Raahil Chopra
Sep 27, 2016

Close Up: "The brand wasn’t built on that last ad": Rahul Jauhari

We caught up with the CCO of Rediffusion Y&R Group for a freewheeling chat on work, recognition and scaling a challenge larger than Everest

Close Up:
The chatter around Rediffusion Y&R’s renaissance over the past year and a half has been with good reason. This includes recognition for its work in the market, and at award shows. 
#BeAFarmDost for TAFE, among others, has resonated with the market in recent years. Work like the film for iconic RoohAfza have been noticed and talked about too. 
Awards are a small part of the growth story, but a significant one signalling a new beginning. In June this year, the agency bagged Silver at the Cannes Lions, besides a Bronze in Health Lions. More recently, its popular 'Dipper Condoms' activation for Tata Motors also bagged a Silver and two Bronze metals at Spikes Asia.
The chief creative officer behind the two agencies in the group, Rediffusion Y&R and Everest Brand Solutions, Rahul Jauhari, took additional charge of Rediffusion Y&R in May last year. Things were picking up steam then. His colleague Dhunji Wadia had taken additional charge of Rediffusion Y&R Group (he headed Everest prior) in December 2014, marking a return to the Group. The net result was that they did not have to take time getting used to each other or him to the agency. 
History seemed set to repeat itself. Jauhari had joined Everest as NCD in 2011, a year after Wadia moved in.
A scale bigger than Everest 
In a chat with Campaign India in 2013, Jauhari had mentioned that Everest needed a turnaround. Two years later, that objective had been met. 
He explains, “At Everest, we had reached a point we were at a steady pace. Pretty much everything was set. Brands were set too. It was a comfortable space when I was made CCO (of Rediffusion Group). So, in the end there was no peace in life, because just as the place looked hunky dory (at Everest), this elevation happened. So, in some way it was back to the grind.”
The move to Rediffusion for ‘this turnaround’ admittedly wasn’t an easy task. 
He notes, “It continues to be not-so-easy. The good thing was that Everest was well set and not a bother on our heads. It was a running well. Rediffusion was looking to put everything back together. It was about getting our teams back in, getting the brands in, putting a show reel up in less than a year. All of this sounds very easy, but is never easy to execute. Virtually everything had to be done."
"If you fix the feel or spirit of a place, things start falling in place. So first, we had to get the right people in. Usually what happens is that there are pretty good people in place but they need to be motivated and gotten up to speed. They need to be made to feel part of what you’re doing and then people come in from outside and stir things up. It’s never good to do a drastic change. Every time a new emperor comes, he believes everything is wrong and needs change, but that wasn’t the case.”
The new hires aren’t actually new to the system. There was a pattern with people like Jaideep Mahajan, Pranav Harihar Sharma and Pramod Sharma returning to the agency. But that wasn’t by design, informs Jauhari. 
“It just fell into place. Rediff is one of those places which become an institution by itself. There are few agencies which have addas happening every year where people get together, get drunk and say, ‘Oh what wonderful times we had’. That’s what I call an institution; people remember the relations and the good times. Rediff is one of those agencies where a lot of people have good memories and have built their careers. Luckily, I think some of those guys were looking at moves, and conversations happened. Jaideep (Mahajan), Pranav and an entire series of Ghar Wapsi happened. All of them have done some fine work for us. That was the first step, getting good people in,” he elaborates.
There were obviously people who needed to be let go off, too. "Initially the heads needed to be fixed, and that’s what we did. Once the leadership team is in place, it’s a shared responsibility and it reverberates fast. It wasn’t a number game, it was a quality game. My love for Bongs is eternal, and then Navonil (Chaterjee) coming in to head strategy was another critical thing for me. He came in at the right time. A planner is the fuel of a creative person. The two sit and then magic comes out. Uttio (Majumdar) and Suparna (Mucadum) coming in also helped. I’m very happy with the team," says Jauhari.
Life at Everest 
Everest is smaller in scale compared to Rediffusion. Could it have been the reason it was also an easier challenge, with lower expectations? 
He counters the notion, saying, “I think Everest can potentially outshine any agency in the country. If there’s a pitch for a business, I’m sure Everest can win that. Forget my size or address, I’m a threat to you."
The Group CCO reminds us that Everest handles the largest confectionary and biscuit manufacturer in the world, Parle. He also adds that small teams are far easier to manage in terms of forming cohesive units. 
"Everest is literally a dream team right now. Everest was easier to manage, when there’s a smaller bunch of people, and you put in a goal, everyone jumps into get  it. The number of people increasing, it becomes more difficult to manage. So that way, Everest was a beautiful ride," reminisces the creative. 
He points out that things have moved a great deal. For example, the agency now handles 'literally everything' under the Parle stable. 
"It requires the client to believe you can do it for them to give you more of the business," he adds.
