Anant Rangaswami, 51, was, till May 2011, the editor of Campaign India magazine, of which he was also the founding editor. Campaign India is now arguably India’s most respected publication in the advertising and media space in India. Anant has over 20 years of experience in media and advertising. He began in Madras as assistant manager for STAR TV, moving on as regional manager, South, for Sony’s SET and next as chief manager at BCCL’s Times Television and Times FM. He then moved to advertising, rising to the post of associate vice president at TBWA India. Anant then made the leap into journalism, taking over as editor of what is now Campaign India’s competitive publication, Impact. Anant teaches regularly and is a prolific blogger and author of Watching from the Sidelines, a collection of editorials written for Campaign India. Currently, he is senior editor at, India’s first, largest and most influential digital newspaper and consults in the marketing space. He occasionally writes posts for The Economist Group’s Lean Back 2.0. blog.

Cover design by Anya Rangaswami



who taught me all that I know (only the good) and all that I am (only the good). To Appa. being my mother. And to Amma. wherever he is. who was group editorial director at Haymarket Media Group when I joined as founder-editor of Campaign India in 2007. the three I owe so much to. well. . Thank you for so much. a very special man and the best teacher I have had. always there for me. And to Dominic Mills.This book is for Binky. Rohan and Anya. for. I’m sure he’ll be delighted. they’re always there for me. Like my mother. to see this day. And to my larger family and my closest friends.

I have no copies of any of these books – but that hardly matters. Pollyanna is a ‘girls’ book. go on and google them. in those days. Any book by PG Wodehouse or Rex Stout or Louis L’Amour or Dick Francis… I could go on. I come to a handful of books that made such an impression on me that they shaped me to a large extent. They’re imprinted in my head. Then there are others that I could read and re-read and re-read many times. Books that entertained me. since leaving Calcutta in 1983. certain paragraphs. another few thousand. certain thoughts from these books. For a boy of that age to be caught reading Pollyanna was akin to being seen. Some of those books I couldn’t care for. in a pink shirt. What it taught me. I still loved it and read it openly. For example. which I read for the first time when I was about 8 or 9. And finally. Chetan Bhagat puts me off. The second is a little known book by James Thurber called The Wonderful O. and. made me cry in a happy way. I’ve never been able to go past page 30 of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. life provokes me to remember certain sentences. who could make 8 . I’ve never cared for Gabriel Garcia Marquez. satire and comedy. The first is a book called Pollyanna. every now and then. and. It’s sweet and sugary and treacly and soppy. at home. literally thousands of books that one could choose from and read. Incredibly. made me laugh. I won’t share details of the books except for their names. There were. I’ve read most of those thousands. My father loved humour. and I try to live by this belief every day of my life. so my siblings and I were lucky to be exposed to someone like Thurber. Books that transported me to a world far away.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Foreword I grew up in Calcutta in a world of books. is that. there’s something you can find to be glad about. whatever your situation.

Every time I lie down on a burning bed. and get burned in the process. sizes. I come to Manwatching. One day. It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It urges me to warn readers about burning beds you ought to avoid. Oh. Of all shapes. where the protagonist is burned badly. seen through lenses that are tinted by these books. I’ve lain many times on burning beds. till it becomes an unconscious habit. an entire series of books. on and on. Manwatching taught me to do just that – watch men. The title comes from one of the essays in the book. I remember this book. he says. 9 . and not type the letters into a text message. The bed was on laugh out loud in an era when you really did. And women. The Wonderful O tells me it is important to inject hope into the book. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. thanks to Fulghum. And children. age and colour. some of you might have read. there’s a book I’ve left out. How did the bed catch fire. he says. Few would have heard of It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It. many times. Not quite a book. he is asked. I bear in mind that all those in advertising are. This book talks about advertising. After reading all the Asterix titles. There’s so much to learn from just watching – and I have learned so much. mad.” So as I write this book. I’ll learn. he is asked. first consciously. And finally. Most you of you would have heard of. by Desmond Morris. like the Romans. if there’s one sentence I remember all the time it is this one: “They are mad. Asterix. It was on fire when I lay down on it. How did it happen. The Wonderful O taught me about the importance of ‘Hope’. these Romans. Manwatching forces me to get you to look hard at everything around you. So when I write about where advertising in India is headed in the next few years. Pollyanna gets me to remember to remind readers that there’s always something to be glad about.

Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. former MD. the activist and Arvind Kejriwal. Take the 2G scam. Hari Nair. whether in politics or business and now forced. Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. for decades. In the past year and a bit. we have had central ministers going to jail on charges of corruption and we have had chief ministers resigning on charges of corruption. Senior Vice-President. Surendra Pipara. the Gandhis and the Ambanis. Group MD. Senior vice. We have a coalition government at the Centre. I’d said that I would ensure that I remember Pollyanna. sadly. Gautam Doshi. by hyper-competition. Caught in this crossfire is commerce. which. and play the glad game. but foolhardy optimism and denial is not what the glad game is about. brands and advertising. fighting relentlessly and committedly against a legacy problem called corruption. to cover the transgressions. And. ignored the transgressions of people in power. We have seen allegations made against the most powerful families in the country. the politician. Unitech Wireless. We have a media. The biggest scams involve large advertising categories. Vinod Goenka. DB Realty & Swan 10 . Growth. Corporate executives accused in the alleged scam include Sanjay Chandra. surviving on the support of the most unlikely of bedmates. Economy. We have Anna Hazare.President.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Let’s not fool ourselves. Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. In the foreword. Promoter and Managing Director. it’s going to be a tough few years ahead.

“India can start reversing this trend by improving its investment climate and expediting reforms. Promoter. arguing that plunging global demand and a delayed monsoon that will hit agricultural growth would worsen the slowdown in Asia’s third largest economy. Anshuman Ruia.5%. Loop Telecom. Kiran Khaitan. Director. Sharath Kumar. Companies caught in allegations surrounding the scam include Unitech Wireless. Loop Telecom. Essar Group. Asif Balwa (younger brother of Shahid Balwa).7% in 2013-14. Director. All the industries which have been dependent on the discretionary powers that reside with ministers and governments.” said ADB chief Economist Changyong Rhee. Hindustan Times says. Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables. Promoter. whether at the state level or at the central level. from its earlier projection of 7. Promoter and Director. respectively. Vikas Saraf. DB Realty & Swan Telecom. Cineyug Films.6%.Telecom. Vice Chairman. a significant drop from ADB’s earlier projections of 7% and 7. Ravi Ruia. for the two years. Karim Morani. IP Khaitan. Reliance Telecom and Swan Telecom.” 11 . This is just to give you an idea of the momentum of the anti-corruption movement. “Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday cut India’s economic growth forecast for the current financial year to 5. As I write this. Promoter. as also the new activism in the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Managing Director. Essar Group.0%. Kalaignar TV.6% in 2012-13 and 6. will see turmoil. Director for strategy and planning. the independent and upright stance taken by the judiciary. Shahid Balwa. Essar Group. The 2G scam is just one of many to have made the headlines and embroiled powerful individuals and powerful brands – and that will affect advertising. Forecasts in ADB’s Asian Development Outlook 2012 Update predict India’s gross domestic product (GDP) as growing by 5.

once more. it is unclear whether the Congress-led UPA will be able to stay in power till the next Lok Sabha elections are due in 2014. and that will impact all industries which import raw material. they will have to deal with the sweeping anti-corruption sentiment. which seems unlikely for the duration of the next Lok Sabha tenure. I am no economist. Some will be convicted. As I write this. because while the short term seems bleak and uncertain.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 The rupee is weakening against the dollar. 2013. I’m glad I’m in India. But. there will continue to be an air of uncertainty and tentativeness on investments. Whichever the combination that comes to power. will be an acid test. Things will get a lot worse before they get better. pointing to a coalition government. announced and uncovered. In the absence of a strong government at the centre. And that cannot be good for advertising. It certainly has a huge impact on India’s fuel import cost – which forces the prices of transportation of goods to rise. the smart money is. Strong legs. the medium and long terms paint a far prettier picture. Shortly after the Anna Hazare movement gained momentum in mid12 . If there is a mid-term poll. More and more scams will be exposed. to get back to Pollyanna. bringing more uncertainty to the business environment. which will not be able to take strong and brave decisions. The next year. but I do believe that the anti-corruption movement has legs. will be charge-sheeted. More companies and corporate executives will be accused.

indeed most industrialists and businessmen.2011. Sir Martin saw only good. whatever is happening here politically.” Specific to Anna Hazare. entrepreneurial workforce and has begun to see the benefits of growth and reform. This was a view a few months after my meeting with Sir Martin. The correct policies need to be in place. but growth rates of 9% or better don’t just happen. its Advantage India.” he says. It’s net. and they aren’t as 13 . which is eight times the growth in the UK. worry more about the medium and long terms than they do about the short term.” That was more than a year ago. citing the example of the stock market going down 15 percent (does he think WPP is worth 15 percent less? NO!) yet the GDP growing at 7-8 percent. “what is happening will be beneficial in the medium term. People he has spoken to in India tell Sorrell that. net good. out of this comes advantage India. “But the long-term picture is perhaps the bigger question. Sir Martin Sorrell was on a visit to India and I asked him what he thought would be the impact on India. Amongst the countries which excite him the most is India — because it is the growth markets that excite him the most. he says. “There’s a massive disconnect between the macro level and the micro level. expecting annual growth of 7. India still has a large. India still has a great story. calling it ‘Advantage India’. down from 8%. We have adjusted the GDP forecast for 2015 through 2020. because Sir Martin. but activity will weaken as long as the 20year reform process remains stalled. “I come to India with a smile on my face because they’re arguing about whether the economy will grow at 7 percent or 8 percent. young. but it’s pertinent. “If I look at what’s happening here….5%.

the research arm of ratings firm Moody’s. India still has a great story – but the immediate future is tough.” said Moody’s Analytics. 14 .The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 yet. as reported in Economic Times in January 2012.

There’s little attempt to explore the grey – which is where most solutions will exist. I’ve spoken to Asia heads. by the designation on one’s business card. We’ve heard. The conversations are rich. I’ve spoken to them many times each. force one into a situation where it’s too late to move. In fact. The moment the group is larger. These are all positions that many find difficult to move from in public fora – and that’s why I thought of the need for the book.There’s an elephant in the room. The grey needs to be explored. over the years. I’ve spoken to almost all CEOs of Indian agencies. to global heads. and so on. the quality of the conversations drops – often degenerating into asinine stupidity on the issue being discussed. I’ve attended most of the major industry events held in the country. there are many elephants in the room. For the past decade. in the near future. How does one address the issue of talent in the industry? How does the industry package itself better and attract the best graduates that the best colleges produce? How does one retain the talent? What are the skill-sets 15 . by the dependence on one aspect of the business. many discussions on the ‘talent’ elephant. There are positions dictated by the company one works for. to clients of all hue. by the revenue break-up. It’s black or white. there is a polarisation of thought. to almost all creative directors. which is why I thought of writing this book. My black and your white. and possible solutions proffered are at the extremes. In sync with the current mood in the country. Sticking to the white or the black positions is increasingly becoming dangerous – as it might. tight groups – three or four at the maximum. insightful and provocative when these conversations are in small. about many elephants.

many debates required. there are no quality answers coming from anywhere. a decade ago. A disclaimer: Almost everything in the book is a generalisation. To make you aware of the elephants and to provoke quality conversations on what needs to be done to get the elephants out of the room. ‘hey. many discussions on the ‘remuneration’ elephant. with just one elephant in the room. That’s why this book. in the current form. over the years. that’s not true. viable? Many questions. How does one stop this slide down the dangerous. We’ve heard. over the years. What is the future of the network agency? What is the future of the independent? What kind of an agency should a particular brand work for? What should a client look for in the agency they choose as their communications partner? Is the business. 2 lakh per month. We’re at a stage when agencies in the top 20 in the country are agreeing to retainers lower than Rs. once in a while. yet people in the business seem not to notice they’re there.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 that the industry needs? What does the industry need to do to stop the migration of talent from agencies to the clients? Many questions on talent alone – and yet. So many elephants in the room. If we began.’ It may not be. 16 . Many. for the larger world of professionals and agencies. Previously charged services such as PR are bundled in for free. there are no quality answers coming. it’s reached a stage when there’s a veritable herd in there. Clients are managing to reduce the retainer each time they change agencies. for you. slippery slope? Again. many answers required. There will be individuals and agencies who will say. It is.

Caesar was warned of an impending doom – and chose to ignore it. As you read the book. It also seeks to warn you of what might happen if you seek to ignore the warnings. dreaming of the murder of her husband. The soothsayer’s warning was not the only one Caesar chose not to pay heed to. Caesar’s wife. As Caesar neared the Senate. he saw the soothsayer again. Caesar is turn’d to hear. ho! they murder Caesar!’. “Nor heaven nor earth have been at peace to-night: Thrice hath Calpurnia in her sleep cried out. the various signs that one can see. slept fitfully on the nightbefore the Ides of March. Many may say. Let me take you back to Caesar. Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March. for you. and take this file and dump it in the recycle bin. a thunderous and stormy night. “The ides 17 . and opinions that you might disagree with. Hold on and resist the temptation to junk it. after reading the first few chapters. there are opinions which you might agree with. Calpurnia. Caesar might have lived beyond the Ides of March. said Caesar. well. This book seeks to take you through the state of the industry as it is today – and interpret. ‘Help. Caesar: What man is that? Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March. If Caesar paid the soothsayer any heed. to the morning of the Ides of March. “this is rubbish”.Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music cry “Caesar!” Speak.

To which he received this reply: “Ay. but not gone.” he said to the soothsayer. Caesar.” 18 .The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 of March are come.

but go on to suggest what can be done to avert a disaster. So what I attempt in this book is to share actionable prophecies.I still haven’t shared with you why there’s a date in the title after “The future of advertising”. how the stock-market would behave tomorrow. today. buy HDFC. the Sensex will be up.” Actually. The future can be many things.” is what most of us would say. please. The next minute is the future. the next year. the next day. What would make the prophecy magical if he added. well. I don’t stop with a warning. “thank you for that information. Some of these milestones have no meaning to man or beast. Imagine the riches you could accumulate if you knew. it’s a future that you are concerned about. it’s not very useful if that’s all he told you. 2016. can I go back to my beer. It’s not too far away – it’s three years or four. “Buy Infosys. the next decade or. Imagine what could happen if a soothsayer walked up to you and said. buy Unilever. the next century. 2016 or December 31. There’s great power to be gained and advantages to be had by knowledge of the future. If one heard that the world would go through a severe water crisis in 3025 AD. There are many important milestones we will see in the next three to 19 . That’s why putting a date at the end of the title is important to me. indeed. as is the next hour. Whatever the interpretation.” That’s an actionable prophecy. “Tomorrow. depending on whether you interpret 2016 in the title as January 1.

what happens to the companies that they run? 20 . The person as a brand is an elephant which no one wants to talk about. I’d hazard a guess. That’s why the issue of many senior adlanders nearing or turning 60 is of the utmost importance. I don’t want this to be a book of useless trivia. And many brands walked across to Taproot. would decide to hang up their boots. Consider the following: Piyush Pandey. To underline what I’m saying. on the issues on hand. a brand walked out of JWT. case. Ambi Parameswaran. If Piyush were to leave Ogilvy and move to. let’s take a recent. Arvind Sharma. So what happens to the businesses that are reliant on their equity. KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar. I could go on and on.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 four years. I’d rather spend time on the principles. opting for a sort of semi-retirement – but they will no longer be totally involved in the businesses they now run. they are brands. Many of his team members would leave with him. solve the problems before them. Leo Burnett. the agency Dias launched with Santosh Padhi. their talent and their relationships? Indeed. not Ogilvy & Mather. Piyush is the brand. This is a peculiarly Indian habit: brands work with people who. Few of them (I’d say none of them) will leave the agencies they work for today for another agency – but many. When Agnello Dias left JWT. say. So what is the principle about many senior people in advertising in India reaching the age of 60? The issue is. Colvyn Harris. but I won’t. a lot of business would move with him. Sunder Swamy. KS Chakravarty. Some may not retire completely. in their opinion. actual. Madhukar Kamath all get to or cross the mid-50s. many of these people are more than just individuals.

he has. and he rejects the congratulations. and focus on the macro issues facing the agency. 21 . it’ll play out in many agencies. notwithstanding the rubbish that flies around. or about how he discussed campaigns with (then) Vodafone’s Harit Nagpal in the wee hours of the morning. over the last few years. Executive Chairman & National Creative Director Ogilvy & Mather. advertising gives him enough of a high for him to be consumed by it. to many clients. assiduously. When a ‘face’ of the agency leaves/retires. many questions arise – and many opportunities. so we see an Abhijit Awasthi or a Rajiv Rao taking on more responsibility and more load – but it’s not the same. can you imagine a Vodafone or a Cadbury or a Fevicol moving out of Ogilvy? I can – if Piyush is not actively involved in the accounts. Congratulate him on a new TVC. It’s not as if this is not apparent to Piyush. and each such play out spells change. These are the shoes that Abhijit and Rajiv will have to fill – and they’re very large shoes. well…. there are accounts we dismiss as ‘impossible to ever win.As these worthies quit the business or ease their way out. Whether you like it or not. pushed his key team mates forward. However. the issue of Piyush Pandey is the elephant in the room. There are wonderful stories that abound of how Piyush won the MP Tourism account singlehandedly. it was Abhijit or it was Rajiv.’ For example. and. take over all day-to-day work – and he’s been pushing this agenda for the better part of the last decade. Piyush is also an elephant in the room. and so on. How much longer will he feel motivated to stay in the business? As of today. saying that he had nothing to do with it. Which of the Ogilvy accounts are ‘Piyush’ accounts. especially in creative. there is no doubt that Piyush wants to see the next rung. even if he has slowly allowed himself the luxury of being true to his designation. therefore. as the magic of Piyush Pandey. over the next few years. For all those who compete with Ogilvy. can be attacked? And the issue is not isolated to Piyush and Ogilvy. For Ogilvy.

Benson and Mather. it’s a waste of time branding new agencies other than by the names of the man or the woman or those who started them. the names of the four that started the agency? It’s because they founders were already brands and already faces – so 22 . They were all (and are all) accessible to media. they are good at what they do. They become the faces of the agencies they work in – and that’s the double-edged sword. to lecture. Which is why. to be chief guests and be on panels. how did Madhukar Kamath. They accept invitations to speak. how did Balki.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 The People-Brands or Person-Brands How did Piyush become a face? How did Colvyn Harris become a face. perhaps. Claude Bonnange. To begin with. how did Prasoon Joshi. responding to phone calls. TBWA? Not to forget that Ogilvy began as Hewitt. Uli Wiesendanger and Paolo Ajroldi name their newly created agency after their initials. and so on? By dint of hard work. Ogilvy. When they leave their agencies. Bogle and Hegarty? Why did William Tragos. SMS-es and emails with promptness. planners or just plain management. They project themselves as knowledge leaders and understand media management. whether as creatives. Think about it: Why did Sir John Hegarty. the agencies become faceless… …and clients go to other faces that they’re familiar with – which means other agencies. Nigel Bogle and John Bartle not call the agency they started Pumpkin or Purple Banana or Quadriped or some such clever name and not the boring Bartle.

It’s not ego. you know. “Why is the agency called ‘Happy’?” Every employee at Happy will have a different story to tell. The lawyers and consultants got it right and named their businesses after key people (they got it right in the way they get remunerated. Here’s another 23 . of course. Why on earth? In a country like India. name the agency after yourself.’ A couple of friends have named their agency ‘Rickshaw’. Naming an agency after key people immediately begins the process of the creation of the people-brand. hopefully. Things change. Naming the agency after the founder(s) helps cut through the clutter and is an instant differentiator. not clever brand names. it’s because the two of us started it. no confusion. It’s called ‘Guava’. it’s the most sensible thing to do. Another couple of former colleagues run an agency called ‘Metal. if those that the agency is named after are no longer there – but by then. “So why is the agency called Guava?” “Er. and the two of us will be looking after the account. Every employee in the organisation can confidently answer the question with 100 percent consistency.” No hesitation. too).why waste the equity. If you’re planning to start an agency in India in this hypercompetitive environment. We all know how difficult it is to get new business. Then we have Happy and Scarecrow and any number of names of creatures from the animal kingdom. it’s because…” It’s the same with Metal and Rickshaw and Happy and Scarecrow. why not leverage it? A former colleague started her own agency a few years ago. people win businesses. How many agencies have been born in the past 5 years? Literally. hundreds. “Why is your agency called ‘Manish Bhat and Raghu Bhatt’?” “Well. the need to leverage the peoplebrands decreases and the names or initials devolve on the company.

The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 elephant for you to deal with: the only people who will be good at new business are people-brands. They have reputations. Anyone else. they have trackrecords and they are known. or unleash an existing people-brand on the market. Either wait for someone to become a peoplebrand before you expect him or her to bring in the bucks. whatever his or her qualifications. is a waste of money. 24 .

Subhash Kamath. Partha Sinha and Priti Nair. “We feel more comfortable with starting a BBH office from scratch. who can work together to provide the brand of leadership we need. give me a break. as BBH discovered when they came into India. all with the same salary. You go to their office. and I thought of how they would work together. then. I knew all three of the proposed partners.Too many person-brands are not a good thing either. They even review ads together. The problem is the people-brand issue again – who reports to whom. I met Simon Sherwood of BBH before he had finalised with the first set of partners of BBH India. The simple fact is that three people (especially three intelligent people) will often not be on the same page. That was a bloody nightmare. photographed together. My first instinct was to believe that BBH London had got a good team together. and so it was with BBH india. as editor of Campaign India. It was when I learned that the three would all be managing partners that my heart skipped a beat. When BBH India was launched. Shit. and so on. all with the same designation. so the challenge has been to find a group of people who can present our values and DNA in building a company. and who can build a business with an enviable 25 . This was BBH’s three-legged stool model at work. The first signs of the discomfort were visible to trade journalists – and I was one. Simon Sherwood said. if all three are managing partners? Who takes the call if there are differences of opinion? Too many person-brands are a nightmare – if they’re all at the same level. The threesome had to be interviewed together. and their cabins were more or less the same size. We saw the same happening with Scarecrow’s Manish Bhatt and Raghu Bhat.

