Winning it the Manthan way

10 Jun,2015


By Pradyuman Maheshwari


Last fortnight, the London-headquartered D&AD announced the winners for its 2015 awards where McCann won six ‘Pencils’ (as the awards are called), including the coveted Yellow Pencil — the first time ever won by an Indian agency.


Talking about the win, Prasoon Joshi. Chairman, Asia Pacific, CEO and Chief Creative Officer of McCann India, said: “I am extremely pleased with the outcome… D&AD is a prestigious award to win.” Earlier, the agency bagged four Golds and two Silvers at the One Show Awards.



It may be his third job in the business, but Nikhil Waradkar has been in the McCann system for just three years. A student of the LS Raheja School of Arts in Mumbai, the edition of Manthan where the Yellow Pencil-winning Babol idea came up, was Waradkar’s first. “Babol is a Delhi-based account, but it was a fun working on it,” says Waradkar. Didn’t the original Babol team feel threatened that an ‘outsider’ who wasn’t a part of the team, cracked it? “On the contrary, they pushed it to the client? “says Waradkar. “That’s the Manthan format. It’s good for everyone.”


For the India office of McCann Worldwide, it’s been a great showing at some of the top awards events internationally. Little wonder then, that in the Gunn Report ranking, McCann tops the India list for a second year in a row. The Gunn Report is a global index of creative excellence in advertising, and is collated from among the winners of the world’s leading and most important awards events.


Joshi attributes the successful showings to a concept called ‘Manthan’ that he initiated in the agency some five years ago. “It started as an experiment, but has matured over time,” he says. “We organise it at least three times a year, and it’s essentially a congregation of creative folk. So our Yellow Pencil-winning entry is for a client from the Delhi office, but the art and creative directs are from Mumbai. This is the way Manthan works.”


It’s an offsite with Joshi leading the warm-ups. “I try and share some stuff with them to get the ball rolling. But later, we have everyone sharing things that have inspired them. It could be anything — advertising, art, music, poetry, literature.” Manthan, says Joshi, has had a significant impact over the last three years. “People are very excited about each other. It also helps them to interact with teams from elsewhere in the country,” he adds.


Typically, while employees are aware of the various brands the agency is working on, a Delhi staffer doesn’t know what’s happening in the Mumbai office, and vice versa. The idea of Manthan is to provide a sort of ‘churn’, a regular engagement to keep everyone in the loop. “I often hear that people are constrained by every day work or have someone sitting on their heads, telling them what will or won’t work. Younger creative, in particular, wish they had a free hand to do things,” says Joshi.


Manthan is for creatives at all levels – from Joshi and the National Creative Directors, to the fresher, and some 80 to 100 people travel to a destination within the country for this brainstorm. But even before they arrive at the designated venue for Manthan, all creative staff are sent an agenda, and they have to work on a presentation for a certain product or a service. “It also breaks the fact of ownership of clients. For example, there may be someone who may say ‘I will work only on this brand’,” says Joshi.


But aren’t people possessive about their accounts? “Yes, and I don’t blame them. You nurture it, you understand it,” say Joshi. “But being a part of the creative world, you understand that it eventually boils down to ideas. There are some honest, creative people who, at times, come and tell me they are fatigued. They have a mental block about a certain brand. Similarly, clients sometimes ask if they can get a fresh team because the regular team [may have hit a roadblock] from being over-briefed and over-cautious”


As ked if he faced any resistance to the initiative, Joshi said it was largely around people wanting to keep their cards close to the chest about their clients.  That’s when Joshi would point out to them that, the large number of brands he has nurtured, he should be the most “possessive” one of them all. “At McCann, right from the beginning, I have tried to bring the culture of less territory. While ownership is important and I want that, a turf war is harmful. And Manthan has helped clear that up,” says Joshi. But can a sweep of awards events be attributed to Manthan? According to Joshi, the initiative is an exercise in pushing the boundaries, and developing an attitude to do that. So while Manthan helps break the monotony of a daily grind, it also takes people back to the basics, by making them re-examine whey they got into advertising, in the first place. “At Manthan, the basic belief is do what you feel right. We do meet the management team and the planners later, and some of the work may get shot down, but the process does opens our minds up,” says Joshi.


In fact, Joshi explains how the core ta working on an account has now begun to see interference and suggestions from others (sometimes rookies), not as an impediment, but as a way of finding solutions when you are stuck. Indeed, Manthan enables a cross-fertilisation of ideas much in the way that creative people, having a drink together, might sometimes come up with ideas on various brands. “I always wanted to do this for this particular category. That ‘wish’ gets fulfilled through the Manthan culture,” says Joshi.


It also helps to figure out who is getting a little jaded. “I believe in self-realisation. McCann is a very non-judgmental organisation,” says Joshi. “I believe in people realising their limitations themselves. I feel the culture should be such that it makes you realise what you’re not doing right. When you see the quality of ideas coming out in front of you, you are [bound to wonder if this is] where I’m going.”


On the more philosophical question of where the future of creativity is headed, Joshi says: “Creativity can’t be boxed. I think crowdsourcing will very much be a part of our offering, but deep-dive will reign supreme. A lot of time should be spent in briefing, which people don’t do. People feel client briefing, agency briefing and strategic planning are a waste of time. That’s the reason, Manthan is not about throwing a problem at you. You’ve already been given a brief about a brand which might not be a part of the brands that you’ve thought about.”


A version of this appeared in dna of brands dated June 8, 2015


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