Emergence of a new superpower

31 May,2013


By A Correspondent


A few months back, when we spoke with Bertrand Siguier, Special Advisor to Publicis Groupe chairman Maurice Levy, this is what he said of Publicis Worldwide India: “Publicis has made a lot of progress but I still want to see more in terms of creativity and visibility.” But when we asked him about how Publicis is not considered a sexy agency in India, he said: “You may be right but you have a very Indian focus. I do not know why this market is obsessed with stars – the advertising business is not like Bollywood. I know that in India some creative people are considered as stars. You see them in newspapers, you see them with beautiful ladies, you see them trying to film things for Bollywood…we are not in that league. I think we could do a bit more.”


To use an adline, karo zyaada ka iraada.


And that’s what Publicis has done. In one masterstroke, it has announced the arrival of three superstars of the Indian advertising industry in its fold: Bobby Pawar joins as Director, Chief Creative Officer – South Asia; Partha Sinha as Director, Chief Strategy Officer South Asia; and Ambika Srivastava as Director, Marketing and New Business India. All three will join the Management Board of Publicis India and report to Nakul Chopra CEO South Asia.


Jaldi 5 with Nakul Chopra: Partha, Bobby partnership will set us apart, Ambika will bring in new competencies & clients
All that you though about Publicis India will now be history with the news of Ambika Srivastava, Partha Sinha and Bobby Pawar of hopping on board. CEO South Asia of Publicis Worldwide Nakul Chopra took a few questions from MxMIndia. And as you will read, he is as candid as you can get. Including that question on Bobby and JWT. Read on…01. This is decidedly a coup. So would we be right in saying that this is the emergence of a new superpower in Indian creative advertising?

Clearly our intent is to emerge as a new superpower in Indian advertising. The potent partnership that Partha and Bobby will bring underlines our belief that thinking and creativity needs to be seamless. It this partnership we believe that will set us apart from the competition. And it is only through such a partnership that we can indeed emerge as a superpower.


02. It’s interesting that you’ve pulled in a media heavyweight like Ambika Srivastava. As a media planning and buying expert, what would her role be in marketing and new business development?

On the one hand marketing and new business development is how we traditionally think of it – prospecting new clients. On the other it is equally about defining our strategies to address new opportunities – or needs from our clients’ perspective – in this very fast changing environment. Ambika is not only a media heavyweight – she is one of the most senior people in the advertising industry today – and she has a very good perspective of emerging media and trends given her ringside view in the media business. Her role is hence to help us gain new competencies and clients.


03. Does the bringing in of the three impact the existing organizational structure at Publicis India?

It does immediately add immense potent strength to the existing organisation. There is no major change in our other existing structure for now. Of course as we go forward we want to ensure that the strong partnership that Partha and Bobby reflect on the top goes all the way through the organisation. This will be perhaps less about major changes in the organizational structure – and rather more about changing processes through which we work as a team.


04. Bringing in Bobby Pawar is another coup, but the circumstances in which he moved on from JWT was controversial. Given that the Publicis Groupe has clear values on this, your hiring him virtually confirms that his exit from JWT was uncalled for. Comments?

It is not for me to comment on what another agency did. For our part we have the highest benchmark of values for both Corporate Governance and standards of the work we create. Certainly in hiring Bobby we believe that he shares these values and will partner us in maintaining them.


a.  Is Partha’s move a transfer within the group? Do we see more synergies between BBH India and Publicis India?

Partha is making a move within the Publicis Groupe – and this is certainly through a collaborated effort from Publicis and BBH. Publicis Groupe companies in India do frequently collaborate on a wide variety of issues and meet regularly to channelise Groupe strategy for India. However, this move does not in any manner signify any specific additional synergies between Publicis and BBH.


05. So what kind of targets have you set yourself for this year (given the entry of the trio)?

We don’t discuss specific business strategy and financials in the media. Our goal is very clear – to be in the Top 3 – by size, reputation and recognition.


