Michael Roth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Interpublic Group of companies, (at Cannes)
<b>We have become stronger, bigger and our price has gone up: Michael Roth</b><br><br> Treating each existing client as a new pitch is the way one should treat clients, believes a visibly exhausted but upbeat Michael Roth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Interpublic Group of companies, (at Cannes).
We have become stronger, bigger and our price has gone up: Michael Roth
Treating each existing client as a new pitch is the way one should treat clients, believes a visibly exhausted but upbeat Michael Roth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Interpublic Group of companies, (at Cannes).
Roth does have reasons to be in high spirits with IPG’s first quarter earnings of a strong organic revenue increase of 6.7%, the IPG chief seems to be on track to meeting IPG’s growth objectives, and he says ‘we have become stronger, bigger and our price has gone up” when we revisit the subject of IPG’s acquisition .
“Pitches make a lot of noise, but much of our business comes from our existing clients. So, if we can just keep our existing clients and manage those relationships, we should be in pretty good shape,” explains Roth, who confesses to losing sleep if a client is unhappy till he has the issue resolved.
Q. So I’m hearing a polite no? You are hearing a polite unlikely, but it is not a ‘No’.
Q. Do you see any such possibilities? Frankly, there aren’t many companies now, that would pay that kind of price.
One can argue at some point whether Dentsu is going to do something in terms of adding to its portfolio, but I certainly have not talked to them and I have no idea.
Q. What are your takeaways from the review process of last year? Are there any changes required in the way agencies work right now? What I have told our people is that we should treat each of our existing clients as if we are pitching to them. That’s the way you keep clients. And frankly, we have been pretty much successful in keeping them. So, much of our business comes from our existing clients, these pitches make a lot of noise, but it’s the existing clients that are generating our business. So, if we can just keep our existing clients and manage those relationships, we should be in pretty good shape.
Q. One thing that keeps you awake? I hate losing clients. So, the thing that keeps me awake is when a client is unhappy and I make sure we resolve that.
Q. Two years ago when we met for an interview and we were talking about acquisitions, you said, “If someone wants to buy us, they better put a nice number on the table”, what is your take on this now? Our stock is much higher than it was two years ago, so the number needs to be much nicer, the likelihood of someone putting that number on the table becomes less likely, we don’t need a transaction, we don’t need capital, and the only reason we would sell the company is if someone puts a compelling offer above where we are, and where we think we could get to, given the risk associated with it. And if that were to happen, obviously we would entertain it. You heard my answer when our stock was lower two years ago, now we have become stronger, bigger and our price has gone up.
Q. What are you currently looking to acquire? We have a budget of $200-250 million, so we are always open to acquiring anything. But in our strategic reviews, we look for digital, media, and markets that have a geographical need for acquisition.
India is one of these markets, with a rapidly growing environment. The acquisition also needs to be strategically fitting with our businesses. We currently have a host of companies in the pipeline that we are talking to, and generally, we like to buy a company that we have an experience with, either through our clients or by working with them, those are the transactions that have more likes for us in terms of attractiveness. We don’t see any big need for a huge transaction right now, so we are comfortable with the budget that we have set out.
Q. What is your next big challenge?
To get home (laughs), I think we still have some way to go in terms of performance of our company. Our big challenge is to achieve our objectives, which is to get to 13 per cent on margins. Our challenge is to out-perform our peer companies in terms of organic growth. We are kind of there, but we have to maintain that. Our other objective is that we have to have the right people to do the right things. An important part of what I do is to make sure we have the right talent.
Q. After last year’s Mediapalooza, how is this year in terms of media reviews? A lot of global leaders had predicted a lot more pitching as the new normal…… The world is changing dramatically, there are new innovations and there are new ways of convincing the consumers. A lot of pitches happened last year because it was time to have a review; these were clients who hadn’t had a review in 2-3 years.
Also, clients felt it would be a healthy thing to take a look and see if their business is being well served by the existing providers in terms of new and, creative thinking, bringing the best tools and efficiencies.
Transparency became an issue and it certainly was a part of the reviews, but I don’t think that’s what drove the reviews. What drove the reviews was either they had normal reviews or they wanted to see if they get the best in class responses.
I don’t see a lot more pitching as the new normal, nor do I see a repeat of what it was in 2015, which was just one pitch after other.
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Arun Iyer, Chief Creative Officer, Lowe Lintas
“Go to a pitch with your point of view, not necessarily what the client wants, because at the end of the day they come to you because they want your thinking,” believes Arun Iyer, Chief Creative Officer, Lowe Lintas.
By exchange4media Staff | Aug 19, 2016 12:00 AM | 8 min read
“We don’t carry options for pitches we go with a point of view, we strongly feel about, which is also why about 80 per cent of the pitch work is actually the first piece of work that we do for a client,” he shares.
Iyer, who took on the mantle of CCO last year, was earlier joint NCD with Amer Jaleel. As CCO, he believes one of his jobs is to make sure that while today is good, the next six months are lined up well.