There was a time when Everest did more work than Rediffusion, notes the CCO. The 'larger' sibling 'needed a correction' far larger than what was required at Everest when Jauhari joined. 
And it took time to get the teams in to cater to the larger agency's client needs. But what did not take time was the work, according to Jauhari. 
He explains, "That’s the easiest thing for us – to crack an idea and do some good work. It started with the Hamdards of the world. Hamdard was very strong work and was sort of a comeback for the brand and it was noticeable. A very simple old truth in life is – you may not like what I did, you may like what I did, but please don’t ignore what I did. We needed work like that. The point was to get some noise, news and spike and scale and steadiness into work. Rediffusion has been around for a long time but it probably slipped out of the eye for a while.”
Work in progress
Jauhari admits that while the agency has done better, there’s more to come.
He adds, “We are doing better than before, but there is no end point. If someone asks me what’s happening, it’s work in progress. I shouldn’t comment about my work; people should comment about it. And if I go by that parameter, more people have spoken about the agency. They know campaigns and know we’ve done it. The very recent good news is always good news. Cannes turned out to be a blessing for us. We’ve sent entries to Spikes too.” (This interview was conducted before Spikes Asia 2016.)
He reflects, “Usually when you run for a while and pause to take stock, you realise how far you’ve come. We took a pause internally, and put the entire body of work together. We said, ‘Damn, we’ve done some great work’."
It's a different challenge from his Pickle Lintas days and Everest thereafter, but the feeling Jauhari has is one of 'getting there'.
Rediffusion, and the madness within 
The CCO also confesses that Rediffusion isn’t the most organised place in the world, but believes that has helped. 
He recalls, “At the Rediff I was in when I was a kid, everyone was an entrepreneur. It wasn’t the most organised system in the world. Somewhere that entrepreneurial drive in Rediff has stayed. It’s very people-driven. People who had the flame, came in, did tamasha and walked away. It’s continued to be a place one can come in and do this. It is a bit chaotic and crazy, but there’s a method in the madness. So, everything can’t then happen on day one, day two and day three. Some things take off, some don’t. For us the people took off, and the work took off too. It takes time to make the client believe that ‘you’ could be the right partner and it took time. It doesn’t take one campaign. Campaigns can be hits and misses. I’m a very patient man. One a half years is a speck in your life and in a company and brand’s life. I know in today’s social media era, we think we just posted it, and where’s the bloody like? But it doesn’t work like that in real life. It takes time.”
Films, Case studies and nature
Rediffusion started the year with several campaigns, earning it the ‘Agency Spotlight’ tag on Campaign India in January 2016. There was an account win, and a move to a new office, but the agency also had campaigns for TVS Tyres, SBI Cap Securities, Hero Motocorp (CSR), and Videocon (Flag off change) releasing during the month. The early part of the calendar year continued to be busy for the agency. 
Jauhari explains, “A lot of the work came out during the time. Some of them happened to be run late by the client, which meant that a lot of work released together. There are a lot of films in production right now as well and we’ll see them in the next couple of weeks. Films tend to give a lot more visibility than other mediums.”
“We have made a conscious decision that let’s get enough work out and then we’d want to start talking (to the media). There’s a huge body of work that is out. Creativity is an eternal cycle and will keep getting better. We’ll have some hits and some misses."
"The good part is that the work is spread across offices, so our success is a national phenomenon. That’s a strength for me,” he adds.
Yet, Jauhari believes that it’s not the last film, but a case study that should judge agencies. “I prefer case studies as composed to the last film one did. The last film you did is the bane of advertising, because they keep saying you’re as good as your last ad. However the brand wasn’t built on that last ad. Case studies show the body of work the agency has done, the planning it has done and whether it worked or not. Clients see this more than what media does. A lot of people questioned ‘Dipper’ (work on Tata Motors). Some media asked if it was a scam. I had to explain to them that it took three years for it to come out."
Jauhari also thanks Rediffusion for luring him and pushing him back into nature. Labeling himself as a ‘heavy nature guy‘, the CCO surmises, “It started while I was at Everest. It has nothing to do with my job, but I do organic terrace gardening. I grow veggies on my terrace. I do photography… nature photography. Anyone who has me on Facebook will know that. I don’t talk advertising, I only post stuff on wildlife, flowers, green, etc. People who only talk advertising are by far the most boring people in the world.”
The work
Videocon #FlagoffChange
Nothing works like patriotism does. This film, made and timed to perfection, went viral.

A Hero MotoCorp : Homecoming #ridesafeindia
The importance of road safety, as told from the other side.

A Hero MotoCorp CSR Inititaive- Tamasha #ridesafeindia
An accident is no tamasha, teach a bunch of talented children.

SBI Smart
How to make finance seem like child’s play.

Campaign India

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