Ex Dentsu Webchutney hands speak about their new creative agency ‘Talented’, the radical ideas on their minds, paying folks to take a copy test, among other things.
You do not disturb a good thing. Last year in October 2021, the disturbance happened when Dentsu Webchutney’s CEO Gautam Reghunath and CCO PG Aditya announced they were on their way out. This was after some of the agency’s best work had come out in recent memory.
The duo announced, last week, the launch of 'Talented', a bootstrapped creative agency from Bangalore.
Why did they move out? Was it the series of high-profile Dentsu exits or the fact that Dentsu McGarryBowen was going to take over the Webchutney name?
“I do not buy this theory at all,” exclaims Reghunath and goes on to assert that some of Webchutney’s best work came after Dentsu acquired it. If the acquisition was such a positive catalyst, then why did the thought and talk of ‘Talented’ come to be in the first place I wondered. The former CEO credits his father, an advertising guy for 35 years, for instilling the spirit of entrepreneurship in him.
Aditya, who claims he cannot even write a Twitter thread to save himself feels “the kind of radical ideas we're trying out here, it would have been unfair of us to think that to put that kind of burden on a humungous network… You need to do it in a space which has a nothing to lose kind of energy around it.”
The radical ideas the former chief creative mentions are nothing but how an agency should operate. “Our (adland) reputation is that of a not so well-paying industry unlike tech companies and startups, we don't have our employees participate in wealth creation, We (Talented) start with ESOPS and over the next four-five years, if we have a good trajectory, everyone who was part of creating this with us, in the beginning, should also be doing well…” claims Reghunath.
Ideas are everywhere and such radical ideas (wealth creation for employees) seem very Bangalorean. I say this because both the co-founders are based out of the city and the influence of the tech and start up world must have rubbed off on them.
They laugh at this statement and Aditya tells us it is time we start copying good ideas from other industries “because they’ve been doing the same with us.” He nods to the classic examples of a table tennis (TT) table in the office and the smart casual which he asserts were first seen at advertising agencies. “A lot of our ideas were inadvertently exported to the corporate world, it's time we started importing some of the good ones,” says the former CCO.
The talent of Talented
All talk about radical ideas and wealth creation makes the right noise but an agency should always be known for the work it doles out. Talented is born in the post-lockdown era, what’s it got? Reveals Aditya, “… very grateful to have a foundation in an agency (Webchutney) that had fantastic digital-led thinking..."
"... A few years ago in 17-18, there were a lot of conversations and rules around we were not supposed to naturally belong, we don't want that to happen with Talented people. Our first campaign that will come out in the next couple of days is print.” Aditya goes on to reveal, "we've been been pushing ourselves to learn crypto and Web3… "We're all at different stages of WIP with Web3.”
Reghunath was clear when he told us they’re going after creative budgets. “We've reached, at least in advertising and media circles, peak efficiency in terms of media, distribution, and language all the same. Everybody is efficient in their spending and is homogeneous, the only thing that will break that homogeneity is creativity. If anyone is trying to categorise us, do categorise us as a creative agency first…”
Crypto, Web3, tech, these are certain keywords I’d associate with the like of a Tanmay Bhat. Is that whom Talented sees as a rival rather than a traditional advertising agency or a newcomer a la Spring Marketing Capital? “There is no competing with Tanmay Bhat,” clams Reghunath and says he sees Talented working with him and his like than against them. “We want to be nice guys to work with,” says the former CEO.
Who’re your partners?
For any new agency, the first set of clients is most important. Reghunath tells us they’re adding the finishing touches to setting up an account management team. When asked what kind of clients the agency is working with right now, he reveals that if the same question was asked say at the end of the year, “I feel it will skew towards younger tech-first start-up brands. Right now, it's very even, we've got half a dozen clients.”
Coming to agency folks, a decade ago, the demand was for people who made gifs and campaigns around them. Today, it's someone who can make and sell NFT in a day or two. Says Reghunath, “I don't think how we identify talent has changed, we are still looking for a creative bent of mind and people willing to question things.”
I wondered if Talented was looking to hire freshers or was on the lookout for experienced folks. If yes to the latter, it would once again put the young ones in a catch-22 situation.
Regunath feels age is a matter of concern for them both ways and there's also a conversation to be had about ageism in advertising where older people are being phased out, especially in the west. “We’re hoping to be the place where young people can come in and do their lives' best work and accelerate towards the position of influence in the system whether that's designation wise or salary wise…”
With all these radical ideas in place, I felt tempted to ask if the dreaded copy test had met its end. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. “Tests are both a bane and boon in our industry. We're paying people if we ever send them a copy test. I think seven-eight people have already taken a paid test… it's showing respect to time,” reveals Reghunath.
A worried Dentsu?
Was the agency holding network and Webchutney worried about Talented poaching their people? “We’re all adults,” says Reghunath and adds that we are a people's business and as long as everybody is respectful of each other, we’re alright.
Becoming what you hate
Any company or agency starts with starry dreams in its eyes and how it will right a wrong but gives it a few years or a decade and it, in some manner, becomes the place it used to dislike. Says Aditya, “The intent exists like crazy. When we were in 2014-15, we were building the Bangalore branch of Webchutney and I remember repeating if we become big, remember we've to act like we are a small team.”
Reghunath feels it is scaling that is always the problem. “Culture is different to scale when 5-10 people grow to become 100-150, I think the smartest thing to do is that the first 30-35, people who will be here to grow this company, the energy we spend together will set the base for what it will be.”
Aditya also reveals a peculiar Talented habit called ‘Remote Active’. “If one person is remote, it's a remote meeting. You're never going to have a situation where I am staring at a screen where three other people are having fun and hi-fiving each other… That is Gautam’s way of saying don't expect it to work unless you do things by yourself to make it.”