Flashback 2010: On the move, in ad land

By Biprorshee Das , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | January 07, 2011
Last year, like any other, had its share of people movements within media and creative agencies. afaqs! takes a look at a few important people movements of 2010 in Indian advertising.

It would be an understatement if one said that the year was an eventful one when it came to people movement in the ad world. Ad-folk hopped, skipped and jumped, with some developments surprising, some expected but all of them, significant enough.


Restructuring within agencies seemed to be the order of the day in the first quarter of the calendar year. Publicis led the way with Aniruddha Banerjee, president and chief operating officer, Publicis and Ashish Khazanchi, national creative director, Publicis Ambience being named chairperson and vice-chairperson of the agency, respectively in January.

Later in the year, to everyone's surprise, Banerjee decided to call it quits. Not looking to replace him, Nakul Chopra, chief executive officer, South Asia, Publicis took on his role at the agency.

Publicis India was not to lag behind as, in February, Hemant Misra, the chief operating officer was promoted to chief executive officer while Madan Mohan returned to the agency as the executive vice-president after a three-year stint at TBWA India where he was the COO, West operations.

The restructuring was well placed and not without reason. Publicis did bid farewell to a couple of senior hands. National planning head, Naresh Gupta quit Publicis India, as did executive vice-president, Dipika Narayan. Gupta moved on to join Dentsu Marcom as director, strategy and planning, a specially created position at the agency.

Also, in restructuring mode was Lowe Lintas as it moved to a two-NCD structure with executive director, Amer Jaleel and executive creative director, Arun Iyer being handed the mandate. Old hand, Madhu Noorani took on the role of chief creative planner, a new role created for the purpose while executive director, Joseph George was made the deputy chief executive officer.

Ex-McCann Erickson, Naveen Gaur marked his return to advertising as he replaced Mohit Beotra to head the Delhi office. Among the other changes, the agency announced, Deepa Geethakrishnan, who handled the creative output of the Bengaluru office moved to Mumbai handling a regional role, Rajesh Rangaswamy and Abhijit Ghosh were appointed to head the Bengaluru branch while creative director Ashvin Varkey was promoted to the role of group creative director.

Around the same time, Ogilvy Bengaluru lost its much celebrated creative duo and group creative directors, Amit Akali and Malvika Mehra. While both were working together as a team since 2004, Mehra, in particular had been with the agency for 16 years. One's loss could not be far from being another's gain as the duo's next destination was Grey India in Mumbai where they were roped in as national creative directors.

The interesting point in this was that here was an agency not known to have the best creative reputation. But with Akali and Mehra coming onboard, Grey's intentions to pull its socks up were loud and clear. Jishnu Sen, chief operating officer, Grey India says, "We were serious about strengthening the agency significantly, whether it was creative, planning or account management. We needed a strong creative leadership and found that in Amit and Malvika."

The agency further strengthened the Mumbai team bringing in ex-Grey man Hari Krishnan - from Star Plus where he was the vice-president, marketing - to head the Mumbai branch.
On the creative side, Titus Upputuru after a short stint at Dentsu Marcom joined Saatchi & Saatchi as executive creative director of the agency's Delhi operations.

The year also saw the launch of Scarecrow Communications, an agency started by Manish Bhatt and Raghu Bhat, six months after they quit Contract Advertising. The agency had quite a good run through the year bagging significant business such as brands from Religare Enterprises and churning work that garnered attention.

Media agencies too made some senor level changes in the period. ZenithOptimedia India appointed Dnyanada Chaudhari as the managing director of its West and South operations in January. Chaudhari joined the agency from Hindustan Lever where she was head of media services.

VivaKi Exchange - the consolidated media buying arm of Starcom MediaVest Group, Zenith Optimedia and Solutions Digitas - promoted Mona Jain to chief operating officer. Jain was earlier the India head - strategic investments at the company. It also announced the formation of VivaKi Nerve Center in India. The model was formed to deliver digital capabilities to Publicis Groupe and its clients in new media.

The arm takes care of the technology investments of the three agencies, such as technology for search marketing and social media. It also handles training of employees across various relevant disciplines. Pavan Chandra was appointed as the managing director of the arm. Chandra has been with ZenithOptimedia since its inception in India. In his last role, he served as the chief strategy officer.

Severing long ties

The second quarter saw many experienced hands leaving behind agencies they had spent a considerable time at. It began on the beach. As the advertising fraternity gathered in Goa for the 2010 edition of the Goafest, Bates 141 announced the end of the agency's hunt for a national creative director. Bates roped in Rediffusion-Y&R's chief creative officer, Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar who joined after a 16-year spell at Ogilvy and three more at Rediffusion.

An eager student of the art and cricket enthusiast, Mahabaleshwarkar moved to Bates to work once again with Sonal Dabral, his ex-colleague at Ogilvy and now the chairman and regional creative director at Bates 141.

Rediffusion-Y&R suffered another casualty in the period with its national business head (Airtel), Ajay Naqvi joining Mudra to as executive vice-president and head of Mudra North and East.

Losing business and people, one probably would note that Rediffusion were up against challenging times. However, Mahabaleshwarkar differs when he says that it is just a rough phase the agency is going through and according to him, the agency has been through a similar time before and would come around the same soon.

