Nisha Qureshi

Ogilvy doubles down on leadership equality; hopes to set example for everybody else

Devika Seth Bulchandani and Piyush Pandey discuss Ogilvy's 2023 journey, marked by a change of guard and its role in shaping cultural conversations.

Ogilvy India has announced some important leadership transitions involving senior Ogilvy India veterans. The rejig involves Piyush Pandey taking up an advisory role, VR Rajesh becoming the new India CEO for the agency and the agency’s three CCOs – Harshad Rajadhyaksha, Kainaz Karmakar and Sukesh Nayak being appointed to the Ogilvy Board. Notably, Hephzibah Pathak has assumed the role of Executive Chairperson, becoming the first woman to hold this position at Ogilvy India.

Speaking about the agency’s vision with regards to the rejig, Devika Seth Bulchandani, Global CEO, Ogilvy and Piyush Pandey, chairman global creative and executive chairman of Ogilvy India, say the aim is to ensure that the agency is at the top of the game. 

“India has been the number one region for many years, and Ogilvy India is thriving. We need to evolve how we deliver creativity for our clients due to the ever-changing media landscape,” says Bulchandani.

The agency has been investing in scaling its influencer marketing and digital solutions for a while now and is aiming at scaling these capabilities. “In recent years, we've invested a lot of time to ensure that our content, social, and influencer marketing capabilities are world-class. We aim to stay cutting-edge while remaining true to our core identity as a 'creative' agency,” she adds. 

On equal opportunities

In an industry that is sadly still dominated by men, the agency is one of the rare places where women have been in leadership roles for a while. 

Bulchandani says it is not only about making it yourself but also making space for minority groups and women and giving them the opportunity to grow and lead. "I think it's really important to have women as leaders and have leaders from different minority groups."

She adds that the debate about promoting someone when they are ready or a little ahead of the curve exists. However, Ogilvy believes in giving people the chance at the right time and also offering equal support. 

Asked if this set off a chain reaction within the Indian advertising fraternity, the duo says they have been doing this for years now but hope it inspires.

"Cultivating diverse leadership, with women and representation from various minority groups, is imperative," they add.

In an industry where talent retention seems to be one of the biggest challenges, Ogilvy has managed to ensure its mid and top-level leaders are retained for a large number of years. Addressing the press while speaking about the rejig, Bulchandani states that the current leadership team has been at the agency for ‘140 years’ collectively. Asked if the agency also considers spotting leadership talent from outside the organisation, Pandey states, “We often bring in talent at the mid-level and allow them to play the game.” 

On enduring partnerships

Brands like Cadbury, Asian Paints and Dove have been working with Ogilvy for decades now. Asked how the agency manages to have such consistency on these accounts, with different teams working over them over the years, Pandey states ‘trust’ is at the core of any client relationship. 

“The Cadbury-Ogilvy relationship predates me; I joined the relationship in 1984. The relationship with Pidilite is also older than me. Clients and agencies should maintain honesty in their relationships and build trust over time. The partnership with Dove, for example, spans 25 years, and we've had multiple teams work on it over the years.” 

“Passing the baton to the right people who can continue the relationship is essential,” adds Pandey. 

The advertising giant has produced some remarkable work over the years. The agency has incorporated tech and AI seamlessly in its campaigns, for example, the ‘Not a Cadbury Ad’ campaign. 2023 has been a great year for the agency, it won 64 lions collectively at the 2023 Cannes Lions Festival.

Reflecting on these milestones, Bulchandani states that what sets the agency apart is the consistency and steadiness of excellence. “No other agency in the history of our industry has delivered such consistent results.” 

Pandey adds that some of their campaigns like Dove’s ‘Stop the Beauty test’ have had an impact in the real world. He says such campaigns have been equally rewarded by the audiences as they have been by jurors. 

Navigating advertising in a sensitive environment

In a world where cancel culture is prevalent, India has also witnessed advertising being trolled and even politicised in recent times.  Asked how one navigates advertising in these sensitive and challenging environments, Bulchandani states that advertising can play a significant role in starting cultural conversations to advance society, even if it means not everyone will like it.

Expectations for 2024

As per Bulchandani, 2023 has been a great year so far. They have won several accounts across categories. “While there are macroeconomic challenges in 2024, we have the momentum and optimism to capitalise on opportunities and secure our share of the market,” she adds.

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