‘Dentsu Creative will live & breathe modern creativity’
In conversation with Fred Levron, Global CCO at Dentsu International, about creativity and technological innovation, integration of Dentsu’s creative agencies and plans for India
Dentsu Webchutney’s ‘Unfiltered History Tour’ has undoubtedly been one of the most talked-about campaigns at this Cannes Lions, having bagged two Grand Prix already, a feat which no Indian agency has achieved at the festival till date.
Interestingly, the agency will be folded into Dentsu Creative along with several other Dentsu units like Taproot Dentsu, dentsuMB, WATConsult, Isobar, Dentsu Impact and Perfect Relations.
In an interview with Neeta Nair, Associate Editor, Impact, Fred Levron, Global CCO at Dentsu International, talks about the logic behind the move and their ambition of a thoroughly integrated network in India which will be under one agency brand.
You obviously helped create a transformation at FCB, and now you have the task of transforming Dentsu, the most integrated network in the world. Which one is tougher?
I would not say it’s tougher or easier. It’s completely different. At FCB, I could not leave an impact on the set-up. It is a 120-year-old agency part of the IPG. So, I focused on where I could leave an impact, which was work. At Dentsu, it’s different because here the task and the brief is to build a company from the knowledge we acquire after listening to our clients and to reinvent the set-up. Of course, we will have to do the work. Because if you have only the vision and you don’t back it up with work, it becomes very theoretical. So, it’s an evolution for me. All my life, I have been trying to test and reinvent myself. I want us, as a community to succeed. You will see me cheering for the competitors too. These days, I hear a lot of people saying that creativity has become less and less relevant. But I believe, it's still the most relevant reason why we exist. Only thing is, we need to position it differently. And that's the model I'm creating with the team.
Most of the big wins this year have been for technology coupled with creativity. Do you believe that creativity today is incomplete without technological innovation?
Our job is to touch people, make them stop and pay attention, make them care or do something. Today’s world is very different from what it was 20 years ago. Would you say it's a world led by technology? We are following the way the society is getting evolved and contributing to shaping of the society. The core of our job is to understand ways that a brand performs, their mission, getting an amazing, out-of-the-box idea. So, if you plug it into digital or technological capabilities, it becomes an experience. Take social media for example - that’s a technology. So now technology is in service of the idea and that makes our ideas even more exciting and powerful.
This week we heard the big Dentsu announcement on the integration of all Dentsu creative agencies under Dentsu Creative. Why did you feel the need for that?
Well, we did not decide anything. Clients decided for us. We conducted a survey through 500 teams around the world and they all came back with the same answer. 80% of them said that the model of the agencies (not our agency, but agencies in general) is not suited to their need anymore. They said they cannot go to a partner to get a brand platform, then another partner to get funny tech ideas, then another to get social things and then go to media. It makes their life complicated. The system is less efficient because of us, because we have created those contradictions. This silo model is just not suited for what the clients need today. On the other hand, there are people like us. The way we interact with brands is far more complex and sophisticated than it used to be. So at Dentsu Creative, our intent is to answer what a client needs and to make sure that our creative solutions will resonate much better than it used to. So, it’s not about replacing things. It’s about connecting the dots and we are doing that. On top of that, we are investing to create new capabilities and accelerate that. We don’t want to change an identity, have a new logo and go on.
But just six months ago, you planned that agencies will converge under brand Mcgarrybowen in India and now it is Dentsu Creative. What changed in 6 months?
I joined seven months ago and ruined the plan. Kidding! But having said that Mcgarrybowen has a great history in America, it has a great story. But is there as much legacy around the world than other competitors that are hundred years old? No! So, we are taking that advantage to reinvent.
What happens to the agencies now? Do they fold into Dentsu Creative and blend into that, or do they retain their individual identities? And then what happens to competitive brands that you engage with. Will they be comfortable with this in future?
You are going to see us moving with one global creative network. We engaged and brought every single client into the plan before we get here. We run our business in a very simple way - our people, our clients, and our products. So, the first step for us was to share this vision with our people, making sure that they would feel that is what they need to win and to attract the best talent. Then we shared it with all our clients. There was nervousness. Conflict is the first reason why people do not do anything. So, we engage with every client. It is something we dealt with very carefully and it went amazingly.
Is Dentsu Webchutney your trump card in India? They have certainly brought Dentsu India in the top league at Cannes Lions in the past few years.
For me, Dentsu Webchutney has been one of those very progressive thinkers, for years. For me, as we transition to Dentsu Creative, they become a community connected to the rest of the Indian community that brings something different to the table than the others. But the others are also bringing something valuable. I think, the power of an impact like that, comes from the fact that they are now part of a community that makes you go from winning to becoming the leader.
What is the big plan for Dentsu Webchutney? How do you see its future?
Well! As you might have seen we announced Day 1 at Cannes Lions 2022, the creation of our brand new and unique global creative network, called Dentsu Creative. It will live and breathe modern creativity. Dentsu WebChutney has always been about that. The work we're doing with WebChutney is the perfect illustration of what we're doing at Dentsu Creative - modern, insightful, accelerated by technology. WebChutney will become Dentsu Creative and we'll show the path globally on what is modern creativity.
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