Shamni Pande

HTA, Chennai, 'rightsizes', picks up awards on the way

As the industry talks about HTA, Chennai, having received a diktat from parent JWT to reduce superfluous staff by March, the HTA brass has a different story to tell

Even as the industry continues to talk in hushed tones about HTA, Chennai, having received a diktat from its parent J. Walter Thomson to reduce its ‘superfluous staff' by end-March, the HTA brass has a different story to tell.

"We have had some attrition, but that is normal in the industry. In fact, HTA has been known for low attrition rates and Chennai has the lowest," is how Anita Gupta, senior vice-president & general manager, HTA, Chennai, would like to describe the recent churning at the agency branch.

While information available with agencyfaqs! seems to indicate more than 10 people have been given ‘an ultimatum of sorts', Gupta says, "I do not know where such rumour finds its base, but if you were to ask me if this is a tough time for us, then my answer would be yes. However, that is nothing new. All of us are facing a very tough situation and, in these times, all organisations demand that their employees deliver their best. And surely when skill sets do not match the overall requirements then people may have to leave.''

However, she is quick to point out that the agency has had enough reason too cheer about in the recent past. "Both in terms of accolades/awards as well in terms of bagging new business we have done well for ourselves. Last week we signed on Cholamandalam Insurance," she adds.

Incidentally, the Cholamandalam Insurance account was won against a four-way pitch, which included Euro RSCG, Lowe, TBWA Anthem and FCB-Ulka. Part of the Muragappa group, Cholamandalam Insurance is promoted by Cholamandalam Finance which deals with vehicle insurance, equipment and capital market finance, security broking and depository services, as well as investment advisory and retail distribution, mutual funds and risk management consultancy.

A new campaign for the brand is slated to break by mid-April 2002. While Gupta was unwilling to put a figure to the size of the account, industry estimates indicate since Cholamandalam Insurance is working at a national launch, the account would be worth around Rs 2 crore. Apart from Cholamandalam Insurance, the agency bagged some other prestigious businesses in the last one year, including KTV Entertainment Channel (owned by the Sun Network), Billionaire Boys' Club and VVD Good Life.

Gupta says ‘energy levels are high' at the agency branch as reflected in the recently done up office with ‘IKEA art' on walls and pillars alongside contributions by employees. The office is busy organising internal workshops and a refresher conference in March, she says. It seems these activities are aimed at highlighting the recognition the Chennai branch has received for its work. For one, JWT has acknowledged the merit of the branch and two of its campaigns got listed for the ‘Passion Patrol' (which is an internal award by JWT for work that stems out of the Asia-Pacific region). This award entitles the winning entries to be listed in the Passion Patrol journal, and the winning teams get an opportunity to work at other JWT offices.

The two campaigns that helped HTA, Chennai, make it to Passion Patrol are Parryware Sanitaryware (multimedia campaign) and Ford Lemon (a tactical ad created for Ayudha Puja). Besides, the branch won a gold at the Calcutta Ad Club Awards this year for Ford Panther Black (single press) and a silver for Coffy Bite (from Parry's Confectionery) in the best continuing campaign category.

The good news notwithstanding, the ad industry here says that HTA resumes are ‘floating around' only too freely. Through well-placed sources, agencyfaqs! has learnt that while the staff strength at HTA, Chennai, is around 70, four people ‘retired' earlier this year and three have been handed the pink slip already citing ‘unsatisfactory performance'.

HTA insiders also claim O&M, Chennai, is also tightening its belt and putting pressure on its staff to deliver. "In such a situation those who can take it will stay, while others will be only too welcome to call it quits," said the source. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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