Advertising Interviews

David Mayo

CEO | 06 Dec 2013

Our body language has changed, India has really benefitted from being a signed up member of a network, we can see that in the P&L, in the types and calibre of people that we are hiring. We can see that in the work we are doing now, and it is only a year right now, we are planting the right seeds now for a longer term play.

Bates, now Bates CHI & Partners, has had quite an eventful year to put it rather mildly – from numerous senior exits in the previous year to a change in identity, it has been a year of change and restructuring for the agency. David Mayo, who took over as CEO, Bates Asia has been at the helm of all these changes.

Mayo started his career in London working on the Unilever, Panasonic and Diageo business, before shifting base to Hong Kong in 1993 to work on BAT and HSBC. In 1997, he joined Ogilvy in Singapore to run Guinness in Asia before launching RedCard, billed as Asia’s most awarded creative boutique, in 2001. In 2006, he rejoined Ogilvy to run the global Motorola business. He then led Ogilvy & Mather Advertising across Asia for three years before taking on Ogilvy Mather ASEAN in 2011. In 2012, he started a new chapter and helped launch the new Bates CHI & Partners as CEO.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Mehra, Mayo speaks at length about the first year as one of establishing new foundations, which he likens to going to base camp, the company’s business strategy, and more...

Q. How has the past year panned out for you? Your appointment was preceded by with numerous senior exits, and followed by a change in identity...

I took on the reins on November 5, and then we launched Bates Chi and Partners across the region on the February 28, 2013 – we treat this as our Founding Day.

We have an excellent history in Asia. Bates has been here since the 1940’s and has had a good run. However, since the last 20 years, it has had mixed fortunes, the reason is that other agencies have arrived with their clients, and the agencies and clients have cracked the code of how to operate and how to scale it. Many agencies have managed to crack the code of how to take creativity and scale it across India, somewhere along the way Bates lost its way a little bit.

But we have an excellent management team – we have Sanjay, Saurabh and Sagar, who run the business. They are second to none, and I have worked with all of them previously.

On a lighter note, on my first trip to India as Bates Asia CEO, I was asked by a young lady in Delhi, ‘We've had four CEOs in five years, how long are you going to be here?” I said to her, ‘I’ll be here for five years, how long will you be here?’, and she said ‘Five years, if you will be here.’ In year one, we have established new foundations; year two, we will have some good announcements to make, new senior regional appointments – we will have strategic and new creative leadership in the region.

Q. What is your business strategy going forward?

We have a two-part business strategy – new business development and creativity. From a new business point of view we’ve had a good year, there are three types of new businesses that we seek – development of the existing clients, called ‘farmer business’, the best endorsement is when a client wants to grow their business with you – Dell in Bangalore is a great example of how we have been able to grow that piece of business. The sign of a good agency is its ability to grow its relationship with its existing client, the work it does to grow the business and with that growth in business, the agency grows with them. Case in point is Weiden+Kennedy with Nike, and Ogilvy with Vodafone, Pidilite – these are timeless relationships that have grown with the agencies.

The second part is ‘hunt to business’, which is all the new business and new clients coming to our organisation. Uninor has been our biggest win this year.

Third type of business development is what we call ‘Hunting on the farm’, for example, a client who has got a piece of business that would like to come to India. In the same way, India plays the significant role of an importer as well as exporter of business in the network. I see the synergy of a network and breathe it everyday.

Q. Do you believe the fortunes of the agency have changed in India?

Our body language has changed, India has really benefitted from being a signed up member of a network, we can see that in the P&L, in the types and calibre of people that we are hiring. We can see that in the work we are doing now, and it is only a year right now, we are planting the right seeds now for a longer term play.

When you are part of a network and family and adopt their body language, this can help you in different countries and everything starts falling in place.

Q. What are the changes that you have made since taking charge?

When I took on this role, we were a network of 14 offices across nine markets, but it felt like 14 different fiefdoms. What we have done this year is that we have started training our people – we have carried out almost 4,000 hours of training amongst 800 of our people across the region. We have put together a network of talent development and have been relocating people across offices as travel broadens the mind and experience.

I’m not building systems and giving instructions, but providing opportunities to our people to develop their latent skills. If I can have another four years like this one, we will have a company that does fantastic work, has a great point of view, and has a culture. Year one was about going to the base camp, it is not the destination.

We understand ourselves and we understand that clients like what we do and our collaborative way of working. Getting clients is 20 per cent of the work, keeping them and growing them constitutes the remaining 80 per cent; unless we do that, we won't survive.

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