There’s a big difference between an advertisement and advertising: Agnello Dias

Agnello Dias, Creative Chairman, Dentsu Aegis Network, India, talks about his goal, the challenges of CCOs and more

by Neeta Nair
Published - May 8, 2019 8:34 AM Updated: May 8, 2019 8:34 AM
Agnello Dias

One of the most experienced creative leaders in the country has dubbed him ‘the next Piyush Pandey’ and Agnello Dias has earned every bit of the respect he gets in the industry today. He brought home India’s first Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, founded Taproot and took it to new heights as Taproot Dentsu, and is now working his magic on the Dentsu Aegis Network as a whole with his recent elevation as Creative Chairman of the Group.

For the first time, DAN has created the role of a Creative Chairman… what kind of opportunities does that present? 
Personally, for someone who learnt the ropes of creative communication in the pre-Internet era, it presents an opportunity to pull out from the micro details of creative execution to a macro view of the various directions in which the new forms of creative expression seem to be heading. While the basic languages of creativity - the emotion in a song, the drama of a photograph, the power in a piece of writing, the visceral effect of an expression, the infectiousness of dance - stay unchallenged, the opportunities to combine and package these in newer outreach formats are fascinating.

What is your goal as the Creative Chairman of DAN. What are the biggest challenges you face? 
My role is to work with creative and strategic resources across the various organisations in the DAN network in order to apply some of the methods of conventional creativity to their processes. But it is largely a behind-the-scenes mandate, to interact with people in the network who feel the need to cross-pollinate. My biggest challenge currently seems to be understanding the pulls and pushes of various sectors as some are far removed from what I am used to.

How much time do you give to your baby, Taproot, now that you have a much larger role in the Group? 
Taproot Dentsu is now a robust agency that's long achieved critical mass with some very capable people heading key departments. Paddy now leads a dynamic creative team headed by Pallavi Chakravarti in Bombay and Titus Upputuru in Delhi, Shashank Lanjekar and Anand Murthy are fronting strategy in Bombay and Delhi respectively while Ayesha Ghosh and Harjot Singh lead the business front in the two cities. And then there's Umesh Shrikhande, our wise CEO, who points everyone in the right direction. I am and will always be available for Taproot Dentsu should they need me, since they are an important component of DAN and thereby of my mandate.

You brought home India’s first-ever Grand Prix at Cannes Lions in 2007, but in today’s day and age what do you think is more important - awards or validation on social media for the ads?
When you really get down to it, awards were ultimately a means of getting more business and earning more revenues for the agency. Awards get the agency media coverage. And PR is our surrogate corporate advertising since agencies rarely do corporate campaigns for themselves. That spotlight reached the marketing community and got the agency invited to more businesses. It was a simple matrix. But today, some things have changed. Firstly, the media coverage for awards seems to be petering out both in quantity and intensity. Secondly, there are so many award shows and so many heavy metals given out that almost every agency in India has won something, so that is no longer a differentiator. Lastly, awards get as much validation on social media as do ads.

I believe agencies that have long partnerships with a brand on its journey through thick and thin, against all sorts of market forces are the most important relationships. It is the true process of building a brand. Else we are just advertisement makers not advertising practitioners. Nothing wrong with that, but there is a difference between an advertisement and advertising. An advertisement is only a small part of advertising. If one understands that, one can cut through the smokes and mirrors of social media, awards, PR, buzz etc.

How have the challenges of CCOs changed over time? What is your approach to solving them? 
The big change is that CCOs now need to have strong client interaction skills. Earlier, CCOs were the face of the creative. Today, CCOs need to be the face of the agency. As for me, I just took it as it came and tried to copy the best performing CCOs around me as well as I could!

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