Advertising Interviews

Rohit Ohri

Executive Chairman | 07 Dec 2012

In the future, the communication industry will be shaped by technology, creativity and innovation. Understanding the consumer- technology interface is one of the core strengths of Dentsu in Japan. If we combine this understanding with the creativity and innovation of Taproot, we could create the agency of the future.

Spearheading the India companies and businesses at Dentsu India Group, this creative thinker and strategic leader drives organisational efficiency, enhances the creative product and develops new business driving profitability. Prior to Dentsu, Ohri was Managing Partner at JWT India’s Delhi operations, where he led brand Pepsi to an unassailable position with ‘Yeh dil maange more’. Ohri fuelled blistering growth at the office with Airtel, Bharti Walmart, Delhi Commonwealth Games, Airtel DTH and Nokia. In August 2011, he joined Dentsu India Group and led the agency to new heights with the recent partnership with Taproot to establish a strong foothold in the creative fraternity.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Twishy, Ohri speaks at length about nature of functioning within the agency, the Dentsu-Aegis structure, benefits from the Taproot deal, plans to ramp up Dentsu digital and much more...

Q. Dentsu was not in a very good shape when you joined the agency. How has the journey been till now?

From the time I joined till now, I think the agency has seen a lot of change. I think the most important change is the cultural change. I am trying to create a culture of creativity, where everything is centred on the quality of work and ideas. You are either inspiring, creating or selling the work, if you are not doing any of these things then you have no place in the new Dentsu. The biggest thing that we have managed to achieve in Dentsu in the last one and a half years is a cultural and mindset change, which is the hardest to bring about in an agency. You can have the best strategy, but if you don’t create the environment to let that strategy shape up, then it doesn’t work at all.

Q. Are you going the Dentsu way or you have changed the nature of functioning?

I find the Dentsu way of working as the most refreshing one. We are built on three foundations – Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship, and all these lead to creative excellence. We believe in going that extra mile to make things happen for brands and clients. This is a very Japanese philosophy, that if there is no media, we will walk towards creating that media. Innovation and interesting new media is something that we have been doing out of Japan for a long time. Dentsu is the only advertising agency in the world to have an R&D centre. Dentsu works with Apple, MIT, Facebook, etc., at the centre and looks at new technologies and ways to connect with the consumers and coming up with ideas. These ideas are then taken to the clients. It is a consumer leading a philosophy and not following one, because most of the agencies follow where the consumer has already gone and we are looking at where the consumer will be so that we can help clients in becoming the leaders.

Q. Has the Aegis Media deal helped Dentsu in strengthening its position and how will the Dentsu-Aegis structure look like?

It’s still early days because the deal is not closed as yet. It is a big deal and I think it will strengthen Dentsu’s positioning. This is the first time when almost 50 per cent of the employees’ base will sit outside Japan and almost 50 per cent of revenues will also be outside Japan, which is the second largest advertising market and Dentsu is really dominant in Japan. The fact is that 80 per cent of the revenues used to come out of Japan, but with the deal the revenue has kind of evened out between Japan and the rest of the world. To my mind, the push towards globalisation by Dentsu is really making the Japanese owned agency a global multinational.

Q. What are the international practices brought to India in the last couple of years?

We are bringing a lot of technology which can underpin great creative ideas. The new consumer is not someone who separates his online and offline habits. He or she is always online and even watches television on the laptop. They are truly integrated and technology is helping them do this. Dentsu understands the human-technology interface and wants to bring this to India on the back of fantastic creative ideas, which will help connect consumers in a better way.

Q. How are you addressing the issue of local talent and letting it thrive?

The good thing is that it is a great start and a good beginning. We have to now prove it with a lot of work. The fact is that because everyone accepts that it is a good repositioning exercise, we have been able to attract a lot of talent. So at this point of time, I don’t think I am so stressed about the quality of talent because I think we are getting really good people on board. On a larger level, I am concerned about the quality of talent that the industry is attracting, which is a bigger issue. We need to do something to make advertising as attractive as it was 30-40 years back. Because there are many options for people to work in a creative environment and advertising is one of the options and on top of that it doesn’t pay that well, so it is unable to attract the top-notch talent. These are worrying signs and over a period of time, we will see an erosion of the industry if not tackled properly.

Q. Has the Taproot partnership given you a more Indian identity?

It would have taken me another three years of consistently doing good work to change the perception of Dentsu’s creative calibre in the market. Taproot has accelerated the change of perception and has shifted us a few notches up. The industry has clearly understood that Dentsu is very serious about the market and completely focused on creativity. We are not acquiring size, we are acquiring calibre. Everyone had the choice and the opportunity to partner with Taproot, but we capitalised on it.

Q. In India, WPP and IPG agencies dominate the market. How will Dentsu stand out in the market?

I have been grappling with that myself, asking how will Dentsu be different from the agencies. Dentsu is not very large in India, but we want to be a distinctly different agency in the market. If you look at the mid-level agencies, they have always been squeezed, but Dentsu went up in terms of perception. The next phase of advertising after print and TV is yet to happen and I do not want to fight the same battle. Hence, I am trying to create a new battleground.

In the future, the communication industry will be shaped by technology, creativity and innovation. Understanding the consumer- technology interface is one of the core strengths of Dentsu in Japan. If we combine this understanding with the creativity and innovation of Taproot, we could create the agency of the future.

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