Junk the three-legged stool model. The Kamble experiment didn’t work either.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 reputation for creativity and innovation. All three are very highly talented and are exceptionally likeable people. To him. bite the bullet now. It can still be fixed. to find three equally matched professionals is another thing altogether. increased their stake as they pumped more money in. quite simply. they first bought a minority stake in the late 1990s. Ward’s remit. though this has never been stated). To tell a carpenter to build a stool with three legs of equal size and of the same wood is one thing. and BBH London sent along Paul Ward as a fire engine. TBWA did it first. BBH is not the only international agency to get it wrong because of a poor understanding of India. and. decided to buy the Indian partners out completely. Subhash and Partha we feel exceptionally confident about our prospects. finally. It’s a very exciting time for us. And in finding Priti. Priti Nair left in a huff (obviously out-voted by the other two. I would argue that had BBH India been launched with any one of the original three managing partners as the sole managing director – any one – they would be doing better today. That’s a wobbly stool. They seemed to be doing it sensibly. and then along came Raj Kamble. So now we have Russell Barrett who becomes the managing partner to replace managing partner Raj Kamble who replaced the managing partner Priti Nair.” Sherwood used the word ‘group’ and spoke about ‘all three’. I now believe we can better support our global clients and more effectively compete as a future facing creative business. Think Indian – and make one of the partners God and the rest will follow. 26 . it was the BBH model that mattered – not the India one. BBH India is still young. was crisis management. when they bought out their Indian partners from TBWA\Anthem and made the agency 100% Omnicom-owned.

for example. For network agencies looking at opportunities in India. JWT has done a terrific job with Encompass. One fine morning. and has been painfully building their way back. Take the cue from Publicis Groupe. Great news for the Indian partners – it was like selling a car on an as-is-whereis condition. Even in India.What they did wrong was to ask the Indian partners to exit immediately on signing an agreement – there was no earn out over a period. couldn’t quite deal with the clash of cultures between themselves and Rams. Another big issue is handling the merger of two entities – especially in the area of alignment of cultures. George John was a brand. retain the Indian brands you may take over – whether it’s the people brands or the agency brands – till such time as the mother brand is established. There are lessons to learn here. with. Kurien Mathews was a brand. for example. it was run by a new set. There was no continuity to the relationships that had been forged with existing clients – and TBWA was not yet a brand in India. which allowed BBH to be BBH – their involvement in the credentials slide was a mention in the ownership. you had the company run by one set of people. TBWA was not. Grey. and the next morning. Publicis Ambience and Publicis Capital. When you take over an Indian agency. while they’ve got many things not quite right. ensure that you leverage the 27 . John and Mathews won businesses and had built a team with people who understand them and the Anthem culture– and they were the people clients turned to when they were happy or unhappy. The result is that TBWA India lost people and clients in a rash. The difference in success lies in the amount of time and effort taken in understanding the culture in the target company and in assessing how different from your own company it is – and then taking a call on whether or not the marriage will work. TBWA forgot about the people-centricity in the way the Indian advertising business runs. they’ve got it right with the continuity of name.

The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 equity of the Indian brand. repeatedly to build the stool. Omnicom is sniffing around for a creative agency. Otherwise. Rather than look around for three legs and then build the stool. All that Wieden has needed to do is to use some Mansion Polish every now and then. In contrast. but Sunil thinks it is “deadly”. I can assure you that it is millions of dollars cheaper. By the time ‘A’ was bought by Wieden. “The name ‘A’ does sound unusual. “‘A’ is the first letter of the English alphabet and ‘A’ also stands for ‘art’. Mohit and Sunil were not two legs of the stool. having to go back and build a new one. Their hunt ended when they came across ‘A’. and decided to change the legs. Omnicom. joined Sunil as a partner at ‘A’ in 2003. and ensure that the pay-out to them is linked to the revenues post the take-over and linked to retention of key clients. with at least one conversation nearing due diligence levels. Learn from Wieden +Kennedy. They didn’t pick up the first stool in the first store that they walked into. India is happy hunting ground for all the major networks – they’re almost walking around with their chequebooks in their hands. they looked around for the stool. keep it as it is. They should have both adopted the Wieden strategy – find the stool that suited you most. TBWA had a stool. the Indian promoters will be laughing all the way to the bank and you’ll be left holding a pup. They looked around for a stool which was like the stools they already had. BBH tried. they looked around for a stool that they knew would be comfortable. Mohit Jayal. who got the answer perfectly. ‘architecture’ … all the creative things…. As I write this. the managing director of Wieden+Kennedy Delhi. WPP and Dentsu are all evaluating digital shops. they looked for the stool that suited them the best. ‘A’ was started by ex O&M hand V Sunil in 2003. comfortable and stable. Publicis India and Saatchi and Saatchi are in conversations with Indian independents.” afaqs had reported in 2003. 28 . lock in the existing owners for a minimum of three years. IPG. they were the stool: solid.

then it is not impossible. who are the buyers and sellers in this marketplace? All the majors who are in India — WPP.” Dentsu has obviously been an option that ticked the right boxes. We have never made a single contact from our side looking for this kind of partnership. Grey. Omnicom. WPP (owner of O&M. it is only civil to not say no. And if they’re the prospective husbands. big.A big. But if there are options that make us deliver better. IPG. Publicis and Dentsu. it’s an unusual situation – there’s a shortage of brides. which help our employees benefit and no one ends up feeling exploited. We don’t need as rumours grew that Dentsu was close to clinching the deal with Taproot India. not personally or the agency…. Add to the shortage is the fact that the brides are in the position to decide on who they want to marry – and can command a dowry. are looking around for possible relationships. Taproot and its clients. Forget the Indianness and you buy into nothing. Going beyond Taproot and Dentsu. then it is fair to explore it. JWT. A month before the deal. faster and more to our clients. Contract. The important thing is that we do not ‘need to’ sell. If it works mutually for all parties. word of warning: retain the good of the Indian agency – because that is what will deliver profits – the very reason you’re buying the agency in the first place. If anyone wants to have a chat. a share in Rediffusion 29 . I had asked Taproot’s Agnello Dias if Taproot was open to an investment by a network agency. who closed the first of the deals. “Never say never. Group M. Let’s take a look at the demand –supply situation. Bates. Who can you buy –and why would they sell? I explored these questions at Firstpost.

launched by Praveen Kenneth. Berkshire Insurance. Kaya. Publicis India. there’s Creativeland Asia. they handle Reliance Capital. Zenith Optimedia. All these agencies have proven that they’ve got what it takes. Vivel. What’s there to buy or invest in? Who are the agencies the prospective buyers are talking to – or should be talking to? There’s Metal Communications. launched by Sanjit Shastri. part of Airtel. McCann. The rest are. Appy. launched by Narayan Kumar and Probir Dutt. launched by Sajan Raj Kurup. a late entrant into India. (Kurien Mathews joined shortly after launch as CEO). Renault. is in the hunt. Platinum. launched by Mahesh Chauhan and Beehive. Publicis (owner of Saatchi & Saatchi. launched by Vivek Suchanti. there’s Law & Kenneth. Each has at least one major client relationship that demonstrates reliance and trust. are the least in need – and.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Y&R. are not active suitors. there’s Happy. wants to grow in size and spread geographically. made up for the delay in their India entry with the 100% takeover of TBWA. thanks to their solidity in India. Audi. Lodestar. Manish Bhatt and Raghu Bhat. draftFCB. etc) are in no great hurry and would buy only an agency with an extraordinary track record and potential. Publicis India and Publicis Capital. a share in BBH). Publicis Ambience. Starcom. there’s Salt. Leo Burnett. WPP and IPG. They’re hungry. under Rohit Ohri. FlipKart. 30 . etc) and IPG (owner of Lowe. to name a few. their increased stake in RK Swamy BBDO and the launch of BBDO India. therefore. Myntra. Omnicom. part of Hero Honda. they want to increase market-share faster than organic growth will allow them. Scarecrow. launched by Kartik Iyer and Praveen Das. thanks to disappointing performances from Saatchi & Saatchi. Dentsu. Between them. Malaysia Tourism. their stake in DDB Mudra.

there’s a degree of overlap. and a lot of it retained year after year after year. It was more about what was there to be discovered out there that drove me. “We live in the age of enterprise in India. The question. the fear that soon I may become obsolete still drives me to keep creativeland in a constant state of beta. Why did they decide to turn independent – and what will make them sell all or part of their company to a network? There are myriad reasons – seemingly different – but some of them are not quite unique. Kurien Mathews joined Metal as a journey in ‘discovery’. especially in a dynamic fast changing environment we were in then and are now. To Mahesh Chauhan. processes. brands.” says Sajan Raj Kurup of Creativeland Asia of his decision to launch his own firm. The rigidity and the inertia of network-run agencies to evolve. It is the best you can get in every sense – respect. were you happy being just a CEO when you were at your prime in the golden era of Indian economy?”. In sum. recognition. a good cocktail to turn entrepreneur. “Having been a cofounder of Anthem at age 25. to be relevant and to stay contemporary drove me to start on my own. “Dad. awards. there was too much to lose by not going independent. “I always wanted to run my own business. So the intent was always there.” he says. results. My belief that advertising the way we knew it is dead certainly made me get out of my comfortable job. kept nagging me. I am fundamentally a very independent person with strong POVs. at 44 the entrepreneur in me pushed to continue to seek entrepreneurial opportunities and explore the world beyond narrow confines of a traditional advertising agency – the only system I had been part of for the entire length of my career The Omnicom/ TBWA system had nothing lacking really. 31 . It bothered me to think about what my kids would ask me once they grew up. etc. And.” he says.That’s an amazing client roster – all won by proof of ability.

A non-political atmosphere. Performance based compensation.” says Metal’s Mathews. “We have a workplace wish list. One of the upsides is that if there is call to be taken on working on a particular business versus creative integrity. A desire to surround ourselves with people we like and trust. And most importantly it is a very good way of protecting the long term interest of the people who put their faith in you when you started out. If these agencies began with dreams. All this looked more feasible in our own agency. You get greater access to tools.” says Mathews. they’ve been realized. “One simple downside is that you will not having any readymade globallyaligned business falling into your lap. It is an opportunity to preserve the legacy built since starting up.” were their reasons. So what would make these entrepreneurs go back to a life they walked out of? “The biggest upside of being part of a large network is the financial security a large organization provides – which is a safety net when times are bad.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 What drove Kartik Iyer and Praveen Das to start their own agency. To Manish Bhatt.” they say. in favour of the networks. the desire to create a model agency built on the magical values of certain globally acclaimed independent agencies that went on to change advertising forever and the confidence of knowing that everything we would gain or lose would lie in our own hands. but in my experience so does a good network like TBWA\ also give you immense freedom. when the future was still fuzzy and uncertain. processes. 32 . Raghu Bhatt and Vivek Suchanti. it provides a wider canvas. clients.” Agnello Dias says. That cushion is not available to an independent. ideas and people. Freedom to creatively experiment. that call can be far more honest. For one. Being independent gives you greater freedom. Happy? “It was the lack of clarity in an immediate growth plan (in their jobs at network agencies). “The reasons to consider network alliance partners are many. the need to create a platform to flex all of one’s capabilities. freedom was the driver.

” “The upside is the freedom. I am here because I believe in the business of creativity.Kartik Iyer of Happy equivocally states they will not sell to a network agency. Obviously we will be bringing in strategic investments to grow us globally. collaborations. I don’t see it making any business sense since most networks are doing nothing but aggregating resources in the market to consolidate their overall offering. That is the mantra in today’s times. of winning against bigger players.” Raj Kurup is open to relationships – but not with advertising agencies. “We will always be open to partnerships. when you have clients investing and believing in you. Creating an independent that can challenge the norms of a network agency and selling it back to a network agency kind of defeats the purpose. fun and unexpected. of really testing your mettle 33 . “Creativeland is too large an idea to sell out as an advertising agency. So. the joy of seeing an enterprise grow from ground up. will be paramount considerations in any sale. my approach is go slow and build brick-by-brick.” he says. Also this (business) is for the long run. Of building a culture. but not through an advertising network. you don’t really need to complicate your life with a network. but acknowledges the times we live in. “We don’t see ourselves selling to a network agency. We would like Happy to stay nimble. obviously their priority won’t be to grow brand Creativeland. but. So. the cultural fit and the protection of his team. I don’t think they can afford our ambition. We have crossed-over from being an advertising agency to an integrated creative solutions/content creator. Besides. It would be to strategically place us as a second or third agency in the market. obviously my ambition is not to sell in the first place. Mahesh Chauhan loves the freedom. And I am not here to make a quick buck. he has underlined. So. Even if I had to consider. Sanjit Shastri and I have had any number of conversations over the past couple of years on his desire to bring in a network partner to catalyze Beehive’s geographic ambitions.

but still. What will worry the networks is that even those who are open to deals with network agencies have no real need for them – which will make these indys expensive buys.all are real issues.” he says.” he says. “Dealing with the Indian (non) work ethic and fighting the perception of being small or available for cheap are battles. “Longer hours. Of being invited for pitches. But I will say that one of the agencies mentioned above is no longer available for sale. losing out on some big clients.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 without the halo of a network. worth it. Kartik Iyer speaks of the two important downsides Indys face. Except for Happy and Creativeland Asia.” says Scarecrow’s Bhatt. inability to invest significantly. of forcing your way into some and winning them. I have been clear that this book would have no gossip. but not yet signed sealed and delivered. all the independents seem clearly open to selling all or part of their company to network agencies. the fight to attract top talent. Expensive. The deal is done. 34 . there’s need for a couple of asides. and it won’t. But before I get to the next chapter. it seems. of the experience of being independent.

So why am I so interested in Vivek Suchanti? It’s because of what he has been doing in the past few years – funding new agencies. we had Adfactors. Pressman. The professionals get to take home a decent salary which allows them to maintain lifestyles similar to the ones they led when employed in their previous agencies. managed to do very much beyond advertising which focused on the public issues. rights issues. The model that he’s created is refreshingly simple. including Concept. In fact. Concept Communications has become the majority owner in Scarecrow. This was an era which saw many such agencies spout. to name a few. Clea.If there’s one person I’m going to keep a close eye on over the next few years. Raghu Bhat. who established Concept Communications. Suchanti is the majority owner – including the majority owner of the brand. it’s Vivek Suchanti. In the past few years. including working capital. as a consequence. Eleven Brandworks and ITSA Brand Innovations. The professionals get a stake in the business. Suchanti makes all the required investments. most lost their way in advertising and PR became the mainstay. Vivek is the son of Nirmal Suchanti. Take a look at the talent which comes with these investments by Concept: Manish Bhatt. an advertising agency that specialized in financial services ads and PR for companies going in for IPO issues in the heady days of the 1990s. None of them. Joy Sengupta. 35 . He finds talented professionals in advertising and funds and partners them. and so on.

Concept and Zzebra. who know each other. What Suchanti is doing is to create a small WPP on his own. He’s looking at numbers two and three in well-run agencies – the guys who are unlikely to make it to number one. lose enthusiasm when contemplating the rest of the careers as employees. After all. ITSA and Eleven Brandworks. not Suchanti the investorpromoter. are the professional promoters. low rent properties or in preoperties owned by Suchanti. All the agencies that have been promoted by Suchanti are happy to work on projects. He gets people who have worked together. they hit the ground running. are housed in old. No wasting time on acquiring agencies. Adequate budgets are provided to make the offices look aesthetic and cool. if there is no business. who are aligned to each other. the big losers. Suchanti is investing directly in the people with talent. on valuations. Anirban Mozumdar. Puneet Kapoor and Prateek Bhardwaj. largely. etc. ‘can we ensure this month’s revenue is more than this month’s cost?’ Looking at the mix of professionals he’s decided to invest in. deliver quickly. 36 . The offices of these agencies. When they join hands with him. are cost-effective. Daniel Upputuru. there seems to be an obvious method to his’s more along the lines of. on due diligence. each time. There is no pressure from Suchanti on new business. The other common thread – he’s getting entire teams at one go. Concept Communications is now a holding company.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Emmanuel Upputuru. on ratios. and three communications companies. Scarecrow. and. the major worry when you acquire an agency. Their business plan does not depend on retainers -. owning to PR businesses. consequently.

attracts at least 5 more prospective entrepreneur teams and c) Suchanti’s model is copied by someone else. I wouldn’t be surprised if a) Concept Communications (including all these new agencies) is either invested in by. as it becomes known. What this means to big agencies is simple: keep a close watch on your numbers two and three in the creative departments. a network agency in the next few years b) Suchanti’s model.He’s already built a small empire – and it’s been a hell of a lot cheaper than the network agency route of buying entire agencies or hiring teams at exorbitant prices. or sold to. 37 .

this is what comes quickly to mind: 1. but much greater when it comes to the toal package. The inflight magazine.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 The second aside is a deeper look at what Wieden+ Kennedy is doing in India. When I think of Wieden+Kennedy. Earlier this year. The airline code for IndiGo. Their commercials for IndiGo (admittedly. Just short when it comes to actual cash investment. they announced a plan to curate/mentor/support/invest in what they call ‘creative entrepreneurs’. 6E 5. The magazine W+K India produces. mentoring by experts in the domain. W+K will also take a stake in the business. up to 20 per cent. Unlike Suchanti. I like the first one much more than the second) 2. The edition of Design Indaba that focused on India . The line “On time is a wonderful thing 8. The packaging of their inflight food 7. The hair-styles and uniforms of the air hostesses 4. Repeated announcements by their pilots of ‘an on time take-off’ and an ‘on time-landing 9. access to the contacts of W+K India. In addition. What these creative entrepreneurs will get is help with infrastructure. W+K is not interested in advertising – their focus will be on design and art. also 6E 6. The livery of Indigo aircraft 3. Wieden+ Kennedy India is doing something just short of a Suchanti. Motherland 10. where all content and design were executed by W+K India 38 .

Art exhibitions (with wine and cheese. a concentrated area where people with largely common aspirations and skills rub shoulders with each other. That’s what W+K is investing in – design. What W+K is doing is to create their own little Silicon Valley . more expert-like and less agency-like. getting the richer for the conversations one overhears and work one sees and talks about over coffees and teas and cigarettes. thanks to GM’s procurement policy). has already needed often and will need often. the agency. I like. of course) at their office 12. (They resigned the General Motors account over differences in remuneration. This is a concerted move to move up the value chain. A lot is aesthetics. 39 . It makes W+K more consultant-like. A lot is art. The wonderful art of their Royal Enfield print ads How much of this is advertising? Not much. have skills that Wieden + Kennedy. art and aesthetics. it is apparent.11. A lot in this list is design. All the entrepreneurs. The move also underlines W+K India’s attempt to get out of the lowpriced advertising business.

non-people costs would this new account cost the agency? 40 . It was just a number that made both sides feel good about. A little less doesn’t work? Ok. all the focus was on the magic number – the number you could extract from the client. divvied that by 12. that’s as current as the dodo. we’ll lower it more. hey presto. And more. It was an era of simplicity.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 The business model for advertising agencies has changed forever. at the cost of all the other agencies – that if they could figure out the magic number that a particular brand paid their agency. pure. used as they were to the old model. You agreed on a number which had no basis for existence. tried to navigate their way through the retainer model. the number was negotiated up or down and you shook hands. Because in the simplicity of the new ‘model’. There were no calculations to be done. all they had to do was to find a way to connect to the client and offer him their services for less. and. There was little time spent on understanding how much it would cost the agency to service the account. too. that was the targeted retainer fee. That worked till about 2005 as marketers. It took a little while for agencies to learn – all the agencies. Forget the 15 percent. laughable simplicity. Agencies tried to make an assessment of how much money they would have made in the 15 percent agency commission model per annum. one party in the proposed relationship threw a number. For the first few years of the new regime – a negotiated retainer – the model was as dumb as it gets. The toothpaste is out of the tube and you cannot put it back. What were the human resources needed to deliver to the client? What would these human resources cost? What about the infrastructure—how much of the fixed.

I’ve arrived at a number. It costs. 25 lakh and Rs. Put differently. that it makes poor business sense to carry on handling the account.000 per person. Which is why clients get away with lower and lower retainers. would cost between Rs. in general. 45. How many truly understand the math? How many have the patience with the math? Network agencies do. Agency heads will have to understand math. without salaries. will have to understand cost. and Bangalore cheaper still – but only as far as the rent is concerned. Most of the others do not. If they fail in this area. 45 lakh. to run an office with 100 people in Mumbai. The result – the quality of work. anything between Rs. in Mumbai. The understanding of these numbers also helps you understand the profitability of different groups in the agency. they will fail to remain either competitive or profitable or both. Delhi (and Gurgaon) is slightly cheaper. Lower and lower retainers that make it unviable for agencies to hire good talent. takes a nosedive.000 to Rs.Over many conversations. 41 . There is no choice. It’s when you truly understand and internalise these numbers. you might discover that the account that makes you proud of having on your credentials slide is actually the one that is a drain on the agency. As long as the majority of agencies do not get this. the entire ecosystem is under threat. 25.

So it is with advertising. insurance. branded jewellery. Consider brands that are handled.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 The problem caused by cost Imagine a factory built in the 1950s to manufacture cars. two-wheelers. Simply put. FMCG majors. Behemoths like JWT. Ogilvy and Lowe. and the newer one on current realities. and newer agencies like Taproot and Creativeland Asia. for example. Cost is a big elephant – an elephant that threatens all the older agencies. Cars. It’s a long list. for example. telecom services. Imagine a factory built in 2012 to manufacture cars. telecom hardware. The earlier factory was built on a foundation of manufacturing and other processes of the past. airlines. The 1950 factory will never be competitive in a fight with the 2012 one. the newer agencies will be able to offer like-for-like services which are much lower than the network agencies and still make a profit – a healthy one. leading real estate companies. are built on the new ones. That’s because their cost structure is completely different from the older agencies’. leading banks. There are hard questions that the older agencies need to ask (and for the new agencies as well. Many of these decisions to work with new smaller companies are based on cost. every one of these categories sees new kids on the block wresting the business away from the network agencies. are built on old processes and premises. the older agencies will have to stare hard at costs to stay competitive and viable. All of them. today. In a head-on competition. by agencies that did not exist a decade ago. if they haven’t bothered to while riding the wave): 42 . and I’ll save some words – and focus on categories.

