afaqs!

Our clients are looking at India and so are we: Sherwood

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | September 25, 2008
BBH took close to 18 months before starting off in India. And now the time is just right, says Simon Sherwood, global CEO, BBH

Twenty & #BANNER1 & # six years ago, John Bartle (the planner), Nigel Bogle (the business head) and John Hegarty (the creative genius) started what we today know as BBH. With headquarters in London, the agency has six offices around the world. Only one of these (Neogama BBH, Brazil) is an alliance with another agency.

In India, too, the creative agency is following the same template of a leadership of three at the top. Subhash Kamath, Partha Sinha and Priti Nair are the three managing partners who will handle BBH's India operations. They will report to Gwyn Jones, chief operating officer, BBH. The Indian office will be located in Santacruz, Mumbai, for now and will begin operations on November 17.

In recent months, India has been witness to a sudden rush of international agencies. It possibly started with Wieden + Kennedy and BBDO entering India earlier this year. After BBH, there is talk of Naked Communications and StrawberryFrog coming in soon.

Simon Sherwood

Priti Nair

Subhash Kamath

Partha Sinha
Why India? And why now? Simon Sherwood, global chief executive officer for BBH, tells afaqs!, "We realised that we needed to be in India about 18 months ago. India is a very important market for many of our clients and this is the time to be here, if we want to be a global agency."

Will it be difficult to penetrate India as it is a very diverse market? "Everything is difficult. Nothing is easy," says Sherwood.

The agency has picked three extremely experienced hands from India's pool of advertising professionals.

Kamath, who has been with Bates 141 for a good four years, will join BBH only in January. He had no intention of quitting Bates 141, but the offer made, he says, was hard to resist. "A startup is a different challenge as you start from ground zero and gain value from what you create," says the man who has been through all the past mergers and acquisitions of Bates 141.

He adds that in certain ways, this is a dream come true. "While we were growing up in the ad industry, BBH was spoken of very highly and looked up to as an agency. The advertising created by BBH was used as examples during training programmes. And to be able to create BBH in India now is definitely a dream come true," an enthusiastic Kamath tells afaqs!

Nair seconds this when she tells afaqs!, "This has been my dream agency and when they approached me, I was ecstatic." Top on her agenda is to make the agency a "rocking" place and to keep the culture of BBH pure. BBH, as an agency, does not create a creative and end there, but creates a solution for the brand which will take it to the next level.

All three are equal partners and this is to ensure that there is no compartmentalisation of the process. The idea is to offer the brand a collective opinion and not keep the three departments of advertising separate. "Also," says Nair, "there's the thrill of setting up your own place. It's a brand new start on a new slate."

Prior to taking up her new role, Nair was national creative director at Grey India. Before that, she was executive creative director at Lowe and worked on various brands such as Greenply, Surf Excel and Idea Cellular.

"Product, product, product. That's what's on my agenda for BBH," Sinha tells afaqs! He says that it is essential to create beyond just a creative. The key thing about BBH is to give the brand a creative solution. He says, "A good creative and thought make the fundamental difference in creating a solution for a brand."

Earlier, Sinha was the chief strategy officer at Publicis India, Publicis Ambience and Publicis Southeast Asia and had been with the agency for close to six years. On his reasons for leaving, he says, "There comes a time when you want to look at creating something slightly different and creating something new."

The "effective agency", as he calls BBH, came in at just that time. Sinha has also worked with Zee Telefilms as director of marketing and strategy, Ogilvy as vice-president, planning, and Citibank as marketing manager.

All three managing partners say it will be very different now that they will not be working in a predefined setup. Instead, they will be the ones defining the setup. Also, the BBH culture with three at the top was a decision maker for all of them.

BBH will have only one office in India, as this is the format followed by BBH in other countries as well.

Sherwood shares that they are in conversation with all the agency's global clients who are present in India. Axe (handled here by Lowe), Perfetti Van Melle (currently with O&M in India) and Levi's (handled here by JWT) are brands that BBH handles in other countries. There isn't any talk of aligning these brands with BBH yet, but Sherwood says, "We respect our competition. We aim to put a compelling and attractive proposition to the brands, whether local or global."

In the past, some of BBH's work on Diageo, Unilever (Axe) and Johnnie Walker have been released in the India market.