The agency has consistently been in the news be it for kick-starting the year with its winning performance at the Effies or its recent work on Google’s photo feature that is being widely shared.
“I would like Lowe Lintas to be seen as an agency that a client would want to go to because they want a good idea on their brand which is medium agnostic,” adds Iyer. The world is headed towards ‘hyper-bundling’ (with clients are getting tired of handling multiple agencies) he believes, even as lays emphasis on getting mainstream teams to think digitally.
A candid Iyer shares his views on correcting the perception about Lowe just being a TV agency, why the move from NCD to CCO was not a dramatic one, what prompts ‘Ghar wapasi’ at Lowe, why he thinks there is a lot of ‘gas’ around ‘digital’ and more …………
Q. What are your expectations from Cannes for Lowe Lintas? We don’t enter from India so some of our work maybe entered from our global offices. My guess is that Lifebuoy Chamki entered by our Columbia office will do well at the awards.
Q. When you say ‘well’, it translates to Gold, Silver, Grand Prix? To be honest, I don’t understand that game too well, but I have feeling that it will be Gold.
Q. What are the changes that have been on your agenda as CCO? I am personally working very consciously towards correcting the perception about Lowe just being a TV agency. Chamki is a step in that direction, what we did for Paper Boat with ‘Hum Honge Kamyaab’ is a piece of content. Again what we have just done for Google Photos is actually content, there are many more things in the pipeline.
TV is still important and we do a lot of TV but somewhere, the world needs to start recognising that we are an agency that comes up with big ideas and that they sometimes happen to be led by TV. Even if you take for instance Tata Tea’s Power of 49, it’s actually a far bigger idea than the television commercial we created. But somehow the world still considers us only a television agency. That’s been the big shift that I have been working consciously on over the last one year.
I am not trying to change Lowe Lintas; I am trying to reach out to the world and actually tell them what we do, which is that we come up with ideas that are beyond television.
If you take Kissanpur, it is an idea that was born in our agency and the fact of the matter is that Kissanpur manifested itself in one TV commercial, and a whole bunch of forms like a huge activation idea, we have, in fact, created a great platform for the brand, and on the back of which we won global effectiveness awards.
Q. What are the challenges you face currently? The biggest challenge is to drive consistently good work. I think it’s a huge challenge because the only way to do that is to empower your people, align with the kind of stuff we need to be doing, and communicate clearly that this is the level at which we need to operate. Set a base level and let nothing drop below that - which is a continuous challenge. The only thing I worry about, fuss about and I keep telling my teams is; what’s coming up? What can we do better?
The challenge is also to continue the great creative culture that we have. To be honest, I have been really lucky, I have got really great people a really great team - the creative heads including the creative team.
Q. Do you think there is an over-emphasis on digital these days? Yes, 100 per cent, whilst digital is important because the mobile phone is transforming our country, and we cannot run away from that, but the noise around it in our industry is a lot of gas around this word ‘digital’.
Somebody needs to cut through it and get to the point of what is it that needs to be done. And that is what we are attempting to do with Linteractive’s new framework Deep Digitisation, which we have been working on since the last eight months.
We are trying to not let the clutter get to us and see how we can genuinely transform into an agency that thinks well digitally.
Q. How has this one year been for you? It has been exciting because we took the opportunity and we were confident enough to think that we can actually start another agency; it was a big call at that point of time.
The good part is that Mullen (Lintas) is doing very well and I think they are doing some nice work. This one year has been very hectic but we have managed to consistently put out work that has generated enough conversations for the agency, we have managed to put out great work, and create a culture that people want to belong to.
In fact, we have a term that people joke around in the agency called ‘Arre iski bhi Ghar waapsi hogayi’; there are so many people who have left us and who have pretty much come back soon. One of the things I am quite arrogant about is that when people go out of our system, they realise the value of our system.
Q. How has it been on an individual level? I have spent lesser time than I would have liked with my family but they have been supportive enough. I know the Mumbai Airport better than anybody in the city right now. It’s been a lot of travel but what I have absolutely enjoyed the most is, working with a lot of creative people and that number has increased a lot more now. For me, the trip in life is to actually sit and jam with creative people and come up with solutions and I have got more opportunity to do that so, it’s absolutely fantastic.
Q. You have been with Lowe since 2003, how did things change for you from NCD to CCO? I joined as a copy writer in 2003 and I have grown through the ranks.
When I became NCD in 2010, it was a dramatic shift for me. There are three levels between GCD and NCD. Balki picked me and said sit here, so I skipped three levels to run one group in the office on the 13th floor and suddenly, I was running half of Bombay, all of Bangalore and Chennai. So, that year was dramatic in my life. Since I have worked for six years as NCD, this was a smoother transition.
Q. You never wanted the option of running Mullen? That’s actually a conversation between Balki(Group Chairman of MullenLowe Lintas Group) Joe (Regional President, South & Southeast Asia, Group CEO India, Mullen Lowe Lintas ) me and Amer (Chairman & Chief Creative Officer Mullen Lintas) and it was a good three-four rounds of discussions until we came to a consensus on the structure we want. So, it wasn’t a diktat or a personal decision, we sat together and we said, okay, this is what is best to do.