Is all the travel made necessary? 10. How many do we need in each discipline? 5. How many people do we need? 2. the more sensible thing to do is to stop and ask: How? Why? 43 . How many do we have? 3. Are we making the best use of technology? 15. What is the measurable productivity of each person? 4. How many are future ready? 7. Who is adding value to the agency brand? 9. Is the expense on award entries justified? 12. How many do we have? 6. Is there wastage in the agency? Where and how much? The reason these answer are required is so that you can find a way to be a) Financially competitive and viable b) Creatively competitive and viable The next time a large agency scoffs at say. Are the entertainment bills justified? 11. Can someone be replaced by someone else (with equal abilities) at lower cost? 8.1. Is there corruption in the agency? Where and how much? 16. How much time is spent on meetings and non-core activities? 14. Are we leveraging our people assets well? 13. a Law & Kenneth or a Beehive Communications winning an account that they pitched for at a much lower fee than you wanted.

for Metal Communications office. for Creativeland Asia’s office. There’s no overlap in responsibilities at the top. I’ve known Kenneth to take a year to fill an identified. even as partner Praveen Das is content keeping a low profile. I’m not kidding. For example. not legacy-focused and ego-focused. someone doubles up. With the division of labour comes another great small agency trait: the lack of ego. internal meetings. In the new set-ups. For them (all the newer agencies). It’s the confidence and trust that allows Karthik Iyer of Happy to be the ‘face’ of the agency. It’s astonishing how much of a difference ego can make to cost. the address of the office is not important.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 It’s because the newer agency heads and owners are cost-focused. large. working harder). it’s rare to see more than one senior person attend critical meetings – because they’re not felt necessary. Quick conversations are the rule. they want to know why. then it’s back to your job. There’s another thing smaller agencies get right: division of labour. For example. for Scarecrow’s office. There’s less time wasted on unproductive. Before you dismiss these names. it’s common to see one 44 . They spend time on all that would affect bottom-line and top-line. Praveen Kenneth of Law & Kenneth and Sanjit Shastri of Beehive almost obsess about cost. I’ve had to search for Happy Communications office in Bangalore. let me shock you with this one: Beehive’s revenues are more than TBWA India and Saatchi and Saatchi India put together. required position (till then. so each one at the top is able to devote the maximum amount of time to his or her area of expertise. When it comes to junkets like Cannes. for Origin Beanstalk’s office. Yup. Can the same objective not be met by a conference call? A Skype call? Can the meeting be clubbed with another one that is due in the same city? Is an overnight stay necessary – can’t one take a red-eye out and a late night flight back? The newer agencies spend all the time in the world before hiring. focusing on work. If someone says they need to travel.

ego is a waste and cannot be tolerated. first to Asia Pac heads and then to global heads. In many network agencies. No one from Beehive or Metal has ever been to Cannes – and they still handle large brands such as Malaysia Tourism or Platinum Guild.partner going and the other or others not. bearing cost in mind. who spend ridiculous amounts of time trying to manage these insecurities. It all comes down to the need to ‘control’ an account. The new agencies are clear that there is a cost to ego – and therefore. 45 . the duplications begin because of control-related insecurities – and these cause a chain of problems which go all the way up.

two creatives. but I have a theory on that makes him tick. Manish Bhatt and Raghu Bhat. Who should be in control? Obviously. So it has been in India – to a large extent. Ravi Deshpande heads Contract. Madhukar Kamath heads Mudra. Piyush Pandey is ‘at the top’ of Ogilvy & Mather. “How can we not have a creative person at the top of a creative business?” Sir John Hegarty asked recently at the IPA conference. Satbir Singh heads Havas. Rohit Ohri heads Dentsu. Narayan Kumar started Metal Communications (Kurien Mathews bought into the agency later) Priti Nair has her Currynation. The answer.Balki heads Lowe. the brothers Swamy head RK Swamy BBDO. Prasoon Joshi heads McCann. 46 . it’s a no-brainer. like Ajai Jhala and Josy Paul. cool agencies launched and run by suits? There’s Mahesh Chauhan’s Salt. Arvind Sharma heads Leo Burnett. and I’ll come back to that later. Publicis Capital and Publicis Ambience. Nakul Chopra heads Publicis India. Creativeland Asia. Take a look at all the newer agencies. launched Scarecrow. Karthik Iyer and Praveen Das gave birth to Happy. someone has to. MG ‘Ambi’ Parameswarn heads DraftFCB. Then we come to the suit-led agencies. Where are the vibrant. is the creative person. To some. sexy.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 That brings us to the million dollar question – and to a new elephant. Agnello Dias and Sanjith Padhi started taproot. Partha Sinha and Russell Barrett head BBH India. Sajan Raj Kurup’s running his country. notwithstanding the fact that Rane is there. increasingly. Shiv Sethuraman heads TBWA. the trio of Subhash Kamath. Then you have the comboleaderships. R.

then executive director of Bennett. Don’t just take my word for it. not to the bigger designation on the business card.There’s a lesson in this – that the business will be run by creatives. And it’s the creatives who will keep winning businesses. that’s where the maximum time is spent – in recruiting. accounts. finance. etc. I need to go back to 1997. of course. the creatives and the planners are the business. everyone else plays a supporting role. were all support functions. not the suits and brand names. when I was working in Times of India. In the new Indian construct. not suits. they focus on the heart of the business. Coleman & Company. administration. Learn from the newer agencies. reported to Arun Arora. in motivating. He taught me an important. monetising the content that is created). Go back to what Sir John Hegarty said: “How can we not have a creative person at the top of a creative business?” How on earth? That’s why we will see so much change in India in the next few years. With the new paradigm (compared with a decade ago). Just as Arun Arora did. in retaining. To him. their job was to enable the content-creators to do their jobs efficiently. unforgettable lesson: that the business of the building was the creation of content (and. the client gives his business to the solution-provider. Look at what they do. We will see more of the existing agencies run by creatives – and we will see more new agencies being launched by disgruntled or underpaid (or both) creatives. To transfer that lesson to advertising. 47 . That brings me to another elephant – the creative as a manager. creatives are mandatory attendees at all important meetings.

of administration. we saw the face and image of the agency change. While Kapur pushed himself. managing a business and managing money. the status quo remains at JWT. they will have to gain more than a rudimentary understanding of accounts. Not just Ogilvy – it was Piyush Pandey who had become the God of Advertising Things. he or she reported to a suit. during that time. While he was clearly the head of Ogilvy in India. more and more into the shadows and pushed Pandey more into the sunlight. of finance. During Kapur’s years. While JWT (then HTA) had built a redoubtable reputation for their planning. a number of agencies have suits as CEOs ONLY because the creatives fail at what are hygiene skill sets for managers]. and didn’t know much about. Mehta held on till he sold his stake in Lintas to Lowe. his contemporaries at the two largest competitors of the time. Prem Mehta at Lintas and Mike Khanna (and later Colvyn Harris) at HTA (to become JWT later). however talented and however critical to the business a creative was. by the late 1990s. failed to notice what Kapur was up to – and why he was up to whatever they were up to. 48 . of taxation. occupied the number one creative agency spot in India.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 The very reason that suits ran most of the agencies in India till the late 1990s was due to a simple fact: the creatives didn’t care about. however painful it may be. was the magician – and the answer was. As a result. It suited both well. and Ogilvy has. in the agency system. without a doubt. Ogilvy was transformed into the most creative agency in the country as far as popular perception was concerned. Ranjan Kapur perhaps saw this trend coming before anyone else. [Creatives who aspire to head agencies must learn that. Currently. till clients latched on to who. ‘the creative’. he saw the opportunity in leveraging the growing reputation and charisma of Piyush Pandey. cleverly.

and so on. For a moment. while Chauhan calls himself and sees himself as a suit.Kapur. In hindsight. to buck the trend and allow and encourage a creative to become the face of the agency. But that was a small price to pay – the success of the agency. for the agency to be run by a creative. JWT is still run by a suit. defeating my entire premise? Because. saw the future and bet on it. Today. some of the most memorable advertising work in the past two decades have been on brands handled by Ogilvy – Cadbury. In Rane’s case. Why is Salt doing well. where the creative is the face of the agency. it sends a signal that the ‘environment’ will be more creative-friendly. Mahesh Chauhan. which is a new agency headed by a suit. I would argue. while he looks after the mundane essential tasks such as finance. all the avatars of what is now Vodafone. Fevicol. let me get back to Salt. whether you like it or not. But make no mistake about it – the suit-led and the suit-as-the-face agency is a creature of the past. at that time. his clients and his creative colleagues 49 . It could not have been easy. It makes it easier to recruit and retain creative talent for the creative-led agency than for the suit-led one. The foremost is that when it is apparent that a creative runs the agency. It’s important. accounting and general administration. as far as Kapur’s boss Sir Martin Sorrell was concerned. It’s not that the only solution is to insist that a creative heads the agency. by Balki. and is not just the head of the creative department. All these resulted in glory for Pandey and a small amount of reflected glory for Kapur. for many reasons. he has defined his job as one that will ensure that the environment allows Piyush and his team to focus on the creative product. Lowe is run. It could be in the form of the Piyush-Rane partnership (which was defined by Kapur’s formula). was due to Kapur.

So will the businesses. I told you. A few days ago. It has always been so. to paraphrase Drucker. in this business. [As Peter Drucker said. business became not-personal. Take a look around you – at all the agencies headed by suits – and at all the agencies headed by creatives. you create communication. but it has to be dealt with. 50 . Look at who is struggling. Then. people make shoes. not shoes. It’s personal. Chew on that. It’s not going to be easy. The creatives must be the faces of the agencies – otherwise the creatives will begin leaving. Until we tried to forget it and concentrated on making money. As Sir Hegarty said. not money. I’ll repeat. And. wrote in his blog: “Business is personal. for a short while. it’s an elephant in the room.” In India. Look at who is winning. sooner rather than later. the entire advertising industry is about relationships. It’s about relationships. JP Rangaswami. It’s not a surprise. as many have sadly learned. my brother. “How can we not have a creative person at the top of a creative business?” It’s time for the suits to actively push their creative heads forward and actively recede into the backgrounds.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 see him as a creative. not money].

The problem is. you get a still better driver. Pay even more. even a sales executive’s job in a pharma company pays better.Here’s the big. though. Who spots the talent? Who is qualified to spot talent? How many agencies have an HR department which does anything more than work out salary packages. Advertising is a ‘cool’ industry that many hundreds of thousands would like to be a part of – till they learn of the remuneration. Pay more. fat elephant in the room: Talent. So advertising chooses from the dregs. agencies are absolute rubbish. issue appointment letters and accept resignation letters? How many have professionals who are truly qualified (by education) to handle the HR function? Where there is an HR department. the industry is absurdly short-sighted and negligent when it comes to looking for a solution. That’s where the problem begins. you get a better driver. This is an unusual elephant. shit.3000 for a driver. about the ‘kind’ of people who would fit in? For the amount of noise and chatter we hear about talent (the shortage of it. that is). and you want to pay Rs. In a country like India. how many in the department have a sense of what the industry is about. in that everyone knows it’s there and everyone’s talking about it. even in the big. Insurance pays more. fat. You’ve got a great car. 51 . banking pays more. profitable. The entry level salaries. And here’s my little thought on the matter: there is no dearth of talent in the country – it’s just that no one wants to pay for the talent. of course you’ll get a driver – you’ll get a shitty driver. Which brings one to the next issue on talent. they’ve been talking about it for the past decade – and nothing is being done about it.

and a few quick mundane questions (why did you leave company ABC? Why do you want to join us? Why did you want to get into advertising?). A cursory glance at the qualifications as seen in the resume confirms the educational background and previous experience if any. the music they listen to. Joining dates are discussed (can you join next Monday?). the books they read. Recruitment has become transactional. If the numbers are in the ball-park. Not much time is spent understanding the aspects of the candidate which do not find their way into the resume – family background. friend’s friend. and so on).The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 a) Most have no HR function to speak of b) Most pay poorly at entry levels (in comparison to other industries) c) Most invest little or nothing in training d) Most have no measurable appraisal system e) Most don’t have visible and transparent organisational structures f) Most don’t conduct actionable exit interviews Things have been made worse by recent policies by many Indian agencies to cut costs in recruitment by not using consultants. The result? Poor quality of resumes to choose from (colleague’s friend. would give recruiters a sense of the extent of alignment the candidate would have vis-à-vis the company. expected) salary. classmate. A deal is done. the media they consume. never listed on a resume. sister. Move on from the quick glance at the resume. you move to last-drawn (or in the case of freshers. Sadly. That’s the essence: a deal is done. If these numbers don’t match. Then we come to the interview process. the length of interviews is becoming shorter and shorter. friend’s brother. except for CXO level hirings. the interview is over. All of these. and so on. 52 . a hurried negotiation follows.

most do not even attempt to evaluate the existing people in the company. When they are treated as commodities.There is no discussion on the career path of the candidate. Did you need them? Do you need them? Most importantly. as with other commodities. on what makes the company different from others. 53 . the time available to understand the consumer’s movements is next to nothing. Even more frightening. There is no emotional connect with the company – which is why people find it so easy to leave jobs for others. It’s a job. there is no conversation on what the company stands for. I struggle to keep apace with the changes in technology which offer new ways for the consumer to consume communication. Just hire them. on the value systems. As a media watcher. Candidates join companies knowing little or nothing of the company. How many people are there in the agency? How many are required? Do you have too many or two few? These answers are possible to find only if you have done an analysis of the quantity and quality of talent that is required. So much for the recruitment process. how ready is your team for the demands of the future? Do they get digital? Do they understand that print is on the way out? Do they understand convergence? Do they understand activation? Do they understand collaboration? Most agencies would not even have a process to find the answers to such questions – and the answers are needed urgently. In the heady days leading up to 2008. For those in the advertising business. Except for a handful of agencies. which requires them to work 9 to 6 (or whatever) and results in their getting a salary at the end of the month. it’s the highest paymaster they choose in the end. agencies hired anybody ‘good’.

The majority of agencies do not have training programs. do not actively encourage employees to attend even unpaid workshops. then. 54 . no budgets for employees to attend paid-for workshops. becomes an integral part of an agency’s needs. It’s no surprise then.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Training.. that a lot of young talent .and a lot of business which should have come to the traditional agency – migrate to digital.

Many of the players in India have their roots in advertising – and they 55 . I wouldn’t be too bothered about the digital agencies. Whether it’s print or radio or outdoor or TV or digital. In the long run. is to understand the medium. what advertising agencies have failed. What digital has been successfully able to do is to sell their understanding of the medium as ideas and as understanding of communication. they have ridiculously high head-counts and. Before I go on. even as they make money (in some cases. they know how search works. I mean the majority in any of these cool. It’s simplistic to think of the digital agencies as just that. they haven’t defined their purpose well enough. When I say ‘they’. small fortunes) from the same people who you make money from. not the ones that provide tech solutions. A big. they (the majority. to do. they’re familiar will all operating systems. First. a caveat: I speak of the digital agencies that provide creative solutions. largely. There are a number of reasons I say so. Digital. they’re winning. what will attract the attention of consumers are ideas. They know how websites work. So now it’s a frantic race: will the digital agencies understand how to ideate and understand brands and consumers before the advertising agencies learn to understand the digital medium. idea-centric digital shops who work for your clients. they’re familiar with the entire range of hand-held devices. or will it be vice versa? Right now. digital. finally. That’s the expertise of the traditional agency (that’s you). They’re going to find themselves in hot water sooner than they (or you) think. again I generalise) are inefficient in their costs.Digital: another elephant. fat one.

The people they interact with. There are a number of reasons for this. increase and decrease the size of the image on the page. when required (and it is required often) on the next phone they should buy and whether the iPad mini is a good bet. what the client sees is a far more confident executive than your colleague. The difference in confidence is visible in the way they use their iPhones and iPads and Androids. the traditional agency’s concept of ‘digital’ is to adapt a print ad or a few frames of a TVC into a banner. when they meet your client. they can ‘adapt’ the creative for outdoor. their friends and their peers. They are familiar with the hardware – because they own such hardware as natural accessories. 1. And. in a world that is getting increasingly digital. 56 . they can create an electronic direct mailer. increase the volume. Let digital seep into the agency. In most cases. encourage learning.” Digital agencies also know ‘creative’ – which is your domain. They can advise their clients. Train your team. the way they flip the pages. they’re better placed to take your business than you are to take theirs. As a result. 2. live the same lives. largely because they are younger and more natural consumers of the medium. open a new window. Your colleague fails miserably in a like-for-like comparison. Every single operation demonstrates their greater ease.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 understand brands. advertising and digital. They are familiar with the medium. Much of the reason for the success of the digital agencies is their ability to project that they ‘get’ digital. conduct workshops. much as you own a belt or a pair of jeans 3. They can produce a film.

a junior copywriter to buy him or herself an iPad (even the Mini) or a Galaxy is patently unfair – it’ll cost them. For one.Gowthaman of Mindshare) by suggesting that they give interestfree loans to all employees to buy iPads. in the underpaid industry that it currently is. I’ve provoked three agency heads (one of them is R. The solution is that you need to behave younger. sack all those over 35 and hire a new crop to replace them. getting dependent on. except management of cash flow (consequently. what are the advantages. overnight. The traditional agencies need a focused approach to understanding what digital is – the medium. one fine morning. Announce loans for all employees for them to be able to buy tablets and smart phones. more than a month’s salary. but that doesn’t mean I cannot make it again. What are the limitations. To underline why I think this is 57 . How on earth does one do that in a hurry? You cannot. Sadly.And yet. The task is much. what are the disadvantages. none has acted on the suggestion. Do so. communication and consumers. increasingly. For the traditional agency. To expect. I mean. a team that understands brands. for example. What it gets you is an agency which is. The frightening thought is – all that digital agencies need to do is to get their creative team in place. and so on. Over the past year. the need is for it is to understand digital as a medium. the main reason for choosing the digital agency as a partner is lost in this flurry of technology: the ability to communicate to the consumer. the agency needs to get younger. That’s a lot of moolah. Work out the instalments (12 should be easy) and deduct it from their salaries each month. it might cost you some interest). It’ll cost you nothing. full of people who are familiar with the medium the consumer is. much more difficult for the traditional agency.

The digital agency also scores over the traditional agency in one critical area: speed. Do it quickly and ruthlessly. flexible and efficient. nimble. I ask: would you expect a creative who has never watched TV in his life to help create a TV commercial? The important fact to remember is that everyone in the agency needs to be digital. Not BBDO. To your client.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 important. Create a training programme that includes all employees of the agency expect for the pure support functions. And it needs to start now. Proximity. not just a specially-created profit-sucking digital team. they look intelligent. Was 58 . by showing them case studies on why they work and why they’re effective or creative. By whom? Proximity. Here’s a list of things you could do: 1. 2. without it being the primary objective. 3. This needs to be structured and frequent. Unless someone is a brilliantly talented creative. A focus on digital will achieve. Not by sending them links. The idea was presented to Visa by their digital agency. 4. The culture in digital shops is such that they are used to absurdly tight deadlines – and react positively to them. get rid of all who don’t ‘get’ digital. Fund it in the manner I suggested. When was the last time you could use these adjectives to describe a traditional agency? The threat that digital agencies pose to traditional agencies can be best illustrated by the recent Visa campaign (the Kashmiri cycling to a cyber café and using his debit card) by Proximity. Not TBWA India. Find a way for everyone to use digital products and devices. making the agency younger and the salary bill lower. Create a way to evaluate the digital friendliness and digital savviness of each employee. Create a program through which employees are exposed to the very best of digital campaigns. Those are big bonuses. even as TBWA India was the mainline agency.

One. as opposed to paid media? Answers to thse questions will come from understanding media and how each medium operates.” Many of their largest and most visible communication exercises are truly integrated and are truly collaborative efforts. Again. it would have been 59 . and so on. and even. and then came the media independents.000 views on Youtube within a week. “Learn to collaborate. the costs. is that need. It only underlines my premise that all that digital agencies need to do is to get a team that understands brands and communication.the client delighted? Yes. funnily. The reason that I took a leap from BBDO to these two concerns is that BBDO India gets them. are results of partnerships with BBDO. to some extent. when the TVC clocked over 1. in the eyes of the client. While on BBDO. building relationships with the media buying/planning agency. activation companies. GE. once again. an outdoor agency. a media agency. Aviva Life. and why not. digital companies and PR. It is another issue that the final execution had significant contributions from BBDO. has originated the campaign. one campaign. So in the Gillette case. some media products. who. So campaigns for Gillette.000. Creative agencies need to spend time and energy understanding how media fiunctions. One client. so many vendor-partners. I digress and go back to my thoughts on this in January 2011. How can one get a newspaper or a TV channel to partner a communication exercise? What are the innovations possible? What is the possible upside to the brand in terms of earned. to understand media. Then came the delinking of media from advertising agencies. The million-dollar question – who is the custodian of such campaigns? The custodian will be the one. The second is that they need to understand how to collaborate. it’s time to talk about two other areas that advertising agencies need to get their act together on. There was a time when all in advertising knew a lot about media.

Media agencies also get collaboration – perhaps because of the inherent collaborative role that they have played from the time the media 60 . That’s how frightened they are of digital. If digital agencies claimed to understand creative and technology. it must be said) to better understand the medium. Media agencies used their buying clout to forge ‘exclusive’ relationships with small.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 BBDO. ‘work only with us and we’ll ensure that you’re full up with business. They spend more time with suppliers. OMD and Madison began pitching digital ‘creative’ solutions as well. media agencies such as Mindshare. A mid-level executive in most digital agencies will know more about digital (facts. That’s how frightened you should be. talented digital shops along the lines of. penetration. hardware manufacturers. it would have been Proximity. All this billing. media agencies came from a new angle: they understood media and they understood measurement. publishers. measurement companies. What if Proximity – or any other digital agency went to your client and sold the idea to them? Where would you be? Playing second fiddle to a digital agency with your own client… Media agencies have seen the threat from digital much before creative agencies – and geared up to meet them head on. it was a natural learning. racing to be as familiar with it as they were with any other medium. Lodestar. In the Visa case. The most important aspect that media professionals get – which creative agencies still do not – is that digital is where the future is. Maxus. figures. Media agencies ‘get’ digital much better than creative agencies do. For them.’ As a result. etc) than the majority of CEOs of creative agencies. should have been the creative agency’s revenue. Stop there for a moment. They pulled out the stops on understanding digital as a medium. except for the media planning and buying component. Executives attend workshops and seminars (often paid for by publishers. growth.

from a traditional creative agency – the digital division of Ogilvy. tellingly. as a result. The danger is obvious: as ad dollars move. is the lack of interest in knowledge gathering. The book is a compilation of thoughts of 20 professionals. and subsequently recall. and there’s a noticeable absence of ad agency professionals. to the curious digital marketers who buy this book? They are exposed to. No traditional ad agency. many from traditional media agencies – and one. Attend any digital workshop or seminar (any IAMAI event. Who does the marketer call when he has a digital problem? Digital agencies – perhaps even the media agencies – but not you. In many cases. Many are from digital creative agencies. is remembered. the relationship – and the attendant clout – with the media houses passed to the media agencies. even as they chased the creative agencies for betas and artworks.independent agencies were born. while digital (obviously) and media agency professionals take the trouble and the time out (and. So we have both digital and media agencies muscling their way into the traditional agencies’ domain – creative and ideation. then. the names of the writers and the companies they work for. The Curious Digital Marketer. What is disturbing. their wallets as well) to attend. save for Neo@Ogilvy. Media agencies had an additional edge over creative agencies – a day to day interaction with media and a non-stop opportunity to discuss possible clutter-breaking (and I hate the word. digital will be at the heart of marketers expertise as well. And because the creative agencies had no role in media buying. Neo@Ogilvy. the originator of an innovation that consumers see is the media agency and not the creative agency. Media agencies were used to fighting deadlines from media houses. Take a look at afaqs’ publication. 61 . increasingly towards digital. just one. but I’ll say it) innovations. in some cases. as they are. to name one). some from digital media planning and buying agencies. What happens.

tuhe camel says. After a while. No? Here it is. Law & Kenneth Digital and Beehive Communications. can I just keep my head in the tent and keep warm?” In a while. be very curious – and look at the rosters of clients they have. the camel will be in the tent. By now. where are the business cards from creatives from the traditional agencies? A look at the winners list of the Campaign India Digital Media Awards is the last straw on this camel’s back. On a cold night. Digital is the camel. an Arab is sleeping in a tent. They’re Creativeland Asia. except. The camel asks his master. 62 . In some time. Be curious. Learn from three agencies which ‘get’ digital. The creative agency is the Arab.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 The same recall issue comes up when the marketer attends a seminar or workshop on digital. with his camel standing outside. He or she walks around meeting attendees. and the Arab is outside. The next ‘group’ is the traditional media agencies. predictably. “Master. exchanging business cards. are from digital agencies. When he returns to his office. You’ve heard the story of the Arab and the camel. Creative agencies walk away with consolation prizes. The tent is the client. The majority of award winners. can I just poke my nose into the tent to keep warm? The Arab agrees. the entire camel is in the tent. the Arab will be freezing outside. And you. “Master. digital has learnt to get the nose in. get the head in. Creativeland Asia. for. unsurprisingly.

