Atishi Pradhan joined Cheil India as chief strategy officer over three months ago. In conversation with Campaign India, she talks about recent growth and capability development.
You took charge as the CSO just three months back. Is it too soon to ask about your experience here?
(It’s been) Interesting. Samsung is an exciting brand and category to work on. There is always something happening. In January, we had some six Samsung projects and four pitches going on.
I am still trying to put a team in place. I think there is a lot that planning can do. Have I done it in the last three months? Not too sure, because as I said, I am yet to put a team in place.
How big is your team right now?
I have three ATL planners and three digital planners. I need more people for shopper marketing and ATL so that everything can be integrated. I am looking at a team of 10 people by the year end. As we get new business, we need more people.
From JWT, Contract and Mogae to Cheil, where you are mostly working on Samsung...
Previous experiences give you knowledge and perspective. At JWT, I worked on very large brands - MNCs and global brands. At Contract, it was most often Indian brands. Even if there were international brands, there were no global alignments so you had to sort of adapt to India. So whether it was Domino's or SpiceJet or Dabur, that was a different type of experience and learning. Then, I spent two years in mobile advertising at Mogae, and suddenly it was all about consumer touchpoints. It was about what I can say to them when they are at a certain location. It was tactical.
If I look at these three broad areas of my work experience, all of that comes together in Samsung, because it is a big global brand but for every campaign, you need things to happen very fast. That is what Contract had - a speed to market. And there are so many touchpoints - and that is what Mogae was. All those three things broadly come together in Cheil and Samsung.
What will be your strategy, apart from Samsung, for various other brands at Cheil?
I have not got much involved in Halonix internally but I have got involved in Dairy Best, Delhi Daredevils and Lavie. For Lavie, the creative team is working on a new TVC and print campaign. I think the positioning we are doing for Lavie is going to move the brand forward. They had a fairly visible campaign with Kareena (Kapoor). We have taken that core idea forward into more of an attitudinal statement. Similarly, we are working on Delhi Daredevils. We will be doing a campaign to release a new logo (though Cheil has not designed the logo). What we do for them is more digital, so it is more of fan management. There is an ATL campaign and a digital-cum-ATL campaign.
Dairy Best is more a business-to-business dairy company, which has decided to build a brand. And they are a start-up brand. Therefore, as Cheil, we are handling the brand from logo to packaging, positioning to what research they should do to gauge their consumers. We are helping the client launch several product categories.
What are the challenges in the current role?
Not having a team, largely. May be with my years of experience, I am very realistic about these things. Every agency and client has some negatives and positives. Samsung is a great brand but they are more dynamic as a client. Previously, a brand I have worked on was too slow, with too much time taken over research, and decision-making. With Samsung it is so much more rapid. Both extremes can be uncomfortable, but both are reality and you live with it. It doesn't bother me. When I joined here, I was told, 'The client doesn't give brief’. And I responded, 'But which client does?' You sit with them and work on the brief together.
What are the challenges in Indian advertising that you might want to focus on, and turn them into opportunities for Cheil?
It is not as much as challenge as it is an opportunity. I am very fascinated by this new media space. I think the typical ad agency is not able to deliver on that. Previously, whether I met Hindustan Lever, GSK, Domino's or Citibank, I realised that when I working as their ad agency, we do not have a perspective of all that they do, even in the area of communication and advertising. I am not even talking about product innovation or pricing. A typical ad agency has no idea what all is happening – and that is a challenge for a typical ad agency but an opportunity as well. If I look at some of the work that Cheil has done globally, whether it was work for Tesco for which they won a Cannes Lion, we have not reached there yet. We don't have that kind of thinking.
The creative team of the future is an art person, a copy person and a technology person or a coder. If you can bring those ideas together, it will be great.
Recently Burberry tried something like that. Where person can kiss the screen of their smartphone through an app, which will take an imprint of your lips and they will send it across to the person it is intended for. If you think of it, it is a very simple idea. Most phones have dual camera but someone thought of it.
Some of the ideas that we come across at Cannes or other such festivals, is what is called 'patli gali' in Indian industry. But some of these ideas need not be too large. They could happen (be executed) at one place. A brand can do it repeatedly or continuously if they wish to invest in it. What Samsung did at the Oscars was a one-off. I do wish that we had known about it as Cheil before it happened. Because we could then have made it into a big programme across the world, and contacted celebs or consumers saying that Samsung is promoting selfies because of its big screen and great cameras.
I find that brands are open. Samsung not only promoted the smartphone though the selfie but promoted its range of televisions and also unveiled its new TVC during the telecast of Oscars. So the millions of dollars they put together was for the entire package.
What are the opportunities for Cheil India in 2014?
We hope to do as much good work as we can on Samsung. The iconic flagship product comes with global creative attached but sometimes Cheil will be asked to create an Indian version of it. That gives us the opportunity to work on these flagship products. What we are trying to do this year is a lot of 'Oscar-selfie' type of ideas or digital or retail ideas. It will be something iconic and different that gets both Samsung and Cheil talked about.
A huge ambition for 2014 is to get as much non-Samsung business as we can. We have two drawbacks in that. Firstly, clients do not even know that we are open beyond Samsung. Hence, we need to get that news out and tell them that we are open for pitches and would like to take part in pitches. We need to reassure clients that if we are called for a pitch, they are equally important to us as Samsung. We want to grow beyond Samsung. It is only in the last year that we have started pitching for other businesses.
Secondly, for a pitch, an FMCG client would call agencies that have experience in handling FMCG clients. At Cheil, we don't have that experience though we have great agency experience and a huge talent pool. We have people who have worked in other sectors, like e-commerce, fashion or travel. We might not have agency credentials but we do have talent credentials.