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Dipstick: "Is a multiple NCD structure a case of too many drivers on the creative wheel?”

Some advertising agencies have gone in for two or even three National Creative Directors. But is this viable for the creation of a strong, seamless creative culture in an agency? Leading advertising honchos share their views

Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | April 15, 2015

(L-R) Prasoon Joshi, Josy Paul, KV Sridhar and Senthil Kumar (L-R) Prasoon Joshi, Josy Paul, KV Sridhar and Senthil Kumar

In the highly competitive world of advertising, the National Creative Director (NCD) is every agency’s vital man. The NCD gives shape to communication that breaks through the clutter, goes beyond the client brief and often also wins awards at various platforms. For long, agencies have had one NCD, who handled the national creative mandate.

With growing competition and expansion plans, agencies have started appointing two, sometimes three NCDs. Sometimes NCDs are given mandates for different verticals or even geographies.

Is there a surfeit of NCDs in agencies? Has the role and the title diluted over time? Is a multiple NCD structure a practical one for the creation of a strong, seamless creative culture in an agency?

When BestMediaInfo spoke to some of India’s leading advertising and creative honchos, divergent views emerged. While some wholeheartedly supported having more than one NCD, there were some who did not consider it a good option. A few said it depended on the agency structure. Read on to find more...

Prasoon Joshi Prasoon Joshi

Prasoon Joshi, Chairman, Asia Pacific & CEO, McCann Worldgroup India

“Yes, it does. We have two NCDs at McCann and I believe it does work well. But at the same time, the number of NCDs is not important, rather the talent and the kind of potential that they have. Every agency has a certain philosophy of solutions that they have to offer to the clients, and if the combination works, as every individual has a different set of thoughts and ideas, then the agency can offer a path-breaking solution to its client. Having said that, I will not debate on the number, but consider the talent and potential.”

Josy Paul Josy Paul

Josy Paul, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, BBDO

“Designations don’t make creative cultures, people do. NCD is only a title. It’s not a guarantee for great work. You know why? Because ideas don’t know you’ve hired an NCD. Ideas don’t know that the NCD has spent more than 15 years in the business. Ideas are designation neutral. So, what is the ideal number of NCDs in an agency? We’ve seen agencies where there have been multiple NCDs and it has worked. But we’ve also seen agencies where multiple NCDs have not worked out. Leadership is not a number game. My suggestion is to hire the person, not the title. More than this I cannot say... doctor’s orders.”

KV Sridhar KV Sridhar

KV Sridhar, ?Chief Creative Officer - India, SapientNitro

“I feel it is not a good option. When I was in Leo Burnett, I never had multiple NCDs. Though there are a few agencies that believe in the same, but I personally do not believe in this thought. To give a very simple example, have there been two CEOs in one company? The answer is ‘No’. So, similarly, having multiple NCDs is not a viable option for agencies for a simple reason: that there should always be one boss at one level as it gives a better outlook to the organisation. In the advertising world, an agency can have multiple Creative Directors or Executive Creative Directors, but not multiple NCDs for sure. It not only creates confusion, but also creates difficulties for the agency.”

Senthil Kumar Senthil Kumar

Senthil Kumar, National Creative Director, J. Walter Thompson, India

“A two or three NCD structure is a practical one for the creation of a strong, seamless creative culture in an ad agency if all of them are aligned to the agency’s cause and work as one unit. Look at it as three conductors seamlessly driving one vision across the country. In large agencies like J. Walter Thompson which has six offices in six different cities, it is always going be difficult for one person to be there at all the important client meetings and solving all their marketing problems effectively.”

Nakul Chopra Nakul Chopra

Nakul Chopra, CEO - South Asia at Publicis Worldwide

“It depends upon the size and structure within the agency. Like earlier we had three NCDs, but now we do not as we did not feel the need for the same. One should understand that ‘NCD’ is just a label as it is all about who does what kind of work. So, like earlier when we had three NCDs, they were clearly demarcated as to what each one had to deliver and in different areas of work. There is nothing right or wrong behind having multiple NCDs or none, rather it is all about the structure and the need of the organisation. Also, at that time, we were treating our brands as different ones but later we decided to unify them into one brand and work according to that.”

MG Parameswaran MG Parameswaran

Dr MG Parameswaran, ?Executive Director, FCB Ulka Advertising

“Yes, why not! Each company has to balance its structure. There can be two CEOs too or multiple NCDs. I feel it all depends upon the need and demand of the organisational structure. What plays an important role is that each individual should have a clear perspective about their respective roles and, therefore, any number or structure can work. The NCDs should be able to deliver to the desired value for the client, which is what plays an important role. If an agency has multiple NCDs, then having a good chemistry is important.”

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