U-turn to comfort zone!

31 Jul,2012


By Tuhina Anand


Anita Nayyar

After a fabulous five-year stint at Havas Media, Anita Nayyar is returning to the agency post a four-month stint at Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL). The news of her joining BCCL as Director, Customer Strategy was seen as a big leap and an opportunity for her to be on the other side of the table. Her decision to come back and reclaim her old role as the CEO for Havas Media for India and South Asia hence came as a surprise. The fact that post has been vacant ever since she left in April this year evidently made it easier.


On her part, Ms Nayyar maintains that she was missing the pace of her agency life; after all she has been with media agencies for more than two-and-a-half decades. “There was nothing wrong at BCCL. In fact, it was an interesting assignment and BCCL is a fantastic organization and they took good care of me. However, I have realized that my heart lies in being on the other side of the table and that is on the agency side,” she told MxMIndia.


“In fact, the stint made me understand the issues from a publication point of view which often we fail to see as we have not been a part of it. It gave me an opportunity to see a new side of business and will surely help me in the way ahead,” she added.


CVL Srinivas

CVL Srinivas, Chairman, SMG India and MD, LiquidThread, APAC, moved to Private Treaties at BCCL after Maxus and now with SMG. Talking about his moves, Mr Srinivas said: “I moved at a time when I was to head to Singapore to run Maxus Asia-Pacific. I had chosen a successor to head Maxus India and completed the handover, so it was a good time to sit and evaluate career options. Having worked in media agencies for 13 years on the trot, I felt it was time to get out of my comfort zone and explore the world outside. I had always done roles that involved scaling up businesses, building teams, so I thought working with or for start-ups would be a good way to build on my strengths and yet do something different.


On the stint at Private Treaties (now called Brand Capital) ending soon, Mr Srinivas commented, “I consulted for a few start-ups before joining Times Treaties where I had a two year stint. In all, I was outside of media agencies for a good four years. I chose to come back because of the role that was offered to me by SMG. It seemed to have all the right ingredients at that stage of my career.”


It is not uncommon of an advertising person to move to the client side of the business but only few switch to the media side of the business (print and broadcast primarily) and more importantly even rarer come back to the agency once again. However, as we understand that it’s not the case of sour grapes for comebacks.


Karthik Lakshminarayan

Karthik Lakshminarayan, COO at Crest (Madison Media) re-joinedMadisonwhere he had worked for close to eight years post his foray into broadcast and production when he was with Colors, FoodFood and Fremantle Media. For him the decision to join broadcast was, as he puts it: “A challenge thrown to be a part of a launch and do something completely different and radical from Media Planning and Buying which I was doing for over 14 years and was adept at.”


However, the decision to come back was, “purely because it was Madison as it was a home-coming. Any other agency would not have been the same or felt the same.”


A senior industry person who had been in a similar situation pointed that while hiring an agency person is desirable for media houses as they come with multiple experience of working on various brands, but the difficulty begins once you are inside the publication or broadcast company. There is a huge cultural difference, because the kind of monies the media houses deal with is humongous as compared to what the agencies deal with. In his words: “The agency people are bound by certain set of responsibilities, it’s like a relay race where you do your work and then hand the baton to the next yet at the same time be part of a team, however the media house is huge and set of responsibilities diverse hence making the transition becomes difficult. Also, one could be a CEO of the agency and be well recognized but the same person will get lost in the media house where there are many biggies ruling the roost.”


Suresh Balakrishnan

Talking of the scale of business being different, Suresh Balakrishna who joined back LMG as CEO of Brand Programming Network after a decade of being with print explained, “The media houses definitely means operating on much bigger canvas and the scale of monies involved being huge. You learn to be a business man as there are hard trade-offs and you need to take hard calls on driving the bottom line as well as the top line. So the pressure involved in definitely higher. ”


While that’s the view of people who have made a comeback, the recruiters have a different take. An advertising industry recruiter on anonymity said: “I can’t really think of many who have made a transition and then come back to the media agency. Yes for us, those willing to come back especially at senior level are good prospects for recruitment considering the dearth of talent besides they are value for money. There is comfort in coming back to your old set up.”


However she added: “I do think that people who are willing to come back are usually those who are having a tough time in their current set up.”


On the other hand, those who made the switch and then came back to agency feel that the experience only helped them in their career. As Mr Srinivas puts it: “I learnt a lot at BCCL. Firstly, to get a first-hand experience of being on the media owner side was very helpful. Secondly, I worked with some very fine minds at Private Treaties and got a much better understanding of how businesses are built and brands created from scratch. And being part of India’s largest media company (when one is not used to such scale on the agency side) was a huge learning in itself.”


Mr Balakrishna too added, “The learnings at media houses have been immense as I had  joined HT around 2001 which was a time when media houses were just getting professional in their approach and this was an aggressive phase of growth. Mint and DNA were challenger brands as they were not the leaders so one had to be literally on our toes thinking all the time to take away whatever possible from competition to establish ourselves.”


However he added that his decision to join back was primarily because he felt that while he had acquired depth of learning he was missing the width of learning that an agency offers. One gets to work on different categories and with market becoming increasingly competitive and clients keeping a vigil on ROI the media agency business has become only more organized and scientific in their approach.


Imaging: Rafiq, Images: Clipart


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