Dead. the simple days. about the Brand Equity Agency Reckoner. the most significant communication exercise of the year was entrusted to Law & Kenneth. They already had two agencies who were contracted to work with them. A decade ago. or how Lowe stacked up? They would have no clue – yet they had to rank them. Those were the days. which was done by Proximity even as (again) TBWA\India was their rostered agency? 63 . a few years ago. that meeting a new agency was a waste of time when you already had a contract with an existing agency – so most clients refused meetings with non-contracted agencies. when clients appointed an agency and the relationship was like a traditional marriage – till death did the relationship part. Most clients thought. We discovered that every respondent was administered the entire questionnaire. That’s adding to your woes of digital and media entering your tent. virtually broke their contract with TBWA\India (which it had become by then) to get Ogilvy to do a film? Or the new Visa debit card film. yet. JWT and draftFCB.The client. how could Finolex (who had been TBWA\Anthem’s client for more than six years then). My immediate thought was. who. clients are willing (happy and willing) to meet anyone they bump into at a party or comes with an introduction from someone else who separates them by a degree or two. Take the case of Hero MotoCorp. the flirt. then. Today. as it was then called. Those days are gone. have a clue as to how Ulka stacked up. For example. he or she was asked to rank a list of his or her perception of creative reputation. wondering a) why we did so poorly in the reckoner and. I had a discussion with my colleagues at TBWA\Anthem. b) how the perception study was conducted. Or take Adidas.

The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016

One of the big reasons clients have begun to flirt it that there is now a culture of working with a number of partners for communication, unlike the case even a decade ago. The client works with a creative agency, a media agency, a PR agency, a digital agency, an event agency, a celebrity management company, a sports marketing company, events rights holders, and so on. The old sanctity of one partner (or a panel of contracted partners) being the only one a client dealt with has been violated and raped. In this construct, you are no longer his sole communications expert, you are one of many – and the client sees no harm in adding another one or two. This new paradigm has a direct negative impact on a critical aspect in your business: the remuneration. Even as recently as a decade ago, the client set aside a certain budget for advertising (which, then, included media costs and the 15 percent agency commission that agencies got, a sum for the anticipated creative charges) and, in some cases, for PR. About 5-6 years ago, when media got delinked from the creative agency, the client set aside a media budget, a budget for the creative agency retainer, a budget for production, and, perhaps, a budget for the PR agency retainer. Then along came digital. Most clients worked this out simply. 1. In the case of media, there was no new allocation to be made; digital media budgets were but a subset of the entire media budget 2. Creative agency fees remained the same 3. The creative fees for the digital agency came from ad hoc allocations, as spends on digital were too small to count But things change when the demands on digital grew, as they have done in the past three years. Clients began interacting as much with digital

agencies as with traditional creative agencies – perhaps more, if measured by time spent. As a result, retainers for digital agencies needed to increase. They have, and part of that increase comes from an increased overall retainer budget – but part of it comes from the traditional agency’s retainer, which has been cut. While traditional agencies see ‘digital’ as a foreign object, clients are seeing it, as should be, as another medium through which to communicate to consumers – and clients see digital agencies as one of their creative solution providers. Because that’s what they are. They’re going to the client, receiving a brief, coming back with options based on the brief – and that’s no different from what you do. Event management companies are doing the same. Sports marketing companies, in some cases, are doing the same. There are just too many entities who are seen by clients as creative solution providers. The more there are, the less the dependence on you, the creative agency. There are another couple of factors that go against you in the clientagency relationship. The first is that, increasingly, the client has crossed over to the marketing business from the agency business, and, as a consequence, knows exactly how agencies function – warts and all. He knows how much time and effort actually go into creating ads. He knows how you over bill. He knows your high margins, especially in the area of production of television commercials. And the way remunerations are going in the agency business, more and more agency professionals will jump over to the client side, making things worse.

The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016

But the bigger worry is not what the client knows of the agency business, but what the client knows, period. The client, because he is responsible for all aspects of communication for his company and not just the traditional agency’s product, is spending time and effort keeping himself abreast of the latest developments in digital, in social media, in open source creativity, in experiential marketing, and so on. For reasons I cannot understand, most agency professionals seem to think that there is no need for them to gain knowledge in the areas that threaten their existence, threaten their revenues.To be able to gain more respect from clients and to have a greater influence on the client, agencies need to redefine what their business is and reorient their talent to this redefinition. It’s not something you can do some day in the future – that’s too late. You need to do it now. Where is this headed?


Since someone has done the hard work and put it beautifully, I won’t reinvent the wheel. Bryan Thomas, President, gyro said this at a discussion, published in Advertising and Marketing review (fascinating details of what Gyro does can be found at Do read the blog; it’s time well spent). “We talked about this fragmentation that exists out there. Clients look for expertise in certain areas depending on the context of the client. If they are a national, global type of client they want the best-in-class -- in this expertise with digital or search, or whatever. The pendulum is starting to move now and they are looking for those that can put it all together and be accountable from a brand standpoint, as well as from a messaging standpoint, ultimately moving the consumer to wherever they want them to go. You have to be very knowledgeable on a lot of different fronts and bring ideas that are not only accountable from a matrix standpoint, but ideas that are inspiring and different.” “You have to be very knowledgeable on a lot of different fronts,” says Thomas. That statement used to hold true in the advertising agency business in the last century, even in India, but, as media got delinked, so did the knowledge of media. As digital was out of the ambit of most agencies, so was knowledge of digital out of the ambit of the agencies. In this new age of fragmentation and true multimedia and 360 degree campaigns, you have to take a fresh look at the knowledge a company needs to be DNA-encoded in it. The knowledge cannot be confined and restricted to a chosen few; the entire agency needs to imbibe the knowledge. Agency executives need to be able to effortlessly relate to the various components of a multimedia

Evaluate every employee and check whether he or she fits the bill. because. If it’s a tough ask.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 campaign. what can be done? It’s a killer – but the only thing to do (and it is truly the only thing to do) is to begin a ruthless purge of those who cannot fit into the new scheme of things and hire those who can. looking around for anyone who can make him happy. If you don’t sort this aspect out. you have to be ‘knowledgeable’. You hired people with skillsets and knowledge and education that helped you keep the costs low and served a minimal purpose. You hired cheap and hired poorly. clients look for ‘expertise’. As Gyro’s Thomas says. they want ‘best-in-class’. for reasons that I highlighted in the chapter on talent and agencies’ lackadaisical attitude to talent. print. You just cannot carry on in the same vein. they need to understand the limitations and advantages of various media – as easily as they understand TV. where he sees best-in-class and who he finds to be knowledgeable. the client will go to where he can find expertise. There will be many who will not fit into the new scheme. Looking at the average profile of the average executive in the average agency. radio and outdoor today. Hold a mirror to your own agency and look at the reflection. 68 . as I said. he’s already a flirt. And he’ll find them. that’s a tough ask.

But after living. the advent of satellite television killed good advertising in Indian languages. In many ways. I expected to find some regional differences in people’s tastes for food or music. a short lesson in media is in order. Nicole Orillac. whether in Kolkata.Winston Churchill “Had I read this quote five months ago.There’s an unusual – and rather large – threat looming large on the horizon. It is no more a single country than the equator’ . It was impossible for upmarket. their accent. Chennai. BBC World and Prime Sports) channels. aided by the advertising agencies. focused on these two languages. Mumbai. local brands. Before I get to the issue. In India. traveling and working in India for exactly that long. Acumen Fund Fellow in India. In the early days. I would have not understood what it meant. like in any other large country as the US or Mexico. In India. rejected the terrestrial fare in their local languages for satellite television. these differences give countries their character and do not have major consequences for business other than the opportunity to bring in some variety to the portfolio of products or services. The upper strata of society. Delhi. Trichy or Dibrugarh. ‘India is merely a geographical expression. however. Languages – and cultural differences. For this reason many authors to talk not about one country but “the many Indias”. etc. to talk to their upmarket audiences. dress code. So a 69 . unless the commercials were made in English or Hindi. regional differences go FAR beyond the ones I just described. I can say that Winston Churchill was exactly right. In my mind. MTV. wrote. you had only Hindi (in the form of Zee TV) and English (STAR Plus. So brands. So it was natural that brands that needed upmarket consumers used the satellite TV route to talk to them.

What about the rest of the languages? What about Malayalam. large. The ads are insight-based. (Even if many of the translations are appalling. You can target a demographic based on language. by affluence and by geography. Regional channels have mushroomed as have regional print publications – and more importantly. Telugu? What about insights about the consumers in Kashmir or Indore or Silchar? 70 .The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Lalitha Jewellery in Chennai. made TVCs that ran on Hindi and in English– because there was no channel. art are all elements consumers in Kolkata immediately relate to. is – what?! Media has changed dramatically over the past two decades. marketers took the easy way out – translations and dubbing. What traditional. then. music. then. Yet the capability to create ads born out of local insights has disappeared in the large agencies. Punjabi. When the regional satellite channels began mushrooming. and one can micro-target efficiently. with no branches outside Chennai. to a large extent. fonts. of handling the diversity of India as far as languages are concerned. often. local language websites. It’s no surprise. locations. a result of the need to save on cost. This addressed the issue. Bates and JWT offices in Kolkata produce outstanding communication in Bengali. the models. So when you translate an ad made in Mumbai or Delhi. many are shameful and some downright stupid). the consumer’s reaction. Chennai and Bangalore. Indian agencies have failed to address is the issue of cultural diversity. language. targeting the ‘Indian’ and translate that ad into Malayalam and Tamil and Oriya. that Bates and JWT get a lot of business out of Kolkata based brands needing to communicate only to Kolkata based audiences. save for some who have good offices in Kolkata. in Tamil in the Cable and Satellite households.

commanded almost 80 percent share of the viewership. then? By using local agencies who understood the local consumer and the dynamics of the local market. Where did these viewers go? They went to their mother tongues. because large brands didn’t seem to need them. How did national brands manage. in the late 1990s. to the movie channels in their mother tongues. With this extreme and fast paced fragmentation comes the need to create communication that targets the viewers. therefore. To the GECs in their mother tongues. when there was no such things as national media. with little capability in the sections that are growing – except through translations. As newspapers in English stay flat or shrink (check the last two rounds of IRS to get an idea) there is still growth in newspapers and magazines in Indian languages. Before I go further. another small lesson in media is in order. have the capability to create communication in the very sections of media which are shrinking. Traditional agencies. 71 . The imminent explosion in mobile-digital should make you pause and worry. Perhaps one would have to wind the clock back to the 1970s. And the readers. save for All India Radio. It’ll get worse with the expected growth in digital mobile.Large agencies have little or no capability here – and perhaps they didn’t need them. and so on. to the news channels in their mother tongues. The Hindi general entertainment channels. By 2010. the share of the Hindi GECs had shrunk to less than 38 percent – even as there were more and more of them.

The combination of Indian languages and the long tail is lethal – every day makes communication in the few languages that traditional agencies are competent in less and less relevant. as Dentsu did with Taproot. And they will buy goods and services offered by your client. features. YOU made it unviable. There are solutions – and they lie in the pockets of those who run the large agencies. Advertising will have an opportunity – and that opportunity will be milked by those who understand the consumers who speak these languages and live in these states. that’s a great reason for your clients to embrace you. you insisted that the branch head visited you each month. Some of the network agencies who woke up late are even buying mainline agencies. You loaded a small city branch with corporate overhead. Embrace the many Indias. Before you howl in protest saying that it’s been tried before and it’s not viable. Buy agencies in Kolkata. by creating a coststructure and a way of working that was steeped in waste and inefficiency. the longer the long tail becomes. The greater the fragmentation of media (and mobile-digital will hasten the process). 72 .The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Content (news. The point I’m attempting to make here is this. you insisted that a senior resource from the head office visited the small town branch every quarter. Today. you will buy a precious treasure you have no way of building yourself – you buy insights into the consumers who speak in languages you do not understand. Now is the time to buy agencies with competence in Indian languages. in Kochi. in Kanpur. movies) is already being created in all these languages. I’ll tell you why. there’s a frenzy to buy digital and activation agencies. entertainment. who live in places you have never visited and who have wants and aspirations you couldn’t dream of. music. When you buy them.

and they’re part of the network. relationship with. the Bangladesh launch was handled by Bitopi advertising. Agencies pay Boulding a fee. Share with them best practices that you have access to. Julian Boulding’s model. Create your own network. Hey. from time to time. there is no need for them to waste their time on useless and time-consuming paper-work and reports. Or adapt from Julian Boulding’s The Network One. too. Overnight. Urgent breaking news in Digha? No problem. need-based. Or do as large PR agencies do. agencies or individuals that they have a non-permanent. 73 . PR agencies cannot afford to have offices across the country. In theory. A big. bring out the rolodex and call the stringer. along the same lines as Boulding’s. When I was at TBWA\Anthem handling the IndianOil Servo account. big. What he has done is to create a network of independent agencies across the world – with each retaining the original ownership. an agency that was contracted to handle just that task. There is no need for a move to a better address. That’s when they call in their ‘affiliates’. one. deserves to be explored. within India. find that their client needs services in geographies that they are not present in. but. just by virtue of the fact that you’re a part of this network. Or even as newspapers and news television channels do. But ignore the opportunity that the languages will offer? That’s a mistake. it’s not tough to do – and will be worth the trouble. especially by the smaller agency.Buy the agency in the small town and let it be as it is. Newspapers and news TV have the ‘stringers’ model. you might even make a business of it. help them in growing the business locally by sharing experience in categories that you have worked on. Or even as traditional agencies do from time to time. you can handle your client’s requirements anywhere in the world.

even 15 years ago. Yet. because the media didn’t exist there. he wrote that he believed the big opportunity in India existed because India was under-measured and that India did not have the retail infrastructure required. You could get the product there –but not the message. your media spends always had a large element of wastage. You could be anywhere in India. India gets measured. there didn’t exist media that allowed you to exploit places close to an existing large market. It will obviously be of huge help if the message is in a language that the consumer can understand. Provided. With digital. which was. I had requested Ogilvy’s Miles Young to write a guest editorial. What would you rather be? The #7 soap brand in India or the #1 soap brand in Tamil Nadu? What media fragmentation has done is to allow manufacturers and other entrepreneurs to target a local market efficiently. they had to ramp up from a one-city operation to a national one – and that wasn’t an easy task. With the internet and with e-commerce. impossible. The growth of C&S has changed that completely. In a nutshell. in any corner. and order goods and services on the mobile internet. even as the communication reached areas that the product wasn’t available in. There’s a corollary to the language elephant. Unless you had national ambitions and national distribution and sales infrastructure. So if a Chik or Velvette shampoo or a Ghadi washing powder wanted to grow. had to up their media spends considerably. that the consumer is informed that the product or service exists and is attracted to buy it. marketers now do not need the physical retail infrastructure Young spoke of. So an ambitious brand. of course. 74 . as it moved from a regional brand to a national brand.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 When I launched Campaign India magazine in September 2007.

The entry barrier (from an advertising and media point of view) has reduced dramatically – and the scenario will allow more brands to be born, in category after category, especially in areas where there is no great barrier in capex. As examples, it has become easy to introduce a radio taxi company which caters to the area immediately in and around Trichy or Durgapur – because the media wastage has come down dramatically. It is easier to launch a packaged snack food brand or a biscuit brand, for example. Listen to the FM radio stations and you get an idea. FM is the ultimate local medium – for those with the need for the tightest targeting. Satellite television in the regional languages allows the advertiser much greater, but still largely localised, reach. If you combine this ability to advertising agencies ability to create insight-led communication, there is an explosion that’s imminent – of brands with no national ambitions, but with the ambition to dominate a small geography. Why would a builder with projects only in Pune want to dominate any area outside of where he owns land? There’s a region why I mention Pune. Drive into Pune, and you’re besieged by real estate advertising on outdoor. Turn on your FM radio, and real estate dominates. Open the newspaper, and real estate dominates this, too. How much of Pune real estate advertising money is going to the large agencies, the agencies who even know that this book exists. Close to zero. And you could switch Pune with Asansol and Ernakulam and Jalandhar… “Parle, which is India’s largest biscuit maker with a 45 percent market share, said biscuit companies in the country are coming up with more products in the rapidly growing premium segments to tap the market. “Competition in the economy segment is extremely difficult as it would put pressure on the bottom line (profit),” Rao said. Explaining the reasons

The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016

for the consumers’ growing preferences towards the premium biscuits than the mass products, he said smaller towns were now having modern trade centres with consumers possessing more disposable incomes, which resulted in spreading of mall culture. “Currently, there are about 40 mini metros across the country. The scenario was different a few years ago. Smaller towns like Durgapur, Asansol, Surat and Rajkot now have modern trade centres like malls. Retail chains like Big Bazaar are coming up also in tier II and tier III cities,” he observed said a report in Forty mini-metros. There’s a lot of revenue in these small towns. Only, you have to find a cost structure that allows you to run a profitable business. Because otherwise, what we will see is the creation of local experts. Make no mistake about it. Take real estate as an example in the top ten cities in India (and most of the ads are created by agencies you haven’t heard of) and you will find that the ‘local’ agencies have moved up considerably in their understanding of creatives – as have their clients. You can see the same with jewellery ads in Chennai, Bangalore and Trivandrum, as an additional example. You don’t even have to travel that far. Look at the real estate business in and around Mumbai that you’ve missed out on. Have you heard of an agency called Origin-Beanstalk? No? Have you seen the Disney Sunteck ads? Yes? The Disney-Sunteck campaign was created by Origin Beanstalk. There are many more Disney-Suntecks around – and more Origin Beanstalks than you can imagine.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve been having discussions with two friends, both of whom, coincidentally, are launching e-commerce businesses. By the time this book is written, one or both of them should have launched. One is called, which will be a marketplace for home décor items curated by Sussanne Roshan. The other, called crudearea. com, is a destination for consumers who want affordable art. Have a look at both the sites (you will have to register on thehomelabel. com). They’re elegantly designed, tasteful, easy to navigate, easy to transact. One has no idea what the future holds for them. They’re in the e-commerce world; they could go boom or they could go bust. The important thing is that all of you have had nothing to do with them. You haven’t designed their logos, their corporate identities, their PR strategies, their websites, their direct mail. The reason that they need mention is that e-commerce is a rapidly growing business – and you need to get your act together if you want a piece of the pie. Why should you? Have you heard of Happy Communications? Have you heard of and Well, happy heard of both these businesses before you did, and they helped create the brands into the brands that they are today. And made some decent money in the process and built a reputation as an agency that gets e-commerce brands. Flipkart and Myntra were born in another era (as far as e-commerce goes) and had to build their own distribution infrastructure. There was the digital-meets-the-brick-and-mortar kind of journey they undertook to make their businesses work. Thehomelabel and crudearea have no such growing pains. Both the

Put differently. primarily. If there’s anything that will frighten the daylights out of you and force you to think afresh of the imperative to build digital expertise. we have been consistently communicating on the platform of ‘Interpret the world’. Ogilvy. Nothing else matters. managing director. communication is at the core of their success and failure. have done a great job in creating engaging communication around it.” The same interview says in the introduction: “As per the latest ABC report. And our creative partners. it’s what The Economist experience in India. except for a base warehouse. India.” 78 . and thus ever since we started marketing the brand in India. The Economist. which got us a Cannes metal in 2010. “How has the communication strategy of the brand evolved? What new can we expect on that front? Our marketing objectives have remained the same: increase awareness.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 businesses are based in Mumbai. with a presumption that there exists a need gap that they fulfil.024 average weekly copies in the period January–June in August this year. the print circulation of The Economist in India has doubled to reach 35. from 17. The following is from an interview with Suprio Guha Thakurta. their ability to build a brand and get the word out. Why aren’t you partnering them on their journey? Partnering them – and the other hundreds who will make similar attempts. published in campaignindia. Their success or failure will rest on. but neither has felt the need to build a distribution infrastructure.194 in January-June 2007.

digital is allowing The Economist to achieve their business objectives in India at a cost far lower than mass media would have. after the communication which won The Economist communication a metal at Cannes in 2010. no print (except for trade magazines). no outdoor. for you. has tasted and seen the power and costefficiency of digital. except for a brief re-run of the 2010 TVC in March 2012. Not a single TVC. The worry. has used only digital to communicate to their targeted consumers. and how many of them will fall in love with it? 79 . is simple. How many more clients are flirting with digital. in India. Why on earth would they use mass media? The Economist.What the article does not say is that. The Economist. in India. The circulation growth in the last year has come largely through their digital communication. This is a decision made by a client who is largely satisfied with his agency and their commitment and work on the brand. The problem is.

Advertising. thanks to the awards. a waste of time – and a waste of money as well.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 “Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is making headlines over a controversial statement to The Wall Street Journal. I walked into the Print ads showcase area the day before the fest opened. Gujarat is also a middle-class state. I look around once more. And secondly. as reported in ibnlive.” Modi said in an interview. and you’ve won on measures that have no meaning to your client. I’ll get fat’. ‘I won’t drink milk. is becoming more award-conscious than effectiveness conscious. Thankfully. There is no end to the debate on awards. refusing to believe that all the work on display is scam. Print has fascinated me since I was a child. If a mother tells her daughter to have milk. I read 7 newspapers each morning. She’ll tell her mother. But these two or three pieces are the exception that proves my belief that scam ads are absolutely a crime. it isn’t. often. The middle-class is more beauty-conscious than health-conscious – that is a challenge. Today. of the imminent death of print. You win. considering the entry charges to awards. even in India. I see two or three pieces of genuinely released work. He linked the state’s malnutrition to vegetarianism and figure-conscious girls. they’ll have a fight. but there is need to mention it here. even if I warn. Your client wants a larger share of the market thanks to your 80 . “Gujarat is by and large a vegetarian state. since I was already there and the organisers were kind enough to allow me entry. I walk through the pavilion and struggle to recognise a single ad that I have seen – despite the extensive reading I do and the time I spend on the medium. At Goafest this year.

