"The new management structure will empower and create width of leadership" - Kunal Jeswani

As the media and advertising world in India undergoes catharsis in the form of unlearning, relearning and evolving for the ongoing digital disruption, with data and analytics infusing new variables in the process of creating a brand communication, most of the major stakeholders understand the urgency to address the matter at a talent and skill level within the organisations as well. The recent restructuring of Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai is a fine example of that.

Effective from July 7, 2016, all Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai's businesses and account management resources were brought together under five clusters, each headed by an executive vice-president (EVP) and cluster head.

The five new EVPs and cluster heads are --  Abhik Santara, Ajay Menon, Hitesh Patel, Prakash Nair, and VR Rajesh -- forming the core business leadership team for Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai. The EVPs are working closely with CEO of Ogilvy India, as well as the head of office for Ogilvy Mumbai Kunal Jeswani to spearhead the agency’s flagship Mumbai office.

It is a first major change in the organisation structure after Kunal Jeswani’s appointment as the CEO last year, after the position lay vacant since the previous CEO Pratap Bose quit in 2008.

To understand the agency’s strategy behind the new reshuffle of key positions and what foreshadowed the restructuring,’s Papri Das caught up with Kunal Jeswani.

In a free flowing interaction, Jeswani  attempts to satisfy curiosities about function and purpose of the new management structure at Mumbai Office, his thoughts on the challenges of talent retention within major agencies, the relevance of 30 second TV commercials for brands today and why brands should not fall prey to promise of  ‘free viral reach.’


Q1. What called for the need to restructure Ogilvy & Mather's Mumbai office?

Ogilvy Mumbai has grown to become the largest advertising office in South Asia. At the same time, our business is changing rapidly. We need a more nimble management structure and we need to put our young leaders in positions where they can influence change. The new management structure is designed to empower Ogilvy’s young leaders and create a width of leadership to re-engineer the agency for growth over the next 5 years and drive greater focus on clients.

Q2. What were the key factors kept in mind while planning this restructure?

The heart of planning the new structure was creating leadership width. There is so much to do and we need to empower people to take on different aspects of the business and own them. Brand stewardship is a given. That is the heart of our business.

But there is so much more to do today -- new business growth, building, launching and nurturing new services, talent and training, agency reputation management, and the list goes on. We need more people in positions of authority to drive this.  

Q3. What roles will each of the units have and how will the five units function in tandem?

The EVPs & cluster heads will have a line responsibility to run their clusters and improve the quality of our client relationships. However, they will also work as a management team with me at an office level. The intent, at an office level, is for them to work as a team to influence the office as a whole.

Q4. What function does the Mumbai office play for the agency’s overall strategy in the market keeping the rest of the offices in mind?

Every office has a strong role to play in the India network. Gurgaon is the fastest growing market for the advertising industry in India and we have a fantastic team leading it. Our Bangalore office has seen dramatic growth on the back of offshore marketing services as well as great new business wins like Amazon. Our Hyderabad office is our digital technology and production centre. Our Kolkata and Chennai offices have each built a strong business in their markets.

Mumbai is the largest of the lot and is recognized as one of the best advertising offices in the world. Its role is no different from any of our other offices in the sense that it needs to deliver communications solutions that help grow our clients' businesses. We have to do it better than anyone else in the market. Our work has to shine, across every medium of communication. At the end of the day, it's always about creating great work and growing our clients' businesses.

Q5. In a scenario when consumers are also becoming a key part of the creative process for a brand's communication, how can an agency stay relevant to clients?

Consumers have always been part of the creative process. No one has ever created work without a consumer in mind. But our job is not to do what the consumer tells us to. If that were the case, no client would need an agency. All you would need to do is get a bunch of consumers in a room and get them to create advertising for you. Or better still crowdsource your advertising online. You need an agency because you want work that cuts through, that connects with consumers in a way they couldn't have envisaged in the first place. That uses decades of experience in persuasion to deliver work that actually gets the consumer to do something you want him or her to do, that navigates the changing media landscape to deliver a width of work that addresses the consumer in different mind-states, at different points in the consumer journey, across different media. Of course the role of the agency is becoming harder. And that's a good thing. The harder the job is, the more clients need us to do it well.

Q6. Independent content creators today are launching several branded content initiatives. Does the agency see a market in India for developing their own branded content for the digital or television space for that matter?

Media is getting more expensive every year. As clients struggle to manage slow sales growth and rapid media cost escalation, they look for easier, more cost effective ways to reach consumers. Branded content, particularly digital video offers the allure of free viral reach. My advice is always to be wary of anyone who tells you that a piece of branded content will go viral. The odds are hugely stacked against it. The hard truth is that if you want significant reach (and by significant reach I mean that if you want a large proportion of your actual consumers to see something) you need to spend significant media money behind it. There are no short-cuts. There is no escaping it. Is there are market for branded content? Yes. Will we build a play in that market? Yes. But clearly content that is part of an overall communication strategy, content that has a specific role in the media mix, content that engages predominantly digital consumers. Not content that is the promise of free viral reach.

Q7 Are 30 seconders still relevant to brands today, or is not the age of one minute or two minute videos?

Both. Most clients understand that TV is still the driving force of reach, awareness and persuasion and the TV commercial still accounts for the chunk of their media spend. However, many clients are also using digital to reach and engage with consumers who spend a significant amount of their media time on mobile and desktop video consumption.

Q8. How hard is it to attract new talent and retain existing talent for an agency like Ogilvy & Mather, when several are leaving salaried jobs for the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur?

Talent is our business. It is our primary cost and without great talent, we are nothing. Of course it's getting more and more difficult to retain talent. There are far more options that are available to young people today. However, Ogilvy offers them stability, mentorship of the best kind, the opportunity to work on a range of the incredible brands, and a client base that essentially comes to us because they want great work. That's what attracts people to us. That's what keeps them here. 

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