The dust has finally settled and we can say that in the end ‘All izz well’ in the Indian advertising industry. It wasn’t the best of times and neither was it the worst of times, because they sold and made money. As we retrograde ourselves to the past, we find that it’s been a year of controversies, high-profile exits, mergers and a fairly good show at the awards. There was infusion of fresh ideas and the creative hot-shots produced some clutter-breaking work winning numerous awards at the Cannes. Ogilvy & Mather, Taproot and Grey made India proud at the Cannes, winning the maximum number of metals. The “free-for-all” nature of the Goafest Abbys and frustration with the way the industry awards are handled led Ogilvy to institute the ENVIES, its own recognition system for good work by its people like the True Show of Lowe Lintas.
In terms of account movements and winning pitches, the year didn’t create any history and agencies reported regular account wins. But with the General Elections round the corner, the Congress pitch has become the talk of the town. If rumours are to be believed, then the Congress has appointed JWT and Dentsu for its Rs 500-crore campaign to counter BJP’s NaMo charge.
Who let the Ford out?
Before the Goafest, a wild fire was created by JWT for Ford by showcasing former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi flashing a peace sign with scantily clad women in a Ford Figo’s boot. The controversy was supported with another ad showing Paris Hilton driving a Ford Figo with the Kardashians tied up in the boot, while a third ad showed Formula One star Michael Schumacher kidnapping his male racing rivals. A series of exits took place after the JWT Ford fiasco and yet again JWT lost its creative face with Bobby Pawar’s exit. Criticism flowed in from every corner, with outrage from the creative fraternity on the sacrifice made by the agency’s creative leader to please the client. However, the case rested with the exit of Sriram Padmanabhan, Vice President – Marketing, Ford Motor Company.
Love is in the air with mergers
In July, Paris-based Publicis and New York-based Omnicom merged, in what the industry believes is an attempt to dethrone the most powerful man in the business, Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP. The bang in the ad-world was big, bold and surprising, with the merged entity becoming the largest network in the world. But the WPP Chief seemed unfazed and continued to do what he does best – in a faster manner. Ogilvy & Mather acquired a majority stake in PennyWise Solutions, one of India’s leading digital technology and production companies to establish a strong foothold in the market.
Publicis Groupe also acquired the independent integrated communications agency Beehive Communications to boost the network’s growth in India. The Dentsu India Group acquired 80 per cent stake in Webchutney, one of India’s leading digital agencies. With this deal, Dentsu bought Capital18’s stake in the agency. This clearly gives an indication that all the agencies have started realizing the importance of digital.
Moreover, one of the largest independent agencies, Law & Kenneth, is likely to join hands with Saatchi & Saatchi for a big joint Publicis-Omnicom family. So, love was certainly in air and the year saw many strategic mergers and acquisitions.
Expecting the unexpected at Goafest
Goafest 2013 lived up to its theme and was characterised by an unprecedented series of controversies. Post the results of the Creative Abbys, many cases opened up and entries were withdrawn post metals awarded. It started with the withdrawal of Leo Burnett’s radio spots for Tata Lite on the agency’s request, continued with AGC’s withdrawal of BBDO India’s ads for DHL and DDB Mudra Group’s work for Electrolux on the grounds of work being similar to work done by Ogilvy Hong Kong and Y&R Sao Paulo for LG washing machines, respectively. The AGC received many more complaints and decided to constitute a Super Jury, which had jury chairs from all the categories within the Creative Abbys to give a verdict on all pending complaints. After due deliberations, the Super Jury unanimously decided that all the awards for entries under the scanner will stand and will not be withdrawn. This made us ask the question – is this forum now losing its relevance with the turn of events this year? Will this dissuade agencies from participating next year?
People who mattered
The year saw the exit of iconic leaders from the industry. While some went on to bigger roles in other agencies, others left to pursue their own interests. Arvind Sharma, Chairman and CEO of India Subcontinent bid adieu to Leo Burnett to pursue other business interests outside of the industry – following a long and successful stint of 30 years. Saurabh Varma, the then Regional Chief Strategy Officer of Leo Burnett, Asia Pacific, has been named as the CEO of Leo Burnett Group India. Publicis strengthened leadership with the trio of Bobby Pawar, Partha Sinha, Ambika Srivastava. Bobby Pawar joined as Director, Chief Creative Officer – South Asia; Partha Sinha as Director, Chief Strategy Officer South Asia; and Ambika Srivastava as Director, Marketing and New Business India.
Just eight months after coming on board, Sam Ahmed, Vice-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Rediffusion-Y&R, decided to quit and Komal Bedi Sohal was elevated to the post of Chief Creative Officer at Rediffusion Y&R. Ashish Khazanchi, Vice Chairman and NCD, Publicis Ambience left the agency to start his new venture. The Dentsu India Group appointed Umesh Shrikhande as the new Chief Executive Officer of Taproot India.
JWT South Asia announced the appointment of Rana Barua as Chief Operating Officer of Contract Advertising, India. It also announced the appointment of Ashish Chakravarty as its National Creative Director. He moved in from McCann Worldgroup Delhi, where he was working as the Creative Chief. Contract has been very aggressive in hiring senior-level talent from across the industry.
In a significant development, Saatchi & Saatchi India saw the exit of Matt Seddon after a stint of almost two years. The agency has seen turbulent times with the exit of Ramanuj Shastry, Nisha Singhania and Jaibeer Ahmad. The agency has also lost some of its big ticket clients.
Birth of the Indies
The urge for creative freedom led to the rise of several independent agencies this year. Former Saatchi & Saatchi hands Ramanuj Shastry and Nisha Singhania launched a new agency called ‘Infectious’. Shastry heads the creative front at Infectious, while Singhania, heads the business and strategic planning side of things at the agency.
After much speculation about his next move, Ravi Deshpande, former Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Contract India, announced the launch of his new venture – Whyness Worldwide. This integrated communications agency has tied up with Boston-based big data technology company Findability Sciences and Paris-based branding and design company, Seenk.
Ashish Khazanchi, ex-Vice Chairman and NCD, Publicis Ambience, and Ajay Verma, former Chief Growth Officer at Draftfcb-Ulka, also joined hands to set up the creative agency – ‘Enormous’. They are also joined by a third managing partner, Vivek Suchanti, MD, Concept Communications. This year saw the birth of many independent agencies, however, only the coming year will define the growth of these young ones.
The advertising industry saw a lot of action with new appointments, controversies and important mergers. It was certainly a tough year in financial terms and somber mood prevailed this festive season with consumers slashing their festive budgets and slowdown pushing brands to tighten purse strings for ad spends. But the admen impressed us with outstanding ideas that redefined creativity.