You need to become one with digital: Prasoon Joshi

Prasoon Joshi, CEO and CCO McCann Worldgroup India and Chairman McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific, on winning Effie Agency of the Year award, the Paytm campaign and responding to change

by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Published - Jan 8, 2018 8:58 AM Updated: Jan 8, 2018 8:58 AM

After having a winning streak in 2017, McCann Worldgroup India kicked off 2018 by being adjudged the Effie India Agency of the Year award on the evening of January 5. When the night came to a close, McCann had won 5 gold, 16 silver, and 12 bronze metals and the jubilant team waving the agency flag took to the stage with its guiding star - Prasoon Joshi.

Joshi, CEO and CCO McCann Worldgroup India and Chairman McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific, who is now also the Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification spoke to exchange4media on the sidelines of the award show. At a time when super-specialisation is very much the model, Joshi said that while McCann understands the changing ecosystem, it does not believe in compartmentalisation. He also spoke about the award-winning Paytm campaign and key trends in the advertising world. Edited excerpts:

What aspect of the Paytm campaign made it an effective clutter-breaking idea in a market where mobile wallets are aplenty?

Paytm came across as a brand that understands the change and we were their partners who responded to that change very fast. Understanding that communication needs to be genuine and in sync with what the change is going to mean to people is also crucial. Rather than going gaga with the euphoria around technology the campaign straight away went to people’s lives and explained to them what digitisation would mean to them and how it would impact their lives.

In 2017, McCann Worldgroup won several awards including top honours from Cannes, D&AD, Clios, and Spikes Asia and now you are kicking off 2018 with the effectiveness trophy. What’s the winning strategy at work here?

2017 was a fabulous year for us -- we won every possible creative award. After that this effectiveness awards is like ‘Sone pe suhaga’, and I am very happy that our work has made a difference to the businesses of our clients. All the work that you have seen coming from us has made a huge impact on our clients’ business. And that is what you want to be: a true partner. I think McCann has come out as a true partner to our clients.

What are the overarching trends that you notice in advertising for 2018?

Going forward, it is important to understand that there will be two kinds of brands: brands that will feel completely awestruck and unsettled with change and brands that will see the change and get into a rhythm with the changes and become a change agent. Brands that understand the change and align with the change and make a change are the brands that will do well. Some brands will find it very difficult in these changing times because if you are very slow to move, you will not be able to respond to the change.

I am not saying changing in a lofty sense, the common man’s life in our country is changing. Digitisation is not a small thing, but it is very small; how do you understand that? Do you see it from a vantage point that is larger than life or do you go into the lives of people and say ‘What does digitisation mean when you wish to give a shagun to your nephew and see how people are impacted’. We have been able to reflect that in our campaign.

The agency model is also going through a flux, what kind of agencies will survive in this ecosystem?

Yes, the agency ecosystem is going through a change. If you define an agency very rigidly I think you will find yourself at the receiving end. But at McCann we do not define ourselves very rigidly. For example: everyone says we have a digital agency or a digital part but right at the beginning we at McCann felt ‘Why should digital be a separate room? It is part of us.’

You need to become one with digital. We at McCann believe that we constantly evolve with an amoeba like structure. I can tell you proudly today that we do not need a specialist digital guy to tell us what a digital campaign should be or what we should do with social media. We all think of that as a given; it is part of us. We do not have specialists, our people are in sync with the change. Change should not become a specialist’s division. McCann understands that the ecosystem is changing, that a lot of new skills are required today, and so we are open to people coming from various new fields to advertising.

As a creative person I have experimented with various things in life, I do understand the meaning that they all assimilate and are part of the same thing. You can call yourself a poet, a storyteller; you develop a skill set for each of these but they are part of the same ecosystem called Ideas. That is where McCann gets its edge. We do not compartmentalise the agency so rigidly that we find it difficult to respond to this change in the ecosystem.

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