Venkata Susmita Biswas

Dentsu Creative now perfecting integration among agency brands

A chat with Dentsu Creative's Amit Wadhwa and Ajay Gahlaut about dentsu international's move to unite creative agencies under Dentsu Creative.

On Monday, Day 1 of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, dentsu international united its creative agencies under Dentsu Creative, a global creative network. In India, Dentsu Webchutney, Taproot Dentsu, dentsuMB, WATConsult, Isobar, Dentsu Impact and Perfect Relations will now operate under this umbrella (Dentsu Creative).

Dentsu Creative has been working in an integrated manner for the last six months within which time it has secured more than 40 new clients, including Dalmia Group, Licious, Adidas India, Cricbuzz Plus, BIBA, TVS Scooters and CarDekho.

Amit Wadhwa, CEO India, and Ajay Gahlaut, group chief creative officer, Dentsu Creative, spoke to afaqs! about its vision, philosophy and improved integration among agency brands.

Edited excerpts:

What is the business philosophy behind unifying all the creative brands under Dentsu Creative?

Wadhwa: The underlying thought and objective is integration. The other thing is that the landscape has changed completely. It is no more about creativity in silos. Creativity needs to be brought together across various domains and, with Dentsu Creative, that is exactly what we want to do. Usually, there is a lot of talk around integration, but this move is about walking the talk, in terms of integration.

What do you mean by walking the talk, in terms of integration?

Wadhwa: Typically, in agencies, there is a mainline agency, a digital agency, a PR agency, a tech department, etc. All these need to come together seamlessly to deliver a single solution to clients. The idea is to bring each of these solutions under the same roof so that we can provide a complete solution, rather than deliver what we have.

Wasn't this happening earlier? Dentsu India has always been about integration with one PnL. How is it different now?

Wadhwa: Integration was happening, in that different agencies were collaborating together. Dentsu has been doing it for longer than other agencies. But was it the perfect collaboration? We are now actually moving into that zone of complete collaboration and that's exactly what this structural change signals.

It is not about individual brands and silos. It is about breaking down the walls within the house to create one big room so that we can deliver solutions together without having to worry about not having the right tools within a particular agency.

Why was this necessary when the individual agency brands are so iconic - case in point Dentsu Webchutney’s award-winning Unfiltered History Tour campaign for Vice Media? And, how will you retain the essence of an agency when you break down these walls?

Wadhwa: In the last year-and-a-half, we have tried to figure out what works best in each of our agencies. How does it take care of its people? How does it pitch? There are various great things that are sitting in various agencies. We have picked that all together and amalgamated them. We are not losing anything, but actually gaining everything.

Gahlaut: A great agency brand is born when it delivers great work. And, that's the simplest and easiest way to evaluate anything. If the work is not good, then the brand falls. If for a year the same brand does not deliver, it falls.

At the end of the day, the client expects great work. That is our focus. I have seen that if you keep things simple and focus on the work, everything else tends to fall into place. Then you don't have to do any fancy footwork trying to figure out ways to integrate one agency brand with another. Just get people to do great work. That's how great agencies get built.

The people doing all the good work make an agency. A big chunk of Webchutney’s award-winning team has left Dentsu Creative and set up its own agency…

Gahlaut: People will come and go, this is the nature of all organisations. We totally admire the people who have been here and delivered fantastic work. However, it is more about the culture. It's more about how you want to build and how much emphasis you want to put on the final output. And, there is enough talent in Dentsu Creative and in the market to fill in the shoes of those who go.

Wadhwa: We have a robust team. We have great people, delivering great work every day. While we do miss our old colleagues, we don't miss the work because there are enough people doing good work. There are some absolutely brilliant people sitting inside. Every time when we start talking about people moving out, we tend to forget that.

How will Dentsu Creative agencies pitch for work now? Are we going to see more cross-pollination among teams?

Wadhwa: Ajay and I have already brought about this change of making sure that we get the right people for the right businesses. We have very strong exclusivity contracts with clients. We take care of exclusivity. Besides that, if there are people who can be used on a particular brand, we bring the right teams together, whether they are from Taproot or Webchutney.

For instance, for BharatMatrimony, people came together from WATConsult, Isobar and Perfect Relations. For Ikea, people from dentsuMB and Webchutney worked as a team.

What is the vision for Dentsu Creative now? Is it about creating a niche in the digital and tech-led creative solutions space?

Wadhwa: Modern creativity is the core idea here. Modern creativity is about making sure that we have the right balance of everything. Whether it is whole traditional mediums, new-age mediums, PR or tech, we should be able to address all of them.

Additionally, there needs to be a balance among each of these solutions. We feel confident about this because there are some really strong brand agencies that sit within Dentsu Creative and, hence, we have some great talent as well.

We have possibly been the first network to venture into digital and far more strongly than others. We have invested in tech and innovation already. That also comes into play. A huge amount of strength lies in digital. We invested early on in innovation and creative tech.

Gahlaut: Modern creativity is creativity unbounded. It is something which is not the traditional art, copy and ad film kind of concept. It is much larger. The modern creative person needs to be completely plugged into all channels and create an idea that can flow effortlessly, wherever it needs to. We have to think, not just outside the box, but dynamite the box and completely spread ourselves all over. So, that's the vision that we have for modern creativity.

Dentsu has acquired several agencies in the past. Are you looking at acquiring any agencies to add to the Dentsu Creative vertical?

Wadhwa: We are not thinking of acquisitions right now. However, whenever the right partner comes along, I'm sure we will think of it. We are currently very well balanced, in terms of all domains, when it comes to creativity and delivering creativity. Because of some fantastic decisions, we now have many strong agencies that have brought a lot to the table. Now is the time to bring all these together, because that is what clients are asking for.

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