Rohit Ohri New Group Chairman and CEO of FCB Ulka plans to debunk ‘old school’ myth around the agency; accelerate pace of change by adding digital assets.
Ohri who donned his new role in January this year, from Dentsu, where he was CEO of Dentsu Asia Pacific and, previously, Executive Chairman of the Dentsu India Group, has wasted no time in filling up gaps within the agency, the first step being the elevation of Nitin Karkare to CEO of FCB Ulka. The second and integral step was the appointment of a Chief Creative Officer, which is now complete with Swati Bhattacharya coming on board, last week.
Another important area for the new CEO and Chairman was to take a look at the existing dynamics of agency-client relationships and decide whether a change was needed. “I have met our clients and they really think FCB is a great partner. The partnership needs to have a new dimension. It is really critical, and in today’s context, we are talking about what form the partnership needs to take. It is not about one facet of the communication plan but across different parts of the plan,” says Ohri.
He agrees that FCB’s strength in the traditional medium is not replicated in the non-traditional medium, making it necessary to beef up this facet of the organization.
A few excerpts from a freewheeling chat with Rohit Ohri New Group Chairman and CEO FCB Ulka………….
Are there any acquisitions on the anvil for FCB Ulka?
Yes, absolutely. We absolutely need a couple of acquisitions. The whole point is to accelerate the pace of change. We will look at an acquisition in the digital activation space. Everything will start from defining what we want FCB to stand for in India. It’s defined pretty well globally, but in the Indian context, we have to decide what we need to say and everything else will flow from there, like the digital assets.
Are you moving to appoint a Delhi head? FCB Delhi seems under-leveraged and you are also very well connected in Delhi.
We are currently evaluating our options. We have some internal talent and we have some external talent as well. So, we are just looking at what is the best bet for us in Delhi. Obviously, I have very deep connections in Delhi; I have been there for 16 years. I know lots of clients and lots of people there, so I will help the agency. I agree that we have under-leveraged the potential of Delhi.
What are the objectives you aim to achieve?
I did not come to the agency with pre-set objectives or plans. One of the things I sincerely feel is that if you are a leader and you are coming to an organization which already has a long legacy, a belief system and a culture, you shouldn’t come in with a plan. You have to organically develop the plan after you speak to the clients and understand what the real challenges are; get a sense of what is ‘unsaid’ in the agency and that I think is the most important thing.
Very often, what is said is for everyone to hear but what is unsaid; the hidden strengths and weaknesses are what you need to understand to know what you want to change. So, the whole thing is really to find the unsaid strengths and weaknesses, which are not really easy for people to see. This should not be superficial either; it has to be fundamental to things that you have to change in the agency. This is what I think would create a new and stronger FCB Ulka, going forward.
What are the ‘unsaid’ things that you are picking up at FCB Ulka?
The fact is that this agency is seeing a leadership change after more than 25 years. And that’s a big thing for an agency being led in a particular manner for so long. To this, add the fact that you have somebody from outside coming in versus somebody who was home-grown in the system. There are challenges here for the leader in terms of quickly demonstrating and understanding the culture, because your actions really talk about what is the culture you believe in and it is very important for me to signal to the agency that I truly believe in what the agency has stood for. What I am doing is not changing everything that the agency stands for; it’s just about building new things on that foundation.
FCB is still viewed as old school by many, also may not be viewed as a great destination for young talent…
Actually, this agency has a lot of talent in it. It’s just that there is a perception about this agency being ‘old school’. For some time, even the agency had started believing this perception and so did the people; it was so strong. This is when actually the problem starts because you start believing it.
The big thing that I need to do is really figure out how to change it. To change that perception there is only one way, which is our work; to have campaigns that people talk about, sit up and notice. The fact is that in the past, FCB has done some fantastic work that has built brands from scratch. You can look at Tata, Amul and Santoor for example. The Santoor campaign has been running for the past two decades. These are fantastic pieces of work that have been done but people have forgotten them. What I want to do is refresh the heritage, which would invoke pride in working with a fabulous agency with a fabulous heritage and a fabulous future.
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