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82.5 Communications makes a mark in year one

Piyush Pandey’s bet to launch a second “Indian” agency appears to be working out well

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MUMBAI: It’s a toddler and it is already boasting of achievements attributable to the big boys in advertising. Mumbai-hqed creative boutique Eight Two Point Five ( 82.5) Communications is the agency we are referring to. It came into existence just a year ago (26 January), as a reincarnation of Ogilvy agency Soho Square, with a sharp focus on providing communications services to India-specific brands. And it has managed to net nine new clients out of a total of 11 pitches it made, since then. A very good run, and a very high rate - something not many newborns in advertising can boast.

Its new client roster looks impressive: mandates from Nestle Milo, a few dairy projects with the multinational, IDBI Bank, Haldirams North, Hero Lectro, brands from the RSPL group (the maker of Ghari detergent), Campus Shoes, Pearson Education and Jeeru a Mumbai-based carbonated drink. Of course, 82.5 inherited some existing business from Soho Square as well: ACC, Tata Motors, Bisleri, Havells, Himalaya Herbals, ITC Goldflake.

“We are a bit selective about what we do,” says 82.5 Communications co-chairman & CEO Kapil Arora, adding that there is a clear understanding of where and why to pitch and because of that, the company even refused some clients early on. “On the basis of the conversations that we bring to the table, clients get comfortable and say we want to work with you,” he explains.

Arora reveals that the coming few months will be about consolidating what it has picked up in 2019 and the agency will get into growth mode only from March.

Has the rebranding exercise from Soho Square to 82.5, and labelling itself as an India-centric agency paid dividends?

“We have built a profile of interesting India-first businesses that resonate with our positioning, “ highlights Arora.  “Ninety per cent of our client mix is comprised of India-first clients. But there are global brands like Milo, which wanted a Tamil Nadu insight reflected. So, they too see value in our India-first expertise and approach.”

Ogilvy India chairman and CCO Worldwide Piyush Pandey too believes it has. “This was a slot that was vacant,” he says. “82.5 has filled it well.”

And proof of that is the rewards it has got. 82.5 Communications’ edgy work last year with its quirky Samajhdar Jante hai campaign for Bisleri featuring camels got it the Grand Effie in January 2020.

The agency has not stayed still, rejigging the way it functions, when it felt it was needed. When it started it kept brand custodianship, strategy and content expertise in-house while outsourcing services like media, social, PR retail and activation to partners. It kept that circle open wide. Now it has tightened that ring of allies restricting Itself to WPP group outfits.

“As a small outfit it made absolute sense to work with partners to offer allied services,” says Arora. “ In implementing that model, we had a few learnings and we reduced that circle. This helps us retain better quality control and ownership for our clients and a move like the WPP campus really aids us in that regard.”

Arora was brought in as CEO from Ogilvy North in June 2019 when the then CEO VS Srikanth – who joined  82.5 from Bates CHI & Partners – decided to part ways to set up his own venture in the tourism sector.

Since then, he along with chairman & CCO Sumanto Chattopadhyay, have been working on hiring talent to continue offer clients classy service and the creatively edgy work it is getting known for.  In September, Arora roped in Rishabha Nayyar national strategy lead reporting to him directly. Last month, the agency recruited creative veteran Preeta Mathur as head of its Delhi creative.

The agency has four branches Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, with Delhi growing the fastest, hence the hiring of Mathur.  More recruitment is likely to happen in the coming few months.

Chattopadhyay and Arora are also focusing on building language-thinking skills within the agency. Arora highlights that they have managed to get it right with Bengali, Tamil and Marathi - and of course Hindi and English. “This repertoire will continue to increase through a mix of in-house talent and a circle of friends from the local film and theatre circuit,”  he elaborates.

Arora believes that 82.5 is a work in progress agency. “We will continue to evolve,” he says. “We have laid a strong foundation. As long as we pivot, change and stay relevant in terms of what clients require from us, in these trying economic times, we have a strong future. We are very bullish.”

Which is what Pandey is banking on. Remember, it was he who was the prime architect of the initiative to build a second agency within the Ogilvy network in India.

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