Ogilvy India’s Mumbai office was high on unusual energy most of last week. Reasons: the agency’s annual internal bash and this time also attending was Ogilvy Worldwide’s CEO, Miles Young, who was visiting the agency last week. Young met the various discipline heads, and as one has always seen in the past, he was gung-ho about Ogilvy’s India operations. And why not – he admits that even though globally some Ogilvy offices had become “a little bit bland” at one point, India has always been vibrant, and the India team has done a remarkable job in growing Ogilvy’s creative leadership and market dominance.
Of a Digital Future
Young is optimistic about the digital focus that the agency is set to see in 2011. In a conversation with exchange4media, he said, “You’re going to see a big focus on digital next year. We just hired Graham Kelly as our Digital Creative Director. And that’s a big move – it’s not normal for us to hire expatriates and Graham is probably the most qualified creative mind in Asia. He is a real coup, and more importantly, this signals Piyush’s (Pandey, Executive Chairman and Creative Director, Ogilvy South Asia) wish to go digital in a big way – not in any half-hearted way.”
For Young, digital has to be a part of everything that happens in Ogilvy and not the area of expertise of just any one division. He explained, “The rare opportunity is in the number of key digital battlegrounds. OgilvyOne doesn’t own digital. In our model, we want ‘digital’ across the work we do. But there are a number of key battlegrounds, performance marketing is one, e-commerce is another. We have to be geared to take advantage of those shifts in the digital landscape. And that means seeing digital not as a tactic but as something that is strategic and integrated into a client’s business model. That’s not here yet. Digital is still seen as a production-based model. But we see that changing very quickly.”
Young’s confidence is perhaps vindicated in statements from clients such as General Motors, L’Oreal, Unilever, and LG, on their intentions to further increase digital budgets in the coming year.
As Business Changes... Importance of Consultant Services; Integration to Fusion
Ogilvy Worldwide has been active in the last two years, not only in creating an A-team that is working directly with Young to lead the agency in the future, but also in establishing practices that would change the role that agencies play in a client’s life. One area where India is playing a vital role is the global data practice. India is one of the global data hubs. In Bangalore, Ogilvy has got a sophisticated capability, which supports the agency’s data practice in the US, Europe and Asia. Over a period of time, this is expected to benefit the business here in India.
Young explained, “The new world of digital is a highly sophisticated world. And the evidence from the West and the rest of Asia is that consulting is what comes out of it. Data is our access into consulting. Advertising agencies have always found it difficult to turn themselves into consulting practices, and the reason is that they don’t fundamentally have access to data. Data lies with direct marketing companies and media companies. But we have access to both sources of data and as a result, our consulting business has grown and expanded. This is something that I passionately believe in and we are actively considering how to deploy that recipe here in India, at least the consultant part of it.”
However, India has been one of the slower movers to developing consultant products. Young explained, “On the whole, India has been quite slow as a market in developing consultant products in our business. So, I hate to say it, but there is client view sometimes that ‘we need to do it ourselves, we don’t need to pay you, thank you very much’. I’m not sure that’s the case, as things are developing.”
Another interesting comment Young made was on the emergence of ‘Fusion’. For years now, two words that have become over-used in the communications business are ‘integrated’ and ‘360-degree’. Ogilvy is said to be one of the first to have spoken of 360-degree solutions. Young is assertive on the fact and remarked, “We invented 360-degree. Now everyone is using it, and I hardly use it for that very reason. The business has moved on. What people used to describe as integration was quite a superficial form of integration – right at the end of the process with everything looking the same. Integration happens upfront, strategically. We have some other words we use, fusion is one.”
Young said that the India market was showing signs of maturity; the rise of the creative independents being one example. But he was also quick to acknowledge that business was becoming tougher, driven by client procurement. He said, “Many of the clients are only succeeding because they’re cutting costs. And when they’re cutting costs – they’re cutting our costs as well, which is fair, but there comes a point sometimes when the pressure becomes difficult to handle. As an industry, we’re starting to push back a little more, but in that context, sometimes it’s difficult to find passion, because you’re desperately coping with lack of sleep.”
And Finally, Competition
In the recent past, many agencies in India have started comparing with Ogilvy India on the awards platform. Young has a simple question to that, “They may have become better, but they’re not number one, are they?” Speaking further on this, he observed, “Ogilvy in India has had exceptional dominance over the past 10 years. And it’s not getting weaker. From the work I saw here, it’s inventing, it’s getting stronger and that comes from cultural understanding. There is something in that brand that has encouraged that consistency and has kept people here. But above all, it’s a question of leadership. When I look at other agencies, I say, ‘Who is the single creative director? Who is he?’ No one can name them to me. Where there is no name, there is no responsibility. And if there is no responsibility, ultimately there is no passion to get work to the best possible position.”
There is always an argument in India on whether Ogilvy is the No. 1 agency or JWT, when it comes to financial terms of measuring the agencies. Young replied, “Fortunately, I see the WPP figures, and I can tell you definitively Ogilvy in India is No. 1.”
Apart from digital, Ogilvy will see more of the same in the year to come. “When you’ve got things working for you, you don’t seek to change; you just seek to make sure that it doesn’t dry up, it certainly doesn’t show any signs of drying up to me,” concluded Young.