Sumita Vaid

WPP evinces interest in Suhel Seth's Counselage

The WPP Group has expressed interest in Counselage, a strategic image management outfit, flagged off recently by Suhel Seth of Equus Red Cell

Just 10 days ago Suhel Seth, co-CEO and chief strategic officer of the Delhi-based WPP Group agency, Equus Red Cell, flagged off his independent venture Counselage, a strategic image management firm. And already the WPP Group has expressed its interested in the venture. Seth is also very keen on partnering with WPP. To that end Seth has had preliminary discussions with WPP. However, at the moment, Seth's focus is "to get the company up and kicking" before he starts thinking of a joint venture partner. "At a later stage, when capital infusion is required, one would think about it," says Suhel Seth, managing partner of Counselage.

Counselage happened in a rush. It seems Seth realised some time ago that a lot companies were looking for services that needed ‘developing strategies pertaining to imaging'. So what makes Counselage different from the myriad image management and brand consultancy outfits? "The objective of this venture is to make a connect between the consumer and brand by bringing the corporates closer to the citizens," points out Seth. Is it not similar to what a regular PR agency does? "No," Seth is emphatic. "Counselage's services go beyond what an average PR firm offers. Clients today need more than just PR agencies that are treated merely as small mailboxes to contact journalists."

Counselage has picked up four clients already - Coca-Cola India, the Delhi Government, Jet Airways and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Currently, Counselage has two branches - one each in Delhi and Mumbai. Kolkata is the next destination. "We are looking for quick expansion. The Kolkata branch should be operational by August this year," says a decidedly excited Seth. He is quick to point out "there are no outside investments in Counselage", for which he is busy hiring people these days.

And what happens to Equus Red Cell? Well, Swapan Seth, CEO, Equus Red Cell, has shifted base and has moved from Mumbai to Delhi to take charge of the agency's operations. Suhel Seth will focus his expertise on Counselage besides carrying out his day-to-day duties at Equus.

Seth proceeds to elaborate on the role of Counselage in the life of an organisation. "Any PR agency would, say, charge a client Rs 1 lakh for a particular job; whereas Counselage would charge Rs 10 lakh. That is the kind of qualitative difference that Counselage intends to offer its clients." The reason? "Simply put, there is absolutely no effort in devising strategies to improve the image of a company. All one thinks of is tactical advertising. There are more creative ways of using strategic insights to help corporates create the right rub-off and, and in the process, come closer to the citizens," he adds.

In short, it is not enough to take recourse to conventional methods of advertising and public relations to get close to citizens. "Let me take the Kellogg example. How do you get Kellogg to come close to the consumer who does not consume Kellogg's cornflakes? This can be done by devising strategies that make corporates socially accountable." In a like development, for its client Coca-Cola India, Counselage, in partnership with the Delhi Government, plans to launch a garbage cleaning campaign this week. "This is a process-driven exercise and is about creating empathy and inspire self-help among citizens - a pay-back effort on the part of the corporate," says Suhel Seth. Such initiatives would be taken to Mumbai and Chennai and then to smaller towns. "It is a community programme to create awareness among citizens on adequate ways of garbage disposal. The programme would involve placing garbage bins at key points," explains Seth. This project is part of the Bhagidari programme for the Resident Welfare Association (RWA), which was started by Suhel Seth in December 1999.

And this is not all. Counselage is also actively involved in political campaigning and in the positioning of political leaders. "It was Lord Bell of Chime Communications who created the perfect image of ex-prime minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher when she was at the helm of affairs. That is what creating the right image can do. I have experience in positioning political leaders. I designed the campaign for Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999," claims Seth, who's bagged the first ‘political campaigning' assignment for Counselage already. The firm is in the process of working out a political campaign for Sheila Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi. "But it is too early to talk about it," feels Seth. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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