Shreyas Kulkarni

dentsu India's dizzying year

An IT Department raid followed its euphoric highs at Cannes Lions 2022 while its leadership exodus continues. What is next?

dentsu India has experienced a year more dizzying than a newbie’s experience of trying to get inside a Virar-bound local train from Dadar at 8 pm on a Tuesday.

The Japanese agency holding network’s India operation saw euphoric highs followed by shock lows while a prick-like pinch keeps hitting it from time to time.

dentsu India's dizzying year

Only a week ago on July 5 2022, the Income Tax Department raided dentsu India’s Mumbai office. The raid’s cause remains unknown but multiple news reports connect it to the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) raid on Chinese smartphone maker Vivo on the same day. Dentsu Impact makes the ads for the smartphone brand.

More interesting was the email sent to all employees asking them to work from home until further. afaqs! cannot confirm if this communication happened because of the raids.

An IT Department raid does not bode well for any company, for dentsu India, it saw its world turned upside down because a couple of weeks ago, it was on top of the advertising world with its series of metals at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2022.

Also Read: Take the BTS trip of the Unfiltered History Tour

dentsu India’s creative arm Dentsu Creative’s The Unfiltered History Tour won Agency of the Year, a Titanium Lion, three Grand Prix, and multiple Gold, Silver, and Bronze Lions. It was a bounty unheard of in Indian advertising at what many call the “Oscars of Advertising”.

The core team which created this campaign is no longer at Dentsu Webchutney (now Dentsu Creative), they’ve started an agency called Talented.

dentsu India's dizzying year

Many who were clueless were made aware of the wins after dentsu India decided to take over billboards across the city celebrating these laurels.

Dhols were heard inside dentsu agency offices and the winning crew too received a musical welcome at the airport.

It felt like a rare moment of positivity across dentsu India’s offices which since the June of 2021 have seen their leaders quit, one after the other, like a pack of cards blown away by a gust of air.

In the space of eight months (broken into a pair of five and three), dentsu India saw most if not all of its top leadership leave.

It started with Gopa Menon (COO, Isobar) in June 2021, and was followed by Rubeena Singh (CEO, iProspect), Vivek Bhargava (CEO, DAN Performance Group), Gautam Mehra (chief data and product officer, APAC, and CEO, DAN Programmatic) and Anand Bhadkamkar (CEO, dentsu India) in August.

Following them in September were Shamsuddin Jasani (Group MD, South Asia, Isobar) and Taproot Dentsu India co-founders Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi resigning within days of each other. Haresh Nayak (president, Posterscope Asia Pacific) and Sahil Arora (head, CSR, Indeed) were the next.

October brought forth the already-known exits of Dentsu Webchutney’s Gautam Reghunath (CEO) and PG Aditya (CCO). And November saw the exit of Ashish Bhasin (Chairman and CEO, Dentsu South Asia).

Post the CEO’s exit, there was a cease-fire-like eerie quiet for the next few months. Everybody was waiting and wondering who is next.

Come May 2022 Sidharth Rao, (CEO, dentsuMB) moved on. A month later, Narayan Devnathan, (CCO, dentsu India) quit and July saw Rahul Vengalil (CBO, Isbobar) step down.

Also Read: What exactly is happening at dentsu in India?

An afaqs! story from 2021 on this wave of resignations pointed to the global management’s desire to consolidate and restructure all its agency brands, to make dentsu 2.0 the ‘most integrated network’ by 2024. In India, the target appears to be 2022-end.

However, one must point to the financial books of several agencies which were looked into, internally as well as externally, – a special audit by PwC was done for serious reasons, including major billing-related discrepancies and lack of transparency therein as per sources in the story by Ashwini Gangal.

All, however, is not lost.

“The restructuring was done with a purpose - so that we can deliver it right, for not just the clients, but also our people,” told Amit Wadhwa, CEO, Dentsu Creative to afaqs! in June 2022.

There have been a couple of high-profile hires at the network. Mindshare’s Vinod Thadani joined as chief digital growth officer, dentsu Media Group and CEO, iProspect. Ajay Gahlaut moved from Publicis to dentsu Creative India as group CCO.

On day one of the Cannes Lions 2022, 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).

We are not in the business of prediction but cannot help but wonder about the trials which await dentsu India.

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