Advertising Interviews

Ameer Ismail

Executive Director | 12 Aug 2015

One of the primary innovations has centered around how we work. We have successfully adopted Golin’s G4 model, which has transformed the way we work and enabled us to better our product. We have also successfully leveraged our partnership with Mullen Lowe Lintas Group and make use of the unique expertise and talent that resides there.

Ameer Ismail juggles multiples roles, those of Executive Director - LinOpinion GH and dCell (Group Marketing Services, Mullen Lowe Lintas Group). With LinOpinion GH, the JV between Golin and the PR unit of Lowe Lintas, LinOpinion GH in its second year in India, exchange4media discusses their recent work and what makes them different from other PR agencies.

Q. ‘Help a Child Reach 5’ campaign has reflected a successful partnership in the form of LinOpinion GH (Golin + LinOpinion). What is the business plan for the second year of this partnership?

I appreciate the recognition, this was a great campaign and it was even more gratifying to be recognised amongst so many outstanding global PR campaigns. Our JV is in its second year and we have seen outstanding results based on investments we have made in transforming our business. We started on the journey of transitioning our teams into the G4 model and have successfully upskilled our teams through regular training programs. We also have jointly developed a strategic plan to further scale our business and at the core, deliver bold work that will be recognised as best in class. I am proud to share that we are on a trajectory of growth apart from transformation. We have won 25 clients in the past nine months and I have seen a significant change in the quality of our work across verticals. Golin has been a fantastic partner; we have received significant input and involvement from the regional teams as well as the top management, including Jon and Fred Cook himself.

Q. With mobile usage higher in Asia (and continuously growing) how can PR companies expand their usage of the medium?

India has the third largest internet user base in the world out of which more than 50 per cent are mobile-only internet users and this percentage is only expected to grow further.Today people are accessing news on the go through their mobile phones. Newer engaging forms of communication like podcasts, infographs, video releases etc. are being well accepted by media, who are also keeping pace with the new ways people are consuming news today. Most key publications now have dedicated online teams and social media is evolving into a mainstream channel that makes or breaks news.

The PR industry has been seeing a fast transformation with digital media and new technology platforms. In our business, mobile will become more pervasive and we will see new platforms and innovative services developed to use mobile effectively. This is a right time for PR companies to leverage this momentum to their advantage. Forward thinking PR agencies will have to adapt fast to keep pace with this mobile revolution and optimally leverage mobiles as a platform for speedy and real time communication to meet the ever evolving needs of clients.

Q. In the past, ad agencies have often veered towards PR as well. Does this background in advertising help create better PR campaigns or does it simply create dilution?

In my view advertising and PR are a part of the same ecosystem and coexist today but the advertising industry has been around for far longer and it is my belief that there are huge synergies and learnings for an evolving and growing PR industry. Although each discipline is different, I believe that the same principles apply. If one looks at a core campaign idea backed by great insight and creative, you can deliver great work. It is also true that clients are looking for fewer partners to deal with these days and agencies which are a part of a diversified group can benefit from this trend. We have successfully stitched together integrated campaigns for many of our clients using cross-functional expertise across verticals.

Q. Clients and brands in India still have a fairly conservative approach to PR. How does a forward thinking agency break through?

In India you have the benefit of diversity, in clients and brands that you get a chance to work with. Although there are clients who still have a conservative view of PR, equally there are evolved clients who believe in the discipline and the role it has to play in building out the overall vision of the company/brand. This mix will coexist for a while, but the move has begun and the true test is visible in the value budgets being allocated by clients to PR today.

I believe agencies need to take the responsibility to educate clients on new offerings and ways of working that can deliver measurable value to clients. If you speak to a client on a business level on issues that affect their reputation (which is an intangible asset), in most cases you will be heard and your counsel valued.

Q. The partnership between Mullen Lowe Lintas Group and Golin has created significant business in India over the past year. What is the key strategy behind the quick rise in rank for the PR firm?

In a sentence, our growth is primarily due to the thought we have put into what we do and bringing in differentiators that get more value to our clients. One of the primary innovations has centered around how we work. We have successfully adopted Golin’s G4 model, which has transformed the way we work and enabled us to better our product. We have also successfully leveraged our partnership with Mullen Lowe Lintas Group and make use of the unique expertise and talent that resides there. Both agency groups have an enviable client list and can bring business opportunities and we have already seen this over the last year. We work now on multi country mandates on several brands and the flow of business has been both ways. This has led to a growth of all marketing services. Lastly, investments and learnings are ongoing and will (in a few years) scale us further and position us as one of the best in the PR industry in India.

Q. Can you expand of the effect of Mumbai’s addition to The Bridge?

In Mumbai we launched The Bridge in May 2014. Ever since, we have seen a huge demand for their services and have needed to significantly grow the team. Today The Bridge has its own client base apart from the internal LinOpinion GH client list. They have a wide range of work from ORM to social media management to innovative creative campaigns. It is safe to say that The Bridge is a huge success. We believe that The Bridge will continue to be a big bet for the years to come.

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