So is 82.5 old wine in a new bottle?

07 Feb,2019

 

Last week, Soho Square, the second agency from the Ogilvy India stable, was relaunched as 82.5. The new agency also subsumed all of Bates’s business. 82.5 Communications is billed as an India-specific creative agency catering to Indian companies, Indian startups and entrepreneurs. We spoke with Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Chairman and CCO and CEO VS.Srikanth for a quick chat.

 

Pardon the question but while you say 82.5 is all-new, for all practical purposes, isn’t it old wine in a new bottle?

Sumanto Chattopadhyay (SC): I We knew this question would come. So is it just a Soho Square with a new name? No, it’s not. It is definitely Soho Square with a new name and a lot more because I think we are shifting gears and we have come up with a different model altogether which is to say that we are an open source platform model. Which means that apart from whatever skillsets we have as a part of our company, we are tying up with all sorts of other skills.

 

And you weren’t that earlier?

No, we weren’t that.

And you couldn’t have done all of what you want to do out there?

No. We couldn’t because we are actually changing our processes to be able to do that. See, we have been a part of the Ogilvy group. Whatever we have done has been primarily inhouse. So, what we are saying is going forward, we are not going to say no to any brief because whatever skillsets are required, we are there just to provide the brand names and to take the onus for the final result. But we will give you communication solutions which are beyond the stand of advertising solutions. But in the fast…

 

But you still going to be the second agency of Ogilvy, Businesses that Ogilvy cannot accept, come to a Soho Square etc, etc.

SC: As I said, while we are open source, we are not breaking away from the Ogilvy group. We are a part of the Ogilvy group and we are for the better or worse, it’s the second agency but what we are here to do from today onwards is to carve out a completely different space for ourselves as I said, which involves partnerships with Ogilvy skillsets, with WPP skillsets and skillsets which have nothing to do with either of these entities.

 

VS Srikanth (VSS): I just want to add a little more on that point. Since, we are the other agency in the Ogilvy group, there is one more agency by the way. There is David as well. There are other brands in the Ogilvy group. Hence, if for conflict reasons if any business has to part, we are happy to take it. But that’s not what we are building our business plans on. That’s not what we are banking on. We have got our own plans. We have got our own processes. We have got our own objective, our own focus. If, by the way within the group there is a client that Ogilvy cannot handle it or David cannot handle it and therefore it is being decided that it should be handled under 82.5, we are okay with that.

 

So as of now 82.5 Soho Square is dead? It ceases to exist?

VSS: As a customer-facing brand, it is dead.

 

And what about Bates?

VSS: As a customer-facing brand, Bates also won’t exist.

 

Given that you want to be hat ke, offering out-of-the-box Indian solutions, are there existing clients of erstwhile Soho Square and Bates who you think do not fit into 82.5?

SC: No. I don’t think so, because, actually when we were doing this whole exercise of re-inventing ourselves, one of the things we noticed was, these are the kind of clients who have largely been attracted to us. They are Indian entrepreneurs by and large or even if we have handled a multinational brand, it is because they are coming into India and they want to Indianise or they want somebody to tell them how to go about creating communication for India. So, I think that’s the space that we have been in and over the last few weeks, as we have told our existing clients about our new approach, they have welcomed it and as in couple of cases they have actually given us briefs outside of the standard advertising.

 

VSS: No client has raised concerns, shown signs of leaving us when we broke this news to them. Actually they have all welcomed this news. There hasn’t been a problem with any of the existing clients.

 

And would you be doing BJP again, this year? Does a client like BJP who fit into the new Soho Square, er, 82.5?

SC: I would put it in a different way. The broader question is would we handle a political party? We would. But are we handling BJP? As of now, we are not.

 

VSS: At the moment that is not the conversation. Ogilvy might be going through those conversations but not us. At the moment there is no BJP conversation.

 

Both of you have worked with traditional agencies, How are you going to be different from Ogilvy? If you and Ogilvy have to go together to pitch, how would you desell Ogilvy?

SC: I think we have to work to our own strengths. Also, in the model that we have adopted now, we are saying we are agile. And we are not a legacy system. We don’t have everything inhouse. But at the same time, we can offer you everything; it could be things that are in-house in Ogilvy, it could be things which are, skillsets from other WPP agencies. Like one of the examples that Shrikanth was talking about was shopper marketing. I don’t think that exists anywhere right now in Ogilvy group for example. It is one of the strategic tie-ups that we are doing with somebody to be able to offer this. Without having this heavy, expensive, gargantuan legacy structures, we are going to have these strategic partners, and we are going to have the onus of delivering. So, whatever is the kind of solution, I mean when I go to you, you might have a certain set of needs as again we were saying earlier that we won’t say that “Oh, this is not something we can do?

 

Are you going to be full-service?

SC: We are going to be full-service but through partnerships not through an all inhouse…

 

Which anyway exists because you are a part of WPP, so you will have a GroupM for media…

VSS: What we are saying is that we are not only going to be a part of that. I mean it’s just not the WPP partnerships, it is going to be anything else that we feel any of our clients require. Right now, we have looked at in from the lens of our current set of clients and what are some of the things that they might require. But six months down the line, we might pitch for a new business which requires a completely sort of new approach or a skill set which is not any of these things.

 

Two more questions, I have? One is that the kind of clients you want want to have and the nature of business you have, typically have low budgets. In big agencies you have retainerships of Rs 10 lakh plus but with startups, it would be a ‘Ek lakh mein kar do yaar’. They want great stuff, but they don’t have monies to pay.

SC: So, I think part of the way that we have been operating before today, I think the world has changed and while there are clients who want to spend the big budgets and get the big bang, there are lot of clients who want a biggish bang for a much smaller budget.  I think that is something which we have learnt to do.

 

What is the lowest amount needed to get your meter ticking?

SC: I think it is difficult to answer that. Because it is difficult to answer as to what is low. I just want to say this: we are trying to give the clients, the kind of clients that we have worked with, cost-saving is at two levels. We are, one, rejigging ourselves and the way we are looking at it as a platform, we are agile, we don’t have legacy structures, we don’t have huge costs. So, we can try and give you solutions. I will be relatively cost-effective. I won’t be cheap. But in the kind of solutions that we come up with, we also will aim to save the client’s money. Thus, in what we charge as in because of our structures and in terms of the kind of solutions that we provide to the client, we will try to be as competitive and cost-effective as possible. But if there is a client, like you gave the example of 1 lakh, like if I give you 1 lakh, can you do it for me, I would say 9 times out of 10, the answer to that would be no. I don’t think we can take on something which is non-profitable. We need to make some money.

 

Any specific business targets you have or have been given?

VSS: We are not working with numerical targets at the moment.

 

One last questions: couldn’t you have done all this with the name change? Launching 82.5 means fresh stationery, branding, registration etc etc?

 

SC: So, I just think it’s a new positioning. Yes, we could have. If you are asking, technically speaking, we could have re-invented Soho Square as something. But we felt that going forward, we want to have a distinctive position and we wanted a distinctive name to go with that.

 

VSS: I think it is not a rebranding exercise that we have gone through. It’s a re-positioning exercise that we have gone through.

 

All the very best!

 

 

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