Harris Diamond, chairman and chief executive, McCann Worldgroup, was in India to announce the elevation of Prasoon Joshi to the position of chairman for the Asia Pacific region. We caught up with the duo to learn more about the agency's operations in India, viewpoint on awards, effectiveness and digital work. Edited excerpts:
Which are the top markets for the agency and where does India rank? How has this changed?
Harris Diamond (HD): When I look at India, I am pretty enthusiastic about the clients and the growth prospect for the next few years. There’s a clear distinction now versus the last time I visited here. There is confidence of growth, confidence in moving forward. We usually grow exponentially ahead of the GDP. Mr Modi stated that India’s GDP is nine per cent; we see growth of more that.
If you look around the globe, it’s clear different regions are recovering from the global financial crisis. For us China continues to be a terrific environment with a lot of opportunity. Indonesia too is a market with opportunity, so is Africa. India, right now, is looking really good along with these markets.
Brazil, India, Russia and China (BRIC) have probably been slightly slower in the growth than the world expected (at first), but the recovery has now got them up.
What is your outlook for the Indian market in the coming year?
HD: The target is to do a good job with our current clients and grow with new clients.
2013 – the network was the most awarded at D&AD, took the ‘best of show’ at the One Show, swept through Cannes with Dumb Ways to Die. India contributed with wins globally too. What’s the importance given to awards at the agency?
HD: Awards are important for a couple of reasons. One, is it’s a validator among competition and recognises the work we did. It’s also important internally for our people as that makes us proud of the work we have done. It’s an opportunity to display that work in a somewhat non-commercial setting. I would say awards are important for both validation and morale.
Would you agree that McCann has won more at creative awards than effectiveness awards? Is that a concern at all?
HD: I think we win awards for both effectiveness and creative. We were ranked number three agency worldwide on the effectiveness list last year. I think it’s a mistake that being creative is not being effective. A truly great creative work will enhance a brand’s reputation.
Prasoon Joshi (PJ): We were the most awarded effective agency in Apac. Jiten Dabas, our planning head, has been recently awarded as the most effective planner in the Apac Effies.
McCann Worldgroup announced the formation of 'Creative Central' last year in India to bolster creative output by working closely with the strategic planning function. How’s that come along?
PJ: Creative Central, was an initiative launched after we figured that a lot of creative people are coming from various disciplines and other fields like scriptwriters, designers, programmers. We wanted a national team to work across the country on various brands. We have many people who are part of the initiative; multi-faceted people working together to benefit clients. That’s very much the aim there and you’ll hear more about it in the future.
Digital is one area where there is a perception of McCann lacking in India. How are you looking to grow this? Any acquisitions lined up?
HD: I am not quite sure what that would be based on. If you take a look at our current work, I would say a third or so, or maybe more would be digital. We have Reckitt, Microsoft, General Motors and Coca Cola among others.
PJ: Our agency MRM, is doing well digitally. The client roster we have is exceptional.
How many clients do you have for digital alone?
HD: There is no such thing as a client who doesn’t do digital work any longer. Maybe there’s one. In today’s world it is all about being multi-platform. The work that we do is on a variety of different platforms.
PJ: We are a brand building agency. We are not a hot shop. We are not a mom-and-pop store that only sells medicines or only guavas. We build brands and for that digital is one of the tools. So, in our marketing mix and advertising mix you will find digital a part of it. You cannot start comparing brand building agencies with hot shops.
The agency has taken up causes with a lot of the communication for Coca Cola worldwide. ‘Happy ID’ by McCann Peru won a few Lions at Cannes too. Do you see a trend here and more brands looking at such advertising?
PJ: It’s always been important to do work which is socially significant. Any business that is not involved with social good is finally going to die. I think it’s fundamental for any business to do something to value add to the life of people. The new age reality is that it is important sometimes to let people know that you are doing this. So that communication has helped.
Some of the Coca Cola work is around the creative idea, but then there’s also some CSR work we’ve done on other brands. For J&J, we’ve done a great project called ‘Women for change’, where we addressed college drop outs.
Such advertising has always been important, but it’s just that people are communicating more.
Talent remains a worry across agencies. Along with this challenge, what are the other challenges you foresee?
HD: I think to be honest, it’s a pretty good environment for the advertising industry. There are more and more platforms created, the world is getting more complex, but it’s getting a lot less confusing. From our creative and strategic point of view we have an opportunity to create with consumers in a variety of new ways. Quite frankly, this is a very good time, maybe the best time in the last fifteen years.
There are challenges, but I think there are more opportunities. The challenges remain the same – we always want the best people who work with strategic insights.
PJ: The challenges today are that we are living in a very complex media reality. The habits of people have changed. Our younger generation is more distracted with a lot of options. They are so many avenues so that challenge in front of advertisers is how we put up these touch points together and find a way of communicating with your consumer. But that makes it more exciting and fun too.
There have been reports about you wanting transparency in organisations… Do you see that happening across agencies? Is your Indian office practicing this?
HD: Yes. It’s happening all across the world. In today’s world, by definition transparency is one of the requirements. It’s required across governments, not-for-profit organisations, corporations. By definition in today’s world consumers are looking at clarity of purpose, vision and I do believe the world is becoming more transparent.