In a candid conversation with exchange4media, John Zeigler, Chairman & CEO, DDB Group Asia Pacific, India and Japan shares his wish list for an ideal client, the challenge of increasing creative commoditization, his optimism for the DDB Mudra Group raring to go in India after core changes and a new direction, and more…
How do you overcome the challenge of the increasing commoditization of creativity?
I have a big problem with that. At heart and at experience I am a client. I fell into this because agencies were not giving me what I needed. They weren’t integrating and as a client we used to integrate. The agency would come along and say , we have a great ad we just need some more money to put behind it and it will be great. The promotional team would come and say we have a great idea but we can’t show it to you till we get paid, the PR people would come and ask what do you want us to write about this week. As a client we would sit there and manage all these diverse agencies. The client was an integrator, thirty years later the industry is still struggling with integration. The commoditization of creativity is being driven by the commoditization of understanding what creativity is supposed to deliver. There are some real breakages in the system.
What are the questions you would ask whilst selecting an agency?
Selecting the agency is the easiest thing in the world, there are two questions I would ask:
1. Why am I meeting with this agency, are they already doing great work for their client?
So many clients speak to agencies that are not doing good work. Why am I wasting my time meeting someone who hasn’t proved they can deliver?
2. When I chose the agency between the top two, I am going to ask how much of the senior management’s time am I going to get?
Why haven’t clients then kept up with the changes in the industry?
A recent IBM study shows an excess of 60 per cent clients are confused. Clients can’t keep up, they need the agency like never before. We are living in a world where everything has been added; but nothing has gone away, digital is now a way of life. Digital as a disciple has huge importance, now everybody has started to realize that if digital alone, is all about connections and clicks, and saying something online and trying to play that up as ‘look at what we achieved’ then when you perform like we did at Cannes this year at the Effectiveness Award. If this digital campaign achieved the equivalent of two years of traditional media exposure, why did we get only two percent increase in sales? My personal view is digital doesn’t work alone, digital in the right row, with an idea that has been brilliantly conceived and has very strong human insights, can make a huge difference.
We shouldn’t think of it as digital but the canvas upon which we bring an idea to life. I am concerned about the focus on digital alone everywhere; we are trying really hard to see how we can bring digital in on very part of our business, just like we used magazine and radio ads work, we also look at online and digital executions. We have just increased the number of areas we look at to bring an idea to life.
What are the qualities you would want in a client?
• You want a client who understands that an agency alone does not create what they need.
• You want a client that wants to be part of the process.
• You don’t want a client that has gone all out with the labour to do a brief that is probably wrong, and then gives it to the agency.
• You want someone who works with you on their business problems.
• Most of all, if I was dreaming as an agency and there was one thing that I wanted from a client it would be time. Time for engagement, time to bring creativity to life in all its forms, and time to discuss options on how we will help them achieve growth.
Are clients as open to experimentation as you would like them to be?
Clients today are more open to experimentation than they ever have been.
One of our biggest clients appointed us as their agency on record because we were the only people who didn’t act like an agency. They came to us with ad briefs and said these ads were done by the agency and they’re not working; we want you to work on a new ad. We looked at the ad and corrected that as opposed to creating a new ad.
We just did it with another client in Singapore and said you don’t need another ad you need to change your product because the customer is never going to buy your product.
The last two years haven’t been best for DDB Mudra for India, how are you going to change this?
Like all change, there needed to be some shifting and pain.
Some of the directions were right from where we used to be. The directions you are seeing now are setting us up for a whole new level of growth, the challenges were obviously reflected in the market place. Going forward, we are in the fantastic position to double the business in the next three years. We are pre – dominantly weighted in local business in the next three to five years. We are going to see an increase in Indian business supporting and investing in branding. We are in the best position for any network agency to do that, also we are a network agency with not as much as network business as most other networks. That puts us in a fantastic path to pick up business. We are going to see wins from both sides the other networks are going to struggle to hold on to their business.