If we reward awards, culture of the organisation will go for a toss: Anil S Nair

The CEO and MD of Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi talks shop on his appointment to the Saatchi & Saatchi Global Leadership Team, winning awards at Cannes and more

by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Published - Aug 31, 2017 7:53 AM Updated: Aug 31, 2017 7:53 AM
If we reward awards, culture of the organisation will go for a toss: Anil S Nair

Anil S Nair, CEO and MD, Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi, has recently been inducted into Saatchi & Saatchi’s Global Leadership Team. This move comes after three and a half years of Publicis Groupe acquiring a majority stake in Law & Kenneth and the agency being rebranded as Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi. They won two subsequent Cannes Lions in 2016 and 2017. 
 

 

Speaking to exchange4media about his appointment, an elated Nair said that this is actually a recognition for India. “Previously, leadership teams were driven by the western markets and sometimes we would see someone from Japan. What really has changed is our country and its economy,” he said. 
 
On a sunny afternoon following this development, Nair spoke to us at length about his appointment, the growth of L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, and a lot more. 
 
Excerpts:
 
Congratulations on the induction. What does this appointment mean to you and the agency?
 
Thank you. As I said, this is almost a validation for the country. This goes to show that Asia is a major focus area. In the current Global Leadership Team, apart from the president of the group and the heads of planning and creative, three of the seven are from Asia. 
 
When we merged with Saatchi & Saatchi’s India operations, the company was not in a great shape, nowhere close to its hey days in India and in these three years, we have managed to turn the operations around. We brought in scale, specific skill sets and have grown tremendously. We have also proven that we can create breakthrough campaigns with our two back-to-back Cannes wins. So, the appointment is also a recognition of all of this.  
 
You just mentioned the back-to-back Cannes wins. How did your team get here?
 
What we have done is that we have participated. We focussed on our clients and ensured that we did the right work for them. Truth be told, the intersection between work that works and works that wins is very small. We decided that, till the time the work that we do for clients is eligible to win, we will not participate. I do not believe that you need to create a certain kind of work to win awards. Now our office is filled with awards that I do not need to hide. 
 
In Cannes, we realised something. The best work in the world isn’t in just craft alone. The work should be big in thought and big in impact. In the first year, we sent three campaigns out of which one won - the Man and Woman campaign for Thomas Cook. In the second year too, we sent three campaigns and returned with a Glass Lions for #GiveHer5. 
 
We look at awards like a dipstick test. Is our work at par with the best in the world? It is not because awards will make us number one. 
 
The campaign videos for CSR campaigns are convincing but how do we know if these campaigns that claim to solve real problems are actually moving business or community service?
 
Advertising works on objectives. For the first year, you inform people about the product, the next you try to gain more market share and so on and so forth. The problem with many CSR campaigns is that there is no second-year objective. 
 
For example, the phase two of the #GiveHer5 campaign (a crowd-sourced campaign to deliver affordable and hygienic sanitary napkins to women in rural India) is absolutely on ground. But there is no video for it, because we have a different challenge now. This is India, where middle-men are buying the napkins from women at Rs. 8 or so and exporting it elsewhere. Now my objective is to convince the woman or the girl that the napkins are a gift from someone. For that, we are doing on the ground street plays right now. 
 
I don’t know if I can enter for a Cannes Lions with this, maybe we can in the Activation category but I am not driven by that now. It could be the case that we have higher chances of winning again because this a known campaign that has already won. People may say we could make another video that draws on the emotions of the women and move viewers but that is where objectives get compromised. 
 
You have said that you had not entered the awards space until recently. So, what do awards mean to you?
 
Personally, I call awards a 48-hour high. For an organisation, an award for the right kind of work is an encouragement. It is also a validation for the team, of the idea and for the client that they backed the right idea. It is reaffirmation of a belief that something is good. If I look at awards as a recognition, that’s the wrong way of perceiving them. 
 
We do not use awards internally to measure our employees. There is no difference between a guy who won an award and someone who did not get one. I will kill my system if I start rewarding people for awards. I should reward them for a great piece of work. All the teams that sent entries to Cannes received the same performance incentive irrespective of winning an award. If we reward awards, culture of the organisation will go for a toss. 

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