The headcount of Ogilvy is the headcount of Ogilvy digital: Namrata Keswani

Namrata Keswani, George Kovoor and Burzin Mehta, the dynamic trio that leads the digital arm of Ogilvy India, talk about how a mainline agency like Ogilvy is making digital a part of its DNA.

by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Published - Sep 21, 2018 9:00 AM Updated: Sep 21, 2018 9:00 AM

“The headcount of Ogilvy is the headcount of Ogilvy digital,” Namrata Keswani announces in response to a question on the size of Ogilvy’s digital team. Keswani heads the digital domain for Ogilvy Mumbai. It is remarkable for an agency that is rooted in traditional advertising to embrace digital the way Ogilvy is doing.

“Digital is a way of thinking rather than a separate silo offering that a client comes to us for,” she says.

Digital now runs in the DNA of Ogilvy. Every client that comes on board to work with Ogilvy can reap the benefits of having a team that is not just an expert in traditional mainline advertising but has a solid digital outlook as well.

How did Ogilvy get here? The year-long refounding of Ogilvy that culminated in the breaking down of silos and simplifying of solutions has made this possible. “The entire agency is one compact ecosystem. We have six clear offerings now: brand strategy, advertising, customer engagement & commerce, PR & influence, digital transformation, and partnerships. Digital runs through all these offerings. Instead of digital operating in a silo like earlier, digital is part of all brands,” says Keswani.

Ogilvy’s Digital Approach

Explaining how the teams now function, Keswani says, “We put the brand solution out first. Then, across all the offerings in our bouquet, be it advertising, consulting, PR, or strategy, we supply digital on everything.”

According to Keswani, making digital a part of everything that Ogilvy does for its clients is a “fantastic change” because “it gives the client a very rounded point of view of what they should do on their brand” and “it is a sign of living digital.”

George Kovoor, group creative director behind Ogilvy Mumbai, tells us that many partnerships that began in the mainline domain have turned into integrated partnerships. This evolution stems from the understanding that digital is not just a social media post. “The area that we at Ogilvy are exploring is the world of digital beyond social media and viral posts. Whether it is consumer engagement or splicing of data to address different customers differently, etc.,” says Burzin Mehta, the third digital domain expert and Group Creative Director at Ogilvy.

In addition to helping clients with their digital journeys, Ogilvy itself is undergoing a massive digital transformation. Last year, Ogilvy launched an exclusive consulting arm headed by Sonia Khurana to advise clients on all things digital and data. In addition, the agency is also adding several other technology-led capabilities like UI/UX, website development, empaneling with vendors who can create technology - VR, apps, chatbots etc.

Training Talent in Digital

Over and above all of this, Ogilvy India is striking industry-level partnerships to upskill talent and think digital first. The Google-Ogilvy Creative Intelligence Partnership is one such. “We are trying to upskill every single person in this office so that everyone is holding a conversation on digital with clients with a certain degree of comfort. We are teaching them how a TV campaign can be leveraged best on YouTube, training them on understanding the platforms, how data analytics works,” explains Keswani.

The Google-Ogilvy Creative Intelligence Partnership is a first-of-its-kind and a one- of-its-kind partnership between an agency and a tech company. As part of this new initiative, Ogilvy and Google are “creating customised learning paths for all of Ogilvy to see what we can train them on. The research and analysis for that is on currently,” Keswani says.

“There is no escaping digital in client conversations. Everyone in this office is slowly getting empowered with digital. That’s the journey we have embarked upon. There’s a long way to go,” she says.

Kovoor says that clients who left the Ogilvy fold to work with native digital agencies are now returning to work with Ogilvy because the agency is a master of the two main components of great advertising - storytelling and brand understanding.

Ogilvy, which has always had in-house production capabilities, looks to hire people with multiple skills and talents so that they can do some video editing, sound editing beyond their script-writing and art direction work. This helps the agency churn work that does not need very high production quality on a regular basis for clients who constantly need to stay engaged with consumers. Weighing in on the trend of digital agencies launching content studios, the trio said that to stay agile and meet the demands of clients who need hundreds of pieces of content during a year in addition to the three-four standout pieces of content, it makes most sense for agencies to bring a part of that work in-house.

Increasing Digital Appetite Among Clients

The last time this reporter sat down with Keswani and Kovoor, the duo were proudly showcasing their latest tech innovation - a VR experience for commercial trucks for Tata Motors. Innovations like those take months if not a year in some cases, Keswani says. “The thing with tech innovations is that it takes a lot of time and effort to roll out. It takes a lot of patience, deliberation from the team and client,” she says. Her team is working on four more such long-term tech innovation projects that will come to fruition over the next six months.

Not just that, it also takes a fair amount of time and effort to convince the client about an unconventional idea. “In the case of Tata Motors for example, you are asking a client to suspend his belief that test drives can only be test drives. That takes convincing of management at both ends, identifying the right partners, taking into account budget realities and on-ground realities and then the obsession that Ogilvy has to get it right - that takes time as well,” says Keswani.

Kovoor says clients now are more open to these budget-intensive and time-intensive projects. “When I started in digital, the idea among clients was that it should be instant and it should be free! That has changed completely,” he says. “It is a fantastic change in mindset that we are seeing now. This was not there last year.”

Kovoor adds, “Clients who would be willing to spend a crore on a mainline project would fall off their chair if an agency proposed Rs 10 lakh for a digital project. Now I see clients are willing to spend Rs 50-80 lakh on a digital project.”

If there is anything that holds clients back from spending, it is the lack of a complete understanding of the scope of digital. Mehta says one of the reasons digital has not received the kind of funding that TV does from clients is because most people underestimate how India has digitally exploded.

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