CI: For how long was Amir Kassaei’s relocation to set up the global creative centre in Shanghai in the works?
John Zeigler (JZ): The history of it is that for the last four to five years we’ve been doing work that has been picked up by clients in worldwide markets. We’ve done Lipton Tea work out of Thailand that has run in most other countries of the world, Volkswagen out of Sydney that has run in most Volkswagen markets around the world, and two pieces of work in China that the client is looking to run internationally. One of the things that Amir saw is that in doing that, there’s a unique creative talent in Asia that we hadn’t tapped. As Asia has become more important on the agenda, Amir believes that we have to have the world work more closely together, not just be US- or Europe-centric. The Shanghai hub is about being able to access the work, skills and talent in Asia and making them as relevant here as they would be sitting in New York, London or Paris. The other reason we’re excited about it is that no other network has done that yet.
CI: Will you also be drawing in other creative stars from the network to sit with Amir at Shanghai?
JZ: With Amir working in the region, he will have a team that is located across multiple offices that he will be having work on specific international client briefs.
CI: Coming to the India developments, the new structure has all these offerings. When you go in for a pitch, do you go in as DDB Mudra Group or the individual offering?
JZ: It really depends on what doorway the client has come to us through. Some clients are still comfortable coming through the Mudra doorway. Our focus is clearly on growing the international account business in India, and getting the big brands with the big spends and the big challenges. There’s no question in which direction we’re headed. The client in that case will come in through the DDB Mudra doorway, which gives him or her access to all of the brands.
CI: So DDB will be interested in growing the Mudra division itself?
JZ: Yes, everything that is or was Mudra Communications is now DDB. So nothing that exists over there is not DDB. From our point of view, we do see the opportunity to assist other Omnicom units to grow but in accessing the resources we have, that will not be via gifts, but via support.
CI: How much will what Tracy Locke and Mudra Max do overlap?
JZ: Tracy Locke is the world’s most sophisticated shopper marketing company. Mudra Max has built some incredible technology that deals with shopper marketing, recording data management, insights for the clients, the whole lot. We believe the biggest value in that business is the thinking and insights from the numbers. Tracy Locke gives us the opportunity to go upstream, to be able to do things that are more sophisticated than currently what Mudra Max is executing at. So we see the synergy between the two as helping Mudra Max build more strategic insights capability, and at the same time help Tracy Locke extend it at an executional level.
CI: What would you want DDB Mudra Group to achieve say, by the end of the year?
JZ: It’s very interesting in India, everyone has a very fixed focus of what is going to be achieved now and long-term. Clearly, we want DDB Mudra Max to be the best agency in India, and that means winning two or three major brands at the top end of the Indian market. Once we get in the door, and start to work with the client, we will have them go back thinking proactively – that’s how we organically grow with our clients.
Even with the traditional side of the business, the only thing we don’t have that people judge us by is the big brands – we have the talent and the scale. As you would have gathered, Sonal Dabral is now at DDB Mudra. Three months ago, people said we don’t exist. Now they’re wondering what we’ll do next. We aren’t going to stop till we’re the biggest and best agency in India.