afaqs!

John Dooner on the challenges before McCann-Erickson in India

By , agencyfaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | October 12, 2007
Acutely aware that this is his first visit to India, John Dooner, chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, is keen to understand and take stock of the "real growth" market

Acutely & #BANNER1 & # aware that this is his first visit to India, John Dooner, chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, is keen to understand and take stock of the "real growth" market. In Delhi to interact with McCann's India operations - its advertising arm, McCann-Erickson, headed by Prasoon Joshi, is the second-largest agency in the country after Ogilvy & Mather - Dooner will spend two days brainstorming with 30 top managers before heading out this weekend. McCann Worldwide is a part of the marketing communications conglomerate, the Interpublic Group. In a conversation with agencyfaqs!, Dooner spoke about why digital is life-changing, his perspective on India, and how he sees McCann to be a creative-led agency. Edited excerpts:

John Dooner
On the slow adoption of digital in India: Digital varies from country to country, but once it takes off, it does so exponentially. In India, it's an uneven penetration, but then, even TV penetration is uneven. That perspective has to be appreciated. One thing is for sure: It's an important vehicle, and its importance is going to grow regardless. It's got to be the most innovative and important vehicle that's come along, almost ever.

On his mandate on digital for India: Yes, the digital world in India is not at the level it is in other countries. But we're not going to let it get out of hand. (Digital communication firm) MRM Worldwide will be the vanguard of our innovation digitally. We have directors whose responsibility is that all of our divisions are getting the digital training required to move forward. Today, the digital is pervasive across all mediums. So, if you're doing promotions, or events, they are tied up online. The digital world is critical. It has to be part of your DNA no matter what you do. So, how can it be isolated? There will be no need for us to buy digital capability. What we must do is keep on building it, and settle things in India - like we are going to buy some search engine technology. So we'll work to ensure that we'll do anything to help service our clients better. I think it's a strategic mistake to totally isolate it from the DNA, from Prasoon's (Joshi) perspective.

On his gameplan for McCann in India: You guys keep pointing it out; this shouldn't be my maiden visit (to India) by far. McCann is over 100 years old, and McCann India is 10 years old effectively. In the last five years, McCann India has risen to the second-most admired advertising and communications operation. That's quite an incredible feat. Two of the BRIC nations - China and India - are showing disproportionate growth. And that growth is real growth. If India is in the top 20 of our countries, then it seems guaranteed that it's going to be in the top 10 five years from now. Because of the leadership, India has become an export country, an ideas company that is feeding MNC brands. Some of the most creative things from Intel are coming out of India. Prasoon is part of the Collectives 13 (represented by seven or eight countries) which gives us ideas, to set the agenda for the products of the whole group.

On McCann-Erickson being a creative-led agency: I come from the product and am most comfortable working with the product, both strategically and creatively. Nothing would make me happier for our physical image, size and power to be married to a creative horsepower. Is our reputation globally as high as it is in India? No. That's my role and it may mean making management changes. I would love to see the reality of our reputation run, and I've put these guys in charge to make it happen. If it's the opposite, we've got work to do. My responsibility is to make sure we have the arsenal of tools to do so. And, to me, winning awards is important. Ten years ago, I would have probably said no.

On the viability of transplanting Indian advertising globally: For sure, a platform can be global - take 'Priceless' for Mastercard, or a platform like Microsoft is using. They can easily live on a global plane. Global sensibilities and values are more aligned than distant. Great advertising dramatises the brand, typically is brand centric. Execution, we should examine, and not reject offhand.

On newspapers and mobile advertising: Newspaper will never be dead. As Prasoon tells me, there's a smell to newspapers. When I wake up in the morning, I have a coffee and read that paper. That's a sensual, not sexual, experience - it's in my recall as something relaxing. I don't think it'll ever go away. What are people getting from the Internet? Information, or exchanging emails. That's the primary use of the Internet. It certainly isn't social intercourse in the truest sense of the word. It's certainly not creating the smell of a newspaper.

Am clueless about mobile advertising. A mobile is what it is. I'm starting to get mobile messages, and it's terribly annoying. It is a vehicle, but so what? Is it going to be a replacement for something that's more emotive to me? I'm going to treat that more as a practical thing, something that would allow me to create an interaction or transaction.