While a lot of things in the world have changed in a year, DDB Mudra Group’s appetite (and conversion) for new business wins hasn’t. The agency topped the R3 ‘New Business League’ in 2019, with its winning streak continuing through 2020. In a chat with Campaign India, Aditya Kanthy, CEO and MD, DDB Mudra Group, states that new business wins have come in because the agency has seen them as more than just a revenue source.
Kanthy says that new wins are about ensuring that leaders are creating a winning culture at the agency. He explains, “The new wins are important because they help the agency and its people grow. It’s about how DDB Mudra Group is committed to the growth of its people, and about hunting down the opportunities in new categories and brands that our people are excited to work on. Our approach to new business is organic. Ultimately, the conversation is about people, product and culture.”
He stated that the agency had three changes in their approach for new business this year:
1. Bringing group agencies together
First things first, DDB Mudra Group brought together group offerings and the global network into relevant client conversations. The agencies pitch together and draw upon each other’s capabilities. Kanthy claims that bringing together digital, creative and media capabilities allows the teams to work in ways that prove efficient to clients.
“I guess we are much better-rounded not just in terms of being invited to pitch, but also looking at opportunities within our existing client base. We can help expand our service offering better than we have in the past,” he said, summing up the group’s integration efforts.
2. Categories of the future
Kanthy says the agency is much more organised in the way it thinks about its growth. “Several clients had a real battle on their hands in Q2 and Q3. So in addition to helping them through the crisis, we had to look for other avenues through clients outside of our portfolio. Interestingly, these were businesses who had turned this year into an opportunity, thereby opening up transformation for us, too.”
Some of DDB’s growth and success has come from looking at categories and brands that have grown in this year, he explains. “We need to be as organised as we can be in our search for the right type of growth as a company. This means we have to ensure that our client portfolio reflects what the winners in this economy are going to look like in the next five to ten years. We’ve done some wonderful work with new companies like Meesho. We also started working with YouTube, Bumble and LinkedIn among others.”
3. Client-agency relations
Kanthy believes client partnerships are about expanding and reframing what is possible. These could be agency-client relationships that need to flourish in an environment where it isn’t possible to be physically present. It’s also about bringing together task teams across geographies in new ways.
For instance, much like other agencies, the lockdown threw DDB Mudra into the deep end of the pool. Within two weeks of the lockdown the team was tasked with the launch of Disney+ Hotstar. The client bet on the acceleration in consumption of digital platforms as the perfect opportunity to advance the launch.
Kanthy recalls, “The Disney+ Hotstar team advanced the launch, making it a new business situation for us. Not only did we win that piece of business but also produced a campaign that surprised our people as well. Rahul (Mathew, national creative director, DDB Mudra Group) and his team were shooting films remotely. They got celebrities and their partners to play DOP on shoots! It signalled fundamental changes in the way we would work post the pandemic,” he said.
Merging agency brands?
While Omnicom’s agency brands all work together, the holding group isn’t looking at merging brands like WPP recently did with Grey Group and AKQA.
“We are a child of the acquisition of Mudra, India’s most successful independent agency. DDB has been very conscious of that,” Kanthy notes. “They acquire companies for what makes them special, betting on their talent, creative culture, entrepreneurial energy, the ability to understand the local market and the uniqueness in driving the business forward.”
He breaks it down further. “Interbrand operates differently from DDB Mudra, as do 22feet Tribal Worldwide and OMD MudraMax. All of them have their own unique capability, client base and ways of working, making it a huge strength in this time. This way of working allows the group to build a certain kind of specialisation and create a relationship that is unique between that client and agency, for a particular capability and need.”
DDB Mudra Group looks at the pandemic as an opportunity to get more women in leadership roles, especially at a time when the flexibility of working from home can make the workplace more diverse.
"It would be a huge loss if we don’t make the changes we must to ensure that more women come into leadership positions within the next three to five years. The work from home situation has fundamental implications on how we think of talent and culture at the agency, how we address gender roles and the role of partners and spouses can play in taking care of homes. It will open up new avenues for everyone to think of their personal and professional goals,” he explained.
While Kanthy believes that this is an opportune time to create a more equal and diverse work environment, some studies reveal that women are the most impacted when it comes to juggling personal and professional work. On this, he says, “It’s a problem that has to be solved and needs work. On the one hand, we have that reality, and then there’s a company like Meesho that has remarkable success in this time unlock the entrepreneurial energy of women across the country. For companies, it’s an opportunity for a reset and to make the needed changes in our structures and policies.”
TV remains relevant
He admits, “There is no denying or taking away from the scale or reach of television. Regardless of the accelerated adoption of content on digital platforms, what GroupM folks say does stand to logic because the numbers suggest this, too. Having said that, it would be a huge miss not to recognise the dramatic shifts in the way people are engaging with technology and consuming content. Several clients are reflecting on these shifts, too.”
While he admits the question needs a more nuanced answer, digital is a reality now, and in the future. “We saw that with the IPL. People aren’t abandoning TV and its ability to tell stories at scale. Equally, we would be blind to deny the huge role that technology has played in the last few months in how people want to work, connect with each other, shop, and be entertained. To recognise that shift in some form is vital to our future,” he closes.