The year & #BANNER1 & # that went by was a whirlwind of sorts for the Indian ad fraternity, considering the sheer amount of top level restructuring that took place across agencies. And most of these shifts, we observe, were on the creative side.
It was like a game of musical chairs for the top creative brains last year: No one lasted in his seat for too long. Among the key agencies that witnessed the most churn were four names: Grey Worldwide, Publicis Ambience, McCann-Erickson and Rediffusion DY&R.
Grey faced some rather grey times in 2007, losing key personnel such as Prathap Suthan (national creative director), Ashutosh Khanna (chief operating officer), Sajan Raj Kurup (regional creative director) and Vikram Gaikwad (creative director) as well as its Delhi and Bangalore branch heads, Hari Krishnan and Sanjay Menon, respectively. Because so many vital people moved out, Grey also lost out on the Parle business in Mumbai.
McCann-Erickson lost out on its two star senior creative directors Manish Bhatt and Raghu Bhat and creative directors Ambar Chakravarty, Nima Namchu, Anirban Sen, Sudip Bandopadhyay, Vistasp Hodiwala and Ajay Gehlaut (who moved to Rediffusion and finally settled at O&M). Hozefa Alibhai (the films division head in Mumbai) also quit the agency.
Manish Bhatt says, "I think people quit McCann because of a lack of organisational agenda and a lack of direction in the planning department." Bhatt attributes his own decision to move out to "having learnt everything I could from Prasoon". (Bhatt and his partner, Raghu Bhat, joined Contract as vice-president and ECD.)
Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman, McCann-Erickson India, and regional creative director for South and Southeast Asia, isn't particularly concerned with the movements. "It's a healthy flux that we saw this year, and apart from Santosh Desai who quit in 2006, none of these movements are too significant," he shrugs. On the positive side, McCann roped in some key creative minds including Prateek Bharadwaj and Vijay Lalwani (from Everest), Sujit Unni, Sujit Das and Radhika Nath. McCann also snagged Contract's Ashish Chakravarty in Delhi.
Rediffusion DY&R saw the exit of its NCD KS Chakravarthy (Chax) and ECD Ashish Khazanchi, but roped in two mega stars Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar (of O&M) and Ramanuj Shastry (of Publicis Ambience) as its co-NCDs.
While Publicis Ambience lost Shastry, it managed to grab McCann's Ambar Chakravarty and Rediffusion's Ashish Khazanchi, and the latter found himself in the coveted NCD's chair (sharing it with Ambience's home-grown Prasanna Sankhe). However, COO Rajiv Sabnis made a hurried exit.
One person who made significant leaps in his career last year was Aniruddha Banerjee (who had quit Everest in 2006). Onnie joined Mudra as president in January, and after a blink and you miss it stint there, moved to join Publicis Ambience as president and COO.
Speaking of alarmingly short spells, Josy Paul flitted from one agency to the next in 2007; after quitting his brainchild David (after its merger with Bates Enterprise), Paul quite surprisingly joined Goliath agency JWT as a co-NCD, only to quit it eight months later and move to startup BBDO India as chairman. So was JWT just a fluke? "Actually, I had told Colvyn Harris at the time of joining that I wouldn't be around for more than 18 months," says Paul. This, because Paul wanted to start an agency of his own someday, but didn't want unnecessary comparisons with David just then. However, the BBDO offer proved to be "irresistible".
Hemant Misra bade farewell to JWT as senior V-P (Pepsi) and joined Publicis India as president and COO. However, JWT managed to rope in McCann's Vistasp Hodiwala (Vispi) and more appointments will follow in time, if sources are to be believed.
Apart from Misra's reception, Publicis India welcomed Emmanuel Upputuru as NCD.
O&M remained relatively quiet in terms of people movement, with the exception of Mahabaleshwarkar and Upputuru, who moved on.
Everest Brand Solutions continued to struggle after the exit of its two stars Mahesh Chauhan and Onnie (in 2006). The agency suffered the departure of NCD Cajetan Vaz, ECD Prateek Bharadwaj, and creative directors Vijay Lalwani and Makarand Patil.
Lowe witnessed turbulent action in the much hyped Balki-Prem Mehta showdown, and after the IPG acquisition, two significant people that slipped away were Priti Nair and Brijesh Jacob. Furthermore, Lowe's 'Axe' man, Shriram Iyer, moved on to join Leo Burnett as ECD. Burnett roped in Mudra's Sukumar Menon at the same level. Mudra lost Menon and Onnie, but it bounced right back by appointing Bobby Pawar as NCD.
The year wrapped up with Mohammad Khan, chairman of Bates David Enterprise, retiring from advertising. In his place arrived Sonal Dabral (who took on the additional role of regional executive creative director, Asia Pacific). Dabral's appointment is expected to bring stability to the organisation, considering that Paul's exit resulted in a mini exodus, with some key staffers (including Kumar Subramaniam) moving out.
Like we deduced before, Grey, McCann, Ambience and Rediff top the list of agencies that underwent the most nameplate changes on cabin doors. Surprisingly, most of these agencies scored well at AAAI GoaFest 2007. "Earlier, O&M and JWT were the only high profile award winners, which is not necessarily true any more," observes Josy Paul.
If all was so well, then how does one explain the huge flux in these agencies, which took place mostly in the latter half of 2007 (after the GoaFest)? Paul offers a simple theory: that success went to their heads, making them complacent about acknowledging in-house talent. It is quite possible that creative folk may not have got their due recognition, making them easy targets for poachers. Well, that's Paul's viewpoint for you, but there's no denying that 2007 was the year of the people.
Here's hoping 2008 will be the year of work, now that everyone has settled in their seats (though for how long is anyone's guess).