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Rana Barua and Ashish Chakravarty, CEO and CCO, Contract
In a freewheeling chat, Rana Barua and Ashish Chakravarty, Contract’s CEO and CCO respectively get talking on the agency’s recent wins, which include ITC Personal Care, Century LED bulbs, Abbott Healthcare, Lupin OTC, Orient Fans, Reckitt & Colman, Garnier among others. Contract has also won the mandate for mygov.in, one of the largest mandates from the Government of India. <br><br> The duo field questions on receiving offers from other agencies, what is a compelling offer to them, taking Contract to the next level why clients are willing to wait for the agency today and more
By exchange4media Staff | Jun 3, 2016 12:00 AM | 7 min read
The duo field questions on receiving offers from other agencies, what is a compelling offer to them, taking Contract to the next level why clients are willing to wait for the agency today and more
“Singularly or as a team barring two or three very obvious network agencies, everyone has made an offer at some point or the other,” says Chakravarty in a matter-of-fact manner.
Given their team work and working equation, ‘if’ they ever considered moving out, would it be as a team? Together would be an ideal scenario agrees the duo, but the offer has to be compelling enough.
And what makes a compelling offer for the duo? A compelling offer would be a large network, a solidly creative, global kind of entity coming into India, something that is a bigger challenge than what we have achieved, say both unanimously.
Barua joined Contract in 2013, Chakravarty came on board a couple of months later.
Chakravarty makes an interesting observation on one of the differences about the agency today.
Q. There were rumours that you were moving on from Contract; what is your take on that? RB: Conversations keep happening. There was never intent of either looking out or moving out, and there still isn’t. There were also a lot of non- committal meetings with people who I respect and are friends. Was there a genuine desire to move out? Not yet.
Q. When Cadbury moved gums and candy to Saatchi and Saatchi, there was a perception that the Cadbury account moved out of Contract….. RB: Cadbury’s Celebrations is the local jewel, which stays with Contract because we have built Celebrations. Celebrations was started by Contract, the relationship is that old, the brands that have moved was due to pure global re-alignment.
AC: Our relationship with Cadbury is very deeply embedded, I believe Celebrations is the only brand in the world where gifting has been successful. Our Eid film was successful not just for Celebrations but for the entire range of Cadbury products, giving it a very good spike.
Q. In an industry where agencies are judged on their creative product, how has the agency’s creative offering evolved to suit the changing brand dynamics? AC: We have instilled an entrepreneurial spirit into the system. While there are different departments, we are all in it together - it’s a business to do shining work for the client.
It is not about individual glory but how to leverage creative as a tool for acquiring business. That reflects in the way we work. We have changed the entire rules of working on a client brief; we have people from all departments on the deck solving the issue of a client using the different tools available - that’s the spirit of a start-up, that’s an e-commerce scenario where individuals are not separated by departments. To a degree, we ascribe our success both in business and in creative to this spirit that we have in Contract. It’s about solving a business problem using creative, and therefore, beneficial both for the client and business.
Q. Given the equation between you two, no power camps at Contract? RB: We work in alignment and alignment is that common goal that both of us have set for each other.
Power camp kind-of conversations are likely to happen when both take independent calls but because of our alignment, you see the same percolating down the line at least 80 per cent in the agency, which is fabulous.
AC: Since we are aligned, what is happening across the agency and departments is that people are looking out for each other; it is not one against the other. If the other person has failed and I am gaining joy out of it then something is wrong. Wherever that happens, the agency is going to get crippled. That has started to flow and it is not across departments, it’s across geographies. You know that you are winning as a team or you lose as individuals. I think that sense has gone down. It’s not magic, it’s just that you put a set of people with a common purpose and then they align over a period of time.
Q. When you took charge at Contract, your initial focus was to stabilise the ship, then you went aggressively after new business, where is the agency at now? RB: What we managed to do with Contract is to make it a far more stable ship. If you look at the number of people who came on board in 2013, including me, Ashish and many of them, including many senior people and individual talents. They have got multiple offers but have stayed together. Secondly, if you look at the number of clients that have come on board and stayed with us, it’s a massive list of people who have invested in Contract. Without naming any agency, there are so many of them that are struggling to find a footing. Our conversation with clients is about creative effectiveness, product, planning - it’s a very different conversation. So, if you ask me if the mission is over, I would say, no. There are many categories that are open to Contract, there are many clients who are talking to us, and there are many more things we can do if we want but it also matters on our bandwidth.
Q. So are you saying no to pitches/ new clients if the bandwidth doesn’t permit it? RB: In many instances clients are ready to wait for us…
AC: Our first priority is to our existing clients..
RB: If we go for a pitch we go for a win. A lot of heartache goes into pitches and a loss is demotivating for the entire team, so there is no point just going for the heck of it. Also pitches we go into today are of a certain size and scale, let me put it this way, we have been going for pitches with the top few agencies in the country.
