I believe we are a mid-sized agency in India: Srija Chatterjee, MD, Publicis Worldwide India
From rolling out Marcel in the country to the merging of Publicis Ambience and Publicis Capital to form Publicis India, it has been a busy year for Publicis Worldwide India. Srija Chatterjee, who joined Publicis Worldwide India from MullenLowe Singapore earlier this year, reveals how the agency is in revamp mode. She speaks withBrandWagon’sShinmin Baliabout the ambitious growth plans of the agency, making pitches a habit and the need for an entrepreneurial spirit. Edited excerpts:
After spending time in Singapore, you took up a role in India after quite a while. How easy or difficult has the transition been?
It has been far from a soft landing. It has been about getting into the thick of things, with no time to breathe. The last five months have been packed with lots of action, but have been fantastic at the same time. There are no regrets about moving on from a job that I held for over 16 years with MullenLowe.
The time has been spent in getting to know the fantastic people here, the team, understanding what the gaps are and how to fill them. We are in the process of doing that. The big focus has been getting to know clients here, understanding their businesses and the big word — growth. So, we are going out there and pitching for new businesses., which is a big focus area for me.
Speed is of essence. All businesses we work on want a quick turnaround, quick ideas, work within a limited time, collaboration with teams and finding solutions. So I have been focussing my time on talent, understanding existing businesses and of course, new businesses.
What is on your priority list here as MD?
Publicis is one of those agencies that has been doing a lot of good work but this remains a closely guarded secret. Our showreel of the last year is a fantastic one. It can match up to the likes of bigger agencies in the country. However, people do not know about it. The first thing is to continue to do the great work. The creative product is the final thing we sell; so it’s about how we keep pushing the creative product, collaborate with Bobby (Pawar) and creative teams in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, and make sure that people know that the work is from Publicis.
It is no point if only we and the client know about our great work; this is of critical importance to be fixed. It’s about getting the entire team within the agency to feel that we are all working towards one goal and ensuring that the team knows what that one goal is; ensure that there is enough incentivisation of great work and the work is recognised in an open forum.
You referred to other agencies as ‘bigger’ agencies…
I come from one of the big three agencies, as we call them. Having left the country for almost eight years, the one thing I have noticed is that there are really big agencies and then there is the mushrooming of so-called creative hotshops. I believe we are a mid-sized agency, which only means we have the space to grow. We are far from complacent. We need to push our people and products, so that we can aspire to be a big-sized agency. Therefore, I believe others are bigger agencies because we have a gap to fill.
Can you elaborate on these gaps?
I don’t think this agency was very active in the pitch game in the first place in its earlier avatar. It used to pitch, but it was never a way of being. But for the last few months, it has become a way of being for us. In fact, I have mandated that we need to have a certain number of pitches. And now our teams are enjoying this process.
We are now seeing a change in the team because they know now that as the organisation grows, you personally grow — it is all connected. We are also putting in lots of processes to make sure there is enough recognition coming to people who put in more than what they are supposed to and get new businesses. So, there are some metrics being put in place.
This is a very ambitious target. In my head, it is not impossible to meet this target; it is difficult and therefore ambitious. If we do not have that kind of ambition, there will be a sense of complacency. People need to understand that with the kind of competition we face and with the mushrooming of small agencies and the client-agency relationship that has changed over the years, it is important that we up our game.
Marcel was recently rolled out in the Indian market. How different will the Indian version be from its international avatar?
We announced Marcel when I came in. You will see some announcements on it soon. We spent a lot of time fine-tuning what exactly can Marcel bring to the table in this cluttered advertising space. It also needs to be different from what Publicis India offers. What we have with Marcel is rock solid. We will be launching it officially soon. Marcel is different for every city. We do not have a straight jacketed Marcel in that sense. We have spent a lot of time understanding its model in five other countries. We think we have taken the best from those markets to develop what we think Marcel India should be — Sudeep Gohil will largely front that.
Some of our existing clients have asked about Marcel and would like to work with it. We have also had enquiries from talent showing interest in being a part of Marcel. It is going to play the creative product game and not the size game. The size game with be played by Publicis. We are looking at work that changes behaviour but does so in an innovative way.
What ambitions does Publicis India hold post the restructure?
Our vision is to be one of the best creative agencies in the world and grow faster than others. The vision is going to come from our people, products and profit. Each of us here needs to behave like an entrepreneur to achieve growth. We have great teams here and don’t have a high base of clients, so our hit ratio needs to be high.