Advertising Interviews

Mohit Dhar Jayal

Managing Director,Wieden+Kennedy Delhi
V Sunil | 10 Aug 2012

Digital is an integral part of everything that we do, and has been for a while. If you produce a great TV spot, but don’t bother to design the next step of the interaction (and it’s increasingly likely to be a digital interaction), then that’s a huge waste of everybody’s time and money.

Mohit Dhar Jayal held key positions at agencies in India and abroad, including Leo Burnett London and Euro RSCG India, following which he established his own brand development agency in a joint venture with the Madison Group. In 2003, Jayal joined V Sunil as a partner at creative independent ‘A’, which they then merged with Wieden+Kennedy to launch W+K’s Indian operations in 2008.

In 2004, V Sunil founded independent agency ‘A’. Prior to founding ‘A’, he was Creative Director at O&M Delhi. During his tenure at O&M, Sunil created and launched several major marketing initiatives, including ‘Incredible India’ and the Hutch campaigns.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Shree Lahiri, Jayal and Sunil speak at length about the key developments at W+K, the distinct culture and some prominent campaigns.

Q. When you had set up shop in 2007, your objective was “to define a new approach to branding in India”. How has that shaped up?

Mohit: It has done quite well. We’re only a part of a large movement that’s doing that. Not that we are the only guys doing it, but we hope to be part of a gang who is making it – film makers, artists, music makers. I’m sure there are more talented people than us, but in our own way we are doing that. We have done a fair amount of work, which is helping define that and we are quite satisfied.

Sunil: Most of the work you will see in the airports, like when you fly Indigo, there is a change. In other cases too, it’s all there. You can see the big change happening, it’s happening slowly. A lot of younger people, who may not have the budgets or bandwidth – they are making an effort. You can see a big change happening in small pockets – Hauz Khaz village in Delhi, small businesses, in Mumbai.

Q. Wieden+Kennedy has been named Cannes Independent Agency of the Year and Agency of the Year. Where does W+K move from here?

Sunil: From the beginning, and especially in the recent past, even our regular ad work have a social relevance, it’s almost like a social commentary. Wherever possible, we have to work like good artists, musicians, architects. Finally, we are in the middle of this action and people we work with are those kinds of people. In some of our offices, like Portland, W+K is already an epicentre for other creative people to come together to take ideas forward. That will grow more and more. It doesn’t matter if you are doing ads or something else. That’s what companies like W+K will go to. That’s a natural progression.

Q. Where does India stand in the global W+K network, both in terms of revenue and geographic expansion?

Mohit: In terms of contribution to business, the W+K network has some massive engines of growth in business like Portland, London, Amsterdam. We have big brothers or sisters to match up to. However, interestingly, we’ve been a profitable office from day one and we have contributed way beyond our business performance. It will take time to equal the sheer size and amazing business performance of our big offices. Global folks and elders from W+K consider India important from the point of view of studying how the Wieden culture meets an emerging market, how it can establish that Wieden approach to excellence in creative work and also grow to help challenge conventions and also do new things. In other markets, though they are accomplished, there are tougher challenges and firms have been challenging them for decades. Here, the rules are less defined. This is a place they look to for radicalism, experimentation – and also see how a W+K culture meets a branding culture, which is not a western culture or global culture. The W+K model keeps everything together.

Q. You have been in the news lately with Levi’s India aligning creative with W+K. How working on this iconic denim brand been?

Sunil: Work is under process now. We are still discussing ideas. All this while, strategy work has been happening. Now, creative work will happen.

Mohit: We are not only not helping local clients directly to make the global campaign more connected, but also taking the global idea and making sure it comes alive in the local context. In the old fashioned system, a global campaign popped up regardless of local input. We are trying to be part of a new system, giving feedback to clients so that a global campaign can change course and take an Indian point of view early on rather than as an afterthought. It’s a very W+K thing.

Q. Your Delhi client list includes besides Levi’s, Heineken India, Coca-Cola India, Invista (Lycra, Coolmax), as well as what you call new ‘tiger brands’ from India’s fastest-growing market categories – Royal Enfield Motorcycles, HCL Technologies, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, Trident Hotels, Xylys and IndiGo. Any additions to this list in the near future?

Sunil: We are working on a couple of projects for 2-3 brands, besides there is a lot of maintenance work that is going on.

Mohit: We are working on a fair amount of new businesses, but cannot talk about them. Some are extended projects such as the HCL communication issue. It’s unusual, but we approach new businesses like that. Do we need to hang around like an agency? Or can we solve the problem and fix it internally, customise it to the business problem and hand it over? Or keep on supporting it internally or digitally and we come back when our client needs us, otherwise we will be an expensive drain on your system? Agencies like ours have to drive, otherwise you will just sit around servicing a relationship. That’s not a skill.

Q. You had founded ‘A’ in 2004, which was merged with Wieden+Kennedy in 2007. How has the transition been?

Sunil: A few friends got together and we had many names, even ‘Karate’. We had a nice logo too. At the end of the day, name doesn’t matter. When W+K came, the merger was smooth as the thinking was similar; we were originally helping them, and somewhere down the line the merger happened. In our mind, the only thing we were losing was the name. We were a small group of about 8 to 12 people. We grew to 65 people in the first year.

Mohit: Sunil started it and I joined him later, but he could not tell me why it was called ‘A’. But the merger with W+K was smooth.

Q. A recent phenomenon has been creative people branching out to set up creative hot shops in Delhi. Comment.

Sunil: It’s very good. Even when we started, it was like that and many other agencies had popped up too. Some good work should come and a new point of view, otherwise it will not help them. It’s a good thing that at least they are breaking away from the comfort zone to do their own thing. In the Western markets creative people are running successful businesses and they have the guts to do that.

Q. Tell us about your recent announcement of the Incubator project?

W+K Exp’s Incubator Experiment is a mentoring programme, where brands, technology, popular culture and creative entrepreneurship come together to form exciting new businesses. Programmes such as this are the need of the hour. While India has no shortage of software skills, there is little or no convergence of technology, design and branding – and it is precisely these skills that are required to launch and sustain world-class products and brands.

The programme is intended for start-ups (solo or in teams) who have a product idea, but aren’t sure how to turn this idea into a consumer brand. The W+K incubator will give you the space and support you need to develop your ideas and polish up your business and marketing skills.

Creative entrepreneurs will have to follow a simple application process in order to qualify. Successful applicants will spend four months in a high-energy work environment and receive expert guidance from in-house tutors, unique networking opportunities and a free, limitless supply of caffeine and oxygen.

Q. How is W+K leveraging the digital space for itself and its clients?

Digital is an integral part of everything that we do, and has been for a while. If you produce a great TV spot, but don’t bother to design the next step of the interaction (and it’s increasingly likely to be a digital interaction), then that’s a huge waste of everybody’s time and money.

In India, we’ve helped many of our clients build social media strategies, apps, etc., but the most interesting example is probably our recent film for HCL Technologies, which was released only on YouTube and clocked 2.6 million views in a few months.

We are also very proud of the fact that other W+K offices have created some of the world’s best digital campaigns, for example, Old Spice by W+K Portland as well as various campaigns by W+K London and W+K Amsterdam.

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