The recent exits at Dentsu International in India have certainly caught everyone’s attention. In the midst of the storm, IMPACT in an interaction with a Dentsu India spokesperson discussed speculation on the acquisition plan gone wrong, what triggered the successive exits and whether more heads are set to roll.
Q] It is rare for an organization to have as many high level exits as Dentsu has had in the past two weeks and year overall…have the heads of agencies who have made an exit been staring at a non performing unit for a while… which of Dentsu agencies have been rendered sub optimal in the past year?
None of our agencies have been considered sub-optimal. Last year, the Dentsu Group announced we would be undertaking a comprehensive review and accelerated transformation plan to 2024. Part of that plan was to review and optimise our brand strategy, moving from 160 brands to six, globally-recognised leadership brands by end of 2022. This brand optimisation, along with the creation of three global Service Lines (Creative, Media, CXM) and other activities connected to our transformation plan will make it easier to do business with, simplifying our structure and enabling us to anticipate and respond quicker to fast changing client needs and market environment. As we accelerate our transformation towards Dentsu India 2.0, there will be more movement within our brand portfolio and our teams. We are progressing well with our global change plan and are focussed on getting Dentsu India into the same position as our other key markets.
Q] As per high level sources within the Group, the plan to consolidate the business is happening ahead of the decided time, was there a reason why this was speeded up suddenly which many in the top leadership are unhappy with? Industry corridors are abuzz with news of Dentsu books not being in order as the immediate trigger...how does that bode for an organisation of your size?
The India business is not being optimised ahead of time. Dentsu India’s progress in this transformation journey had been lagging compared to other markets. With India being a critical market for our clients and Dentsu globally, changes had to be made to reenergise and refocus attention on Dentsu India’s transformation, tightly re-aligning the business with Dentsu’s global ambition to be the most integrated network in the world. This is all part of our plan to bring India in line with a fast and positively transforming Dentsu. We are progressing well with our global change plan and are focussed on getting Dentsu India into the same position as our other key markets.
Q] There is an attempt to consolidate all creative agencies like Taproot, Webchutney into a single Creative unit, what happens to competitive business for which multiple agencies within a network are created in the first place… would competing brands be comfortable working with the same agency?
By the end of 2022 our creative service line brands will be integrated into Dentsu Creative’s leadership brands, dentsuMB and Isobar, with bespoke client conflict solutions. We respect and adhere to the controls put in place to manage client conflicts through separation of client’s business knowledge and their execution plans.
Q] You have brought on board the very talented Ajay Gahlaut as the Group CCO, but he is more known for his storytelling skills than his digital expertise, does that mean the Digital focused Dentsu is looking at a Creative bend with the future appointments?
To stay ahead of the growth opportunities and potential we see in this market, we are accelerating the transformation of this business to become a crucial part of realizing our global ambition of being the most integrated network in the world. This requires new ways of operating, more connected ways of working and refreshed leadership. We continue to invest in digital as a platform for growth in India and bring strong leaders to further enhance our digital-first thinking and capability through our service lines, most recently with the appointment of Vinod Thadani, Chief Digital Growth Officer & CEO, iProspect. Ajay and Vinod are significant senior hires, in addition to Rohit Suri, Chief People Officer, South Asia.
Q] How are the clients reacting, are you worried that some of the senior level talent that have left or been asked to go can take a substantial amount of business with them, like it happens in most cases and here you have plenty of names in question who have exited over the past several months, so that many more possibilities?
Consumers, the market and the industry are changing. All businesses are adapting to a new set of expectations and circumstances. Clients need partners with the agility and ingenuity to help them make meaningful progress in a disruptive and dynamic market. Through a more focused portfolio of brands we are simplifying, integrating and making how we operate more consistent, to make us easier for clients to work with, and do more with. Our transformation is rooted in our commitment to serving our clients better now, and in the future. Naturally, we are keeping our clients informed about the positive transformation we are going through. Recognising our clients need a partner who can move at speed, with access to our world-class capabilities and talent without complexity is very much appreciated.
Q] Four years ago, Dentsu released an ad campaign calling itself the number 2 network in the country, where does it stand today with regards to revenue in India?
Our business in India continues to do well and grow. We do not have the necessary latest data to be able to comment on our revenue position compared to that of our competitors.
Q] One of your statements said more heads are set to roll, will these be in places of power or mid level exits?
We are unable to comment on individual plans and exits. As we mentioned, Dentsu India 2.0 is tightly re-aligning the business with Dentsu’s global ambition to be the most integrated network in the world. As we accelerate our transformation towards Dentsu India 2.0, there will be more movement within our brand portfolio and our teams. This is all part of our plan to bring India in line with a fast and positively transforming Dentsu. We will retain our local-market specialisms as platforms of differentiation and growth, but the optimisation of our brands and operational structure will result in changes to the way our business operates, as well as the removal of duplicate roles.
Q] What will be the outlook for Dentsu 2.0 and apart from the consolidation, how will it be different from what the network stands for today?
India is a critical market for our clients and Dentsu globally. Changes had to be made to reenergise and refocus attention on Dentsu India’s transformation, tightly re-aligning the business with Dentsu’s global ambition to be the most integrated network in the world. This requires new ways of operating, more connected ways of working and refreshed leadership. In the words of Wendy Clark, CEO Dentsu, by 2024, “Dentsu International will look like a company that is driven off a base of customer experience capabilities, customer technology, martech, media investment and delivery, and creativity pulsing through those capabilities.” Change is necessary to sustain and grow; and it can happen only in the midst of transformation. Our market needs are in a constant state of flux. The world is changing drastically. And if we are to offer what’s best for the consumer and the client, we must change too. We are on our way to becoming the most integrated network in the world. It is our global ambition and everything that you are witnessing right now only indicates our journey onward.