Scam advertising. became a central theme to last year’s AdFest when several agencies were found to have submitted so-called scam ads.” So forget what I believe. Uh-oh. But how can you ignore what someone with the track record and stature of Sir John believes? Do you have a clue how much it costs to send an entry to Cannes? Take a look at last year’s prices. or advertising specifically created to win advertising awards. who is a jury president and a speaker at this year’s festival. John Davidson interviewed Sir John and I reproduce a part of Davidson’s piece. described scam as “a waste of resource and energy”. “Agencies should focus their creative department on turning out genuine ground breaking sales-related work. Industry legend Hegarty. Just realised that I almost paraphrased something Sir John Hegarty had said a few years ago. “On the eve of AdFest BBH co-founder John Hegarty has slammed the practice of scam advertising. “We’re not interested in it [scam]. and stated that effective creative work is important regardless of the recession. Not something that will be seen by a few awards juries and their friends. Keep winning metals and keep losing market-share and your client will get sacked – as will you.communication. Film Lions Press Lions Direct Lions €640 €375 €399 81 Outdoor Lions €375 . not a smaller share and some metals at some awards shows.” he said.

And this is just one example: Cannes. And we haven’t even gone into the cost of the talent that’s created these scam ads. 7. the cost of the production and so on. Stop the scam. Clios. Then we have the D&AD. That’s a lot of money. 82 €1. the Abbys…. that’s set the agency back by about Rs.000) and your agency sends 25 entries. going down the drain. save yourself a lot of money – and release the time lost on creating work that helps your clients’ brands to better in the marketplace. a lot of resources. Spikes.225 €375 . Not for a moment am I suggesting that you stop sending entries to Awards shows and that you stop celebrating metals.195 Creative Effectiveness Lions (By invitation only) Film Craft Lions Mobile Lions €375 Branded Content & Entertainment Lions €725 If you take the average cost per entry as 400 Euros (Rs. 28.000.00. the One Show.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Media Lions Cyber Lions Radio Lions €399 €399 €299 €399 Design Lions €399 Promo & Activation Lions PR Lions €399 Titanium and Integrated Lions €1.

you get yourself some implants… You get the drift.Scam ads are. more profitable brand? 83 . more top-of-mind recall and a greater brand equity. like cheating to win a beauty contest – you go to a plastic surgeon. let alone scam. The other aspect is that there is many pointers that tell you that. How has that affected the agency? Have they lost a single account because of not having won awards? Lowe’s biggest clients are delighted that Lowe is helping them gain a bigger piece of the pie. A Gold at Cannes? Or a healthier. to me. It’s been years since the Balki-headed Lowe India took part in the Abbys. Ask your client which he or she would prefer. awards don’t matter too much. Why is this so important now? Because you’re already short of resources – and scam ads will eat into the precious resources in short supply.

Here’s how they describe (some of) their objectives. To me. with a very large number of small. visit their website. media owners and associations. radio and TV advertising. who together account for almost 80% of the advertising business placed in the country. political campaign advertising. Non-members are also provided this service for a fee. • To encourage the interest of young individuals in the business of communication.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Why am I writing this book? It’s because of the spectacular failure of the Advertising Agencies Association of India to do their job. legislation. www. medium and large-sized agencies as its members. “The AAAI today is truly • To question advertising that is wasteful and extravagant to make it possible for the small entrepreneur to grow through advertising and to compete with the biggest to encourage market and media research to serve society by meeting its social responsibilities. controls on pharmaceuticals. this looks like copy written for a scam ad. For the entire statement of objectives. • To co-operate with Government bodies in discussion of matters such as taxes. The first objection is when I hear them say that they the spokesperson for the advertising industry. to assist in education and training programmes and to provide information of benefit to members.aaaiindia. 84 . It is thus recognised at all forums . • The AAAI today is truly representative. • To establish a common platform in building and sustaining the prestige of the advertising profession and to serve as a spokesman against unwarranted attacks or restrictions on advertising. tobacco or liquor advertising and other subjects of similar complexity and sensitivity. and even Government .advertisers.

• In the event that media releases are undertaken by another agency acting as an AOR. including recommending expulsion to the General Body. Their eligibility rules are caught in a time warp. medium and large-sized agencies as its members. There has never been a greater reason for existence for an association like the AAAI.with a very large number of small. There are no standards rules or practices on the remuneration 85 . that’s not a fact. Consider: • In the event that the agency is responsible for acting as full service agency. The AAAI does nothing whatsoever in the area of education and training. I can rattle off the names of agency after agency who is not a member of the AAAI. including that paid to AOR. including media buying and releases. if it deems fit. The AAAI has turned a blind eye towards wasteful expenditure encouraged by the agency members. The AAAI has done nothing but grandstanding in the areas of pitch fees. • Agencies operating on a fee basis with any of their clients. The AAAI doesn’t even make it easy for new members to join the association. will inform the AAAI of the same along with a declaration that they adhere to the principle of 15% “The Executive Committee of the AAAI is authorized to take disciplinary action against any member for violation of these rules.” The AAAI is non-inclusive. The AAAI has done nothing to discourage agencies from creating surrogate advertising for alcohol and tobacco products. • Agencies operating on a fee basis will raise supplementary debit/credit notes at the end of each financial year to ensure that their earning from media equals 15%.” No. The AAAI has done nothing in the area of solving the remuneration issue. such fees shall not be less than 15%. such fees should not amount to less than 15%.

The AAAI should be the mentor in helping agencies navigate the complexities of the future. There is still confusion on the eligibility of digital agencies and digital shops into the AAAI. the AAAI has no role to play. Without major changes. They need to look at the way various industries ‘brand’ themselves and ‘brand’ advertising. and the AAAI has not been able to find a solution to this appalling manipulation by advertisers.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 model – the AAAI has not even initiated an open discussion on the subject. Not the industry as defined by the AAAI. It needs to live up to the stated objectives and truly represent the industry. They should collaborate with bodies such as the advertising clubs across the country and conduct ‘education and training’ programs that they speak of. They need to discuss and arrive at methods to make advertising a preferred career choice for fresh graduates and post-graduates – at least 86 . They need to work with educational institutes and create curricula that are relevant and current. when they should be staring at the future. but an industry that comprises hundreds of advertising agencies no member of the AAAI committee has ever heard of. let me ask you a few questions: Is your agency a member of the AAAI? Have you ever thought of becoming a member? When was the last time you received any benefit from being a member of the AAAI? When was the last time that you received any communication from the AAAI? Have you ever approached the AAAI with a payment related issue and found a solution? Have you ever heard of a training programme conducted by the AAAI in any city in India? Can you remember a time when the AAAI was in the news (even the trade magazines) except during the elections or during Goafest? The AAAI needs to redefine the role that it needs to play. There are instances when as many as 30 agencies participate in a pitch. now that creative agencies have no direct role with media. the AAAI is stuck in the past. Fundamentally. If you think that this indictment is too harsh.

and get a competent team in place to execute the vision. the job of the president is held by an elected appointee from one of the member agencies. Chairman & CEO of India Subcontinent. How much time can he. In the current structure. a management team and a supporting infrastructure along the lines of NASSCOM or COAI. it is Arvind Sharma. It needs to appoint a professional CEO.from schools like MICA and Symbiosis to begin with. Leo Burnett India Pvt Ltd. and members of the executive committee. 87 . Today. The problem with the AAAI is that it has no ‘permanent’ office. have to get into operations if the scope of what the AAAI truly embraces what is described as AAAI’s objectives on their website? Where is the time for the executive committee to redefine the role of the AAAI? It is time for the AAAI executive committee to play a visionary and leadership role.

by some accident and aided and abetted by some office bearers (almost all heads of large creative and media agencies who convince their friends in media houses to sponsor it) it is still alive.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 The AAAI. every month. The AAAI has given birth to it and. Speak to any event manager and tell him you want to do a major event in Goa in April – and he’ll tell you that you’re nuts. May is alright. I was reminded of a lecture I attended when The Times of India. Why? Why? Why? When I first thought of the question. March is alright. Unless they change. from the time that Goafest was created. The lecture was on the Toyota system. it’s been held in the first fortnight of April. Yet Goafest is held every goddamned year in April. It is. verifiably. never later. I’ve checked historic data to save you the time. because it’s hot and humid. 88 . Every month except April – because not only is it hot. there is no reason for them to exist. Never earlier. The elephant is called Goafest. April is a bummer. has become an elephant – a white elephant. in the current form. Which brings me to another elephant. it doesn’t rain. the hottest month of the year in Goa. you’re tempted. where ‘Seven whys’ would help Toyota employees on the assembly line arrive at the root cause of problems. Yet. because it begins raining. because it is cooler. my then employer. If you live in Mumbai. sent me to a course at IIM Ahmedabad. with the average temperature being around 33 degrees C (high) and 27 degrees C (low). to run away to Goa and get away from the pressures of living in the megapolis.

It’s since been taken from the manufacturing paradigm and used in IT quality theories. so there’s little time to raise the money to afford Goa hotels in months with better weather. until you’ve gotten to where you can’t go any further. they’ve already announced that their 2013 edition will be held in August.” I’m not going to the 7th question. I should be able to figure it out. as much as I didn’t need to when trying to figure out the answer to why Goafest is held in April. So it’s a great tool to use with EFT! What is it? Start with a problem. It’s held in April because the planning is appalling.Hazel Rogers from Australia makes the 7 Whys easy to understand. or you’ve found some interesting “hidden” thinking! You don’t HAVE to ask why 7 times precisely. Kyoorius Designyatra. back in the mists of time. Their 2012 edition was held in September. It’s a great method for getting to the root cause or at least one of the root causes of any problem. when there people available to help me? Because I haven’t asked for help Q Why haven’t I asked for help? Because they will think I’m stupid. “The 7 whys is a technique that I believe was developed as part of the Toyota factory quality push. To give you an idea of what can be done with better planning. Keep asking “why?”. For example: I’m procrastinating… Q Why do I procrastinate? Because I’m stuck on using the tools I have here (on the computer) Q Why am I stuck. you need to look no further than another event held annually in Goa. 89 .

Once they meet. (They do pay for airfares when requested and for the accommodation within India). a meaningless Conclave ( I use the capital C to emphasise how AAAI views it). Most of the kids are too drunk to attend. they have no budget for. to name a few. are besieged by trade media for interviews in the burning April Goa sun. It doesn’t help that speakers get notice of less than two months from the day the request is made. and they decide on possible dates. Compare this with Goafest. of the 3000 who are attending the fest. So this. Sir John Hegarty. Speaker sessions start by around 4. Once The Advertising Club agrees. So Scott Goodson of StrawberryFrog has an audience of less than 300. Going by the history of Goafest that I can claim to be associated with (which is from the 2008 edition). unlike Designyatra. where the entry is by invitation only to CXOs and to the handful of marketers who are bullied into attending by their agency partners 2. it’ll be sometime in January 2013 before the AAAI management committee discusses the April 2013 event. Ideally. they need to talk to The Advertising Club. On the Thursday. 90 . then. some have success with their flirting. 3. including a chance to win an iPod if you attend. It’s difficult to fill the seminar hall. is the product that is Goafest: 1. the event is open to the public. that hotel room prices are being negotiated and sponsors being contacted. Sir Martin Sorrell. All kinds of devices have been attempted. they look for speakers who are happy to come to India at their cost – and that shrinks the pool of prospective speakers dramatically. Kids loll around drinking and flirting (as I would if I was their age). On Friday. while speakers like Dan Wieden. and the bar is open as well. they will begin the process of contacting possible speakers – for whom.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 As I write this. I’m certain that speakers are being spoken to. the owners of the Abbys. the awards which are held at Goafest.

much in the same spirit that Maharashtra’s chief ministers compare Mumbai to Shanghai. a very expensive destination – except if you live in Mumbai or Pune. and then by the content they create. Singapore 91 . 8. Those from the creative agencies don’t care and they’re off to Martin’s for a piss up. is an absolute contempt for the intelligence of the average advertising professional in India. Some of the lucky delegates have sex with partners they’ve met for the first time in Goa. even if their Indian offices are doing terribly. This is absolute rubbish. by the very name of the festival. Saturday morning sees most of the media agency executives leave.4. The AAAI needs to re-focus on the premise of Goafest. The media agencies win and lose. 6. and there’s a piss up as soon as the bars open (inexplicably. 9. Unless the AAAI reinvents Goafest. over the years. The youngsters from the creative agencies continue to flirt. it’s a downhill ride from here. those who remain do the same as described in points 2 and 3 above. They have the temerity and the arrogance to call it the “Cannes of India”. Friday evening sees the Media Abbys. 7. it was the least in 2012) but head for the bars once they’re opened. first by scheduling the event in April. they’re trapped. What the AAAI demonstrates. 10. to hold the event in Goa. Saturday evening sees the Creative Abbys (during the presentation of which the bar is still closed). To someone from Kolkata . To begin with. Sunday morning. International visitors tell Indian trade media that they’re very happy with how their Indian offices are doing. Losers bitch about the judging (admittedly. 5. Goa has become. all fall down. The bar is open. they close during the awards presentation ceremony).

And there’s no free alcohol. fix it. no tattoos.18000 on a one-way ticket from Goa to Delhi on the Sunday after Goafest. Fix it. Content that keeps you riveted to your seats and taking notes. Speakers you want to walk up to and hug once they’ve finished. Sponsors are happy to support the event. if it ain’t broke. Perhaps 10-15 from Kolkata. if it is broke. from the rest of India. who had to make a last minute change a few years ago and ended up spending Rs. (In the short term. as all the sessions are held in hotel banquet halls. 92 . I’ve attended two editions of Designyatra in Goa and one in Mumbai – and all three have had superlative content. That’s why Goafest traps you. if the entire advertising industry cannot come up with a new name for an advertising festival. The old adage goes. Learn from Designyatra that content is King. because they’ve seen. not the entertainment. over the years. Goafest is broke. and another 10-15 from Chennai. At short notice. For God’s sake. it’s a little sad. It is slowly becoming an annual ritual for the industry from Mumbai to take a few days off. it could cost you a small fortune to fly to or from Goa at short notice. and start moving the festival around the country. the quality of the delegates and the level of involvement. Forcing the event to stay at Goa makes the festival exclusive and not inclusive. no parasailing. the number will be in the low double digits. don’t fix it. you can be sure that next year’s attendance will take a beating. On the other hand. Ask Lodestar’s Shashi Sinha. Conference halls that are packed to the rafters. Designyatra is serious business – and the delegates seem to profit from it – there are more attending every year. even in April. It’s time to become truly inclusive.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 and Bangkok are cheaper. We see a few hundred each from Delhi and Bangalore. There are no major costs in event management. thanks to the sluggish market and the pressure on margins).

officially to The Advertising Club earlier this year). the Club needs to get a permanent managing team. prestigious and profitable advertising/marketing awards shows in India – the Abbys. What does the Club need to do to become truly national? As importantly. Again. As entries to the Abbys started pouring in from agencies across the country. The Advertising Club became less of a club and more of an industry forum. It started off as a city club. the Advertising Club. That’s a great base to build on. became increasingly. As suggested in the case of the AAAI. the Advertising Club. Bangalore and Kochi. the role of the management committee needs to become visionary. The 93 . to name a few. highresponsibility day jobs. the awards for creative excellence. The Club starts off with a distinct advantage – it runs three of the most credible. not a team made up of honorary members with long. The Abbys were (and are) not the only advertising awards in India – but they certainly are the most prestigious. what is the difference in the role that the Club plays and what the AAAI is supposed to do? Not very much. especially with the institution of various awards. Bombay) is a slightly different story. Chennai. not executional and operational. India (which is what prompted it to change the name. the Emvies and the Effies. With this change in influence come the growing pains. much as you have advertising clubs in Kolkata.The Advertising Club (the erstwhile Advertising Club. That should frighten the AAAI – if the Club gets its act together. Over the years. Bombay. notably the Abbys.

office bearers across India. This has to be corrected. the absence of marketers is the rudest reminder of the failure to recognise and involve a critical element in the advertising ecosystem. Correct the Club’s membership profile to what it was during the first few decades – and get the marketers back into the fold. almost all of whom are formerly advertising 94 . gender inclusive and budget inclusive. most events are inaccessible to the youth in the industry. to discuss issues and plans via video conferences or even on Skype. Make the events low cost as opposed to cheap. let members pay for the content. and. The Club needs to have. To the Club. which is an immediate deterrent for the young. to begin with. It is easy. Later. Whether it’s the Abbys or Goafest or the Emvies. The first manifestations of the transformation of the Club from a city club to a national club will be in ensuring national participation in decision making.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 direction that the Club takes should be inclusive as opposed to exclusive. Today. That is the key to whatever the Club does – the content and activities need to be such that members profit from the time and money spent. Geographically inclusive. Go back to the simplicities of the late 1990s. bar a few exceptions. consequently exclusive. Either the events are by invitation only. try and assess what members want to see. yet prestigious locations such as Nehru Centre. hear. The signs that the infrastructure does not match the ambitions and plans are also there. Forget about the dependence on sponsors. when the need is felt. small offices could be opened. Marketers see no gain by attending any of the events. when events were held in reasonably priced. I’ll say this – make things easy for yourself and forget this ridiculous five-star hotel culture that has been embraced in the last decade. listen to or do. or they are priced prohibitively. The signs that the Club wants to be all these things are there [Disclaimer: I am an honorary member of the management committee of the Club]. with the technology available today.

thanks to the lack of osmosis. the various arms of the ecosystem have different learning curves. 95 . when we face changes in advertising at a frenetic pace.professionals. Create opportunities for all to meet under a roof. that’s when the Club would have achieved something that an industry gains by. different levels of exposure to changes. Today. enable conversations that heighten the understanding that one arm has of another. This needs to change.

I had written in Firstpost in March 2012. What is the ASCI supposed to do? Here’s a look at the ASCI fundamental principles (all details available on www. a self-regulatory voluntary organisation of the advertising industry. in consultation with representatives of people affected by advertising and has been accepted by individuals. is unable to effectively curb misleading advertising.” Indian Express had reported. deals with such complaints. “This is a decision that will surprise few in the advertising and marketing industries – and a decision that advertisers and marketers have brought upon themselves.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 If AAAI has let down agencies by underperforming. the greater the need for protecting the consumer”.org): “This Code for Self-Regulation has been drawn up by people in professions and industries in or connected with advertising. would be empowered to take severe action. the Advertising Standards Council of Indian has let down consumers – the very people they are supposed to look after. As the country gets more consumerist. As a consequence. corporate bodies and associations engaged in or otherwise concerned with the practice of advertising with the following as basic guidelines with a view to achieve the acceptance of fair advertising 96 . The ASCI. the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI). in many cases. The NCPA. the lag between complaints and decisions are such that the offending ads have. “The government is setting up a National Consumer Protection Agency (NCPA) to monitor and penalise companies that make misleading claims in their advertisements.ascionline. run the course and have done the damage before ASCI rules on them. At present. including recall of the product and slapping cases against the firms. despite all good and honest intentions. under the consumer affairs ministry. The process to complain is long and cumbersome. here’s what happened.

vulgar or repulsive which is likely. to a degree or of a type which is unacceptable to society at large. particularly minors. intelligibly and responsibly. The Code applies to advertisers. Both the general public and an advertiser’s competitors have an equal right to expect the content of advertisements to be presented fairly. in outdoor. on digital? Why? Let’s take stock on the state of affairs at ASCI. Advertisements should contain nothing indecent. • To ensure that advertisements are not offensive to generally accepted standards of public decency. • To ensure that advertisements observe fairness in competition so that the consumer’s need to be informed on choices in the market-place and the canons of generally accepted competitive behaviour in business are both served.” Huh? They’re supposed to do all these things? So why do we. in magazines. on TV channels. in the light of generally prevailing standards of decency and propriety. see misleading advertising in category after category in newspapers. to cause grave or widespread offence • To safeguard against the indiscriminate use of Advertising in situations or of the promotion of products which are regarded as hazardous or harmful to society or to individuals. advertising agencies and media. every single day. Hardly any effort has been made by the ASCI and their stakeholders to address the issue • If a complaint is made. the time taken to decide on the complaint is far too much 97 . • Consumers are not aware that such a body exists.practices in the best interests of the ultimate consumer: • To ensure the truthfulness and honesty of representations and claims made by advertisements and to safeguard against misleading advertisements. on the radio.

efforts in this area are being made • Complaints are studied on a case-to-case basis. one must admit. full of hot air. and topper student testimonials unless every such claim is substantiated with evidence.” “Recently. ASCI has been receiving several intra-industry complaints against claims being made in ads of various educational institutions. making pronouncements that they do not follow up on To illustrate the extent to which the ASCI is fangless and toothless. admissions. let’s take the case of ASCI and education ads. salary increase. like the AAAI. job promotions.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 • There is no proactive. ASCI’s chairman. without substantiating such claims and also assuming full responsibility in the same advertisement. The proposed guidelines discourage institutions from claiming success in placements. Many students and parents too have complained to ASCI against claims made in advertisements by educational institutions. etc. there hasn’t been a single public forum inviting members of the public to share their thoughts and concerns on irresponsible advertising • They are. every single day. educational institutions will not be able to promise jobs. the ASCI said: “Under the proposed guidelines. introduced an advertising code for the educational sector. Open any newspaper (and ‘education’ as a category was the largest category by spend in 2011) and it’s flooded with ads that promise jobs (which they aren’t supposed to do). claim success 98 . Yet. ASCI. suo moto complaint made by the ASCI itself • There is not enough use of technology to hasten the process (though. we see ads that do all the things that ASCI says they should not be doing. student compensations. admission to renowned institutes.” said Dhananjay Keskar. marks and rankings. When they announced the code. under pressure from many complainants. nothing is done to address failings in entire categories. To my mind.

in placements ( which they aren’t supposed to do). They will continue to get away with it. Ltd. They get away with it because ASCI isn’t doing what it is supposed to do. because most consumers do not know that ASCI exists – and. with whom I have had a number of conversations on the subject. There is no punishment. Let’s see how this works: • Students/parents see ad for college/institute • The ad promises placement (and since it’s an ad. And education is just one category that is grossly guilty of offences that it gets away with. worse. it must be true. has long been a vocal critic of the toothlessness of the ASCI especially in the context of education ads. misleading education ads. combined with the pressure on nationalised banks to approve of education loans. thinks the gullible consumer) • The educational institute concern has tied up with banks for loans • Students apply for a loans • Loans are approved and disbursed • Students graduate • Students do not get jobs as promised 99 . former president and publisher of Outlook Group and now promoter of Pathfinder Publishing Pvt. Maheshwar Peri. that all that ASCI can do is to force the advertiser to withdraw the ad. which publishes Careers 360. make claims without substantiation (which they aren’t supposed to do. Real estate is another big culprit. are creating a massive chunk of non-performing assets (NPAs) for banks. According to Peri. Google “Maheshwar Peri + IIPM” and you will get a sense of his long and arduous battle.