AC: If there is an urgent requirement, we excuse ourselves if there are bandwidth issues. Also a lot of what happened and worked for us last year was when a client approached us, we showed them our work and the team who would be working on the account and asked them to work with us without a pitch, in a whole lot of cases we were able to work on numerous projects in the manner.
Q. Any reason for the silence since the last one year? RB: There are two or three reasons you talk; when you need to, when you need a lot of attention and when you need to make a conversation. Right now conversations, attention and a lot of engagement is happening on its own. Whether it’s with clients, whether it’s with people, a lot of things are happening. There is no particular reason to come out and say something which requires any kind of eyeballs for us. Our work is speaking for itself.
Q. What would be some of the focus areas for you going forward? AC: I think it would be to up the ante in some of areas like design. The other would be newer forms of engagement.
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Charles Courtier, Global CEO, MEC
MEC’s Global CEO Charles Courtier gets candid about not playing the under-cutting game, why more regular pitching is the new normal after the ‘Mediapalooza’ of 2015, take-aways from as well as focus areas for MEC India
By exchange4media Staff | May 20, 2016 12:00 AM | 4 min read
The agency globally saw a double digital growth last year (above 10%), which in 2015 was a very good performance, feels Courtier, even as he says that it is a bit early to comment on the agency’s performance this year.
Courtier declares that the overall view around India is very optimistic and global leaders continue to have faith in India as a fast growing market, more so, because growth in China has started to slow down, making the gaze on India more pronounced. On digital, Courtier believes it is just a matter of ‘speed’ at which digital takes over the Indian market, when comparing it with global markets like the US, Europe and even China to some extent, rather than ‘when’ it will take over.
Edited excerpts from a conversation Charles Courtier had with Priyanka Mehra:
Q. Are we done and dusted with the craziness of last year's ‘Mediapalooza’ wherein an extraordinary number of big clients put their accounts up for global review at the same time? I don’t think it is done. But you are right... it was crazy, and if I were a big client, the last thing I would do now is pitch my business, because how on earth would I get the best out of any agency when they are drowning in these enormous pitches? Having said that, I think much more regular pitching is the new normal. And I don’t think it started in 2015 - I think we are quite used to pitch and re-pitch of businesses on a very regular basis and that’s going to continue. It might not be 2015 every year, but I think we will continue to see a lot of media pitches every year.
Q. What are the possible reasons for this, in your view? I think there are two key reasons. One is procurement, because companies and businesses are all under tremendous pressure, and the media number on the balance sheet is a very big one in most clients’ businesses. So, procurement is a fact of life, it is very important for these companies to get the best efficiencies and value that they can for the money they are spending. Procurement is competitive from a pricing point of view. The other side of it, to some degree, is fear in the sense that the communication business is changing so massively, that I think clients want to test if the agency has the right skillset to navigate them strategically through the chaotic, difficult and fast-changing media world driven by changing consumer preferences. Marketing is changing so fast; if you are a CMO in a big company, you know it’s hard to keep up with everything that is going around. The way the consumers are buying your goods or entertainment is changing so fast that the CMOs in that situation need to know, and they want to check that the skills they need are there.
Q. How do you deal with under-cutting, especially given the added pressure of significant global pitches and a cut-throat competitive scenario? The only way to deal with it is responsibly. We have to be competitive on price. Yes, there are situations where somebody does something crazy and you get under-cut; yes, everybody has a story of when that happened. But honestly, if you get into that game, it’s a very short-lived game; don’t think you are doing your client any favour because you can’t sustain under-cut prices. In the end, you have to be responsible in terms of pricing that you are putting forward; you have to deliver it over a long-term basis. So to answer your question, we won’t play that game.
Q. What are your focus areas for India from a global perspective? Digital is key, because I believe it is the tipping point and India is on the cusp of that. It is all about ensuring we are ahead of competition in terms of our digital and our data capability. So, absolutely that is the priority, because we can see the wave of opportunity about to come so we have to be ready for it. The business has grown fantastically over the years and has great opportunity. You have to have talent to manage that growth and also to sustain that growth. The development and diversity of talent is another key focus area; growth of talent is equal to growth of the business for us.
Q. What would you like to take from MEC India to MEC globally? India is a very entrepreneurial country. When we look at MEC here, in comparison to MEC globally, there is a real tough entrepreneurial spirit in India. And if I could take that, box it, move it and export it around the world, I would.
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Sajan RaJ Kurup, Founder & Creative Chairman, Creativeland Asia
Last year was an eventful year for Sajan Raj Kurup Founder & Creative Chairman Creativeland Asia, a visibly exhausted but spirited Kurup gets candid about why industry do’s are ‘unexciting’ for him, why staying away from Goafest has added to the agency’s culture and focus, expanding operations beyond India, Why charging a pitch fee still works for CLA, his thought process behind work for Micromax, and life after Parle Agro.
