'Aim is to be No 1 creative agency & by stating that I am putting additional pressure on myself' : Ambience Publicis national creative director Pushpinder Singh

Triton Communications, Trikaya Grey, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather and now Ambience Publicis. The man has come a long way. Heading Ambience Publicis creatively as National Creative Director, Pushpinder Singh has some big plans chalked out for his agency.

In a t?te-?-t?te with's Hetal Adesara, Singh spoke about his mandate at Ambience, his plan of action and his vision for the agency.




It's almost close to five months since you joined Ambience as National Creative Director. What have been the high points so far at the agency?

I think what is very satisfying to see is that quickly we have significantly raised our film standards. I like to believe that our show reel of the last five-six months is the number two show reel in the country today. There is some very meaningful and creatively exciting work on Sampoorna, Silk and shine, Elf, Vicks and Lakme on that reel.

The other high point is that when I left Ogilvy, quite a few of my colleagues followed me here. It was one of the more emotional moments of my career to see people trust so completely. I hope I can live up to that trust.

Beyond that, there have been a few other occasions. At the recently held Young Guns International advertising awards in Australia, where I was a judge, Ambience Publicis was the leading Indian agency with a bronze and two finalists.

Also, we have been pitching aggressively and winning a lot of businesses. Reliance, ICICI and a few others. That is an extremely rewarding experience too.



Can you give me the organisational structure at Ambience?

Ashok Kurien is the Chairman and Managing director. Nakul Chopra is the President, Elsie Nanji is the Chief Creative Officer and Vice Chairperson , she is responsible for both the agencies, Publicis India and Ambience Publicis. I creatively head Ambience Publicis and report to Elsie.

We have five creative groups, some of which are headed by creative directors and the others by associate creative directors.



What was the mandate given to you by the agency and what was your agenda when you joined in July?

In fact one of the reasons I joined here was because the mandate given was so simple and clear cut. It was to lift the creative standards of the agency. Ambience has always been a leader as far as fashion and lifestyle products go. The accent now is to extend this to mass-market brands.

Mass-market brands get you your visibility, also that is where the big monies lie.

At a personal level, I'll say it very bluntly - The ambition is to be the number one creative agency in India. It may not happen very fast but eventually that is where one wants to be.



You had mentioned the same in an earlier interview also. Wouldn't you rather let your work speak for itself rather than make such tall claims?

When you publicly state your ambitions, you put additional pressure on yourself to perform. And that is good. (Laughs)

On a more serious note, the reason why I openly talk about it is because in my mind I see it imminently possible. It doesn't look very distant to me.

What we don’t have is the luxury that very big agencies have. They put most of their businesses on the bread and butter roster and gun for awards through a few showcase and public service clients. Due to our relative size we need to produce high quality work on almost every project to be a contender. Now, that is a tougher task.



How much time are you giving yourself?

Barring anything unforeseen, I think we should definitely be challenging for the top spot in another two years’ time.



In the last interview with our website you had mentioned that the many creative styles at O&M were there because Piyush Pandey used to leave you all alone. Now in the capacity of national creative director, do you leave your creative team alone?

Oh absolutely! We are in the business where no one person can ever have all the right answers. There's the old saying - 'You should know better than to know best.' And I am definitely going to hire people who are better than me and leave them alone. If they need help in selling, showcasing or executing their work then one is always around.

The converse is also true. If someone is not really performing, then you roll up your sleeves up and do the work yourself.



We're almost nearing the year end. How would you say 2004 has been for the advertising industry? And what according to you have been the landmarks in Indian advertising this year?

I don't have any numbers at my disposal but I would like to believe that the growth in the industry has been healthy.

Ever year you have one or two big visible campaigns, which also have very high creative standards, unfortunately, that hasn't happened this year.



What do you think was different in your pitch that made you bag the Reliance India Mobile pre-paid services?

To be very accurate, we bagged only an assignment for their prepaid services. I like to think that we were high on enthusiasm and we wanted the business badly. That somewhere showed in our interaction with them. Also, there was a big quantum of planning work inputted that possibly tilted the scales in our favour.



What is Ambience's vision as an ad agency and how much do you believe in it?

If I didn't believe in it 100 per cent then I wouldn't be here and there is absolutely no grey area there. Publicis in very bullish on India and we are looking to grow aggressively. Both, through acquisitions but more importantly, organically, on the back of relevant creative work.



After you joined, what are the new campaigns that you have personally worked on? And which one is your favourite?

In my capacity as a Creative Director, naturally I have been involved with all our accounts. As a copywriter I have created work on Marico, Lakme, Reliance, Elf and Benett Coleman.

My favourites include Silk and Shine, Sampoorna and Elf.



So are you looking forward to the Abby Awards next year? What are your expectations?

(Laughs) At the coming Abbies, expectations are very modest because I didn't have the run of a full year. But we'll be there a few times on the dias.

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