<b>Bunty Peerbhoy</b>, CEO & Group Chairman, MAA GROUP
<p align=justify>“There are a lot of changes I would like to bring about. But there is one thing that saddens me deeply. The whole concept of a good campaign has been reduced to making these ‘award winning’ ads. I wish agencies would realize that their job is not to create to win trophies but to service the client who is paying for it. A good ad is one that can be related to the brand, and literally contributes to the philosophy of the company.”
“There are a lot of changes I would like to bring about. But there is one thing that saddens me deeply. The whole concept of a good campaign has been reduced to making these ‘award winning’ ads. I wish agencies would realize that their job is not to create to win trophies but to service the client who is paying for it. A good ad is one that can be related to the brand, and literally contributes to the philosophy of the company.”
Bunty Peerbhoy’s training period must have been one of the longest in the Indian advertising industry, spanning three and a half years under the strict tutelage of his father, Ayaz Peerbhoy. Thanks to that training, and his many years of experience, he is regarded as someone who knows the world of advertising and communications like the back of his hand. After taking over MAA South and restructuring it extensively, he roped in a partner and MAA became MAA Bozell. He also got in the best possible partners for the group companies, like Weber Shandwick for Corporate Voice, the PR specialist in the group.
The group’s billings exceeded Rs 180 crore in 2004. It has bagged quite a few accounts since then and has strengthened its operations across South India with new appointments. And this is just a part of routine expansion, says Peerbhoy. In conversation with Priyadarshini Nandy, Peerbhoy shares MAA Bozell's philosophy and his thoughts on advertising in the days gone by and advertising as it is today. Excerpts: Q. What are your current total billings? What are your estimated projections for 2005-06?
As a group, we had a turnover of Rs 180 crore in 2004. As for the coming year, I wouldn't really want to comment on that as we have many plans that are on the way to execution.
Q. What made you go out and seek a partner? And why was the company broken into so many independent companies?
As for our partnering with Bozell, it happened when Manmohan Singh opened up the economy and we wanted more exposure. That’s when we went out and sought the best partner possible. And thus, MAA Bozell.
Also, MAA had different divisions under its roof. We did public relations, direct marketing, advertising, etc. And we believed in a business model where we didn’t want these separate specializations to become divisions of the advertising agency. We wanted them to be specific units. Each company would be independent. We wanted to find a set of people who will be absolutely committed to the profession. Though we had the best partners with the best knowledge, we also had to Indianise the same. And I think it turned out extremely well.
Q. There was a time when the advertising industry was all about industry icons. Why don't we have the same kind of icons anymore?
You are talking about a time when advertising was relatively new. There were always fresh ideas and some of these ideas clicked so well that rather then just being a commercial, it became a part of the history of the brand. And the people associated with it became the icons. Now, it's all about rolling out copy after copy to service the client.
Q. . If you were to make a couple of changes to the current advertising scenario, what would they be?
There are a lot of changes I would like to bring about. But there is one thing that saddens me deeply. The whole concept of a good campaign has been reduced to making these ‘award winning’ ads. I wish agencies would realize that their job is not to create to win trophies but to service the client who is paying for it. A good ad is one that can be related to the brand, and literally contributes to the philosophy of the company.
Apart from that, I think what requires a major makeover is the attitude amongst the professionals. They seem to have lost sight of the beauty of the business, commitment and great communication. The whole concept of looking at an account has been reduced to this month and this quarter. Short-term plans kill a brand.
Q. You have announced the appointment of branch heads in Chennai and Hyderabad. Is there a focus market in the South?
We are looking at expanding across all branches in the South. But the focus specifically can be said to be on Chennai, since we had scaled down operations in the past in that market. We have clients coming on board across the region but we wouldn’t be able to name them now.
Q. In your long experience, how would you compare the advertising industry today to what it was when you had entered the industry?
Honestly, I believe that advertising today is the pits. But I am not saying that it was all wonderful at that time either. However, if you had a certain bent of mind and an artistic flair, you got into it. People had a certain sense of individuality. You had ideas, you had thoughts, and you had the ability to think on your feet. You had the ability to get along with different sets of people - creative and off-centre people. It was a different world then.
Q. Wasn't advertising considered to be the 'wrong' profession at that time?
Oh yes, they were the evil ones. It’s probably because the advertising people were all dressed well, moved in the right crowds. They could also make conversation with all sorts of people. They had a lot of fun, a lot of electricity running through them. Since advertising was not a science or a well-established industry that time, regular people thought them to be eccentric.
Q. Do you think there has also been a decline in the quality of talent lately?
Honestly, I don’t think so. We may not get the same kind of people anymore, but we definitely have young people who are very energetic, excited about their work and want to explore new ideas. At MAA Bozell itself, we have a lot of spirited young people who love their job and do their best.
Q. What sets MAA Bozell apart from the other agencies?
Something I believe in very strongly is relevant innovativeness. Every campaign should try and do things differently and yet remain meaningful. One has to be able to create excellence in knowledge. And from this emerged something way back in 1985: what we called ‘integrated communication’. Here, we try and consolidate all the tools of communication and give a single package where the brand is most benefited and gets maximum mileage. So, it’s not just about print ads, but television commercials, e-mailers, hoardings, the works, together on one platform.
The other thing I am very proud of is that MAA is one of the first agencies, if not the only one, to introduce technology into the world of advertising. All our billings were done on the computer at a time when computers were very expensive and rare. We couldn’t afford to buy them then, but got some software guys to consult us.
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