By exchange4media Staff | May 20, 2016 12:00 AM | 7 min read
Q. What is the insight behind the new logo and tagline—‘Nuts: Guts: Glory’ for Micromax? Nothing symbolizes a cultural revolution in an organization as much as a change in identity. This exercise wasn’t about redesigning a logo and writing a tagline. It was about capturing the Micromax culture. For this we studied the Micromax story of four guys taking a brave decision to risk it all and enter the devices market. We traced their journey that started evolving from the back-alleys of the mobile phone revolution in India and all the way up to the global scene. We sat and understood the personalities of the founders, their ambitions and plans. What stuck out for us was a sincere amount of audacity. So, for Micromax, we created a line that establishes the innate desire for audacious and unconventional victories. And decided to scribe it as ‘Nuts: Guts: Glory’ in an unconventional slogan of sorts.
Q. The new campaign is completely different in tonality and positioning, and definitely more aggressive, was this the brief given to the agency? The most defining characteristic of this generation is the admiration for (and a desire to emulate) the crazy and the brave. To not just win, but to win big. To make irrational decisions, and to win madly. This cultural fuel becomes meaningful for us when it connects with the Brand Ethos.
In many ways, Micromax embodies this spirit we see coursing through the veins of the nation.
Anyone who has followed Micromax closely would know that the brand has an audacious story of how it was born in the back alleys of the mobile revolution in this country and has propelled itself on to the global stage in less than a decade.
Micromax is clearly an unconventional winner brand. It is a brand that’s taken chances, fought off much larger, more reputable competitors and still managed to come out in the driver’s seat. It has a sheer bloody-minded will to succeed.
It’s brash, bold and defiant .Which is why it goes for it. It’s why it doesn’t do things in half-measures.
Q. What does the campaign aim to achieve? A large part of the campaign objective is also to break a de facto price ceiling when it comes to how the brand is perceived and to align the cultural fuel and brand ethos with the new brand philosophy of ‘Nuts: Guts: Glory’ for its next phase of growth.
Micromax’s ability to premiumize itself lies in creating more meaning around what the brand stands for, its philosophy, how it sees its story, how it sees its users and how it delivers across the entire user brand experience.
Q. Do you have any plans of expanding operations beyond India? Yes, we have already incorporated an entity in Singapore. We have been studying various strategic overseas markets for the last three years now. We have already started engaging with brands in some of these markets. Slowly but surely you will hear more about our expansions beyond India.
Q. You are now a rarity at industry do’s as well, is this a result of the over hyped loss around the Parle account or is this a conscious effort on your part to stay away from the advertising industry? The Parle Agro- CLA split affected the industry gossip mongers more than it affected Parle Agro or Creativeland. We have moved on to business as usual. People who know me have learned to ignore the over-hype or gossip. It has nothing to do with being a rarity at industry dos.
Look, I am terrible at befriending, small talk etc. And, I don’t even drink alcohol any more. So, I don’t know what to do there once I get there. Also, instinctively, I can be quite politically incorrect and blunt. So, it would be kind of dangerous and not so exciting for me to be at all these ‘industry dos’.
I am better at focusing on what I am good at and what I enjoy.
Q. What are your thoughts on the new Frooti brand campaign? I’d prefer to pass this question.
Q. CLA charges a premium, at the same time you refrain from pitching how does this work in the real world? Creativeland doesn’t undercut itself or others. More times than often, we have won mandates despite of not being the L1 on cost at the procurement desk. We believe in creating great value for our clients and ourselves. We handpick our client partners as carefully as we pick our talent. It has been almost 9 years of Creativeland and every single year we have successfully delivered on setting benchmarks in every category we have brands to work with. Over the years, we have more and more clients inviting us to pitch and paying us a pitch fee for it. Every time a potential client says, “We are very excited to have you pitch and we are very keen to see the Creativeland perspective” I know the value the decision of sticking with a pitch fee has created for Creativeland.
Q. You haven’t participated in Goafest for 4 years now, 2012 was the last time CLA participated. Will we see CLA back at Goafest? The years we participated in Goafest, we have won big in front of a full house of participants. We have won big in competition with strong organizations like Ogilvy. Especially in the film and integrated campaign categories including the integrated grand prix in 2012. But, some of us also saw some amount of ganging up against winners, lobbying and alarming levels of scam ads by agencies desperate to win. Since we have a clearly different point of view on how awards must be conducted and instituted, I decided to step away. We haven’t missed being at the fest even once. In fact, staying away has added to our culture and focus.
Q. Coming back to Micromax, is this the first campaign that CLA has worked on, for a global audience? We have had several instances in the past when our campaigns have been used in overseas market/global audience. Audi, for instance. A lot of our work was considered and used in the Asian and European markets. The work we do for a lot of brands at Godrej gets used across the SAARC countries. Even as we speak, there are a few more global initiatives Creativeland is in the midst of in Africa, EU and US, apart from Micromax of course.
Q. Is this a very different task from some of the others that Creativeland has done for brands in the past? We’ve had invaluable experience of dealing with premiumization challenges across different categories.
