There has been feverish activity at Publicis Worldwide India in the past few months, be it their integration with another Group agency, BBH or the people movements in the company, with Ajay Gahlaut, then Chief Creative Officer first moving out and then the resignation of Srija Chatterjee, MD of the agency. Currently a joint leadership team oversees BBH-PWW India.
It is a strategic move for the Groupe aimed at reinforcing its creative credentials. At such a time IMPACT caught up with their Global CCO to find out how the integration between Publicis Worldwide and BBH is panning out, what it will mean for the two agencies and whether this will set a precedent for more such integrations across the markets where Publicis operates.
Neeta Nair in conversation with Bruno Bertelli, Global Chief Creative Officer of Publicis Worldwide
Q] What are your thoughts on the integration of BBH and Publicis WW in India and the new structure?
I’m really pleased about this collaboration between Publicis and BBH because they have two different cultures but at the same time have a very strong brand culture, which is the common ground for the two. BBH has a great reputation while Publicis WW was more like a client focused agency.
I think the combination of the two together can be very interesting for the market. But an integration doesn’t mean that BBH has to become like Publicis WW or vice versa. Retaining their distinct qualities is the secret of success in such cases normally. Such a new proposition between Publicis and BBH, I feel, would be very welcome in the Indian market.
Q] If this is successful in India, do you think you shall be open to replicating the integration between BBH and Publicis WW in other countries as well?
At Publicis we believe in the power of One, we really try to collaborate and work together depending on the needs of the client, and now with Covid-19, a lot of it is not just communication related but business related too. More than ever we need to be partner of our clients in this moment and only an integrated approach can solve that.
Q] Interestingly we are having this conversation at a time when your MD Srija Chatterjee and CCO Ajay Gahlaut in India quit in quick succession… how is the agency dealing with it?
Earlier I used to travel a lot to understand the situation in different markets and offices. But owing to Covid-19 I am unable to. My idea was to come to India in February, to talk to the Creative Directors and check the situation, because there has been quite some movement in the agency for the past couple of years.
But, I think now, especially with this new model between Publicis and BBH, the situation will be much more stable.
Q] What has been the most impactful work that came out of Publicis Worldwide this year?
The Burger King Moldy Whopper has been very visible in terms of PR. Also I really would like to mention the Nivea work on the care positioning during the pandemic.
Then I would say, the back to bars campaign for Heineken was very interesting because it was a business solution and not just a communication solution which would help and support bars, which are in big crisis at the moment.
Q] Two years after a no awards policy to support the investment on Marcel to coming up with your own internal awards called Cannes-Do using Marcel …. How has the journey been for Publicis?
I have to say that Marcel has become a necessity with Covid-19. It is a tool that connects people and offices to each other to share opportunities, jobs and so on. It makes the process far more flexible. In fact in U.S. alone, thanks to Marcel we’ve been able to save over 1000 jobs.
Q] How different was judging the inaugural internal awards ‘Cannes- do’ during the pandemic when even Cannes was cancelled?
Not much different, except that when you are physically in the same room with the jury, you can spend two or three days discussing about the work or going very deep into it. When you’re in front of a computer, normally you cannot do it for longer than four or five hours.
But it was amazing, it wasn’t just the creative agencies but media agencies etc who also submitted work. So, we actually integrated even more under the same umbrella, all the different brands, and in this case it was just about creativity, not about effectiveness, results whatsoever. And true creativity is very inspiring.
Q] Which of your agencies across markets have performed really well and responded well to the pandemic?
I have to say that the agencies that actually responded better those who got hit before like China and Italy. So they had a chance to communicate about the pandemic before the other markets.
There were a lot of jokes and critics said that most of the work was similar, with the same structure and the same music. So China and Italy were struck by Covid-19 earlier, so the work obviously was fresher and more interesting, because everything was new.
So, it was also more creative. Second important observation I had is that the best work that I have seen within the network during the pandemic was on big clients, otherwise we see great work coming from smaller clients, the underdogs.
But Covid-19 was such a global issue that people really needed to have a point of view from big brands, to get guidance, inspiration and a little bit of hope regarding the future. It was interesting to see good work coming from big clients like Heineken, Nestle and Nivea.
Q] What are some of your recent account wins, globally and in India?
Globally, I am really happy for a couple of media wins and particularly GSK, which is our global client, and in Brazil, it was a big win.
On local level, we won Barilla, a pasta brand in Italy and there are other wins like Sephora and there is a new one which I can’t disclose yet.
WHAT AGENCIES MUST DO
The need of the hour is to make creativity, media and data work together in a constructive way
Data, information coming from media can help creativity at the beginning of the process, more than along the process
Q] There is increasing pressure on agencies from clients to show results, is this the time to create ‘safe’ work or be more experimental in your approach because of the novelty of the situation?
From a creative point of view having been a judge on some of the awards, the work was kind of safe and very average. But with Covid-19 the work became a lot more brand led which is a good thing, however it wasn’t so differentiating.
Now with the road to recovery here, I think brands have to differentiate themselves again and to take even more of a sharper positioning regarding themselves. See for Apple, it’s really about creativity, it’s getting sharper and sharper; Nike is becoming more contextualized, similarly Heineken is getting more topical.
To be more relevant, you need to be more contextualized, you need to be in the now. Creativity doesn’t stay in the middle, you are either at the top on the brand level defining what you are as a brand or really at the bottom trying to be relevant in consumers’ life.
One of the big issues with creativity is that we like the big idea which is media neutral. It’s a problem because it looks great on paper, but then when you apply it on the different touch points, it becomes much flatter.