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Digital is the proverbial 'No Country for Old Men' one would think, given the huge populace of digital natives running the show. But of late, quite a few elderly warhorses from traditional agencies have been marching towards digi-pastures.
The migration began with Ravi Deshpande when he launched his new venture Whyness in November'13. Deshpande (ex chairman and CCO, Contract India) describes his agency as "truly digitally literate."
Shortly after this development, we heard that K V Sridhar (aka Pops) has joined SapientNitro as its India CCO to strengthen the IT consulting firm's creative position in the country. "I'm closely following Modi," Pops says. "Both of us came to power at the same time, are promising digital India, and are trying to create a brand of our organisations. I believe I've succeeded more than him," he adds.
Last month, K S Chakravarthy (popularly known as Chax), announced he's taking up the CCO role at digital agency Liqvd Asia and wants to 'evangelise the digital space'.
Whatever the trigger, why they moved to digital is pretty obvious — It is the future, remember? We get this exhibition of Darwinism 101, but one shouldn't forget that for them to be able to survive, they will have to bring some value to the space too. Good news is, they do. Here's how:
They become digital adworld's celeb endorsers
When senior people start speaking the digital language, it helps clients see digital in a positive light, says Brijesh Jacob, joint MD at 22feet Tribal Worldwide. Jacob, who quit the traditional agency setup at a younger age, likens these guys to celebrity endorsers for the entire space. "The client is likely to pay more heed to the medium when they observe developments such as these," he says.
They put unheard-of digital units on the map
SapientNitro has been in the business for several years. But let's face it, the fraternity only took notice when Pops joined the agency and literally put it on the ad world's radar, Jacob points out. We couldn't agree more. "I bet a surge in Google search for Liqvd Asia would've happened the day Chax joined the agency. Clients would've said, 'I heard this move has happened. Let's check what the agency is all about."
Clients want them
DBS Bank's Chilli Paneer - 2 is SapientNitro's mega claim-tofame so far. We asked Sheran Mehra, the bank's head of group strategic marketing and communications, if they chose Sapient for its technical prowess or for Pops. Pop came the reply: "We hired them because of Pops, obviously. We met on Twitter where he had some ideas he shared. We met offline and decided to bring him on-board." According to Mehra, Pops has the maturity to understand the need of the hour that she hasn't found in most of the new guys.
"Pureplay digital agencies can't do offline whereas for a brand like ours, there's life beyond digital too. Both mainline and digital have to co-exist or Flipkart wouldn't have done those TV commercials," she points out. You don't give agencies an account for a particular medium, adds Sudip Ghose of VIP Industries who gave their luxury brand Carlton's mandate to Deshpande's Whyness. "Ravi is probably the best person to handle premium brands. He is one national customer of luxury, if you will. Digital just happens to be a part of the media vehicle and that he has tied up with a Boston-based tech partner gives him a reasonable edge over standalone digital agencies," he says.
They don't compete but complement
Digital and creative people are very territorial and end up operating in jealously guarded silos, says Chax of Liqvd Asia. "It is true of my agency, true of every agency whose people I have interviewed," he adds. This is what he plans to change to start with. "We have got him at Liqvd Asia so he can direct the creative and tech guys to look in the same direction," adds Arnab Mitra, cofounder and MD of the agency.
The digital immigrants and the natives don't need to feel threatened by each other, basically. Like Lakshmipathy Bhat, VP —corp comm of Robosoft, says, "What was missing from these new shops high on tech quotient was a sound understanding of brand strategy." These guys bring that on board. If they play to their strengths, the divide between traditional and digital will also go away in time, he feels.
Things to do: All this sounds good on paper. Sadly, papersounds don't ensure great work. Quality of work is not the malaise of one digital agency though, says Bhat. Everybody is experimenting to figure out what works and what doesn't. Where these senior citizens can play a pivotal role is in challenging the norms in the space. "There's enough scope for disruption in the mobile ads space, to begin with." Speaking of scope, Karthik Srinivasan, national lead of Social@Ogilvy is hopeful the advent will make digital advertising better from the brand perspective which is badly needed. But for inventive digital advertising, they'll have to get their hands dirty. Or keep their egos aside and learn from the next-desk intern.
An Age-Old Obsession
When Pops joined SapientNitro, the industry forums (both public and private) were rife with remarks like, "Oh! He's just extending his retirement age." Pops knows how to take a jibe in his stride. "I think I'm moving from Pops to Grand Pops now," he quips. He also feels it's a myth that all IT companies are headed by people in their 30s. That's only true for startups, he says. Deshpande agrees. It's your ideas that are your defining virtue, not your age, he says. He then points us to Bob Greenberg. Founder of global digital agency - R/GA, Greenberg is one of the most senior communication legends around. And he's easily one of the sharpest, most inspiring minds in the business today," he says.
"In 2007 I stumbled upon the book The Social Metropolis that helped me understand there is much more to be done in the business of advertising."
Next: "We are producing an app namely Dapprdo. It's a human-centric interface that allows users to solve their fashion dilemmas. We plan to increase our focus on business opportunities in the US, through Findability Sciences, our Boston-based partners." He's also working on (VIP) Carlton's second campaign.
K S Chakravarthy
"Social media is a useful marketing tool, so I suppose I will need to get deeper into it. But only for work, not personal trivia — I have family and friends for that. Having said that, I am a voracious albeit a selective follower of worthwhile stuff."
Next: Recently shot a fi lm for Mufti Jogger Jeans in Dubai, at a total cost that would make most agencies, digital or mainline, rub their eyes in disbelief. Doing a year-round series of festival fi lms for RR Kabel.
K V Sridhar
"In 1979, I understood the fi rst supercomputer and advertised for it via brochures and technical print ads. I've sold some of the most advanced technology to defence, airlines and shipping. I helped launch the fi rst DTP software system Ventura. I even went for evening classes to learn C language."
Originally published on economictimes.indiatimes.com
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