ASCI needs to take advantage of the breather that Godrej has got them. a win-win for consumers. we request them to consider partnering with. too. of how they could benefit from ASCI. and set up the NCPA. released a whitepaper on the subject of self-regulation in advertising. as seen in over 70 countries. Use this time to find a way to inform the largest number of consumers that ASCI exists. we believe in the efficacy of ASCI to regulate misleading advertising and. We urge the Department of Consumer Affairs to reconsider its recent proposal to set up a parallel Administrative Authority which we feel will delay the process of consumer redress and be counter-productive. half lies and plain bullshit in many of the ads that target the most gullible sections of society. and strengthening.” Mr. but there are many categories where misleading ads do significant harm and ASCI does nothing about it. as threatened. In India. misleading and irresponsible advertising. Adi Godrej. the current mechanism of self-regulation through ASCI.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 • Students fail to pay loans • Loans become NPAs And remember. Instead. in this case. Godrej runs a company that does responsible advertising – and perhaps is unaware of the extent of lies. in his capacity as CII president. ASC I has got a reprieve. more importantly. Make it simple for 100 . it all started with advertising. its ability for speedy redress. the government will step in. Sadly. industry and the government. If ASCI continues to fail at their job. Godrej said that the whitepaper “reinforces that selfregulation in advertising works across the globe in controlling misleading advertising. For the moment. I’ve used education as an illustration.

but does not. (An aside. Bucking the bureau’s traditional practice of focusing almost solely on fraudsters and hucksters intent on scamming consumers.” Vladeck maintains. Create a mechanism so that complaints are heard and disposed of in under 48 hours. a high priority for BCP. on November 13. the FTC obtained full refunds for consumers. In the most recent cases.” The result has been impressive settlements with food and dietary supplement merchandisers creating stricter standards for all advertising. Godrej’s submission that more than 70 countries selfregulate their advertising is not good enough reason for self-regulation in India. David Vladeck stood before the ad industry’s self-regulatory group at its annual conference to lay down an aggressive agenda. “National advertising is. Create a large. inclusive committee of honorary members (including consumers) from across the country who look for ads that transgress and lodge suo moto complaints. right after joining the Federal Trade Commission as director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. 101 . Three years ago.” he told the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC)… There’s no reason that advertisers with trusted brands that consumers rely on should get a pass. I could find at least 100 ads in the education category which fail by ASCI guidelines. But we figured what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. A few days before this book is published. “We haven’t slackened in our antifraud efforts. once again. adding. It is in being proactive and quick that ASCI has some hope and some reason to exist.consumers to be able to get in touch and complain. We have a body that is supposed to self-regulate.” AdWeek had reported). For example. Vladeck vowed to crack down on deceptive advertising by the nation’s largest brands. I read this: “Advertisers can’t say they weren’t warned. extracting historic settlements of $25 million from Reebok and $40 million from Skechers for ads for sneakers promising miraculous toning and weight-loss properties. Mr.

.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 It must start doing so....... the response was like i have to take a new sim on the same number and that sim will be activated in another 3 days. It’ll get worse. and when reached outlet again to fix it.. Consumers. too. Unless this is corrected. i was using airtel postpaid service.. and this body. so my gentle suggestion is not to take airtel connection..... depends on honorary members with other full-time jobs to make it work... The Internet. “Airtel really sucks... Tracking traditional media is a piece of cake compared to tracking the Internet. but still receive hell lot of SMS.. when contacted Customer care.. on social media... then in another 1 day they have deactivated my incoming calls...” Another consumer is ready with advice... and they charged me like anything. is what will save advertising from the proposed NCPA. As with the AAAI or The Advertising” 102 .. and for that reason i have switched from postpaid to prepaid. (and I underline that this is just an example) there’s a Facebook page called ‘Airtel sucks. the response was we cant help U.. the government will step in – because the volume of irresponsible advertising is growing by the day.. colleagues and loved ones of misleading communication or failed services... once digital gains in spend share. i have activated DND service..nic.. then they have deactivated my outgoing calls asking me to submit proof docs. and from then i was unable to even reach airtel customer care from 121. even which i have submitted th em.. are doing what ASCI fails to do – informing their friends..... “Lodge your complaints here.. http://fcamin. I have already done that... For example.. and reached airtel outlet to fix it. perhaps.... there is no professional team to handle ASCI. Here’s an update by an irate customer (reproduced verbatim). they said we ll activate.. That...

yahoo. Go to google and enter ‘<Brand name> sucks’. Do the same with ‘<Brand name> cheats.The Airtel sucks page has 799 likes as this is written.” 103 . and so on. Consumers have figured out there’s no point waiting for ASCI or any other body to look after their interests– they tell each other about their experiences.000 dollars to include a 20 per cent discount for early guilty pleas by Vodafone. the judge had cut the penalty from a 1.2 million dollars starting point to 960. According to Stuff. and you discover Facebook pages. good and bad. links to Youtube clips.5 million dollars. What we need is to be able to read stuff like this (reproduced from In July the company pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court to 11 representative charges brought by the Commerce Commission of misleading consumers. com): “Vodafone New Zealand has reportedly been fined 960. But there is only so much that consumers can do for themselves. links to blogs. The latest conviction takes Vodafone’s total bill for using misleading advertising to almost 1.000 dollars for a misleading marketing campaign. including education The Commerce Commission’s competition manager Stuart Wallace said the decision showed that companies needed to ensure their ‘headline message’ was not misleading. This works with almost any big brand in India. the highest ever fine for one defendant.

What can ASCI do to stay relevant? • Professionalise the management team. And if ASCI fails to do the job. thanks to the pressure from the NCPA proposal. the main problem is common: the lack of a permanent. There’s another critical arm of the ecosystem that needs to get its act together: the trade media. 104 . The Advertising Club. kicking and screaming. etc In the cases of the AAAI. If they don’t. hiring executives with advertising/marketing backgrounds • Create a national team that proactively looks for misleading/ irresponsible ads • Use technology to dispose such as video-conferencing to improve response time • Work with media houses to get them sensitised to the responsibility that they must bear as well. they might just do it. The Advertising Club and the ASCI. there has never been more need for a body like ASCI. we need some organisation. and the NCPA is born. After all. no one in this ecosystem should complain. even if it is government controlled to do the job. well-paid professional team. Luckily.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 With the growth of digitisation and consumerism. media agencies and advertising agencies. who runs ASCI? It’s run by advertisers and representatives from the main beneficiaries of advertising – media. and get them to refuse advertising which makes claims that cannot be substantiated or are in any other manner unfair or irresponsible • Find a way to penalise advertisers for misleading claims. I’ve described the current statuses of The AAAI. The need for ASCI is greater than the need for the other two bodies and one hopes they are the first off the blocks. ASCI – three bodies that should have a huge role to play in improving the fortunes of the industry.

When at Campaign India. The organisers. sat in a cubicle next to mine. This freedom is available to all trade publications in the space. in comparison. first. The editor of PrintWeek India magazine.I have twice been editor of trade magazines on advertising in India. the content focused on advertising. with little attention paid to media. published by Haymarket Media. it was curtains. the revenue was almost entirely from media houses. So if Campaign criticised a particular TVC. Trade magazines must offer constructive criticism continuously. That is letting the entire agency business down. how easy mine was. I had the rare luxury as editor of a trade magazine to write fearlessly and honestly. with Impact. and. At Campaign India. Take the case of what happened at the Abbys at Goafest 2011. Basically. except for Campaign India. as the founder-editor of Campaign India. The criticism should be defendable. however. I gained an understanding of how difficult the job of being editor of the average trade magazine normally was. and also published by Haymarket Media. not wanting to declare a ‘winner’ was spectacularly ambiguous 105 . Yet. and. no one took the opportunity to criticise the industry constructively. However. there was no threat to advertising revenue. I would dare say. If we ranked an agency poorly in the Agency Report Card. there was no threat to revenue. If PrintWeek was critical of a particular company or a particular individual. a title devoted to developments in the printing industry. Proposed or running campaigns could be cancelled. more recently. His biggest challenge was the fact that the people and companies he wrote about were also the people and companies who advertised in the magazine. at Campaign India.

we have decided to go by the tally given to the media by the Awards Governing Council. if you went by the most metals one. IMC entry for Cadbury Dairy Milk and Vodafone Blackberry Boys for Vodafone in the Integrated category. To me. The point is. Ogilvy & Mather is on top of the heap. the AGC decided to arrange the columns as is done in the Olympic Games: most integrated scores over most golds. none of the other trade publications made a whimper of 106 . this was a cop-out by the AAAI or the Awards Governing Council. scores over most silvers and. O&M would have won. As far as I am concerned. with 1 Grand Prix. most bronzes. If you went by the Cannes system. 8 Silver and 17 Bronze metals. individually. explaining our stance. even if they had some misgivings. Seen in this light. Bobby Pawar. This is what I wrote then in Campaign India: “Explanation: Since the organisers of the Abbys have decided not to ‘weight’ the various metals. 5 Gold. finally. which left the world in a situation where each individual could interpret this in the way he or she chose.” However. O&M won its grand prix for their entry titled IMC for Cadbury Dairy Milk in the Integrated category. and I made it clear I thought so in the issue immediately following Goafest. that was unacceptable.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 about the weightage of each metal . Pratap Bose and Madhukar Kamath of Mudra were unhappy with the Campaign India interpretation. Vodafone Blackberry Boys for Vodafone in the Film category. A sensory experience to a 400 years old culinary tradition entry for Dum Pukht in the Direct category. Predictably. The agency won gold metals for An Eye for India entry in the Design category. Mudra would have won. I spent uncomfortable hours with them. All accepted with grace. Simply put.

the need for trade media increases as well. perhaps. The talent shortage 2. and that can be corrected by good and appropriate hires. is the knowledge of the business. it must learn to take defined positions. As any business grows. it must not be afraid to lose friends. And that’s the punt I’m making in this space: watch out for MxM. But let me suggest areas that trade magazines could help advertising agencies on: 1. What they lack. I’ll suggest that you interact more with trade and help them in understanding what content will interest you the most. it is failing to do so today. To advertising agencies. hopefully. Today. After all.protest – which is why I say trade media lets the agency business down. It must criticise. The remuneration conundrum 3. Education in digital 107 . This is what Campaign India did under my watch. It’s going to be your friend or your enemy. depending on what you’ve last done. More events. Sadly. provoke conversations and debates on some subjects. This book will. criticising the bad. has not only grown. the need for trade media in advertising. keeping a watch on developments and warning the business of perils ahead. it has changed. you are the beneficiaries of the content. more publications. MxM has entered the trade media fray and has demonstrated that they are not afraid to be critical. More are needed. The positive developments in trade media are in the area of nonmagazine activities that both exchange4media group and afaqs are immersing themselves in. That is when it plays the role of trade media – celebrating the good. thanks to the changing nature of the business. more studies.

Case studies on collaboration 5.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 4. where the product or the event is not just another excuse to network. Understanding how PR works 10. Debate on scam ads 9. Handling conflict 6. Understanding of media for creatives 7. to me. Look for more such initiatives. Understanding social media The Curious Digital Marketer from afaqs Campus. but for professionals to gain knowledge from. is a great example of the extended role trade media can play. 108 . Understanding of finance and accounts for creatives 8.

with a warm ‘Good morning’. always greeting residents. All the liftmen had discovered this new entertainment. I asked them where they got the movies from. Again. All five are Nepalis. I had my Eureka moment.I live in a building on Mount Mary where we have five permanent staff. They’re watching Nepali movies and Nepali music videos. and so on. as I write this book. from this point on. The process. No “Good evening. Now. the Malayalee had Malayalee movies. All 12 – 100 percent of the respondents – had movies and music on their phones. it was another of the 5. and he answered – Nepali music. they’re staring at their phones. for all. The Tamilain had Tamil movies. all I received was a curt nod. when I entered the lift. Then. To cut a long story short. who juggle their duties as liftmen. with the wire leading to the shirt pocket. attributing it to a bad day. I noticed a earphone. with the tell-tale earpiece. music from their homeland. was 109 . this happened. Maharashtrian and from assorted Hindi speaking states. It puzzled me and bothered me – because their cheerfulness was something I’d gotten used to. I did a check with some of the drivers of residents of the building and asked them whether they watched movie on their mobiles. including me. just a nod. with whoever was on liftman duty. Malayalee.” A year or so ago. The next day.” I didn’t think too much of it. or ‘Good evening. When I moved here about 4 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the politeness and cheerfulness. watchmen when required. it’s progressed. and so on. no exchange of pleasantries. general dogsbodies. Oriya. Whenever I see them. I asked the liftman what he was listening to. The drivers. 12 in all that I questioned. were Tamilian. a few days later.

I confirm this figure. there’s a single Nokia model which gives the Nokia India store a whopping 38% of their revenue. depending on what was downloaded and how much was downloaded. Twelve drivers. all watch content on their phones – and they pay for the content (it’s another issue the rights holders probably see none of the money). (She lives in Bangalore and uses auto rickshaws as her primary transport solution). That’s crazy. This is an extraordinary example of consumption by the bottom of the pyramid – where owners of phones which cost around $80 are paying for content – and. I google ‘Nokia Asha India 38%’. And I wonder how much this business is worth. She’s not the most frequent of updaters. so I check what she has to say.” The next one is more telling. Wow. “He says he puts his phone on to charge every night and downloads 110 . I reproduce the tweets verbatim: “Just helped an auto driver install facebook on his touchscreen smartphone. Wow. “The Rs.” says a status update on twitter. as I started the final edit of this book. 80. 30 and Rs. About a fortnight ago. I think to myself. as a market.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 the same. Each knew a ‘shop’ which downloaded the movies or songs on to the phones. five of the building staff. That’s CK Prahlad-like.4050 Nokia Asha 200 accounts for 38% of music downloads from Nokia India store. my daughter’s name flashes on my twitter timeline. The charges varied between Rs.

ads that are made in the languages which consumers in this massive. By the morning. will be consumed when the consumer chooses to. The mobile hardware guys. though paid for. and list it out in bullet points: • There is a growing demand for consumption of content on mobile phones • The Nokia Asha figures clearly suggest that owners of lowest priced phones are willing to pay for content 111 . currently. none of that is branded content. though. the rights holders come to grips with this leakage. most of the content. Ads that are made specifically for the small screen. not when a broadcaster or publisher decides it should be consumed. he has two new films to watch!” I join the dots and the picture one sees at the end makes my hair stand on end. And there will be a need for ads. I ask the drivers whether there are ad breaks in the films. That’s at least three hours per day consuming content. And the next Saturday.movies. the service providers have created an affordable environment for consumption of content. is pirated. And none of that is advertising. in this digital age. developing market are familiar with. No. when I have oodles of time. Advertising agencies are already late. It won’t be long. Let’s make this simple. much as they learned to deal with video cassette piracy and DVD piracy. there will still be significant leakages. No. This is the stuff of marketing dreams. The only problem is that. The fantastic thing about this story is that it underlines that content. but there will also be enough in terms of legal sales to make it worth the trouble. I ask the liftmen whether there are ad breaks in the films. The auto driver who my daughter speaks of watches two movies a day.

Hindi.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 • Content is consumed in many Indian languages • The business. Bengali and Malayalam. which is the understanding the challenges and limitations of the small screen. This becomes one more opportunity for someone to eat into your revenue pie. Digital and mobile telephony. • Most of you have no idea of the challenges of creating communication for screen as small as the mobile screen. dear reader. 112 . There can be no doubt about this. Are you in a position to take advantage of the opportunity. have a massive opportunity to create the communication that your client will need. are the biggest opportunities for advertising agencies – or the biggest threats. From a local insight and language understanding point of view. currently. combined with the diversity of languages. From the technology point of view. Tamil. • Most of you have little or no capability in languages other than English. the digital agencies are way ahead of your curve. is the moot point. is largely in illegal content • Marketers will want to tap in to the growing number of these users • Even the lowest demographics are embracing social media And you. the agencies based in various states are far better placed.

What about the rest of the questions? I have found this device to be the easiest way to describe the difficulty. So I thought a little bit more about her. Today. So she would be in a box which said ‘female. 113 . and so on. Punjabi. I looked closely at everything she carried. SEC A. whatever. Kannada.The complexity of demographics in India is daunting. they got tied up in knots on a very fundamental question: should it be a Hindi channel or an English one? There were no clear answers then. clearly. How do find the archetypical Indian youth? What do youth want? What are their aspirations and needs? What content do they want to consume? In which language? Where? When? When I worked at Channel [V] in advertising sales in the early 90s. When my daughter was living in Mumbai with me and studying at Jai Hind. When she left for college one morning when I was leaving late. is in defining and understanding the most important demographic in the country today: youth. over the years. to my mind. But the language issue is the only question to which an answer has been found. When MTV was planning their launch in India. Telugu. I spent some time thinking about ‘her’ demographic. Youth want content in the languages that they are comfortable with – be it Tamil. everything she wore. to say the least. so we have music channels in virtually every Indian language. You can be cool even if you cannot speak English or Hindi. 15-24. She was 17. The biggest problem. there are some. SEC A’. these were questions that dogged the think-tank at STAR TV.

15-24. studying at one of the coolest colleges there. The girl in Durgapur.21 billion people (2011 census). The girl in Salem. the average age of an Indian will be 29 years. it added up to over Rs. Already containing 17. The cost of all she carried and wore would be significantly less than in my daughter’s case. more than a sixth of the world’s population. When you total up the cost of all that she carried with her when she left for college.5% of the world’s population. And she’s in the same box as my daughter. with over 1. The emphasis. ‘female. SEC A’.” I glean from Wikipedia. So is the girl in the coolest college in Dombivali. cheaper handbag. My son and daughter are very. in jeans. its population reaching 1. in a cheaper mobile phone. You could do the same exercise with my son. her handbag with the usual accessories and she was dressed like ‘any’ teenager. and the complexities will be as stark. She would still be cool in a cheaper brand of jeans (because the better brands are not available there). Now. I imagined a girl in Raipur.6 billion by 2050. It is expected that. very important to marketers – and will continue to be so for some time to come. “The demographics of India are inclusive of the second most populous country in the world.000. etc. India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. which is why I spend so much time on the issue. 114 . though is mine. compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan.60. in 2020. surpassing China. a top.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 She had laptop. a mobile phone. India is projected to be the world’s most populous country by 2025. but she’d still be in the cool set in Raipur. shoes.

according to the findings of the TCS GenY survey 2011-12. All from a Tata Consultancy Services research document.”Combination of more bandwidth. said.300 high school students across 12 Indian cities reveal that smart devices and online access are making GenY “instant connectors. Twitter.) Commenting on the survey.” This is transforming the way tomorrow’s professionals are conducting their academic and social lives.Some data. As significant 115 85 84 79 74 68 68 59 45 34 33 . “India’s “Generation Y” is fast changing the communication paradigm by quickly adopting new modes of networking using social platforms like Facebook. availability of smart devices and the surging popularity of social networks is changing the way lndia’s high school students conduct their academic and social lives. The findings of India’s largest survey of over 12. CEO & MD. N Chandrasekaran. as well as tools like instant messaging (IM) and chat. which was released today.” Top 10 Trends Percentage Use Facebook Access internet from home Own mobiles Use internet for school-related research Own and access the internet through a PC Use internet for chat / to connect Make voice calls to communicate Use email as a tool of communication Prefer IT as the first option for a career Spend more than an hour on the internet everyday (Note: These percentages represent all-India Figures. which is a must while on this subject.

This is the first generation that’s grown up in liberalised India. Their favorite gadget with 28% votes is the mobile phone.” Today. My children hardly watch TV – and can hardly tear themselves away from their laptop/iPad/PC/ mobile.” I kick myself for not having noticed it earlier. this is also a group of digital natives who keep pace with their peers around the world on a secondby-nano second basis. “TV is Remote: Indian youth’s like their entertainment on the move. we need to understand how to leverage these social trends to create engaging careers for tomorrow’s professionals. Their least favorite gadget is the television with less than one percent voting for it. Yet very little is understood of their culture and consumption behaviour. “The under-25 demographic constitutes roughly half the population of the country. “Their least favorite gadget is the television with less than one percent voting for it.” Now comes the truly frightening bit (from the same study). Gaming consoles are also increasingly becoming popular even in minimetros with a little over 16% of students owning at least one gaming console as compared to nearly 45% in metros. have penetrated far more intensively in metros with 15% respondents listing it as their choice of device to access with mini-metros at 7%. One reason is. From television to computers and now smartphones. the lack of historical data. advertising agencies’ favourite medium is TV – the least favourite gadget of the largest and most important demographic. from an article written one year or so ago. All of this determines their aspirations and their consumption behaviour…” 116 . Tablet PCs and Tabs. though nascent. of course. Music players are also very popular with 60% of the respondents owning them. More about youth – and this.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 employers of lndia’s talented youth.

then. has changed in the past decade. He checks for a basic warranty: he’ll be replacing it with a newer model in three years. in any case. helping you to deal with the complexities in the youth demographic. most of which the traditional ad agencies are not used to doing work in More categories and more brands in these categories will be forced to target this demographic. With the data. The challenge will be for planners to analyse the data and figure out which girl needs to receive which message. speaking many languages. and then presents his recommendation to his parents whose only job is to pay for it. A lot. Is there a case. Data will tell you that my daughter is different from the girl in Raipur. then. And companies and marketers are scrambling to keep abreast of what the message should be and how it should be communicated. comparing models and prices online. micro-targeting will be a clear possibility (it already is. Digital will enable you to receive mountains of data in real time. The 18-year-old wants a laptop.“Today. but it will be far better understood).” said Veena Venugopal and Krishna Gopalan in Outlook Business last year. the girl in Dombivali. He decides which one. one that will be used exclusively by him. to a large extent. If we sum all this up: • India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35 • Their least favourite gadget is TV • There is very little historic data about their consumption habits • They’re all over the country. More brands will be created to target this category. the girl in Salem and the girl in Durgapur. the desktop itself is nearly extinct. to create a cell in the agency whose sole responsibility is to understand what youth and everything about youth? There is – and if you understand a population demographic that accounts for more than 50 117 . by asking his friends.

In a funny way. And if you don’t understand youth. you’re on a long slide downhill.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 percent of the entire population better than any other agency. what we’re seeing in advertising is not very different from what we see happening in the nation – both are being let down by institutions that were created to perform certain duties and tasks and fail to deliver. it could be the first step towards making you a consultant to brands. 118 .

Lowe can use the Balki name. Many have stories: their person-brands. “What’s your story?” Many do not have a story -. I want to know. I’ve had countless conversations when someone is bitching about how he had to ‘sack a client’ because the client wanted to negotiate the retainer downward or about how an agency pulled out of a pitch because the retainer wasn’t adequate. and need to price themselves as such. the Agnello Diassantosh Padhi names. which I’ll come to.00.For an industry that exists to create stories for their clients’ brands. Over the years.00. Hippo and Appy. they’re. and so on. To those I know well (and there are many). 10. and so on. the Prasoon Joshi name. 5. by and large. over coffee and cigarettes and lunches and dinners and drinks. McCann. except in some circumstances. “Why should the client pay you Rs. And then there are those agencies which have track records of work done that they can use as their story. CreativeLand Asia can claim that they ‘get’ digital and showcase work done for Audi. incapable of creating a credible story about the agency brands that they work for and run. Taproot.000 as a retainer? What do you give him for the money?” “What do you deliver that is twice as valuable as whatever is delivered by the agency which won the account for Rs.000?” In essence. Beehive Communication can easily claim that they have expertise in the travel business and can demonstrate the claim with a mountain of published work. Origin-Beanstalk can claim an understanding of business-to119 .and they’re commodities. I ask. An Ogilvy can say that they would charge the client whatever rate they quote because Piyush Pandey heads the agency and will be involved in the business.

