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“Want to be the ‘Influencer Network’ in 2015”: Sunil Lulla

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With over 30 years of experience, Sunil Lulla brings skills in media, marketing, communication and management.

From spending an early part of his career, which spanned over a period of nine years, in advertising with JWT to rolling out indya.com, in the first wave of the internet; from bringing zing and youthfulness to MTV to help build the television business for The Times Group, Lulla has been a prominent member on many industry boards and forums where he shaped policies and set industry standards and best practices.

His decision to move on from the Times Television Network managing director and CEO to Grey Group India chairman and managing director did come as a shock to many. Nonetheless, the man who engages in a new passion every few years is back to his first passion.

In a freewheel interview with Indiantelevision.com’s Meghna Sharma, Lulla talks about his plans for Grey and much more.

Excerpts…

Back to advertising. So far, so good?

Very good. The communications business is the best place to stay eternally young (smiles).

If you had to compare, how different has been advertising’s evolution from that of broadcasting industry?

Both bring new challenges and new ideas each day, blended with a frenetic pace and an youthful environment. TV broadcast is focused around the consumer via which it builds relationships with the customer. Advertising is built around the customer via which it creates story telling for the consumer. They are different spectrums. The TV industry faces significantly more regulatory challenges than the communication industry. There is a zameen aasman ka difference in scale and profitability. Advertising brings the edge of ideas unlimited.

It’s been four months, any changes that you have brought in the company? Why?

Grey group is a stable, growing business, producing famous and effective work. I’ve used the time to get to understand the business better. Meeting clients and understanding their challenges and in helping gear Grey group offer integrated solutions and ideas, across advertising, communication, the vast spectrum of digital and social; activation and advocacy. These are via our own Grey group services and those with partners / affiliates, such as RC&M, Penn Schoen Berland and Talent House. Importantly, working closely with the team, which is energetic, talented, innovative and always bubbling with ideas and energy. I believe in the short period of four months, gearing to grow and being able to work across services seamlessly, has been my focus.

Many of our clients are now accessing more than one service from Grey group. For our affiliate partners, we have been able to provide Grey thinking, muscle and experience. What’s visible is perhaps the new campaigns of Swacha Bharat, the Border Security Force and the announcement of Quickr and Reach Mobile as new businesses.

Importantly, in the next few weeks there are many campaigns of Grey group, which continue to define culturally sensitive communication, aimed at changing social behaviour, which is one of the biggest challenges any communication company can deliver on. We believe our clients should be satisfied with our services and offerings but continuously challenge us to deliver outstanding performance. Which is exactly what Grey clients do.

How has the year 2014 been for Grey India?

There has been top line and bottom line growth as per expectations. The new account wins are all based on differentiated communicate on briefs and the focus on adding alliances is preparing Grey group for a strong 2015. Talent has been stable and the awards have been coming in. All in all – a good year for Grey. We are not very boastful about our achievements; our clients hopefully do the talking for us.

One mandate, which you are really proud of, and why?

I cherish my new role at Grey group, via which we are building a differentiated service business to build strong brands for our clients. Each of our clients are precious to us and the work we do, we believe, plays a big role, in making their brands famous and effective.  I do believe the new ‘Swacha Bharat’ campaign enables us to work with the Prime Minister’s vision of changing behaviour which is always a tough task. The communication is simple, mass oriented and evokes the right emotive and attitudinal cord.

How much of the business that you generate out of India is globally aligned?

Some of our global alignments are P&G, GSK, Volvo, amongst others. 65 per cent of our business is India alone business.

Competition is growing multifold, so how would you differentiate Grey from the others?

We believe Grey group’s thinking and capability is being rapidly geared to offer integrated solutions around advertising, social, mobile, web, activation, advocacy, rural and crowdsourcing. With many more to be included. Powered by our vision to create Famous and Effective solutions, work and brands, Grey group is becoming a highly differentiated ‘Influencer Network’. We say Grey groups role to influence consumer choice and thinking and via its array of skills it is designed to be ‘an influencer network of choice, creating famous and effective work’. Each way of approaching the consumer needs to be true to the host medium but interconnected to the behaviour we need to change. Grey enjoys a very strong reputation because of its Planning, Creative, Digital and Communication Skills and this is poised to grow with strength.

According to you, has Grey really been ‘Famously Effective’?

Absolutely – the wins at Cannes and Effies are a great testimony. The growth of each of our clients business is evidence of the work – working!

What are the plans lined up for the digital side of your business?

Growth is the obvious agenda. Growing and strengthening resources in the Delhi and Bangalore NCR are on the agenda for 2015. Focusing on having more of our clients across our range of services avail of our Award winning Digital solutions. Continuing to create cutting edge and new solutions is the everyday task. Focusing on learning and training for our talent is the key.

How do you see an increase in media fragmentation impacting creative agencies?

Agencies should stop worrying about definitions. We do not see ourselves as a creative-alone agency. Grey’s role is to influence consumers and we believe that requires each of us to continuously grow skills and expertise, which is our focus. Agencies can easily learn, adapt and innovate to tell stories be it on a one to one basis or one to many basis. If there is no structured integration, then one must bring it in any way into the service, as businesses will not grow in a linear fashion.

With an increase in penetration of smartphones and tablets, the biggest challenge will be on how to most optimally use the mobile phone for building a brand. What advise will you give the brands and digital agencies?

We reserve recommendations like these, exclusively for our clients (Smiles)

Do you think Indian advertising has been able to shift paradigms with changing times?

The glass is always half full, which makes it encouraging for the industry to keep pouring skills, ideas, talent and investment in creating culturally cutting edge work. The new Swach Bharat campaign defines that. On an overview, the Indian industry has successfully paved the way for new paradigms.

What is at top of your wish list for Grey India for 2015?

Be the Influencer Network which successfully enables Famous and Effective Brands and Communications.

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