Making this announcement, Jean-Yves Naouri, Chief Operating Officer, Publicis Groupe and Executive Chairman, Publicis Worldwide, said in a communiqué: “India is central to the future success of our key clients and indeed to our own success. We are committed to making the required investments in this critical market, whether organic or through acquisitions. Following the recent acquisitions of iStrat and Marketgate, these hires confirm our ambitions to invest in top talent. I have no doubt that the new team will help meet our aspirations and those of our clients.”


Mr Naouri also mentioned that Sanjay Sharma will move into the lead planning role at BBH, a function that needed to be looked at given Mr Sinha’s exit. BBH, as is known, is a fully owned Publicis Groupe company. In India, as it does in the rest of the world, BBH leads an independent existence.


Said Nakul Chopra, CEO South Asia of Publicis Worldwide, and also the head of the advertising conglomerate in India: added “I am delighted to have people of such exceptional caliber join our leadership team. Each is arguably among the best in their specializations. I am very confident that each of them will add greatly to the quality of our output, to the quality of Publicis management in India and most importantly to the value we can deliver to our clients.”


Said Erik Vervroegen, Global Creative Director at Publicis: ‘Bobby is just the kind of talent that we believe can take our creative product in India to the next level. I am very happy to have Partha join him as a partner. I look forward to working with this very potent team’.


It has been rumoured that both Mr Bobby Pawar and Mr Partha Sinha along with Kamal Basu, former Saatchi & Saatchi CEO and now CMO at Skoda, were joining hands to launch an agency. When MxMIndia spoke to Mr Sinha a few weeks back, he laughed it off saying that while they were close friends, there was no truth in the news.


Commenting on their appointment, Messrs Bobby Pawar and Partha Sinha said: “We have been wanting to work together as a team for some time now – Publicis has provided us the perfect platform to do so. Brand communication in today’s world has changed substantially – thinking and creativity need to be more concurrent and seamless – we want to approach it that way. Being involved from the root of the problem to the final delivery of the solution is the best way to add value to a brand.”


Ms Ambika Srivastava added “I am excited about my new role. For me it is literally ‘back to the future’ where in today’s environment paid, earned and owned media are bringing complete perspective to a client’s business. And this is a great way to Lead the Change.”


Speaking to MxMIndia, Ms Srivastava said she was looking forward to the new assignment having worked with VivaKi Exchange as Chairperson and led Zenith Optimedia from its start. “Nakul was a great help then and has a great vision for the agency.” Ms Srivastava had moved out of the VivaKi fold in March this year and was Managing Partner with a firm headed by her husband Deepak Sahai.


What remains to be seen whether the joining of the threesome helps Publicis Groupe realize it ambitious target of double its size in India ahead of the 2015 deadline. Some acquisitions have happened in the last year, and clearly Publicis India – armed with the top talent – can help do that.


What’s clear is that it’s the emergence of a new superpower. Watch out, others!


Meanwhile @ BBH: Sanjay Sharma elevated as head of planning
By A CorrespondentBBH India issued a statement announcing today a change in its strategic leadership. With the exit of founding managing partner Partha Sinha, Sanjay Sharma, Senior Strategy Director and a long-time BBH-er will be stepping up to take on the role of Head of Planning at BBH India.


Discussing the restructure, Gwyn Jones, Global CEO, said, “Partha was the first person we hired in India and has done a great job for us over the past 4 years helping to establish the BBH brand. However, the opportunity to work with his good friend Bobby and to remain within a business he knows well was one he felt he had to take and obviously I am happy that he will still be part of the Publicis Groupe. Furthermore it is testament to the job Partha has done that we have someone of Sanjay’s quality ready to step up into the role.”


Says Subhash Kamath, managing partner, “We’ll miss Partha as we’ve been friends and colleagues for years. He’s done such a wonderful job for us. But as they say, every change also throws up an opportunity. Both Russell and I are delighted that Sanjay is being able to seamlessly step into those shoes. He’s been with us right from the start, knows all our brands well and we have no doubt that he’ll be able to lead our focus on strategic planning at the heart of creative excellence.”




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