How soon you can have the creatives translated and laid out is another. But. Exceptions are when the clients in question are new to advertising and brand-building. Many do not realise this opportunity because they’re stuck in the old belief of conflict. What’s your story? Do you have one? Can you create one? Is there a believable story which prospective clients will like to hear? There are many possible stories. Category expertise is another story. when bean-counters come up with a new tariff plan to shore up this month’s revenues. how does a builder with a project in thane have any problem of you did work for another builder with projects in Powai? And another. there are exceptions. with certain clients. When the clients do not want to work with large agencies. if it can be demonstrated. for those who are not brand new agencies without the person-brand advantage. When the clients haven’t heard of Piyush Pandey and Balki and Prasoon and Aggie. If you don’t have a story. project by project. Every month sees them being able to reinforce their story of expertise in the category. who had a project in Bandra West? None. For example.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 business communication for media brands. as I said. how soon you can come up with posters is a story the client wants to hear. what seems like a conflict client is no conflict at all. in a business like telecom services. and rattle off the names of Mid-day. In many categories. Then there is the third-party ratification of your competence – awards. For example. Fast and reliable is a story. 120 . afraid that they’re too small for such a relationship. CNBC TV18 and Nick to buttress their story. So an Origin-Beanstalk has worked with tens of builders. you’re a commodity and you will be forced to charge accordingly.

These are the countries they need to milk – and these are the countries where they will keep a close eye on cost. in the context of advertising and multinational brands. the marketing head at the client will fight for you and convince procurement.Mudra’s Ignite attempts to get clients in this situation. A rudimentary knowledge of economics will tell you that there will be pressure on prices. If there is a story. in the next few years. For the larger agencies (by which I mean the top 50 agencies in the country). 121 . By creating more person-brands. there is one way to stretch the good times. It’s already common practice in media – and it’ll become common practice in agencies without a story. The reality is that the supply side (the number of agencies vying for business) is growing every year and that the demand side. Europe in trouble and China sending negative signals. either a person-brand story or a demonstrable track-record story. with their new business executives sniffing around for someone ready for the picking. So if you have no story to tell . Procurement will be a commonly used and understood word. After all. the great white hopes are (largely) India. Africa. Procurement will demand metrics that justify your fee.check if you either have a story or can create a believable one – or get used to the idea of working cheap. As the USA stays sluggish. Russia and Brazil. the number of clients (or the size of the business) is nowhere near keeping place. his performance depends on the effectiveness of the communication created by agencies. they will ask for proof of return on the investments that they make in advertising. So do all agencies in small towns. It gets worse when you take into account the pressures on the multinational clients.

notably. Impact. Can’t write? Hire a ghost writer. afaqs. Storyboard. If you’re new or newish. Here are a few steps. “R3’s Agency Image Study measures Piyush Pandey as the most mentioned creative in the business. afaqs Reporter. “Our core service offerings include proprietary tools and processes in all aspects of improving marketing efficiency and effectiveness. the gain to O&M (and to Sir Martin Sorrell) from Piyush’s media profile cannot be anything but significant. 122 .The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 In January 2009. this is what they do. All About Ads. What you can do is to create person-brands. If one links this with the rating that ‘creativity’ gets in the list of the qualities that client’s look for when appointing an agency. Campaign India. The more person-brands an agency creates. as well as in the areas of Agency Relationships + Remuneration + Reviews”). • Teach at prestigious educational institutes.” (To those who are stumped by R3. Make it easy for them. • Contact and create relationships with the trade media. • Attend trade events regularly. • Keep journalists informed of all developments in your agency. mail jpegs and mpegs where applicable. exchange4media. but not restricted to. • Save phone numbers of journalists so that you recognise them when you receive calls and can contact them when you need to. a track record is obviously something you cannot do overnight. • Start writing and submitting articles to all but the TV magazines. Catalyst and Strategist. I had written in Campaign India. Start doing it now. the easier it will get when it comes to dealing with pressure to sign on low retainers or lower retainers. Brand Equity.

He knows the culture. they’re finding it easy. CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi India. has taken charge of a shaky Saatchi & Saatchi India. to become what they’ve become – brands. Seddon. the philosophy of Lovemarks. brings ‘Saatchiness’. Kelly has been ECD of a division. He knows Saatchi very well. “What is it that an Indian CEO couldn’t have done that Matt brings to the table? Hytner: Matt. The fact that he understands the local market and the local people makes him a sensible choice for Saatchi & Saatchi in order to take over the India operations head-on. Matt has been with Saatchi & Saatchi world over and particularly Asia for around 20 years. thank you very much.Of course it’s hard work. more than anything else. I wanted to know when I heard of his coming to India. That’s why. I didn’t suggest that it was going to be easy. Matt Seddon. Why him? Why not an Indian. being the second expatriate to head an agency in India (the first was Charles Cadell of Lowe Lintas). though. Some of our core 123 . Ask all those who are person-brands. We’ve have Max Hegerman. then? It’s because Hegerman heads just digital. We’ve had Graham Kelly as executive creative director. the business has turned around. Ogilvy Interactive. They’ve slaved. is a milestone in Indian advertising. who headed Tribal DDB and now heads digital at JWT India. Afaqs spoke to Saatchi & Saatchi’s deputy chairman Richard Hytner and got me the answer. over years. as I can see. Cadell headed an agency that was doing very well. So far. You think you have enough of a headache and enough competition – look out for a bigger headache and added competition – the expat. as the going is getting tough. Why is Seddon’s appointment a milestone. He wouldn’t have any kind of difficulty in embedding Lovemarks into this operation.

from the core values of the international brand that it weakens the brand. By the time the book is your hands. BBH tried to inject. It is an absolute key task for any leader to get local talent. to paraphrase Hytner. rising to the position of managing partner. and replace the agency name with any other network agency name. India. He knows Saatchi very well. the critical takeout is the sentence. It’s interesting – and I believe Hytner has got it right. 124 . Scott Goodson would have announced that StrawberryFrog was launching an India operation. Matt is growing a team of locals. BBHness by having Paul Ward in Mumbai during the formative first years. which he believes will be available through the ‘team of locals’. Will we see another expat come to India to ensure StrawberryFrogness? I’m beginning to believe that we will see more and more network agencies bringing in people at the highest echelons of the agency – because they know the agency. But. It was originally planned that he would be based in Mumbai. what it stands for. “should we do the same?” Hytner is underlining the importance of alignment to the agency. so many agencies who could ponder on Hytner’s decision – and ask themselves. culturally. now his focus has shifted to Delhi.” For me. Michael. He’s prioritising the alignment over local knowledge and local insight. Ward temporarily made BBH India a four-legged stool. say. There are many instances where the India office is completely different.” Replace Matt with. who will be responsible for the future. There are so many possibilities. what the culture is like. “Matt has been with Saatchi & Saatchi world over and particularly Asia for around 20 years.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 clients are looking more satisfied than they were before.

a very high level of trust – and that is of immense value. I’ll digress for a bit and talk to you about Mindshare India and Ford.What is unsaid by Hytner (and unsaid by the management of BBH at the time of Ward’s appointment in India in Ward’s case) is that the fact that there exists an existing strong relationship with Seddon and the agency. thanks to the slow growth or degrowth in these markets. the Chennai branch of Mindshare had to be downsized. consequently. it’ll be in another country. And I don’t think it’s going to be limited to CXOs. proven commitment and has delivered to the company? Offer them options. as they increasingly look to India to shore up revenues. 125 . place people they trust and are aligned with in CXO level positions. such as digital. etc . We’ll probably see them move in to occupy need-gaps in specialist areas. shopper-marketing. committed and gifted talent was the signal. in other offices. Mindshare’s Chennai office was handling the Ford business. managers will have a moral dilemma to deal with. as Mindshare did. it will not be within the same country. How do you sack someone who has proven loyalty. If they are forced to downsize in New York or London or Paris. this time. Except. especially when incumbent CXOs underperform? I think so – and I think it would be the sensible thing to do. When Ford decided to move their marketing operations from Chennai to Delhi. and. a considerable business with considerable demands. So it will be with multinational agencies. film production. Will more agencies. Staffers who the agency wanted to retain were offered transfers to other Mindshare offices around the country. That’s why I say Seddon’s appointment is a milestone. As a result. Mindshare Chennai was well staffed and vibrant. in another continent. Look after loyal.

Walk into a pub. from the BBC. And things are not great in many of them. but specifically in Bandra West. “ The number of new UK graduates working in jobs like cleaning or bar work has almost doubled to 10. The figures showed 9% of new graduates were jobless six months after completing their degree in 2010/11. a restaurant. from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. at the end of June this year. The figures. Go for a walk or a jog on Carter Road or Bandstand. Universities Minister David Willetts said graduates were still doing better than people without degrees. work in industries closely linked to advertising – TV production. many. any evening. a bar. Many. Overall the data showed 71% in work and a further 16% in continued study. Consider the state of affairs in the UK. friends from the countries that they come from get to know. in Mumbai. there’s enough evidence to suggest the influx is not far away. especially if you live. as I do. also showed more than 20. This.” 126 . design. according to government statistics. and it’s peppered with Caucasians. music production.000 in five years. As the early adventurers get used to India and start enjoying working here (as many of them seem to be doing). and it’s the same. the home to many of the agencies who dominate Indian advertising.000 were still out of work six months after leaving university.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 They will bring with them proven loyalty and proven commitment and they will bring the same ‘<agency brand> -ness’ to the agency as Seddon is expected to bring Saatchiness to Saatchi & Saatchi India. While we haven’t seen the junior and middle level professional expat make too many inroads into advertising.

Graduates. Would they rather work in an agency in India if they’ve qualified to work in one. 127 . partly because of the state of the economy in Europe and partly because of my theory on Matt Seddon’s move to India. We will see an influx. or in bars or in cleaning jobs in the UK? This is just one example to illustrate the principle.

He embraced the idea that being No. I cannot think of another word that suits him better. “Brand Piyush stands for everything that is good about Indian advertising and its communication .” Piyush is markedly unusual. dictionaries define freak: “A thing or occurrence that is markedly unusual or irregular. 1 in India was good. intelligence and intellect. Piyush is irregular. just after I had moved to Asia. This is what he wrote. but a personality with a pointof-view. and what put him into a league of his own was that this pointof-view extended to the world. humour.” This is what Miles Young had to say about Piyush. That. As I have said many times before. it meant a change of 128 . I had asked Sir Martin Sorrell to write the editorial for a special issue that Campaign India planned to publish on the occasion. in turn. He was a personality. This is how.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Piyush Pandey is a freak. Right from get-go I realized he was not just an ordinary creative director: he was much bigger than that.” “His contribution was that he raised our sights. Piyush is emblematic of the growth and development of the Indian advertising business. if we could replicate our Indian agencies and business across the world I could have retired a long time ago. largely.a great intellect with deep creative understanding and power. made him a much better Creative Director. Then he was the Executive Creative Director of the Agency. not just to the confines of the ad business. and for the Indian advertising business to prove that it could be world-beating. But for India to be of the great agencies in the world. “I first met Piyush on my inaugural visit to India in 1995. When Piyush was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the AAAI. Full of insight. but not good enough.

talking about work and about the industry. He is a freak. Karl Vontz said. He pushed through those changes. Some of it. the two of us alone. he brings us back to earth. In some instances. talking about Things. I’d been badgering him to write a book about his experiences in advertising. I’ve met them before they begin their India operations. He not only possesses wonderful creative vision. For some years. CLIO Director. He is one of a kind. Over the years. to the important things. Almost the first question that I’m asked is. Some of it. when Piyush was honoured with the Clio Lifetime Achievement Award.Piyush struggled with the notion of an 129 .” Earlier this year. I’ve spent some quality time with him. He cannot be replicated. Just Things. but he is a great leader who motivates everyone around him with his enthusiasm and passion. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many international agency CEOs when they visit India and their India offices.” “He is our conscience – it’s as simple as that. Often. He cuts through the complexity.orientation and of behavior. “Piyush truly embodies the spirit of this award. “Who do you think will be the next Piyush?” And I want to tear my heart out. In all our global meetings. and more than anybody else is responsible for the high repute in which Indian advertising is held now around the world. No one will be the next Piyush Pandey. We look forward to celebrating his body of work and his ongoing contribution in the field of advertising.” Over the years. I’ve met them when they’ve just decided that they need an India operation. and reminds us of when we are actually there.

Each sheet had a poem on it. These conversations. immediately. it’s Piyush. “Partner. One blood group is a universal donor. but each was better than the previous one. I said. The doorbell rang. and I’ve donated as well. I’ve got the solution. enthralled and transfixed. what the hell. that he had a responsibility to share them. I cannot share what he wrote about. How could anyone write an autobiography without repeated references to oneself – and isn’t that vanity? I tried to explain that the youngsters in the business would benefit from his experiences. I volunteered to ‘write’ the book for him. In Piyush’s grand scheme of things. That’s what I have. offering to go to his house or office or to his house at Goa and have conversations with him. which was about 10 minutes away from Piyush’s residence. His said. and in walked Rajiv Rao. but. and I’ll get away with it. the other is a universal receiver. let’s start on the book. would be transformed into a book. I was struggling on how to articulate that – and I’ve found the solution. my struggle with the book is that it would be too much about me. one evening. “Partner. he called and asked me to come to his house immediately. he called and said. I’ve received through my career from others. We’ll call the book “Two Blood Groups”. My careers has been such that. I went. till. all shapes and sizes. I sat. I entered his house and sat down. at every stage. and we lit up our cigarettes. one day. He kept hedging. His major domo brought us some tea. Piyush explained to Rajiv why we were there. He said he wanted to discuss the book. Piyush brought out a sheaf of papers. these verses would be 130 . In between.” I was then at the Campaign India office. there have been people who have helped me and there have been people whom I have helped.” It’s been a few years since we first spoke about Two Blood Groups.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 autobiography – he thought it was the ultimate in vanity. Come home NOW. in Hindi and written in long hand. I do not have permission to share the following. His major domo walked in with glasses of rum and we toasted. I went over.

“What happens if Piyush. retires? And. They’ll tell you how much more of a planner he is than a creative person. His autobiography would virtually tell the story of modern advertising in India. I hope I’m wrong. and we decided to follow up on the book and finish it by the end of the year. it’s a shame. Every now and then. And while I get irritated with the question. My guess is that they will never be written/published. and he has been working quietly on the transition for some time. “who’s the next Piyush?”.transformed into a book. Each poem would be reproduced in the original. work comes before the book of verse. I would translate each poem into English. the freak will not be full time in the business – because of his generosity. but the time we come to 2016. It’s so brilliant. Both will tell you that he is a freak. His generosity will be urging him to make way for the next generation. Both will tell you how much he loves mankind and how grateful he is for all he has received. the advertising which has helped put India on the global map. we haven’t had a meeting of any consequence on the book. one has to think of the question. Rajiv was flying to South Africa in a few hours. They’ll tell you why you must be intensely curious. 131 . His verse will tell you how much Manwatching he has done. It’s sad. Hindi. glancing nervously at his watch. because a) he still thinks writing an autobiography is a show of vanity and b) in his prioritisation. Piyush finally ‘allowed’ him to leave. Since then. Rajiv would commission artists who would embellish the poetry with illustrations. I talk to Piyush about Two Blood Groups and the book of verse and he quickly changes the topic to something else. even if he has never heard of Desmond Morris. sort of.

And those who endorse or campaign for products like this are dead already. we could relax. the responses come in: Likes. Compare this with today. and. No likes. and. On Youtube. There are over 2000 people who’ve voted on whether they like or dislike the commercial. Two sighs if relief. and we heaved a sigh of relief. it was covered and it was in the Best section. and live to fight another year with the client.” says a comment. The TVC is reviewed in Campaign India. petrified. no comments on articles. the commercial has over 1. not the Bekaar. with it. would it be pronounced Best or Bekaar? Wednesday came. “The worst product and campaign ever! It’s an insult to mother nature!! When will we learn that aging is more natural than a pill or botox! Get over it! Everyone ages.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 There’s a new element in measurement of the performance of communication: Digital and Social media. the story is inundated with comments. Would the Servo campaign be covered in their Best/Bekaar column? If it was. when I was at TBWA\Anthem and we’d just released a TV campaign for IndianOil’s Servo. We waited. Worse is when you can see the number of reads or views. most of them negative. for Wednesday to come. actually. There was no other trade medium we had to worry about. 132 . Curry-Nation is the agency. and. I need to rewind to about 2000. within minutes of publishing. there are more than 40 comments. Because. As this is being written. Brand Equity.4 million views. a vaginal rejuvenation and tightening gel. within minutes. shares and comments. Ultratech India launches a brand called 18 Again. forwards. Put up a new ad. no hashtags. That was it.

The larger issue is the fact that one no longer has to wait ages for research to tell you how a commercial is received – you will know in hours. are about 50:50. scientifically-designed research. as CurryNation. In the last few days (this is now October 2012) this is a sampling of their activities: 1. asking readers whether they would like a Cheetah face or Cheetah spots on the bonnet (the face wins). said. What does one do. Curry-Nation. or at the worst. 2. they had asked. “What should we paint on the BONNET/HOOD of the XUV500? Tell us how you would bring 133 . If this was the brief.000 likes. as of now. Look at what else can be used to measure communication.4 million views? Should one be concerned about the 50 percent (of those who shared their opinions on Youtube) who disliked the TVC? “On the thought behind the campaign for the new product. This might not be pure. A couple of days earlier. director.The opinions. They’ve done a poll. in a few days. and the idea is to create a demand for such a product in the Indian market. or as Ultratech? Worry about the comments on a trade site? Celebrate the 1. The TVC got people of both sexes to talk about a subject that is not discussed in public. Priti Nair. I would say that Curry-Nation has delivered in spades – especially when you see the 1. Mahindra Xylo’s official Facebook page has over 800. but it’s one hell of a dip stick.” Campaign India had reported. Since the product is targeted towards concerns that are not usually talked about publicly. the challenges of creating a campaign for this is also higher. structured.4 million number and the conversation that this commercial provoked on social media. which is what seems to have been a primary objective. “This is a one-of-a-kind women-centric product.

giving Mahindra the opportunity to pre-test many of the ideas presented by the agencies concerned (and. Whether the creative agency does this on its own or with a social media expert or PR agency as a partner is unimportant – what is important is that it needs to be done. Why are we getting so few views on Youtube? 4. this is a big worry for creative agencies. The responses are in the thousands. There are some who know how social media works – and also know how to ‘game’ it. I would not suggest that you try and game it (clients will catch on. but I do suggest that all agencies should actively try and figure out how to use social media to amplify their work to deliver maximum views for their clients. Why are we getting so many negative comments on the commercial? 2. Why is no one talking about us on twitter? 134 . They work closely with social media agencies and ramp up the numbers and ramp up the positive feedback as well. Testing and instant measurement both have many positive aspects – but they do have negative aspects as well. These are questions that your client is likely to ask you – and you need the answers: 1. Why are we getting so few positive comments on the commercial? 3. fairly soon). these activities themselves might be handled by the agency handling the advertising). What happens when the negative comments outnumber the positive ones by a large factor? What happens when the TVC gets no traction on YouTube? To me.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 to life the cheetah inspiration into the XUV500 in a special way while painting the exteriors of the XUV500 in the CHEETAH THEME. indeed.

The problem here is a legacy mindset. Print is print and has a certain job to do. but I’ll stop at twitter. radio a third. that made the campaign a seeming success. therefore. so for them to understand the possibilities is easy as pie. but my point is that social media amplification makes the campaign significantly more successful than it otherwise would have been). How many of you are on twitter? How many of you know how hashtags work? How many of you have thought of a hashtag while developing an idea for a campaign? Social media presents one spectacular opportunity for all creative agencies – it makes a seemingly immeasurable creative measurable. That’s why the need for creatives to understand how media operates. 7Up would have done much deeper research into the success or failure. The campaign for 7Up which broke at that time. It’s also a lesson that. and the subsequent measurability.There are more. TV has another task. 135 . and so on. looking at media in silos. was average. It was the amplification of the campaign with the hashtag. Look at what BBDO/Proximity did for 7 Up with the #IFeelUp hashtag. collaboration is a key aspect to success – and. (I’m sure. to me. The creatives will have to learn it – they have no choice any more. while you may work on a single campaign with many other partners. Most professionals in media agencies have been comfortable with the concept of ‘media multiplier’ for more than a decade. knowing that it is Pepsi-owned. you have no choice but to learn to collaborate.

but. Out of this budget comes the big TVCs.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 The big. for years. There’s a large chunk of the budget which is available to the central marketing team to handle national. to be spent on those activities the distributor. mass media campaigns. in turn. There will be need to create more and more communication in local languages. That’s one example. The ‘national’ budget. but there is no doubt that all welldistributed FMCG firms will be under pressure to change the ‘national’ versus ‘regional’ balance. The most significant impact that I see is that the budgets for the ‘national’ celebrities and the Hindi TVCs will come down. TV. Another chunk goes to the distributors in each state. and so on. the national celebrities. radio and the internet. Today. squeeze their creative agencies. deems fit. So the Cola majors will also be in the best position to deal with the new world that we see with the explosion of media. Central marketers. fat national campaign will become smaller and slimmer. diverted to regional celebrities and TVCS in local languages. the explosion of new media vehicles in the regions. This will happen to the most well-penetrated of national brands. when you have the options to talk to consumers in the languages that they speak. and that’s enough. in time. The Colas are just one example. will be less than the sum of the ‘regional’ budgets. faced with the squeeze on their budgets. The Cola majors. forced by. a ShahRukh Khan doesn’t stand a chance against a Dhanush in Tamil Nadu. the big ticket national event sponsorships. (I must add that I see this happening in 136 . to my mind. through print. in conjunction with major dealers. they’ve handled it the best). will. the power of Hindi and English diminish. I say again. have worked with a complex marketing budget (they’re not the only ones. Let’s face it.