We successfully repositioned Cinthol from being a popular segment soap to being at the premium end of the bathing soap category, making it a youthful and gender-neutral brand in the process. We did this by telling young India “Alive is Awesome.”
We re-positioned MTS from being a lower SEC, voice-driven brand for price-sensitive customers to becoming a data-focused brand for the digital youth of today, who consume gigabytes for breakfast.
We made MTS the definitive telecom brand for “The Internet Generation”, significantly growing its ARPU in the process. While these categories may work differently from each other, there’s no denying that building a consistent, meaningful brand identity and philosophy is key to capturing the hearts and wallets of contemporary, young India today.
And as this category slides further into parity product problems, brands will need to start differentiating themselves based on personality, based on how they make consumers feel about themselves, and how consumers identify with their beliefs.
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Carter Murray, Worldwide CEO, FCB
Carter Murray, Worldwide CEO, FCB, talks about his expectations from Rohit Ohri who will don the role of Group Chairman and CEO (India) in January this year, speculations around talent moving from Dentsu to FCB. He also reacts to speculations around Satbir Singh, and talks about reasons for not wanting to make any revolutionary changes in to the agency in India. Excerpts:
By exchange4media Staff | Apr 30, 2016 12:00 AM | 5 min read
In an interview with Priyanka Mehra, Carter Murray, Worldwide CEO, FCB, talks about his expectations from Rohit Ohri who will don the role of Group Chairman and CEO(India) in January this year, speculations around talent moving from Dentsu to FCB. He also reacts to speculations around Satbir Singh, and talks about reasons for not wanting to make any revolutionary changes in to the agency in India...
Q. Are there key areas that the industry needs to work on from a creative perspective? There is opportunity in art and design, to elevate the level of advertising. With creativity you have to take lateral leaps and I think there’s a cultural environment in which we can do that even more here.
Q. What is your reaction on the speculation regarding Satbir’s ( Satbir Singh, Chief Creative Officer, FCB) exit? This is unhealthy gossip which is being spoken about which is untrue, of course there is gossip when a large company appoints a CEO, but it is unhealthy and unfair to the people who come to work everyday, We are in a talent business and we need to treat people with respect. Satbir is a really creative guy and really respected and it is unfair that people are saying that. Rohit who is the new CEO coming on board is a grown up, a good leader and he will give everyone a chance.
As the Global CEO, I will, like for any new CEO, after 90 days, come here and ask for a plan and assessment of the team. We’ve put in place a rigorous HR so we know exactly where people are. So if he feels they’re in a different place then he will have to explain to us why. When you are in a talent business, there are checks and balances in place to make sure great people are taken care of.
Q. How are you working to ‘up’ the agency’s creative quotient in India? I have very big ambitions for FCB Ulka. With Rohit coming on-board along with some of the creative talent we have already, my challenge to them is how we can help our clients and work together with them to raise the profile of India on a global stage in the industry we are in.
Most countries have a belief, probably partially correctly that they have a rich vein of creativity and a right to be in the forefront of creativity. India is one of the few countries that has a natural birth-right for creativity and has a right to play a much bigger role on the global stage but I don’t think India does it nearly as much as it can currently.
Q. What is the mandate given to Rohit Ohri as Group Chairman and CEO? There are certain goals that I, as Global CEO look to deliver and I expect the same from all other CEOs including Rohit. One is to be able to retain and attract the very best talent in the industry. Through his leadership he needs to create a culture and ambition to attract and keep key talent.
He should have energy and passion for the creative business. Sometimes our industry follows trends, which is understandable but the core of what we do is creative work.
I am excited about Rohit coming on board because he is the right influx of talent and will give the right perspective to the team we have here and take Ulka on the next step of its journey. It is very different from a reinvention where you bring a team on board to completely change things. That’s not we have here. Here we have a successful agency and a strong culture.
Rohit is going to bring fresh energy and perspective to what is already an experienced energised team.
Q. Will we be seeing a lot of movement of talent from Dentsu to FCB? I have heard of a lot of speculation around this, but it’s untrue. Rohit needs to come onboard and see what the team is here. I assume he might want to bring one or two individuals onboard with him. Speculating on what Rohit will do is unfair to him.
Q. Which other Indian agencies do you see doing good work in your view? I think Lowe and Mcann have had a good reputation for a long time. We mainly look to our sister companies for competition. There are also one or two boutique companies that have started, from which I think more and more of the competition will come, in the future.
Q. What do you want to change on the business front in India? For this market we are not making crazy margins but we are making fair margins. I want to grow but I don’t have any revolutionary ambitions or desires. I don’t have any pressures to double the size of the margin because if I push the margin too far I’ll start to destroy the company. I want Ulka to keep its size and scale. Yes, I do want to keep growing but I want to do that by focusing on the creative talent and product. A lot of the holding companies and networks today have been pushed into putting the numbers first.
