Team afaqs! caught up with the man who brought Disruption to TBWA - Jean Marie Dru, worldwide chairperson, TBWA, at the Goafest this year, where he was also a speaker in one of the sessions.
Not quite used to the extreme heat in Goa, Dru was a tad uncomfortable in his formal suit. Not exactly in the pink of health, he was however kind enough to take time out for interviews with the press. In a chat with afaqs!, Dru shared the vision he has for TBWA India.
afaqs!: So, we take it this isn't your first visit to India?
Jean Marie Dru: Oh no! This is my first visit to Goa, yes, but I've been to Mumbai about five or six times. I have also been to Delhi and Bengaluru.
afaqs!: We'll start on a slightly unpleasant note. While TBWA is an international powerhouse with a stronghold in various markets, it has yet to find its feet in India. Why is the journey full of struggles in this region?
India has a profile of clients which is very different from the rest of the world. Historically, TBWA in India has had clients that are very linked to the Indian heritage, and perhaps understanding the market and its many complexities could be a reason why we've had a slow run.
afaqs!: Since the takeover of TBWA India by the network, what has been the plan for the agency here?
Jean Marie Dru: We've been in India for 10 years now. It is a fact that we didn't hold well enough here for different reasons. We are not satisfied and there's a lot to be done. Until six months or a year ago, it was okay - but it wasn't enough. We were in great shape elsewhere.
But then again, when you're in 82 countries it's difficult to be good everywhere. In India, we are lagging behind a bit but we'll get there. This business is simple. You need to have good clients and great talent.
afaqs!: But nevertheless, how will the going be for the agency, with the new management in place?
Jean Marie Dru: Now, we have Shiv Sethuraman at the helm here, who I've known since he was heading O&M in Paris. As a Frenchman, I can say that it is a tough job to lead a French agency. The French are an arrogant and difficult bunch, I assure you! (Laughs)
I trust Shiv's ability to lead TBWA India as well. I know it won't be easy but it won't be impossible since he will be in his own country. He has hired a new set of talent - we have proof of that with the new SET Max commercial that we have done (for the IPL). If you see it, you'll know that we have turned a corner with this commercial.
My job right now is to have a clear view of what we will do in the next six-12 months for TBWA India. So I can understand if you're a little sceptical but I'm not. I'm very confident. I'm going to fly back tonight to Europe and say, "Okay - India is going to be great. What's next the next problem?" I know it's going to be a question of time and luck.
afaqs!: So you are confident that you've placed TBWA India in safe hands.
Jean Marie Dru: Absolutely. I have spent a whole morning yesterday in the Mumbai office; it's a different agency, a different world. On top of it, they have the great TBWA network behind them; we have our own culture with Disruption and Connections. We can source the best of the talent of our people in India. Together with the TBWA culture and the Indian culture, we are up for something great.
afaqs!: Why haven't we seen much of Disruption applied to brands in India?
Jean Marie Dru: We have new talent who will do just that within the next six-eight months. For instance, I can say you're going to see some great, exciting stuff for Adidas soon, which will be very Disruptive.
Our team for Adidas, which consists of 12 people, is in Amsterdam. They sit everyday from 9-12 and look for ideas. It's real time, much like a news room (laughs) except that we create the news. It's mind bogglingly fast.
The pace and rhythm that clients worked at earlier has changed drastically today.
afaqs!: Any other changes at TBWA since the reinstating of a new management?
Jean Marie Dru: What's going to happen is that we're going to build a group of companies here as I believe in integration. In some countries like America, South Africa and Germany, we have a group of six-eight companies doing advertising, digital, PR, design, shopper marketing and all these things. We want to do the same here in India, too. We will do it step by step. In around three-five years, we will have a very comprehensive group of companies.
afaqs!: Other than Tequila, which is TBWA's direct marketing arm, what are the other verticals of TBWA which will soon be in India?
Jean Marie Dru: The brands we have worldwide, apart from TBWA and Tequila, are Integer, which is the short term marketing arm; E Graphix, a print production company; and agency.com, our digital agency. We will soon export these to India. It depends. We won't launch by this year but may launch one vertical every year, or every two years.
afaqs!: With the present digital mood and everyone getting on the digital communication bandwagon, wouldn't you think it necessary to launch agency.com soon?
Jean Marie Dru: Yeah, but the digital story is that everything has to be digital and that's what we are trying to do all over the world. When you are a network with about 12,000 people, there is always a place somewhere where they do something interesting. My job is to discover the places where we do great stuff and take it to the rest of the world.
If you ask me about digital and new ways to do it, I would say the best offices for us are Amsterdam and Los Angeles. For brand building, our Los Angeles offering is the place. That's the beautiful thing of a big network - you have areas of expertise and then you fight to explore them.
Disruption was dead for a while and has been brought back by the South African agency six years ago. It's not me. So when you have a lively company where everyone is at the same level, everybody can influence things.
The head of our client Nissan in India is a big believer in Integration. He's done that in his previous jobs, I'm not sure that Nissan Worldwide understands the necessity of Integration. I dream of having a case study of Nissan's Integration in India so we can show it to the world. Thus you can't underestimate advertising agencies, ideas come from anywhere.
afaqs!: What would you like TBWA India to be known for?
Jean Marie Dru: I'd like it to be known for the best local depiction of global ideas because we have a similar culture. I would like to see Adidas, Apple, Absolut - all done in an Indian way.
We will have to get rid of the French arrogance and adapt to this culture! (Grins)