On his joining Bates, he says, "The agency's portfolio and work was something I almost envied at times. Moreover, I was looking forward to work with Sonal once more, who is a great teacher." Mahabaleshwarkar remarks that an agency's culture is always set by the top management. He believes that being creative is not just the creative team's job. All departments must and do come up with ideas; be it creative, planning or servicing. Something he sees and admires at Bates.

With the monsoon, came news of Anand Suspi who was heading the Delhi creative output at Lowe Lintas bidding adieu to the agency ending a 11-year association. Having worked on brands such as Maruti, Micromax, Nestle, Hindustan Times, Havells among others, Suspi's was a void that needed to be filled quickly. The answer came in the form of Deepesh Jha who - he was handling a similar role as Suspi's at Rediffusion-Y&R's Delhi branch - joined Lowe as executive creative director.

"At this level, it is really not about the brands or clients but a work culture that you see yourself most comfortable with. What I like about Lowe is that creative work here is to genuinely address the problems of marketers. We are not being clever just for the sake of being so," says Jha.

Interestingly, Jha and his colleague at Rediffusion-Y&R, Jaideep Mahajan, once creative heads on Airtel, one of the largest businesses that the agency handled, had been promoted earlier in the year. The former, of course was given the mandate to head the Delhi creative while the latter added responsibility of the LG account.

Mahajan would move on as well, later in the year (November), to JWT as the vice-president and executive creative director. Not a mere co-incidence this, as only a few months earlier happened one of the biggest account movements of the year with Airtel moving from Rediffusion to JWT.

Indeed, it was JWT that was the big newsmaker during the period. Shortly before the Airtel win was formally announced, the agency roped in Saatchi & Saatchi's Adrian Miller as the chief creative officer in its Delhi office.

JWT made another significant appointment as Tarun Chauhan returned after nine years at Lowe Lintas. Chauhan joined the agency as senior vice-president and managing partner, replacing Dhunji Wadia who quit JWT in May. However, the agency also lost experienced hands with ECDs Anuja Chauhan and Elvis Sequeira bidding adieu. Chauhan, known for her work on brands such as Pepsi and Nokia ended a 17-year old stint at the agency.

Among the important restructuring that took place in the quarter included Mudra's Arijit Ray who was made president of Mudra West. For the last two years, Ray was the executive vice-president and head of the agency.

Grey remained in the news with more appointments with Amit Shankar and Ketan Desai as the creative head and branch head of its Delhi branch. The agency further strengthened its creative team in Mumbai with Karan Rawat who came in as the ECD. One more strategic appointment as Rawat had considerable experience working on Killer Jeans, a business the agency announced it had won soon after.

It wasn't all lose-lose for Rediffusion-Y&R. Tina Sachdev came back to the agency as the Mumbai creative head from JWT Bengaluru.

One of the more major developments though in the quarter came in the media agency area. Ravi Kiran, chief executive officer, Starcom MediaVest Group, South Asia, called it quits at Starcom. Kiran ended an 11-year stint at the group. Besides being the CEO for South Asia, Kiran was also given the additional responsibility of setting up several non-classical businesses and disciplines across 11 markets in Asia as Emerging Market Leader - Specialist Solutions. Kiran has been tight lipped about his future plans saying his decision was more to do with taking a much-needed break.

Among other developments in media agencies, Chintamani Rao, who recently retired from Times Global Broadcasting where he was the vice-chairman of Times Global and advisor to Times Private Treaties of the Times Group took charge as the head of RK Swamy Media Group/Media Direction in July.

Rao replaced Les Margulis who put in his papers as the president at the agency. With an experience spanning 36 years in the media industry, Rao marked his return to a media agency with the development.

More restructuring...

It was the last quarter of the year that probably witnessed the maximum noise when it came to senior movements. There was more restructuring that took place with senior agency leaders bidding adieu.

Putting the rumour mills to rest, Mahesh Chauhan (Mash) called it a day at Rediffusion-Y&R as group CEO. That rounded off what turned out to be a very difficult year for the agency as it also lost two significant accounts in Airtel and Colgate-Palmolive (to Bates 141). Questions were raised on the way the agency's functioning was being taken care of. Mash, however, nixed any truth to the buzz and said it was a mix of professional and personal reasons that led to the development.

Interestingly, sister concern Everest Brand Solution's president D Rajappa moved in to fill Mash's shoes as Rediffusion president. Not done with the surprises yet, ex-JWT Wadia was announced to take over from Rajappa as Everest Brand Solutions. Funnily enough this is the second time Rajappa is replacing Mash. Earlier in 2006, when Mash moved on from Everest Brand Solutions to head Rediffusion, it was Rajappa who took charge at Everest.

Also bidding adieu to Everest was NCD, N Padmakumar (Paddy). Paddy stayed within the group though as his next assignment took him to Rediffusion-Y&R, where he would partner Minakshi Achan as co-NCD.

Another bunny was pulled out of the hat with Lowe Lintas India's CEO, Charles Cadell put in his papers at the agency. Cadell is headed to join McCann Worldgroup as regional managing director for Southeast Asia and Australia. His appointment will be effective from the second week of this month.

The last month of the year also saw Dentsu's Naresh Gupta calling it quits at the agency after just around 10 months. He moved to join Cheil Worldwide as national head, planning. This position was previously unoccupied at the agency. "The opportunity on the Cheil side of things was far too great to ignore. Presently, Cheil is saying very interesting things out there - there is a charm in creating a new kind of agency, and at Cheil, we plan to do exactly that," he says.

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