In an exclusive chat with Campaign India, Chris Thomas, chairman and CEO, BBDO Asia Pacific takes a look at the progress made so far on BBDO India's operations.
What has been the progress so far on BBDO India?
Overall, the progress has been excellent. We have established a strong team in Delhi, which is now servicing the Pepsi 7Up account and HP starting from the next few weeks. That’s a very significant group that’s beginning to produce some strong new work, which will soon be visible in the market.
Mumbai is coming along nicely, we have an office that’s more or less established there. We have two or three major projects from a couple of multinational clients. We are being selective about what we pitch for. We have been asked to pitch for a lot of local business but we want to make sure that we choose clients who are very focused on what we deliver and are clear on what we are about, which is obviously 'The Work, The Work, The Work.'
Overall, we are only six months into it. But we are happy with the kind of people that we are attracting, the progress that Josy has been making and the work that’s in the pipeline.
What about your search for a CEO, have you decided on who will be partnering Josy at the helm of the agency?
There is no hurry on that front. Josy gets a lot of support from me and from one of my colleagues in Singapore, who has spent a lot of time in India and is Indian himself - Seshadri Sampat.
Our main interest right now is in building the right people who can deliver the work day to day. There are conversations in the air right now but none yet, that I want to pursue. There is plenty going on. We have very strong support in terms of creative as well as planning now with Sangeet Pillai being appointed. He is very plugged into the network and a strong planner in his own right.
Would you be looking at bringing in global resources for your India operations?
There are no immediate plans for that. As a network, we are always keen to leverage network resources and network talent. There are people in the network who have expressed an interest but it will always depend on what our requirements are. Sangeet was a very big move for us and that’s working really well. There are no immediate plans but I wouldn’t rule it out, either. Leveraging talent across the world is a key discipline at BBDO.
What are your plans for Proximity in India? In the past, you have indicated an interest in setting up Proximity here at some point in the future. Would you be looking at acquisitions then in the digital space?
That’s not something we are doing immediately. The focus at the moment is on BBDO India. There are lots of opportunities in Asia. I have been very heavily focused on Proximity around the region because I think there is tremendous opportunity particularly in the digital space and we look at that on a market by market basis continuously. So we will be looking at India. I wouldn’t necessarily assume that it is through acquisitions. In most of the markets, where we haven’t had a Proximity presence, we have built it. Proximity has been about getting the right talent in place, who will work very closely with BBDO. It would make more sense to grow organically. Acquisitions would not be my first approach.
You have spent a lot of time in India recently, would you say you have noticed opportunities in the market in terms of new clients, new categories that you would be interested in?
There is a vibrancy in the market and an excitement about the work that India is doing. When we are building our brand, we try to make sure that we work with clients who are looking for the kind of strength that we can deliver. We wouldn’t rule out any categories or clients. What we are interested in is chemistry, fit and a belief in the transformational power of ideas and we are looking for clients who value what we do. If you manage to do that, your clients benefit exponentially and your agency grows in the way that you want it to.
How closely aligned are BBDO networks in terms of the interaction between creatives from across the world? When Campaign India spoke earlier to David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO, North America at Cannes this year, he said it was an important task at the network.
We put in a huge amount of effort into doing that. It has always been one of our great strengths. We believe that our creative people should have direct relationships with others around the world. Only a month ago, all of the worldwide MDs and creative directors gathered in Shanghai for an annual directors’ meeting. We have a quarterly review of all the creative work from around the region. We get in touch on a regular basis with our senior creative director and senior management teams. We don’t believe in having a figurehead regional creative director, we believe in having brilliant creatives in every single country around the world and making sure that they then know each other, respect and support each other.
What’s BBDO’s point of view on awards? At Goafest this year, Josy spoke about his plans for being a big part of the awards next time around.
We see it as the responsibility of every single office from around the world to contribute to awards. One of the reasons that we topped the Gunn Report so consistently over the years is because we believe we have more offices around the world that are more creative than some of our competitors.
Awards are a very big part of how our organization works and our expectation is that all of our offices will be at the very least in the top three creatively, contributing to international award shows as well. There is a profound focus on our philosophy and that’s The Work, The Work, the Work and if you live to that then you need to be showing that you can do the best work in the world.
What would be BBDO India’s take on scam ads?
Scam is extremely dangerous for the creative industry. If you educate your clients that creative work that goes to awards shows and that bad work is what runs, you damage the very premise upon which the creative industry will flourish. It is our belief that it is great work that wins awards and builds our clients’ businesses. And that’s an ‘and’, not ‘or’.
What would you like BBDO India to be known as?
We are very well established in India through our partner RK Swamy BBDO. So the role of BBDO India will be as a challenger brand; nimble and innovative. The focus will be on ‘The work, the work, the work’. Our role therefore will be to play a very strong and complementary role to our more established sibling.