A few months ago, after he decided to bid goodbye to an agency and agency network he was associated with for close to a decade, Saurabh Varma, ex India & South Asia CEO, Publicis Communications told himself:
“Leo Burnett started his agency in the Great Depression of 1935 and created something spectacular and I would like to do the same.” Well, who would have known back then that fate would create the same circumstances for Varma! He has decided to launch his agency this year, even as the industry bears the onslaught of COVID-19.
Says Saurabh Varma, “Leo Burnett was a man just as remarkable as his vision and I have admired everything he created and actually built, and yes the circumstances are eerily similar to the Great Depression. We were going to formally launch the agency on July 1 without the lockdown in play. Now it will be a function of when the lockdown ends and how we manage to formalize some of the things we want to.”
But Varma didn’t let the lockdown stop him. In a rather new approach, his unnamed agency has gone on to create an ad for gaming platform Nazara.com, even before its formal launch. Varma explains, “Currently, if you look at the economy, it doesn't seem like the right time to launch an agency, but it does seems like a perfect time to create great work. That's what this is about. Right now, it is about helping our clients navigate through this very complex environment. And that has to be the biggest focus, rather than ourselves.”
He adds, “I have always done things differently. For me, it has always been about, ‘People, Product, Profit’. When you have great people, your next focus has to be the work. All my prior success came from keeping myself at the service of our clients, it wasn't really about ever putting yourself in the limelight but about putting a client’s work in the limelight and that has to be the core and the DNA going forward.
As far as Nazara.com is concerned, it is a huge mass media campaign… simply because of the category they’re in. Gaming consumption is really looking up. And there is no better opportunity to create a brand of this scale than now.”
But is this a one-off case before the agency launch or will there be more campaigns? Varma responds, “We are not requesting our other clients who we are in conversations with to spend money at the moment, as it makes no sense. We are advising most of our clients to conserve the liquidity to do more digital campaigns.
We are working on a few of them at the moment. Of course, a lot of them differ in terms of size and scale. A lot of work is happening as we speak and so you will start seeing some more work in the near future.”
ON THE USP OF HIS AGENCY
Talking about the USP of his agency, Varma says, “We have three big areas of expertise which focus on three large platforms called the experience platforms, which is what typically agencies would call activation, events, shopper retail marketing. Our big focus is really on moving away from the B2B businesses, more to B2C businesses.
Today, if a brand wants to run big tech programmes - programming, coding, etc, we should be able to implement that. Another big area of focus for us is really the last mile tools, especially for the auto industry. We are going to tie up with very large platforms, be it a Jio or TikTok or Facebook, and make sure that we have the ability and teams with depth of knowledge to create content in each of these platforms. All this will be surrounded by the layer of a data team and a content team.”