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Vikram Sakhuja, Equity Partner and Group CEO, Madison Media Group (including OOH)
“All media agencies today are gearing for change in an environment of digital, data, and technology. This is potentially changing the way we target, work seamlessly across media, deal with a connected consumer and deliver outcomes. This re-engineering, if you want to call it that, is as applicable to Madison as it is too any other agency. I hope to play my role in being a catalyst of change”
By exchange4media Staff | Nov 2, 2015 12:00 AM | 5 min read
The news of GroupM’s Vikram Sakhuja joining Sam Balsara’s Madison Media Group including OOH as Equity Partner and Group CEO took the industry by storm in April this year.
In his new role, Sakhuja will be responsible for the Media and OOH business of Madison World. He will work closely with Sam Balsara.
In a brief chat with exchange4media on his first day at Madison, Sakhuja a highly respected name in the media industry, talks about his expectations from Team Madison, his excitement on working with Sam Balsara, who he has known for over two decades now.
Sakhuja also answers the question on speculations over the possible movement of talent as well as clients from GroupM to Madison post his move, in his own inimitable way.
Q. You have known Sam Balsara for over two decades now in your various roles as a client and a formidable competitor. What are the advantages of your partnership, despite the perceived difference in leadership styles? Sam is a great dealmaker with an exceptional commercial acumen, and I have a decent strategic mind with a good record of growing business and organizations. Both of us believe in client-value and we both have more than a decent network in the media marketing ecosystem. I’m excited about teaming up with someone I’ve respected and admired for over two decades. I hope for starters to rub off some of his amazing energy and spirit on to me.
Q. You have been a digital evangelist at GroupM and Maxus. What is your approach and strategy towards bolstering Madison’s digital offerings? I have just joined today, so it would be presumptuous and premature to talk of a digital strategy now. Suffice to say for now, I believe in digital being a specialism that needs to integrate into the overall plan rather than work as a silo.
Q. In a recent interview with exchange4media, Dominic Proctor (President, GroupM Global) said “Madison has a fine heritage and clearly needs to re-engineer for the future. I guess that's why they have taken him on” on your exit from GroupM and joining Madison as Equity Partner. What would you like to say about his observation on the need for Madison to re-engineer for the future? All media agencies today are gearing for change in an environment of digital, data, and technology. This is potentially changing the way we target, work seamlessly across media, deal with a connected consumer and deliver outcomes. This re-engineering, if you want to call it that, is as applicable to Madison as it is too any other agency. I hope to play my role in being a catalyst of change.
Q. What would you like to say about speculation on the possible movement of talent as well as clients from GroupM to Madison post you taking charge at Madison? If you’re trying to flatter me into thinking that my old friends might want to follow me, you are succeeding. The truth is that talent are looking for growth in four areas: exciting work, personal and career growth, an organization and leaders they can look up to, and economic wellbeing. Good organizations that focus on these normally don’t worry about flight of talent.
Q. Is building on ecommerce business also going to be an area of focus for you adding on the Snapdeal business? Agencies learn from all their clients. ecommerce is clearly a sunshine industry with great momentum. One, we can learn much from – especially the always on, real time nature of business and the link between cause and effect. That said, traditional businesses bring a huge foundation of consumer marketing skills. So short answer is that all sectors require focus, including of course, ecommerce.
Q. You recently said you might bring in to Madison the culture of setting ambitious targets and trying to achieve them, do you think the agency needs this more now with the recent loss of Mondelez (on account of a global pitch) and Airtel at earlier this year; both of which are significantly large accounts. What is your strategy towards Madison regaining lost ground and going on to new heights? The context of that comment was the difference between MNCs and local companies. MNCs of which I have been part of are more target-driven than local companies. My philosophy on targets is really one about objective setting. My conviction is that if managers are clear about deliverables, they are also smart enough to achieve them. On Madison strategy, I am hardly likely to reveal it, especially on my first day of joining.
Q. While we have covered extensively what is it that you would like to change and strengthen within Madison. What are your expectations from Team Madison? To have a passion for making a difference to our clients’ brands, and to enjoy what they do.
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Sheldon Monteiro, Global Technology Officer, SapientNitro
We are looking for brands that are looking to change the status quo
By exchange4media Staff | Oct 21, 2015 12:00 AM | 8 min read
If SapientNitro were to be described in one word, it would be ‘disruptors’ says Sheldon Monteiro, Global Technology Officer, SapientNitro. “That’s the reason why we embarked on this new journey with Publicis,” says he. Publicis completed its acquisition of Sapient Nitro in February this year.
“In partnership with our new parents, we have the opportunity because of scale now, to actually push change throughout the industry. It’s going to be a huge change management exercise as we stand out as ‘Publicis Sapient’ , as we make an impact across Publicis portfolio. But I’m very excited to be disrupting the industry,” shares Monteiro.
In conversation with Priyanka Mehra, Monteiro talks breaking boundaries between the intersection of technology and story, creating effective business collaboration platforms, why he considers Amazon, Facebook, Netflix competition and more…
Q. How has technology impacted the creative process? In a lot of cases what tends to happens is you hear this conversation around ‘the new art and copy is code and data’. I think that is rubbish. The reason is technology, which is not just another medium. It is something that infuses and challenges the creative process. Your canvas is just a canvas. You can use new colours but the canvas doesn’t fundamentally change its texture and operating parameters and the way new technology is advancing today, really enables different kinds of executions.
