afaqs! Throwback: What makes Ogilvy India tick?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising
Published : January 20, 2015
Ogilvy India has reclaimed its Agency of the Year title at the Effies 2014. We bring you an interview with Piyush Pandey, one originally published when O&M won the same title in 2012.

Last year, Lowe Lintas + Partners managed to upset O&M's winning streak -- four consecutive years, to be precise -- by winning the top spot at the Effies. This year though, O&M won its crown back, pushing Lowe to the second position. We bring you an interview with Ogilvy's creative supremo Piyush Pandey, one we conducted in December 2012. At the time, we had asked him to let us in on what it is that makes Ogilvy tick. The question, we find, is equally relevant today.

The advertising business in India is as fiercely competitive as anywhere in the world. Nearly all the major agencies have a presence, and some like JWT, Ogilvy and Lintas have been around for decades. Plus there is some home-grown competition.

How then has Ogilvy managed to stand out from the rest so sharply? How does it manage to generate such a large volume of excellent creative output consistently? Nothing demonstrated the agency's prowess like when it topped the Effies for the fourth year in a row earlier this week. Not just that, the No 2 agency, McCann, scored less than a fourth of the points that Ogilvy did.

So, afaqs! asked the question on everybody's lips - and that's in the headline.


Piyush Pandey

afaqs!: Allow us to re-visit an oft-asked question. What makes Ogilvy India special? How do you maintain your creative standards year on year?
Pandey: Definitely, it's not just me. Else I would be superman. It's a whole lot of people. It's also the processes we have in place, yes, but beyond the processes, it's the culture that has become larger than the processes. Process to us is like brushing our teeth; you don't plan it but you do it every morning. So, process, so to speak, is in our DNA, anyway. But this process can be followed by anybody. It's what you take the process to that really matters.

afaqs!: And what is that end?
Pandey: The consumer. If the process leads to delighting the consumer, only then is it worth it. So I think the key lies in our culture. The No. 1 thing for us is - we start life from the consumer and never from ourselves or from our clients. And it's that spirit that, by the grace of God, we're able to convert into work that the people like and our clients love.

afaqs!: Over the years, we've observed that winning awards boils down to those two or three big-ticket clients, work for whom rakes in the trophies. Does this create a skewed sense of how good Ogilvy India is?
Pandey: You could not be more wrong. We had made 50 entries (at the Effies 2012), of which 31 got shortlisted. And if you look at all the winners, you will see the width of clients that we've won on. This is true not just this year but over the last four years. It's not true that we walk away with awards thanks to just one client; it's always a bouquet of clients. And that's my biggest delight. I am not just delighted about what we won but I am equally pleased that 31 of our entries got shortlisted.

Why we win more than others is because we have more width. Whether it's Sprite or Hindu or Titan or Cadbury or Vodafone or Fox Crime or Satyameva Jayate or Voltas - we have won across clients. And that is my biggest moment of pride.

afaqs!: Is your co-NCD (National Creative Director) structure part of your success mantra? Do you feel other agencies that have only one NCD at the creative helm would do better with more?
Pandey: I don't think so. I don't think there's a formula to that. If you have more than one NCD, you need to know that their individual DNAs gel - that will determine what one plus will give you. If done properly, one plus one equals five; if not done properly, one plus one can give you a half. I'm a fortunate man to have the two best creative people (Abhijit Avasthi and Rajiv Rao) who love and respect each other. That makes my one plus one much bigger than two.

afaqs!: Ogilvy has such strong creative genes. Do you feel, in the bargain, the other two pillars, planning and servicing, don't get enough credit?
Pandey: No, that's not true at all. In The Brand Equity Survey, for the last nine years, we've been rated by our clients as No. 1 on every parameter of our business. And winning at the Effies in particular is a whole lot of collective effort including planners, client servicing and the back room boys.

Why do you think six people from Ogilvy go up on stage to receive the award, each time? At the Effies, every award was received by at least one planner or one suit along with the team. Actually, they are the team - there's no 'along with the team'. One Brian Lara couldn't make West Indies win. We respect each discipline and give equal credit to everybody.

afaqs!: It is said that just being in a room with you helps young creative guys crack ideas. How much time do you spend with your various creative teams?
Pandey: In a large agency like this operating from six offices, the 'presence in the room' thing is not always possible. When two batsmen are batting, it's not possible to stand next to them and keep telling them what to do.

I'm not omnipresent but whenever they have a doubt, I am available on the phone. They all know that that is a 24X7 thing, anywhere in the world. They can reach me anytime. And I always call them back.

afaqs!: When it comes to creating winning creative work, what advice would you give your peers?
Pandey: That would be very arrogant of me. They're all smart people who've been in the business for a long time. Each has his own way of leading a team and I'm nobody to comment on how they run their businesses.

All I can say is that whenever you find you are lacking on the team front, my suggestion is that you bridge that gap and focus on building a team. Make a team with not just two players, but one where every player contributes and feels equally enriched with every experience.

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