I cannot fathom why the advtg industry takes so much time to react: Rana Barua

The COO of Contract India talks about the series of new appointments at the agency, bringing back accountability in the advtg industry, the challenge of speed, and more...

e4m by Priyanka Mehra
Published: Nov 7, 2013 7:39 AM  | 4 min read
I cannot fathom why the advtg industry takes so much time to react: Rana Barua

It has been an interesting journey so far for Rana Barua, who joined Contract India in February this year as Chief Operating Officer.

Barua, who has been tight-lipped till now, spoke exclusively to exchange4media about the series of new appointments that will bring back a sense of stability to the agency, his take on the variable model of working that can get accountability to the advertising industry and more...

What are your views on the variable model of working? Do you think it ensures accountability in the advertising business?
Clients are getting into the variable model, which is a great way of working. As an agency, you do great job and at the end of the year, you get a certain bonus. I would like to demand...why not you give me money to maintain a team, provide solutions and allow me the potential to bring a higher value on certain parameters. And then give a bonus for meeting the parameters. It is a win – win situation and the team is charged. This is certainly working for full service agencies; this way the team becomes more accountable, which is ideal in a space where creative work may be completely subjective. Clients are very receptive to this as well.

The respect quotient goes up when you sit for the appraisal at the end of the year and you see the client numbers have grown and you were part of that.

With a series of appointments including Ashish Chakravarty heading creative and Prashant Challapalli heading the digital arm, what kind of restructuring is taking place at Contract?
The appointments that we are doing at senior levels are very talented individuals. The idea is to deliver together. They are younger, with an average experience of 12 to 15 years in keeping with our industry, which is very dynamic. Our restructuring is also about getting people who are aligned to the working style we are trying to create.

While you maybe creatively brilliant, are you responsible? The plan is for people to stay together for a minimum three years for my critical ‘A Team’, which is the senior management. This includes 28 to 30 people across all dimensions who work closely together.

What is the agency doing to foster talent?
The ‘A Team’ I mentioned to you takes on the mentoring of three people across divisions. We have scouted people we want to groom and nurture. This entails training and working on the job. We call them the ‘A Plus Team’ internally. We want them to lead some new business; we want them to lead pitches on their own. This also makes it competitive for others to up their game.

What are some of the un-learnings you had to do to take on your role at Contract?
I am still grappling with the challenge of speed. Why do we (the advertising industry) take so much time to react? I cannot fathom this. In the media world, it is all about speed. When I walked into radio, it took me three months to understand that I have to change my DNA, otherwise I should be back in advertising; I changed my DNA then. I believe it is all about speed and that is the only way forward. It is not about the next half hour, it is about now. People around me are becoming accustomed to this. We need to, as a creative industry, take cognisance of the fact that yes, it is a creative industry but so are all the others such as television, radio, print. One thing that holds all of them is speed, which is vital.

Where do you see Contract Advertising few years down the line?
It will remain a very strong integrated communications agency – a benchmark for the best creative solutions; which is reason why Contract became Contract. I want to be ready for the future. We need to be quicker to respond to the dynamic environment and not only leave it to media agencies. At the same time, being honest to the strengths we have. I am not going to take on something we wouldn’t be able to deliver.

What is your approach for Contract in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world we are in today?
To take cognisance of the fact that it is volatile; we are not ignoring it. We are aware that things maybe tougher and hence, are in a more proactive gear.

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