We caught up with Matthew Seddon, chief executive officer, Saatchi & Saatchi India, and Richard Hytner, deputy chairman worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi, last evening at Tote in Mumbai. Our points of discussion were Lovemarks (Hytner is in the country to conduct the Lovemarks Academy workshop) and Saatchi’s India operations. For the uninitiated, a Lovemark is ‘a product, service or entity that inspires loyalty beyond reason’ (Kevin Roberts, the chief executive officer of the agency globally, authored a book on the subject in 2004).
CI: What has been going on at Saatchi over the past few months?
Matthew Seddon (MS): I’ve elected to move to Gurgaon; that’s primarily driven by the fact that with Nisha (Singhania), Ashu (Karkhanis) and Vidhya (Sankarnarayanan) running the business here in Mumbai, it gives Ramanuj and me the chance to look at the broader perspective, so we’re spending a lot of time up in Delhi. The key thing for us is to build our relationship with our existing clients. We have a number of global Saatchi brands here, such as P&G, Novartis, General Mills, and we need to improve the quality of work we do on those brands and get involved in new areas outside of the traditional sphere. Rather than TV, we’re focussing on building our digital and activation capabilities in Mumbai for our existing clients. In Delhi, we’ve been looking for (and hopefully found) a very strong creative leader who will be based there, and also for planning, account management and digital support in that market as well. Delhi is the up and coming for us; it’s a massive market already, but to be honest, it’s a market where we haven’t performed to the potential that we have. It’s very clearly my focus. We have some good clients already in Delhi at the moment (Carlsberg, Tuborg, Wave, Cairn and OLX). We are looking to boost our client businesses as well.
CI: What about the South operations?
MS: Ultimately. You can’t do everything at once. Our focus at the moment is Mumbai and Delhi. We are looking at increased presence in Bengaluru and perhaps in Chennai with a couple of new business prospects. We’re determined to offer a pan-India service, but it’s important to focus on what’s important right now, which is our existing clients and ensure that Lovemarks is integrated into the agency, and that we have a digital backbone.
CI: Your thoughts on the loss of the Skoda business…
MS: It was a sizeable brand and account and it happened so early in the year, that honestly it wasn’t the best start. But these things happen, it’s in the nature of our business. We will establish our credentials and utilise our experience in the automobile market and look to replace that.
CI: What brings you to India at this point?
Richard Hytner (RH): What brings me here now is an invitation by Matt who felt that having been here for six months or so, it was time to bring Lovemarks and the practices around Lovemarks into his newly enhanced operation.
CI: Do you think India has taken a while to catch on to the whole ‘Lovemarks’ philosophy? You had come and presented the same topic in 2009…
RH: I think so. I think there was affection for it. What’s needed to embed Lovemarks as a way we do business is a leadership team in its totality that is ready to imbibe it and believes it’s a competitive point of difference. I think the Indian market and Indian brands are absolutely ripe for Lovemarks. So I think it’s a huge opportunity.
CI: How do you introduce Lovemarks to the team? It shouldn’t be seen as agency spiel…
RH: Originally, when Kevin (Roberts) wrote the book, he said Lovemarks is an aspiration and provocation and it’s up to our own people to make our own connection to it. I do think that Lovemarks works at its best when it is felt personally by our people, and more importantly our clients. It can’t be spiel, it is a provocation. You have to love the idea of being loved and respected and you also have to commit to the brand in total. Other than reintroducing the philosophy today, we’ve actually taken people on a path that shows them how to take the brand on a journey from respected to loved, and underpinned that path with a set of practices and tools that we’ve honed over the past few years with cases and examples from all around our network. We’ve also applied it to live cases.
CI: Which have been cases in Asia-Pacific that have proven true to the Lovemarks philosophy recently?
RH: There’s been work done on Pampers in India called ‘Good Morning Baby’ which I think puts Pampers right up there as a Lovemark. There is work that we’ve done on Olay in China that is absolutely spot on (that was steeped in understanding what beauty meant to local Chinese women). Prince biscuits and HP in China have also gone down well. There is more work that is coming out of Singapore, which is a revitalised operation.
CI: Every brief cannot translate into a Lovemark, right? How does Saatchi keep a realistic view on this?
RH: Lovemarks is an agenda between the company and agency, it’s about the overall journey of the brand. Not everything that we are asked to do every day is the big brand idea. Everything must be done in the context of what that path is, and the desired transformation. Within that, the way we can contribute, is by developing ideas that people want to share (that’s what people love these days). No matter how tactical the brief, there is an opportunity to do that.
CI: Lastly, your views on the Indian operations right now.
RH: It’s a happy, energised and open crowd. People threw themselves into the process without question. They’re big thinkers, and I found rigour and imagination in the room. Matt’s created an overall leadership team in Mumbai that gives us great hope with Ashu, Nisha and Vidhya, and him as well. Where’s the opportunity? Growing Delhi, continuing to build our core in Mumbai, and being more attractive to more clients who want to go on that Lovemarks journey.