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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
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Can Dentsu leverage its legacy sucessfully for the great Indian push ?
Having undergone a complete overhaul over the last year, the agency is treading new grounds on its big leap ahead; 4Ps B&M gets the inside dope
In January last year, when Dentsu Global decided to buy off Sandeep Goyal’s stake in their three advertising companies for a reported sum of Rs.240 crore, it expectedly took adville by storm. To this day, the deal remains one of the biggest stake sales in the advertising industry. And as many industry veterans called the deal highly overpriced, they were also voicing in the same breath that Dentsu had become what it had on the back of Sandeep Goyal only. With an investment of roughly Rs.10 crore from each founder in 2003, the agency reported revenues of Rs.200 crore in the first year of operation itself, which, by the end of 2010, grew to Rs.1,200 crore. So naturally, the exit of Sandeep Goyal could not have been an easy one. Add to that, the agency saw the subsequent & sudden departure of several top management members, creating a huge leadership crisis. But this wasn’t the only setback that the company suffered back then. The buzz within the industry that Dentsu Marcom was losing its creativity was getting stronger. It was possibly for these reasons that many of the existing clients of the agency either put their business open for alternative pitches or did not give them any new brands. With such monumental problems at hand, finding a successor to Sandeep Goyal could not have been an easy task.

However in June 2011, when Rohit Ohri acceded to the position, the ball of change began to roll. Soon after joining the organisation, Rohit quickly ascertained his priorities – to get the right people in the organisation and to enthuse creativity within the existing team. Between June 2011 and now, the agency has been on a hiring spree; both at the top and at the junior levels; having hired over 23 new people from a total of 63 employees, and there are plans to get more. Besides Rohit, the other senior executives including Titus Upputuru, the National Creative Director, Narayan Devanathan, the National Planning Head, Sunita Prakash, Vice President and Harjot Singh Narang, the Delhi Branch head, have all joined the organisation within the last one year, thus forming a completely new management team. However, what was a bigger challenge than forming a new team was the second priority – reinvigorating the creative environment in the organisation. But as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens up. Something similar happened at Dentsu Marcom too. While the sudden departure of the senior management had left a crater within the agency, it also gave them the option to start afresh and to give the agency a whole new innings.

If you were to visit the agency, there’s little chance that you would be able to sense the turmoil the agency had been through over the past year. The office, done up all in white, has interesting stuff lying around including water guns (unloaded, thankfully), skytrooper masks and African idols. There’s music to add to the melee, with in-office cricket/football available for any employee up for the ask. Clearly, the bigger intent in all this has been to push forward the fun-element into the office environment. Of course, any agency plumping its creative front is expected to embrace a bohemian philosophy. But Dentsu is evidently paying more than lip service to this issue. One big plus from this effort has been that the newly hired top management bonds quite well. In the world of killing office politics, there’s quite some value in the previous statement.

Every morning, the three vertical heads, Narayan, Titus and Harjot, huddle up at one of the corner seating areas (note: never inside a cabin) to discuss the latest office affairs. Through this, not only can they easily update each other with the latest developments concerning the agency, but also can set the agenda for the day. For them, this informal chat session – coupled with home cooked food, they insist – is the perfect beginning to the day. It’s an example that they’re trying to set for each and every employee of the agency – about how to be motivated and excited about work, yet not lose the fun, trust and team work quotient.

Did we mention the ice cream vendor with his ‘thela’ whom we crossed paths with on the 10th floor? That’s the kind of impact that hits one in the agency. Every success is celebrated substantially and expansively too. The ice cream vendor, for instance, was part of festivities that were being held on the culmination of an extremely hectic work schedule spanning more than two months, during which period, many of the employees spent several days and nights consecutively in the office to meet some deadline or the other; a consequence of having landed seven crucial deals within a period of four months.

The deals were crucial because these were brands belonging to their existing clients and in some cases, they were brands that the agency had been handling for long but had now been put up to pitch. Take for example the creative work for Canon digital cameras, one of the largest accounts that Dentsu Marcom had acquired in September 2004. Of late, the client had started questioning the relationship. It reached a point when Canon asked Dentsu to again pitch for its digital camera brands – PowerShot and IXUS. Pitching, for those not in the know, is generally only done for new clients, and almost never for clients where the agency might be deeply embedded.

Remembering the time, branch head Harjot Singh Narang, who had just joined the organisation then, says, “There is nothing as painful as seeing an existing client relationship on a shaky wicket, because here is a client who had faith enough to give you his business, but is now losing that trust and has thus put part of the business to pitch.” The task was huge, and the desperation at its peak. They had to surmount the challenge one way or the other, and they went through numerous social networking profiles for their research. Comments Narayan, “We realised that there was a huge sense of pride associated with each picture posted online, no matter what it was. The other thing we realised was that nowadays, the camera had begun to act as a trigger for craziness. Based on these understandings, we reached upon the concept of ‘What makes you click’.” The pitch, once ready, became an instant hit and soon enough, Dentsu Marcom bagged not just the campaign but also regained lost trust – and one realizes, confidence too. “The, difference between the words and the look on the Canon clients from the pitch time and the time of delivery was huge. When they saw the final campaign, they stood up and gave us all a standing ovation”, Harjot fondly recalls.

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