We don’t ‘take on’ giants; we kill giants: John Zeigler, DDB

DDB APAC, Japan & India Chairman & CEO John Zeigler & Mudra MD & CEO Madhukar Kamath speak on what can be expected from DDB in India.

e4m by Noor Fathima Warsia
Updated: Dec 2, 2011 9:17 AM
We don’t ‘take on’ giants; we kill giants: John Zeigler, DDB

John Zeigler, Chairman & CEO, DDB Asia Pacific, Japan and India is visibly thrilled with the opportunities that lie ahead for the global creative powerhouse in India, given the change in Mudra Group’s ownership pattern, where DDB has now become the majority stakeholder. Needless to say, the move will be followed by a number of changes – small and big – but for DDB, the one thing that matters the most is what the brand will mean for marketers in India. And for that the agency’s key area of focus would be its talent.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Zeigler elaborated on DDB’s broad philosophy, and said, “We are the only network that provides the best in class competency in each of the key disciplines. No other network has that offering, so my objective would be to ensure that Mudra, with its extensive business offering, delivers to that same level for all Indian clients. That means greater access for the current talent in India. In some cases, helping in training and developing staff in the Network here and educating the DDB Network outside of India on what’s happening inside India to ensure the outside and inside connect.”

People Power
A critical task ahead of the agency at present is to fill in the role of a Chief Creative Officer. Zeigler agreed, and replied, “Bobby (Pawar) has done a fantastic job for us, and we are very sorry to see him go. In fact, I told him it is not too late – he has not left us yet! But since that occurred, we have had more approaches from talent within the industry in India and outside India from people with experience in India.”

Madhukar Kamath, MD & CEO, Mudra Group, added, “We have been getting names of people who are interested in talking to DDB and we are in conversation. We will fill that role well before Bobby leaves.”

Zeigler pointed out that under Pawar’s charge, Mudra had a strong creative team. He said, “We grow through every single person, and we are not process driven as such. We are not here to tell Mudra how to do things, but we are looking for the people in Mudra to add to the magic of the DDB brand. We have 3,300 people in the Network and that is the difference we offer. I am very confident about India. We are a big business here already because if need be, all these 3,300 can be here.”

As a direct reflection of the attention that India would be seeing, Zeigler too is shifting base to Singapore in January to be directly accessible to the team in India, and to DDB’s regional people who would be coming regularly to India. This also includes the regional account executives on core businesses such as Johnson & Johnson, Philips, Volkswagen and McDonald’s.

Business Boost
One important aspect where India is likely to benefit soon is the manifestation of DDB’s global and regional client relations in India as well. “At multiple levels, across multiple clients in multiple ways – we would be working a lot closer in India,” Zeigler added.

Come January 1, 2012, and Mudra Group will be renamed to DDB Mudra Group with three brands – Mudra, DDB and Mudra Max. Kamath said on this, “Mudra Group had an agenda, and we have been in close discussions with DDB all along. Now that the relationship has been formalised, we have gone ahead with what we have been planning anyway. January 1 is when the changes will take shape.”

Kamath informed that Ignite had been pulled back in Mudra, and explained, “It was a simple logical decision. The DNA, the billing system and the constitution will be the same, but we have concentrated on further growing the Mudra brand, alongside the DDB and Mudra Max brands.”

Another key decision taken here is appointing Pratap Bose as CEO of Mudra, making him in charge of Mudra and Mudra Max – the advertising agency and the media agency offerings from the company. Kamath was quick to point out here, “Mudra Max is not a media agency. It is India’s only experiential and engagement agency, which works very closely with DDB and Mudra. What better person than someone who has built that experiential and engagement platform for us to look at the advertising offering as well. Everyone would continue to work in the same wonderfully integrated manner.”

The role is something Bose believes in. Speaking to exchange4media, Bose explained, “The integration of advertising and the ability to work beyond silos is very important. The agency has to be able to provide one solution to clients, and that is the best thing from a client viewpoint as well. This is something I genuinely believe in, and I am really looking forward to this role.”

What Clients Want
On similar lines as Bose’s views, Zeigler observed, “Clients have moved very quickly in the last year and a half – from being able to manage the agency and the media company, and hence being in control, to a world that has a plethora of options that cannot be managed with individual silos. Yet the agency structure that exists is silo-driven and P&L focussed. The ability to integrate and provide solutions for clients is the new mantra for what our industry can be. Mudra is very close to that position. And DDB APAC delivers that better than any agency in the world.”

Zeigler acknowledges that majority of clients in India don’t need just expertise, but a combination of international and local expertise. “And that is DDB’s uniqueness,” Zeigler said, adding, “No other network in the world has been built on the foundation of a powerful local agency with the strongest international network. The combination of these two things offers a unique solution and benefits to clients. We don’t wear the glass of ‘developed in New York, taken worldwide’. We also look at things such as ‘developed in India, taken worldwide’.”

But competition in India is tough. Many agencies have successfully established their creative brands in India and groomed talent in a manner that the work done here is taken to various other markets. Displaying once again the energy that he has throughout this conversation, Zeigler replied, “Six years ago, DDB was referred to as a ‘Notwork’ in the region, and we have moved to being the Creative Network of the Year from there – you can look at Spikes Asia, AdFest or any other similar platform. We have had more shortlisted awards this year, and a lot more business success this year as well. We are the best network in connecting with the opportunity in India. We are ambitious and we have the right to be. We had no business in China five years ago, but now we are the leading agency. Singapore is now a DDB dominated marketplace – no one else comes near. We are the biggest in Hong Kong, and the same is the case with Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. I am very pleased that there are great agencies here, because we are not a low level player that takes on the giants – we are the giant killers.”

With that, Zeigler has established the intentions of brand DDB for the India market. Year 2012 promises a lot many small and big changes in the agency, but the big question would be how much DDB delivers on its ambitions for India.

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