We cherish awards, but we also keep reinventing ourselves: Prasoon Joshi

Adman Prasoon Joshi talks about McCann's hattrick at the Effies, changing challenges in the industry and why the agency will never be a fair-weather friend to clients

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jan 13, 2020 9:22 AM
Prasoon Joshi

For the third year in a row, the IPG-owned McCann Worldgroup India has been declared as the Effie India Agency of the Year on Friday night. This time, the agency shared the title with the WPP-owned Ogilvy & Mather India. Prasoon Joshi, CEO and CCO, McCann Worldgroup India, and Chairman, McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific in conversation with exchange4media said: “We have great alignment in terms of award shows globally. Our Global CEO- Harris Diamond comes to India every year. Our vision for McCann is common and aligned. We do not work for awards. Our focus is solution-providing. I think the industry has started seeing that. It’s been 14 years now and we make sure that we never take anything for granted.” 

 It’s known that Joshi – an ad-man, Censor Board Chief, poet and film lyricist – juggles between diverse worlds. The corporate epithets, however, hint nothing at the warmth and grace he brings to the chats with exchange4media. Here are his thoughts about sharing the Effie Agency of the Year with O&M, fostering talent equipped to crack international briefs and more.

Edited excerpts:

The fight between McCann and Ogilvy at the (Effie) awards for the last two years has been so close. How does it feel being adjudged the Agency of the Year for the third consecutive year and this time sharing the title with Ogilvy? What do you think has clicked for McCann India all these years?

What clicks for us is that we never lose touch with the consumer. I’m very honoured to lead our people. I especially want to congratulate Jitender Dabas for all his hard work and insights, other team members like Partho Sinha, Alok Lall and all the planners and Creative Directors who have all played critical roles.

We may have different styles but we are all working towards one vision: providing solutions to our clients. McCann is not a short-term agency; we believe in the long-term. As you can see, all our client relationships have been maintained for years now. The fact that we are so aligned together is the reason you see us doing so well, be it business, marketplace or award shows. 

While we cherish awards, we also make sure that we keep reinventing ourselves. And one way to do so is by being in touch with the reality of the market. The attention span of a consumer today has declined to 8 seconds, which is lower than that of a goldfish. Can you imagine the challenge of reaching out to a target audience with such a short attention span?

 On sharing the coveted title with Ogilvy, I would like to say that ek mayaan mein do talwar nahi reh sakti aisi baat nahi hai (It’s not true that two swords can’t fit into the same scabbard). It’s not a battleground. It’s like a garden where many flowers can grow together.

One of the agency’s best work-The Immunity Charm won a Grand Prix in health at Cannes Lions and still continues to be acknowledged globally. What was particularly significant was that the assignment was for Afghanistan, done by McCann in India. Has that further increased opportunities for the agency to be consulted for markets outside India? Also, how do you foster talent that is equipped to crack such international briefs? 

Absolutely. We’ve been doing work for Perfetti in Italy, for Reckitt Benckiser and for Coca Cola in many markets around the globe. I’m thankful to my company who has trusted me and involved me in all these global projects. But it comes with responsibility.

 I have always believed that India is not just an outsourcing hub. I feel that we have great ideas and thinkers here. My team and I keep accepting the challenges when it comes to these global campaigns, and we look forward to solving them. 

I always make sure my eyes are open and am constantly welcoming people who do great work and their big ideas to foster diverse talents at McCann.

 So many people from here have gone on to lead other agencies today. It makes me happy to see the role we have played in making that happen.

 We are also interested in the growth of the industry. Whenever issues related to talent or training come up, we think for the industry. We are not self-centred when it comes to these issues. I feel that it’s very important for big agencies like us to bear that in mind. 

In an arena where several client accounts have been rapidly changing hands, what do you think has been key to ensure a long-term client-agency relationship?

 When we pitch for new businesses, I feel our first responsibility is to make sure that our existing clients grow. While we add new businesses, we simultaneously ensure that there has to be a great balance between existing clients and new account wins. We truly consider our clients as partners. Whether it’s Nestle or Coke, we’ve seen them come to McCann in times of crisis because they trust us. We are not fair-weather friends; McCann is with its clients through thick and thin. As an agency, we put our heart and soul out there when they are in trouble.

According to WARC, McCann Worldgroup New Delhi is the most effective agency in India and the Asia Pacific and third most effective agency globally earning 256 points in the 2019 Effie Index. What has driven this growth and what will be your major focus area from here on?

For me, I’ve never been surprised by this. I’ve been a big believer in the India story. That’s why I look at things where I can positively contribute, whether it’s a government project or brand. I have a great belief in India’s talent. So I don’t feel surprised when we win global awards. I feel we should win and be recognised more. The talent in the smaller towns is phenomenal. The only thing they lack is training. I also respect my competing agencies and learn a lot from their work. Our focus will be to keep doing great work for our existing clients while simultaneously adding new businesses.

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