Technology informs the creative process as much as it ‘realizes’ the creative process. When you say a canvas informs the creative process, it’s a reach to go there. I’m not a big subscriber that it is just another medium. We tend to bring in technologists, both enterprise technologists and experienced technologists right into the creative process. Where we are examining the art of the possible. What’s possible with new technologies, with Internet of Things.
You can put these people in a lab. And they can be mad scientists and come up with new possibilities but it is not the same thing as having them in the pitch team. That’s where they feed off each other’s ideas in order to create new possibilities. The acquisition-oriented strategy will struggle with that. Let’s say you are on the traditional side of the house. Now you have acquired a digital firm and they are sitting right next to you. Let’s say it’s the most important pitch of the year. Your business survival depends upon it. Are you going to take risks with this thing you don’t quite understand yet? You don’t quite speak the language. Or are you going to hedge your bets? And put the people that you know have done things in the past for you. It’s the same thing if digital does reverse. When push comes to shove, the executives that are going out in the front are still the executives that own the P &Ls. When you value them, it really matters. If you don’t do that , you are not going to be able to be authentic. When we started down the path it was exactly that. We had hard conversations at the leadership team levels that this is unacceptable, this is not what we want. We started to change our own behaviours.
Q. Who do you consider as competition given that agencies today are catering to vast spectrum from technology, creative, media and digital? I don’t really look at systems integrators or agencies as competition. I don’t mean to be arrogant but I just don’t spend as much time thinking about them as thinking about digital businesses that have truly made the jump. So I look at companies like Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and I say what kind of capabilities have these people developed to move at the speed they are moving and achieve the kind of success with experimentation and agility that they do. If you spend time watching industries that are already under significant stress like other agencies or other system integrators then you are not looking at the right thing.
Look at Amazon. I’m talking about this as a technologist. Amazon pushes code changes in the production 10,000 times a day. Your average systems integrator is pushing code changes into production maybe once a quarter. Customers demand transparency and speed. That’s where I look for competition. You might say they are not competition, but they are, when it comes to talent. I am looking at the same type of people and I want those people. I don’t want the people who are just interested in clocking in from nine to five and doing an industrial era job.
Q. Who is an ideal client? We are looking for brands that are looking to change the status quo. This is a consumer empowered world where consumers are enabled with technology, we are looking at brands who say ‘how do we shift the dialogue from just communication and experience to a fusion of the two?
Q. How do you actually achieve a balance between creativity and technology within the agency at a grass root level? There are multiple legs. If you think about culture from a structural standpoint, you enforce culture by the things you choose to talk about and the things you choose to recognise. The things that actually get discussed in meetings at different levels. When we talk about this intersection of story and technology, it isn’t just something that resides on a poster. We have rituals that are conducted at team levels and leadership team levels where we are actually talking about what the system was delivered, or this piece of creative work was done, but how does it actually push the current norms? That’s what we mean by breaking boundaries, it’s a fresh take on connecting the two in a very powerful way. We choose to recognise the work very visibly at the team level and leadership level, things that are pushing the envelope.
There are other pieces that are good work or average work that don’t get talked about as much so quickly people start to recognise what do we value as an organization and what do we value less as an organization. They get encouraged to push themselves more. We have rituals like team de-briefs on a quarterly basis, where we are talking about work and if it is pushing boundaries. And if not, what can we do to reframe it. Because sometimes the team feels they are very constrained, but the client wants it that way. Is that really the case or is there a stewardship conversation that can be had with the client to reframe the way the client is thinking? Because it is incumbent upon client services as well to reframe what the client is looking for. Clients in most cases are looking for the same things that we are. But they may have constraints like the amount of risk they want to take, or the budget that they have. We look to make it so that it doesn’t equate to budget doubling. There are ways to get around that.
Q. How difficult is the implementation and how do you approach it? We have built the internal working environment to foster this kind of collaboration. A lot of agencies will talk about their physical space. They have great offices and creatively organized. The reality is that work gets done by people who are in different places. They get done by large teams that are distributed. So how do you put in place the social collaboration and business collaboration platforms and culture to work on those platforms that are deployed on a global unified basis? We’ve been on that path for almost five years. It has really taken off in the last two and a half years. Pretty much every Sapient employee is on our social business platforms. We have put in place global workflow platforms that make work a social object so you cannot just say this task is done, but there can be a conversation around that task where the people working on that task are actually putting in comments or asking questions to each other.
All of this is mobile-enabled. A person sitting in Gurgaon can ask the creative leads that might be working very closely with clients in Europe a question that needs to be answered vs it going through a formal document. Millenials want to have the same kind of technology that they have in their personal lives at work too. Millenials are now 35% of the workforce. They are larger than GenX and those earlier.
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