To borrow a term from one of its clients, the word 'turbulent' would be suitable for the past year at Wieden+Kennedy's Delhi office.
In January 2016, its heads V Sunil and Mohit Jayal left the agency. In July, arguably the best piece of work (Da Da Ding for Nike) from the agency was rolled out, which went on to win Gold at the Film Lions at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this June. A new leadership team consisting of Sidharth Loyal (MD), Shuchi Thakur (ECD) and Molona Wati Longchar (ECD) was announced in September last year.
While in Mumbai to meet a client, Campaign India caught up with Loyal.
“It has been an interesting nine months. It’s been busy, and by that I mean ‘good busy’. It has been about getting to know clients, teams internally, figuring pain-points, what needs course correction and stuff like that," says Loyal.
He adds, "If all goes well we should be able to make a few announcements by the end of the month in terms of new accounts. The good news is we have retained clients. Now that we have added a few new businesses, we will be focusing on the work again and looking to consolidate."
In India, W+K currently has about 70-75 people and should be looking to end the year with a headcount of 100 following the recent wins.
Growth in phases
While growth is an agenda, the agency wants to grow in phases, reveals Loyal, and he's not losing sleep over that term.
And the agency is being selective in terms of pitches and participating in them. He explains, “We don’t want to grow too big, too fast. We don’t want to bite more than we can chew. We’ve been lucky to have new business inquiries and we have been selective."
He explains that W+K has only pitched to the clients where the agency feels there is a good creative opportunity. "We typically don’t like to participate in agency pitches which have more than six agencies. It’s only because it makes no sense. We are good with participating in pitches which have three or four agencies against each other. We see lesser commitment when there are clients calling for pitches with six or more clients,” he says
On the work front, he claims it has been ‘busy’. Operating only in Delhi is no hindrance and the mantra he and the agency are following currently is ‘slow and steady wins the race’.
Wieden+Kennedy Delhi will be completing ten years in the country and its clientele includes major players in the auto space (Audi and Royal Enfield), an aviation company (Indigo), government (Make in India), hospitality (Oberoi Hotels and Resorts) and a sports apparel brand (Nike).
Yet, outsiders perceive the agency not to be 'up-there' among creative agencies in the country. And Loyal agrees with that perception.
He says, “Unfortunately, perception is reality. Where we have consciously stayed away from is trying to be ‘up-there’. We have always believed in the work. That steeps in from Dan Wieden himself. People, culture and work are the three creative pillars which literally drive this agency. It’ll always be creatively led."
He says recognition is a by-product. "No one joins this agency saying, ‘I’m joining to win awards’. Awards will come. I don’t think any of the team members that worked on Nike ‘Da Da Ding’ said that we’re creating this to win awards. We just wanted to create an amazing piece of work that would be engaging and create conversation. It was socially relevant and everything else followed.”
He adds, “I don’t think we will play that (awards game) to be in the top five. Being in the top five isn’t our aim. It can be achieved easily – pick up seven or eight more clients, hire a few more people and start entering awards. Then, the leadership team can enter awards juries, do a little more networking. But then what happens is that you starting running a business rather than trying to produce good creative work. People who get Wieden, get it completely."
Loyal believes that importantly clients get that philosophy. "We have very interesting conversations with clients, where they say they really want to work with us. But, since we come at a premium, not all of them can afford us. Since they value our thinking, we work with them on projects and we are good with that. Sometimes you don’t want the entire chunks of the business. Wherever the creative opportunity outweighs just taking a business decision, we will go with that.”
“We are now looking to talk more about our work," he says shifting the conversation to the Make in India initiative for which W+K did everything from content, creation and experiential to design.
"In general, we haven’t spoken a lot, but we’ve been doing a lot of stuff. We are doing another country initiative like the massive ‘Make in India’ week in Mumbai last year. We want to keep getting out good pieces of work for all of our clients. Growth will happen as it happens. We’ll clock out to more people only because we need to hire for our new businesses. We want to consolidate and hopefully take that ‘Christmas break’ at the end of the year," says Loyal.
Da Da Ding
With global W+K offices bagging award wins for work on Nike, EA Sports and Old Spice through the years, the agency’s Delhi office was quiet on that front. While the work helped the office ‘integrate with the network’ he reveals that there has been no pressure on the office to match offices in Portland, Amsterdam and the others.
“The great thing about being independent is also having independence among the Wieden network. So, we have never being forced on a global network to enter awards. This was a compelling piece of work, so we did enter it. Every office in the Wieden network has their own discretion as to how many awards they want to enter, if at all,” says Loyal.
He adds, “Historically, W+K Delhi, even when V Sunil and Mohit led it, was very particular about what they wanted to enter. It made sense too. Awards are not necessarily a good reflection of how you want to pitch the agency though. Once, you go down that (awards) roads, clients also expect all those ‘Golds’. I’d like to thank our clients for being supportive. If we have a piece of work that can win at awards, they will always support us. That’s the good part about a true-partnership or relationship with a client. They just want to keep seeing good business results."
He surmises, “We are genuine ‘partners’. There are so many more rounds of upstream conversations we have about how we can help them impact their business. Then the creative product is the outcome of those conversations. Da Da Ding was one example. We got input from the client where they saw business results post the campaign. It was such a big piece of work which had massive budgets.”