Raahil Chopra
Mar 31, 2022

Have to acknowledge the fact that people don't stay in agencies forever: Pooja Jauhari

The newly-appointed CEO of VMLY&R has a chat with Campaign India about working with WPP, her new role, talent, and much more...

Have to acknowledge the fact that people don't stay in agencies forever: Pooja Jauhari
Opportunities like these have made Jauhari and the rest of the agency's members enjoy their journey with WPP, so far. 
In a conversation with Campaign India, Jauhari stated that while WPP acquired the agency back in 2018, it didn’t break its entrepreneurial spirit, proof of which lies in the fact that it appointed a CEO of an acquired agency to be CEO of a larger group.
She explained how being a part of a network like WPP helped during the pandemic.
"We have gone through one of the most difficult times in human and professional history. To be part of a network that has taken care of its people has been very rewarding. It has put me in a good position both mentally and professionally. I feel safe as a professional in this organisation," said Jauhari.
She added that WPP helped an extremely hungry and passionate team grow further while giving them a more ‘professional’ look.
"There were aspects that we didn’t know very well, which comprised the tactical parts like finance, legal and HR, among others. When you’re building an organisation, you don’t focus on these things as much, but they came in and made us feel better." 
She also shared that WPP allowed her agency to pick its ‘forever home’, VMLY&R.
"WPP gave us the freedom to choose our forever home, and we picked VMLY&R. This is important and close to our heart because within the VMLY&R team, there have been so many entrepreneurs and the spirit runs deep in the agency. That spirit helps because you run at a certain pace when running independent and that has not ceased to continue here at WPP."
Jauhari stated that The Glitch grew by 100% in terms of team members, after being acquired by WPP. Along with the growing team at The Glitch, VMLY&R too has flourished in its entirety.
With the team size growing, so has the number of businesses the agency works on. The agency was ranked number three in R3’s new business league in 2021, with 70 new account wins, amassing a total of INR 65.6 crores.
Explaining the approach to new business wins, Jauhari said, "We bounced back after the Covid setback year because of a human approach. 2020 was a difficult time for human beings. When we approached new business in 2021, it was important to not only win new businesses but also work with the right kind of people."
When prodded about who she labelled as the right kind of people, Jauhari revealed that it’s those clients who treat agencies as partners.
"We get paid for what we do because we bring a certain skill set to the table. This unique skill set possessed by us and our people should be treated with respect," she said.
Client-agency divide
While Jauhari acknowledged that talent is the biggest challenge the industry currently faces, she wasn’t bothered by the fact that people are moving to the ‘client side’.
"The industry is only as good as its people. That's the number one priority for our industry. We must do enough to attract the right kind of talent, not just through policies, but by showing them a future that has their modern professional life taken care of." she said.
“Having said that, it’s normal behaviour for people to move. Who stays in a job forever? Having that expectation is unnecessary in the times we live in today. People move. Some move to the client-side from agencies, while some move in the opposite direction too. Why is there a client-agency divide? These are all organisations and you’re only moving from one skillset to another. I’ve never looked at it in two different ways," added Jauhari.
On the topic, she further added that WPP’s holistic talent approach has helped to a certain degree, since it has unified policies across the organisation and is investing effort, time and money to plan retention and successions.  
After a quiet spell in 2020, VMLY&R bagged a Bronze, along with seven shortlists during the Cannes Lions festival in 2021. These coincided with the appointments of Mukund Olety as CCO and Rajshekhar Patil as ECD.
When asked whether the appointments of the CCO and ECD have come to correct a perception that the agency’s focus is more on technology than creativity, Jauhari disagreed.
She said, "I don’t think that perception is accurate. We have a very strong creative leadership across all the VMLY&R groups. Our focus was and is going to be on creativity because we are a creative transformation company. Creativity is at the centre of who we are as people. It’s not just a renewed focus, but on that will be for as long as we exist."
Jauhari stated that VMLY&R has existed globally and in India for a long time and is a highly-awarded brand. "The team has always had a CCO, even before the current one. It was always there and has just been made stronger. With new sharper people, we’ve delivered campaigns, with a really strong creative team. We focus on doing impactful, award-winning work that pushes our industry forward."
Following the additions to the team, the last couple of weeks have seen work released from Dell and Ageas Federal Life.
She added that awards and people recognition is an important agenda for VMLY&R.
"We take them (awards) very seriously. Recognition for our people and our work is on the agenda. The new creative leadership is driving the agenda for our agency, people and clients. We will be sending in several entries to Cannes this year too."
Gender-blind, inclusive and progressive
When Jauhari was elevated as CEO, Tripti Lochan, co-CEO, VMLY&R Asia (now in a global role as capability development officer) lauded the former’s efforts to make The Glitch a gender-blind, inclusive and progressive workplace.
Jauhari explained that this approach comes naturally to her and her agency.
“This is who we are as people. It is our elevator pitch – we are an inclusive, progressive high-performance workplace. Who we are as people is at the centre of why we exist. It’s not some data or matrix that we have to achieve. Our executive committee, leadership and the entire organisation at every level are inclusive in the way we operate, think, and treat each other,” she said.
She concluded by stating that this approach and 50:50 gender ratio for years is what helped release the kind of work the agency has.
“We have openly spoken about race and gender orientation in our workplace and it’s respected and acknowledged. My colleagues corrected me when I said it’s no longer about hiring gender-blind. It’s about hiring the right people for the job. When you approach your talent acquisition like that, people see it and it reflects in your work.” 
Campaign India