N. Shatrujeet

rmg david wins Essar, Officer's Choice: opens Hyderabad office with Tata Cellular

On the eve of Rajiv Agarwal taking over as National Chief, rmg david has restructured its south India operations, and has acquired the advertising accounts of Essar, Tata Cellular and Officer’s Choice

Even as rmg david prepares to welcome on board ex-Enterprise Nexus honcho Rajiv Agarwal as its new head, the WPP-owned agency is in the process of restructuring its operations in south India, with an eye on growing the business from that region. To this end, the agency has set up an office in Hyderabad, and has also appointed a president and a senior creative director to oversee the south. And on the new business front, the agency has picked up the advertising accounts of Essar (corporate), Tata Cellular and whisky brand Officer's Choice.

Speaking about rmg david's initiatives in the South, outgoing head Madhukar Sabnavis (currently, president, rmg david) says, "Our Hyderabad office has been functional since January 01 this year, and is headed by Ravi Viswanathan, who has been with Ogilvy for some time now. The office is handling the Tata Cellular account, which has been realigned to us from O&M." For the record, O&M's Hyderabad office was handling the Tata Cellular business, but with Orange aligning its business nationally in O&M's favour, conflict surfaced. Sabnavis admits that rmg david's Hyderabad office was started with the intention of moving Tata Cellular out of O&M, but adds, "We are now looking around aggressively for more business."

The agency has also appointed old Ogilvy hand V.S. Srikanth as president - south India, and Ajay Chavan as senior creative director. "Srikanth and Ajay will be responsible for the product that emerges from our Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad offices," Sabnavis reveals. "If you see, we are duplicating our ‘national' model (of having a president and a senior creative head) in the south. This just shows how bullish we are on the region. Our efforts are to ensure that in six months' time, the southern offices can operate totally on their own."

There's been enough action at the agency's Mumbai office too. Late last month, the office acquired the corporate advertising business of Essar, and the brand advertising account of Officer's Choice. "We now handle the corporate advertising for Essar, and are in the process of putting together the strategy and creatives," Sabnavis informs. Incidentally, rmg david won this business on the back of a multi-agency pitch held in November 2000. While the reasons for Essar picking an agency more than one year after calling for the pitch is not known, Sabnavis feels that this is a vindication of the agency's recommendations. "It's a very challenging assignment, especially considering the group has been silent in the media for more then five years now," he adds. It might be recalled that in the mid-nineties, Clarion had done a high-profile campaign (‘Think Positive') for the group, but subsequently, the company had been snowed under with bad press, following the slowdown in the steel sector. "There are lots of strengths inherent to the Essar brand, and that's what we will tap," Sabnavis says.

Vis-à-vis Officer's Choice, rmg david won the business in the wake of a multi-agency pitch held in October last. Funnily, Officer's Choice too has been absent from the media for quite some time. The last bit of advertising for the brand dates back to the mid-nineties, with images of the sea and the naval officer with a lady on his arm. "What's interesting is that despite staying away from the media, the brand is doing extremely well," Sabnavis points out. "It's the second-largest whisky brand in the market after Bagpiper (in the Rs 180 bracket)." He reveals that rmg david has been entrusted with the task of giving the brand an image makeover. "The brand needs an image correction whereby, in image terms, it is seen in the same league of, say, Bagpiper and 8 PM." Incidentally, a brand extension - Officer's Choice Blue, which will compete in the Rs 280 bracket with Bagpiper Gold, No.1 McDowell's and DSP Black - is in the test market stage.

Sabnavis isn't revealing anything about the new communication for Officer's Choice Aqua Pura (the surrogate mineral water brand) - not even whether it would continue to centre at the naval officer. "The campaign should break by March-April… you'll get to see," he says. And spends? "It'll be suitably competitive, as per the category." He is equally tight-lipped about the spends on Tata Cellular and Essar.

He is, however, quite willing to talk about his new "exciting" assignment at Ogilvy, where he will be heading the Knowledge Management cell. "It's not a totally new assignment, actually. For about a year, I have been part of an Ogilvy taskforce on this project, which is a part of Project Columbus. My brief is to consolidate all the consumer knowledge at Ogilvy." What this essentially means is putting together all the collective knowledge of Ogilvy personnel on markets, categories and consumer insights in a manner that allows for better creative focus and creates new points of contact (media vehicles). "We are constantly looking for consumer connections in advertising, and this is an attempt to document current learnings for future connections," he says.

Of course, the thought of leaving rmg (the move will happen sometime this quarter) is hard to swallow. "It's my baby… Josy (Paul, chief creative officer, rmg david) and I put it together from scratch," Sabnavis says. "So it's emotional, moving on from here. But I feel happy that the agency will be in safe hands. There's a good team here that has a wonderful leader in Rajiv. And Josy is always there." For his part, Paul too feels "quite sad and bad" about Sabnavis leaving, but adds philosophically, "I think it's all for the best - both rmg's and Madhukar's." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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