Why the sudden rise in CCOs quitting and switching jobs?

With digital coming in, creativity has become far more complicated than it used to be

by Misbaah Mansuri
Published - Dec 11, 2018 8:27 AM Updated: Dec 11, 2018 8:27 AM
cco vacancy

The last two weeks have witnessed a number of Chief Creative Officer (CCO) movements. Ajay Gahlaut recently quit as chief creative officer of Ogilvy North and deputy chief creative officer, Ogilvy India. Gahlaut is expected to join Publicis, replacing Bobby Pawar who is slated to join as Chairman of Havas Group, India in January.  Ashish Chakravarty quit Contract India to join McCann India as creative head while Sagar Mahabalaleshwarkar has taken on Chakravarty’s place at Contract.

The question here is, what has changed all of a sudden to lead to such a large-scale churn? As per the owner of a manpower search agency specializing in ad and media hiring, “It is a result of ad firms trying to reinvent themselves to keep pace with the rise of digital, which have upended the marketing business.”

With digital coming in, creativity has become far more complicated than it used to be. Agencies, regardless of their respective sizes, need to keep reviewing how they are coping (or not) with the digital wave. Hence, overhauling existing creative teams is one of the priorities, points out a former CCO turned independent ad-man. “Digital has, of course, changed a lot. Agencies are now creating hundreds, if not thousands pieces of creative, a month. This rise of social media and platforms in general has meant that creativity is more targeted than ever. So most large agencies are constantly re-evaluating the positions and talent pool.”

Dr. Sandeep Goyal, former President of Rediffusion and ex Chairman of Dentsu India remarks that there is paucity of talent at that level. "Most creative directors of certain seniority and stature set up creative shops of their own in recent years leaving fewer and fewer talent available for employment by agencies. " Goyal opines that the bigger problem is that these creative satraps also invariably carry some creative followers into their new agencies. So a lot of attrition and turmoil all around. "Network pressure today is simply how many global awards you pocket, how much new biz you win. Earlier it was not easy to quantity and compare. Now it is. Laggards are always under pressure. Quitting ‘for better prospects’ is the easy way out," he explains.

The job-list of a CCO entails supervising the creative team, directing their output, developing design concepts that further the company’s identity to anticipating the future direction of the industry using research and insight and bringing the company in fore of that trajectory.

Industry sources share that one of the biggest shifts has been the network-pressures, which can also be attributed to the high churn rate. “Agencies today are angling to ingrain themselves deeper within client’s businesses, to centralize themselves closer to the bottom line. The revenue streams are being attacked on various fronts which does lead to cost-cutting. One being given the polite exit signal under a cost-cutting mission is the ‘new’ normal in the business,” shared an ad-agency co-founder on condition of anonymity. 

Another source argues that in case anything goes wrong, a CCO is one of the most visible heads. Besides, a CCO who merely handles ad campaigns and branding consistency is a missed opportunity. “CCOs today end up being easier scapegoats if the business isn't doing too well. Infact, this person needs a seat at the table when executive business plans are being created and the leverage to present big interruptions and lead the team through strategic brainstorming too. This remains one reason they're likely to want to quit or switch their work culture," said the source.

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