The culture at Leo Burnett is hugely outcome-oriented: Dheeraj Sinha

Dheeraj Sinha, MD, India and Chief Strategy Officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia, talks about the agency’s strategy called ‘Wave 3’, new-age clients and more

by Misbaah Mansuri
Published - Aug 23, 2019 8:22 AM Updated: Aug 23, 2019 8:22 AM

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Dheeraj Sinha

When music-streaming giant Spotify asked Publicis Groupe-owned agency, Leo Burnett, to create an AV for the brand that recently entered the Indian market, the agency tapped the neuroscience route.

What could have been a conventional process of doing a digital ad for a brand then turned into a task where the top 100 songs in India were listed out and mapped through neuroscience, thereby discovering the thread of music that is a hit in India. It was then incorporated into its ad campaign #Beatofabillion.

Apart from Spotify, the agency claims to have won 29 new businesses of over Rs 32 crore in the first six months of 2019 itself. Moreover, it claims to have witnessed 20 per cent growth in revenue for the first six months of CY2019, when compared to CY2018. “The numbers can go up and down because when you win an account, you do so much work on it that the scope of work always increases and you make revenue. What’s important is to have that winning culture,” said Dheeraj Sinha, MD, India and Chief Strategy Officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia, during a conversation with exchange4media.

He also spoke about the strategy driving this growth, areas the agency is investing in and more.

According to Sinha, the agency’s strategy called ‘Wave 3’ has been one of the biggest accelerators of its growth. “If you look at mainline agencies, there are digital agencies but digital is just one part of the whole game. Wave 3 is about using newer materials to create work for clients to solve real business problems. It could be branded utility, a technology platform or marketing embedded with product. When clients need that kind of solution, they are naturally gravitating to us,” he said.

Sinha attributed the addition of new-age clients like consumer-tech companies and technology-led Twitter, CarDekho, Spotify and Amazon to the strategic driver that is ‘Wave 3’.

While the bulk of clients that the agency works with might be retainer-relationships, Sinha asserts Leo Burnett actively pursues project-based relationships as a part of their strategy. “There’s a sense in advertising that retainers are going away and clients are doing projects. In fact, projects are pretty profitable. They are an intensive 2-3 months engagement. You do your most productive work and go out,” he said.

A huge amount of investment has been made on training and hiring people with new-age abilities who have a sense of digital, technology or product innovation, Sinha added. “We run grad and under-grad programmes and the brightest minds from the top colleges across the country.”

The culture at Leo Burnett is hugely outcome-oriented, he says. “Whether you are a strategist or account management person from Leo Burnett, your whole orientation is that you have to get the ball to the goal. New-age thinking and forward-looking is a huge aspect. Our credit-system is not individual but collective,” Sinha stated.

On general client budgets, Sinha said, “In the context of the new slowdown story, new categories are suffering already. There has been some cutbacks in categories like FMCG, auto and real estate. Having said that, there are enough clients who are still spending. Consumer-tech is doing well as they are funded and are spending, even the finance category is spending.”

According to him, what gives the agency an edge over many others in the business is that it solves business problems for its clients. “What we tell clients is that don’t give us a comms brief, give us a business problem that we have to solve for you.”

Sinha’s goal is clear - to continue growing as the new-age agency that chases work and growth. “In agencies, it’s always been frowned about when you talk money. MDs have always been looked at deep-counters. The whole idea of running an agency from a strategic perspective is undermined. It’s important to chase growth and run an agency like you run a company,” he concluded.

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