Middle East and Turkey region. clients are more than happy to meet prospective partners – including independent production houses. In the last year. They’ve already squeezed the daylights out of their largest cost-head media. getting a sense of the costs – and comparing them to what you were paid for your last few films. they do have a better sense of the quiet deals between the production houses and creative agencies. Margins are lower than last year 3. Unknown to you. In such an instance. he believed. the communication failed. Ask those who run the largest production houses in the country. the offending 137 . hundreds of new production houses being born. looking at their showreels. Vice President .products with depth of penetration. Clients are also coming to get a better sense of the margins that creative agencies have in films. for example in cars or air-conditioners). yes. Loyalty in agencies is dropping 4. bringing the price down. Oh. and each of them is knocking on marketers doors. He spoke of how the day was not far when they would know how well a new commercial was doing almost in real time by the sales numbers that they would be able to receive. as we’ve discussed earlier.Media at Unilever for the Asia. I was having a drink with Rahul Welde. Africa. and we were talking about the developments in communication specific to supermarkets. clients are meeting production houses. To make matters worse. literally. and this is what you will learn: 1. If the sales were flat or went down. the communication was working. so they know how squeezable you are. It will not happen. If the sales went up. so there’s no room to touch them. we’ve seen. Competition is increasing A couple of years ago. They will look hardest at the budgets for television commercials. This year has been tougher than last year 2.

anymore. it sends the wrong message to consumers. The turnaround time for a new piece of communication would come down dramatically 3.” The prudent thing for agencies to do is to address this elephant before your clients force you to. even temporarily. This may not augur well for the long-term health of the brand. “I see a short-term approach to advertising rather than a long-term one. It’s no secret. The production cost per piece of communication would have to come down 2.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 communication would be yanked and replaced by one that would have to be created. especially when sentiment is weak and inflation is eating into household budgets. in my view. Take a look at what Prasoon Joshi said in September this year ion an interview to Business Standard. While at one level it is understandable. I’ve been thinking of it from the evening he shared his views. They begin to wonder what is keeping the brand silent. that some clients are 138 . the focus should be even more on brand-building rather than consumer promotions. Creative agencies would have to learn data and measurement If Welde was ahead of his time then. yes. I think the time has come for Indian agencies to ponder on Welde’s thoughts of two years ago. It’s more about being here and now. when times are uncertain. The life of a piece of communication (even if it is good) would come down 4. He saw four impacts of this new measurability: 1. The emphasis is on promotional schemes. and I can now smell the coffee. Of course you need promotional schemes to lure consumers to the marketplace. But when active brand-building is abandoned. budgets tighter. So. based on feedback quickly received. duration of campaigns is shorter.

Till you do. the event comprised two days of presentations at the Blue Frog. the Mumbai London Advertising Forum 2011. do ask yourself. What is Mofilm? You could ask marketing heads who met them at Goa last year and will meet them again this year. More of this will happen. For starters. Does this have to be shot on location? Can’t technology help? 6. Does the crew need to be as large as it is? Does everyone have a defined role to play? 5. unless you demonstrate your commitment to helping the client do his job well. straight from their website: “MOFILM is a global crowdsourcing company that connects some of the world’s biggest brands with our community of 50. I’ll give you an idea.000 filmmakers in more than 140 countries around the world. Then you have Mofilm. where 20 speakers.deciding on the production house you will work with. are their more economical ways of saying the same thing? 2. as in the case of Matt Seddon and my theory. you could do things like the following: 1. Some are getting organised and getting set for India. 139 . that more and more international production houses and film professionals will look at India for business. Some already are. Is post-production in London really required? Can’t we get the same in Singapore? Or in Bandra? 4. For example. 10 of whom were delegates from the UK and 10 of whom were Indian advertising people presented. took place in Mumbai from 7 to 9 November 2011. Does this have to be shot in South Africa? Can’t you shoot in Goa? 3. When you review an extravagant concept before presenting it to the client. Is the director who is demanding a monumental fee the only director who can do the film? Can he be squeezed? Also bear in mind. organised by the Advertising Producers Association of the UK. Essentially.

Tarsem for Coca-Cola will not be fine if the life of the commercial is a month. If.” Let’s face it.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 Many of the world’s biggest brands use us to provide them with breakthrough content that can be used online. Tarsem for Coca-Cola was fine when you knew you would run the film for a year. as Welde predicts. the premium one would be willing to pay for a big-name director or big name production house will reduce as well. or to create memorable advertising campaigns that can be broadcast during occasions such as the Super Bowl. the life of films reduce. and being increasingly seen as commodities by most advertisers. is largely headed the creative agency way. 140 . film production. too.

because they know how to run large organisations. go through the list of 35 above and count how many have worked with Piyush Pandey. 141 . Madhukar Kamath. Ajai Jhala. Swati Bhattacharya and V Sunil. buying an agency with one or more of them in it. Malvika Mehra. Some of them. Mahesh Chauhan.Who are the person. I started the list without pre-deciding on a convenient round number. Sambit Mohanty. towards retirement? Based on my thoughts on the needs of tomorrow. Senthil Kumar. R Balki. Satbir Singh. Colvyn Harris. Agnello Dias. Rajiv Rao. Kartik Iyer. They’re the people who will run the future. where traditional media meets digital meets experiential meets PR. I need to add one more name. Juju Basu. Prasoon Joshi. Bobby Pawar. Mohit Jayal. which very few know how to. all of 34. especially if it came to retaining the individuals. Santosh Padhi. It’s not a ranking. Praveen Kenneth. To truly understand what his influence has been. Some of them get the needs of the evolving client. Josy Paul. Pratap Bose. hiring them where possible or look out for them starting off on their own. Joseph George. Sonal Dabral. it’s but an alphabetically arranged list. Some of them. Ajay Gahlaut. based on their first names. because they get the new communication task. Some know how to collaborate. He’ll be there.brands of tomorrow as the old guard starts edging toward 60. Anil S Nair. Sajan Raj Kurup. Whether he is in Ogilvy or retired or semiretired. I’ve made a list of those I would watch closely. Rohit Ohri. Ravi Deshpande. Subhash Kamath. Nitesh Tiwari. Abhijit Awasthi. he will continue to have a significant influence on the business of advertising in India. It’s an odd number. Priti Nair. Arun Iyer. Nitin Pradhan.

both HR related. To begin with. The first is to figure out how to motivate talented creative to stay in the agency. over the past five years. Take the case of Malvika Mehra and Amit Akali. look out of O&M. O&M is the best placed of all WPP agencies. the best placed to deal with the challenges described in the book. by a country mile. O&M has proven that it is a great place for nurturing talent. To them. as it already had Abhijit Awasthi and Rajiv Rao.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 So how do the BIG networks stack up? Which of the networks is best placed to deal with the massive changes which we will witness over the next few tough years as the global economy deals with slow or no growth? What are the challenges that they have. Part of the solution lies in dealing with the second problem: Size. like many other network agencies that follow. The problem with O&M in India has to deal with two problems. Bangalore and Kolkata. there are some areas that will concern them. has costs and organisation structures that are built on the old revenue model – and that has to be 142 . Once they’d tasted blood with the success of Bingo (and other brands) in Bangalore. peculiar to themselves? To me. Good work is produced in all offices. for bringing out the best in the creatives. and off they went to Grey Worldwide. O&M. It’s got robust offices in Mumbai. The challenge for HR is to figure out how the talent is motivated to stay. Delhi. That involves two issues – more responsibility and more remuneration. where do they go from there? Mumbai was closed. Piyush has. Having said that. not letting the talent feel that they are not part of a winning agency. Indeed. ensured that each office is an office of creative excellence. it’s the best placed of all the network agencies. the answer was. that’s a significant factor. They have the most person-brands – and in the Indian context. WPP is.

Hero and Times of India. Kolkata and Hyderabad. led from the front and been the 143 . Max Hergerman. created by other agencies cannot be easy to swallow. He steps into the shoes of Agnello Dias. and that should be a considerable contributor in the way the agency handles the new demands. JWT’s biggest problem is managing the morale and the leadership changes they’ve seen of late. Colvyn Harris will be hoping that the Pawar decision was the correct one and managing the motivation in the non-creative areas. and turned it into a power to reckon with. Meanwhile. Seeing work of three ‘solid’ brands. Losing Rohit Ohri. and three relatively smaller ones in Chennai. a competent and nonflashy agency. Losing Agnello Dias is another big blow. He joined Mudra. was a big blow. Additionally. They’ve already embarked on a new focus in Neo@ Ogilvy. for a short while. who headed Tribal DDB.dismantled anyway. business wise. since he has. over the years. where he won a bucketful of awards. The largest office. Another big advantage for Pawar is that his colleague at Mudra. now heads JWT Digital. Bobby Pawar has a job no one would envy. has seen a change in the management leadership as well with Ohri’s departure. He comes to JWT from Mudra. independent. as Pawar already is more than comfortable with digital and is comfortable with integration with digital. manager of their biggest India office. who has covered himself in glory after turning. Delhi and Bangalore. It’s the size of JWT that will be more than a handful: three big offices in Mumbai. the people cost needs to come down so that they can continue to compete with agencies built in the new era. The agency size must be trimmed. The big plus is Pawar’s India track record. So Pawar’s task is to get the creative team back to high motivation levels and that’s no small ask. Airtel.

The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016

face of the agency, his job will also include assuring clients, especially Delhi clients, that all is well with the agency despite the exits of Ohri and Dias. As with O&M, the rightsizing exercise needs to begin in earnest as well. He’s got another problem: Contract. With his promotion in September, Harris will become South Asia CEO (India, Sri Lanka and Nepal) and take charge of Contract Advertising as well. So what happens to Ravi Deshpande, chairman and chief creative officer, Contract Advertising? Till Harris’ September promotion, both he and Deshpande reported to Micheal Maedel. Now Deshpande will report to Harris… … as will Umesh Shrikhande, CEO, Contract. That’s the task for Harris -to get both Deshpande and Shrikhande to be comfortable working under his leadership. If he does manage to convince them, Harris will breathe easy. If Deshpande and /or Shrikhande choose to leave, Harris will be saddled with the tasks of managing morale, managing clients – and managing revenues at Contract as well. It’ll be more difficult than the JWT quagmire, in a way. Contract has a work culture which is very different from JWT’s insofar as it has, in the past 5-6 years, clearly projected itself as a creative-friendly agency, with a creative face in Deshpande. As a result, Contract has found it easier to hire and retain creative talent. The size of the agency is such that, between Deshpande and Umesh (who work brilliantly as a team) they are accessible to the entire agency. The loss of Deshpande, if it happens, would be a big loss, the loss described earlier when a person-brand leaves an agency. The pluses at Contract are that they are both digitally aligned and design aligned, so, as far as future-proofing is concerned, they’re in a good place. Then we come to Grey Worldwide. Of all the successful network agency offices, Grey’s must be the youngest by average age, making the

agency well-equipped to deal with the transitions of the immediate future. What the agency has done successfully since Mehra and Akali joined is to become known more as a creative agency than has been the case in the few years preceding. Mehra and Akali are clearly the faces of the agency, with Jishnu Sen staying away from the limelight. Having said that, what Grey’s new creative abilities need is stronger and more forceful servicing and new business development. There are too many accounts where the RoI isn’t too good, which results in creative resources being utilised inefficiently. Grey’s disastrous adventure with event management company Rams is in stark contrast to JWT’s success with Encompass was a lesson in the importance of integration, alignment and collaboration. Grey’s PR division folded up a few years ago as well, again underlining the problem with integration. Grey’s average employee age will help them in the digital space, and their size is such that they will be able to compete on retainer fees with many of the new kids in town. The biggest challenge? Overall quality of people in the middle and lower rungs. The other WPP agencies are not worth spending too much time on, except to say that Y&R will come to India strongly in the next couple of years. It will, because it has to. Clients of Y&R cannot be tossed around like a football and a solution must be found. Omnicom is a bit of a mixed bag. In terms of size of assets, they’re considerably better off than they were a decade ago. They’ve now got 100 percent in TBWA India, a majority stake in DDB Mudra, a fully owned subsidiary in BBDO India and a stake in RK Swamy BBDO. Additionally, they’ve Proximity, which is currently managed by BBDO. BBDO India is the newest of the lot – with, therefore, a new cost structure. They’re lean, mean and hungry, and beautifully poised for the future. Their ability to work with partners has been proven with their work for Aviva and for Gillette. Their digital capability in Proximity has been underlined with the Visa TVC (which was before the Visa global account moved to BBDO from TBWA). The Jhala+Paul team works well, with

The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016

a lot of mutual respect, which allows Paul to be the face of the agency. Omnicom must be celebrating each time they think of BBDO India. Not so much TBWA India (which I’ve dealt with earlier). [Disclaimer: I worked with TBWA India under the original promoters of Anthem, which TBWA acquired]. TBWA India still struggles to find its way, even if, for the first time in the history of the Indian entity, it made a mark at Cannes and at other awards shows in the last year. Tequila, their DM arm, launched after the 100 percent takeover, came a cropper as well. The PR division is closed. The agency business plods along. Thanks to downsizing, they might have improved from a bottom-line perspective, but that is not why they acquired the agency when they did. What can be done? Sadly, the answer is a complete overhaul. Alternatively, if they want to play catch up, TBWA India will have to acquire another Indian agency for the billing – something I do not think they will have the appetite to do. What will happen, then? A change at the top, and hope for the best. I’m not going to take a punt on this one. RK Swamy BBDO is so completely un-Omnicom that it stumps me. Sure, it makes money – but that’s not the only thing Omnicom agencies do. They churn our great, exciting, vibrant advertising for their brands. RKS is now an agency with an older DNA (and there are others). The Swamy brothers have cashed in reasonably well with the stake sale and the compensation for allowing BBDO to enter Indian with second company. The agency does well with government and public sector clients – and clients who are relationship dependent. The first category will continue to grow, the second will not, as clients, as I’ve mentioned earlier, are happy to flirt. Despite having two iconic brands (Mercedes Benz and Raymond) RKS is not known as a creative agency. It’s solid and boring, and not the kind of agency that young entrants to the industry want to join. They will have a problem with attracting talent, especially when sibling BBDO is doing vibrant, cool work. DDB Mudra has a bit of a tough time ahead. They’ve lost people at

I’ll be doing a jig. Bobby Pawar was the ‘face’ of Mudra’s creativity. Bobby Pawar’s role in changing the image of Mudra to a ‘creative’ agency is significant. It’s a tightly run ship. Sudarshan Banerjee and Max Hegerman to name a few. With these losses they’re down to just three faces in Madhukar Kamath. they were breathing down the neck of O&M as far as awards are concerned. Pawar’s replacement. Naveen Gaur looks after the Delhi business with competence. first in replacing them and next in getting the newcomers to ease into their roles and become effective. From no-hopers. Sudarshan Banerjee was the business development face and Arijit Ray was the Bombay head. Let’s begin with Lowe. These are big. What does IPG have in India? It’s got Lowe. much in the style that Ranjan Kapur chose to run Ogilvy. who heads the planning function. big losses. it’s got McCann Erickson. and Kamath. Deepa Geethakrishnan. S.Balki – so it was transformed into a creative agency. Anurag Gupta oversaw a large chunk of their revenues from experiential marketing and outdoor. it’s got FCB. last year. Pratap Bose and Sonal Dabral. doesn’t do too badly on the awards front either – but his current situation will not allow him to focus too much on this area. as does ‘Subbu’. What’s heartening about Lowe is that there is a team in place. Arijit Ray. Dabral.the top: Bobby Pawar. The unassuming Joseph George is slowly but surely growing into the CEO function. the chied strategy officer at Mudra Max. Bose and Dabral will not have it easy. it’s been clear that it’s run by R. Sandeep Vij. Max Hegerman represented the digital face of Mudra. The next couple of years will be tough going for Mudra – I see it as a period of consolidation. And he shouldn’t. and I’m certain DDB would see it similarly. Arun Iyer is coming into his own as a national creative director [Disclaimer: I was a colleague of his at TBWA]. If I were the IPG executive sitting in New York and India was my remit. 147 . The losses are interesting: Sandeep Vij was the ‘face’ of Mudra Delhi. In addition. chooses to keep a low profile.Subramanyeswar. they lost Anurag Gupta. their president in charge of creative. After the exit of Prem Mehta.

Next up from the IPG stable is draftFCB. As far as digital is concerned. The million dollar question – what if Joshi. quickly. and to their Unilever clients. wants to direct a film? Will he be able to balance Bollywood and advertising as Balki has proven to be able to do? Much will depend on the number two creative face. Joshi. On digital. the rest of the top management stays close to invisible. That will be essential as they look from 2016 onwards. but that’s that. Obviously. who is already so involved in Bollywood. is stretched to the limit and it doesn’t help that he has global responsibilities as well. thanks to their client Idea. cost-aware organisation. While they have a stable client base.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 not rag. tag and bobtail. the 148 . What else? I’d get more of those named to brand themselves better and more aggressively. except for Joshi. predominantly on TVCs. They will have to come to terms with it and embrace it. they will also have to create a face that is seen as a clear number two in the agency – a creative number two. they’ve been forced to think digital and that stands them in good stead. it’s a solid organisation. McCann hasn’t yet demonstrated that they are too enamoured by the medium. It doesn’t help that Joshi’s first love is films. Other than Prasoon Joshi. Govind Pandey is seen at some of the industry events. That’s good – and that’s’ bad as well. McCann will have to move up a gear as far as new media is concerned. whose name can you recognise? For reasons best known to McCann. Then we come to McCann. with loyal clients and the least attrition at the top in comparison with any of the top 20 agencies in India. mobile services. George runs an efficient. That needs to be created. Most of the names mentioned here have spent a decade with Lowe. Will they have to right-size? I think they will have to do the same that I suggest Ogilvy does – cut the numbers and up the quality of the middle and junior levels. What can one say about draftFCB? By and large. MG Parameswaran. Lowe’s got loyal clients. That will come from re-jigging their middle management and getting younger talent in. that causes the agency to focus. price-wise. Lowe is leaner than JWT and Ogilvy. and the category that it is in. so their competitiveness is better. then.

as is the case with Publicis Capital. Considering how well partners at BBH India are paid. the India office also ensures that they do reasonably well at awards shows. and that sets them up well for the future. sadly. draftFCB has upped it’s digital play. replacing those who will retire and giving the incumbents enough time to settle into their new roles. It’s unclear what they stand for. in the next three-four years.face of the agency. Thanks to their working on automotive brands. Leo Burnett has the solidity of Arvind Sharma and KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar at the top and a host of aligned brands that they service efficiently. even if the majority of work they win for is in the scam area. life must be very uncomfortable for them to move out – and this is something Simon Sherwood at BBH London will have to think about. 149 . I’ve dealt with BBH India at length earlier and. or. If IPG would be very pleased about India. which is also in the works. I cannot think of a single agency where something like this has happened by natural retirement – and perhaps this state of affairs should have been anticipated earlier. Someday. as long as goods fly off the shelves. Willy nilly. I cannot see it working with the three-legged stool structure. draftFCB’s creative. Once he goes. In keeping with Leo Burnett’s ambitions. they will have to dismantle the structure and name one individual as numero uno. and show no signs of getting better. we will see. Big pluses? The acquisition of a digital agency which is in the offing and formalising an active relationship with the global sports marketing major. has been hard-working and effective. They’re already lost two in a short period. Publicis is in a mess in India. Octagon (already a part of the group). massive changes at the top. except for Leo Burnett. beginning with the CEO. All three agencies are woefully short of ‘faces’. that wouldn’t matter to their clients. As I’ve said earlier. soon. for the life of me. Publicis India and Publicis Ambience are a shadow of their old selves. is first up for retirement. since the time KS ‘Chax’ Chakravarthy joined. even if there has been no stand-work. Their big problem? Getting the agency younger. see the creative partner leaving time and again. the same cannot be said about Publicis Groupe. it’s like dominoes with the top management as they retire one by one.

Overall. though. With Rohit Ohri now at the helm. and that is a worrying sign. come through. But. the work has been humdrum. though. Dentsu India is now set to be a decent Delhi/Mumbai player. I would see taproot focusing on a handful of clients and not spreading themselves to thin working on Dentsu clients. There’s one sliver of hope. We’ll have to wait and watch as. and that should give the billings a boost if it does. Ohri is in advanced negotiations with a digital agency and that should sort out their digital play. There’s serious chatter on acquiring an agency (one of those listed earlier in the book). sadly. Havas Group has just the one agency in India: Euro RSCG. Fortunately for Ohri. challenging agencies in Delhi and Mumbai. I wouldn’t rule out another acquisition of a traditional agency either. is upping its game. so I do not foresee great organic growth. what do these agencies stand for? What are their stories? I can’t see one. one cannot yet see what they’re gunning for and where they see themselves. today.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 and. Euro RSCG 4D. except for work for globally aligned Garnier and Citibank. one asks. reputation-wise. they agency under discussion has strong Delhi/ Mumbai operations only. with the acquisition of taproot. now renamed Havas. what Dentsu would do is to build their image as a creative powerhouse. and with the hiring of Arijit Ray. indeed. it’s all up from here for Dentsu. If there’s no turnaround story. Since Suman Srivastava left the agency. Rather. even with the acquisition. I wouldn’t go overboard. Saatchi & Saathchi’s India game now seems to be a long term one. it’s Dentsu India. Considering Ohri’s long stint in JWT Delhi. what’s their story? 150 . JWT’s clients will naturally be seen as the low hanging fruit. it’s been all downhill. their digital division. The bigger issue is. The work on the clients they do manage to get is decent – but there siply aren’t enough clients. a very different story from a few years ago. They’re suffering attrition at all levels.

as I end this book. There is need for creatives to understand media and measurement 8. 1. There will be a need to make your team younger 4. There will be a huge focus on cost 2. Get into relationships with local agencies or acquire them if the opportunity is big enough 11. People brands will remain key to growth in India. Media agencies will be a threat to traditional agencies’ traditional businesses as well 7. at various levels of the business 151 . Agencies will have to figure out what they stand for – and then tell the story 9. There is need for agencies to speed up on their understanding of Indian languages thanks to the fragmentation of media and the long tail. Mobile will be a big space. let me try and sum it up. especially as the life of campaigns shrink 13.So. Fat margins in films is a thing of the past. There will be a need to improve talent to align your team to the challenges of the future 3. Digital agencies will be a threat to traditional agencies’ traditional businesses as well 6. bigger than anticipated and sooner than anticipated 12. and the next few years will see some significant people brands leave the business and others take their places 10. More expats will come to India. Large agencies will have to reduce the number of people in order to stay competitive 5.

com/TheElephantsInTheRoom. Piyush Pandey will reign supreme as the most influential individual in the business. 152 .com) or send me a mail at anant461@yahoo. what is important is that these differences are The important factor is not the difference of opinion. There is no such thing as a loyal client 17. learn from Ranjan Kapur 19. Collaboration will be key to being in control of an account 18. New agencies have a significant advantage thanks to their cost structure 15. WPP will still be in control of the business of advertising in India 20.The Elephants in the Room: The Future of Advertising in India 2016 14. even if he retires in the next few years As I said at the beginning. Discuss them on the Facebook page www. the suits will have to step back. Clients are willing to flirt – and will flirt. you might agree or disagree with things I say in this book. discuss them with on twitter (anantrangaswami@twitter. The role of the creatives will be supreme. The Vivek Suchanti model will be one to watch 16.facebook.

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