human lens. We are not talking about positioning, benefits and profits, but we are talking about purpose as Purpose defines the purpose of being for the brand. Participation – what we need to create is engagement, make people participate and engage with what the brand has to offer. Consumers are empowered today to talk to the brand and we aim at touching them at every possible level. Populism – we believe that positive populism is what big brands need. If you look at MacDonald’s and Coke, they are popular brands people love, and they are engaging with consumers in modern and engaging ways. So this is the era of people and humankind marketing.

Q. Arc Worldwide is already handling digital and activation for Leo Burnett. What more is expected from the digital acquisition?

Digital is everything today. There is no separation. People are connecting with each other and creating influence through online communication, mobile communication and we cannot really differentiate between digital and non digital. Our expectation from Arc is to do activation better. When we need to activate brands in retail environment or events driven marketing, Arc comes into the picture. Arc will always be the activation arm of the Leo Burnett Company. The acquisition of the digital agency would mean integration of resources, because we believe in integration and specialist expertise.

Q. Could you share some statistics that are making you look at these domains particularly now?

If you look at Asia-Pacific, even if you leave China, our industry may be growing at 4-5 per cent, but if you look at digital spending, its growing 25 per cent and that tells you something. If there is an area which is growing 5 times, you want to be there! It means clients want it, marketers need solutions for it, and we need to have the expertise for it. The same is with shopper marketing. It is also growing 3-4 times faster, so these two are the two pillars of growth. I expect that in probably 2-3 years from now, half of our business in Asia-Pacific will be coming from these two areas.

Q. So you are saying that digital and shopper marketing will define the future of advertising?

I am saying that these two areas will be very important. Integration will always be important. It is not possible to work in silos anymore. People don’t think like that and we have to play the game in the way people think. People dictate the rules of the game. People own brands, not companies. Integrated communication that impact human behaviour will define the future.

Q. How has this year been for Leo Burnett in India?

I have been very proud of the growth of Leo Burnett in India. Our operations in India saw 38 per cent growth in revenues in 2010 and we are growing at about 25 per cent this year. So if you do the math, starting from end of 2009 to mid of next year, we have doubled our revenues in less than two and a half years. We are doubling the size of our revenues in India and two and a half years’ time. I am confident that Leo Burnett is the fastest growing communication company in India. If you know any other, tell me!

Q. And this growth is cumulative of existing businesses and new businesses or entirely new businesses?

Combination of growth we are generating is 50-50, organic versus new businesses. We grow organically from the client base we currently have and inorganically when we win businesses after pitching. I think this is the healthiest growth model. There is nothing more precious than growing from existing clients and we are happy that our clients have invested their faith in us, adding more projects on us. It is also a testimony to the kind of work we are doing. We are now taking care of Coke Studio for Coke, Samsung’s extended portfolio including refrigerators, its cell phones - Galaxy S II, Hero and Metro, along with the retail, Shiv Nadar Schools, and our partners like Hindustan Petroleum and Kavin Care have added more products on to us.

Q. Delhi has become the target destination for every agency in India today. What is the kind of growth you have seen here, any specific investments for this market?

Leo Burnett Delhi is the fastest growing office in the APAC region. While we are looking at double growth at the group level by 2012, Delhi office has already doubled its revenues in just two years. There is a lot of momentum in Delhi right now. In our business, the main investment is in terms of people and we are hiring people like crazy, because I am dealing with consequences of growth.

The fact is that all our offices, be it Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai, are growing in double digits. Show me any other agency that is growing as fast as us in India, and I will bet my annual bonus on what I am saying!

Q. Clients are changing hands more than ever. What is Leo Burnett’s strategy to retain its clients?

I will give you one more number. In Asia-Pacific, we have lost only 0.5 per cent of revenue from the previous year because of losing a client; at the same time I have won enough revenue to generate growth of 13-14 per cent. So the problem that I call leaking bucket, that is you add more business but existing businesses are leaking at the same time, is not troubling us at all. Honestly, that was not the case two years ago or even last year, as we lost 4-5 per cent of our businesses in 2010, but this year we have hardly lost any business. And that’s what is keeping us so happy!

The strategy for that is I think what Leo Burnett has always been about. We’re about ideas. Creativity is the currency of modern marketing and as long as you have creativity that generate communication and impact behaviour of people, you will do well because that is what clients are looking for today. There is nothing more precious than ideas.

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