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Growth target for 2019 ahead of industry rate, digital contributes significant part of revenue: Dheeraj Sinha of Leo Burnett

In an interview with, the India MD and Chief Strategy Officer of Leo Burnett, South Asia says that it was time the advertising industry defined its place in the marketing value chain. He believes the industry should play an upstream role in building innovations rather than get trapped in the downstream

Dheeraj Sinha

Global advertising agency Leo Burnett is looking at closing 2018 on a high note. Dheeraj Sinha, the India MD and Chief Strategy Officer of Leo Burnett, South Asia, says the year, which has also been his first as MD, has been both eventful and intense at the same time.

The agency has bagged 31 new businesses while attracting top-notch talent to join its offices. Leo Burnett is now looking at outperforming the industry rate of growth.

“Growth is the name of the game. Our growth strategy is very simple. We have a relentless focus on the 3Ps — People, Product and Profit,” Sinha said.

Leo Burnett, as a part of Publicis Groupe, has been among the first movers in terms of providing integrated solutions to clients through its power of one platform.

“The powerhouse of meeting the consumers’ need lies in the precision of data-driven strategy,” he said.

Sinha feels that the emergence of different forms of communication such as content, integration in a movie, a technology platform or programmatic marketing beyond television and print have been one of the latest trends in the industry.

“This has led to the rise of young talent who are conversant with the language of today,” he said in an interview with


How has 2018 been for the agency?

We have had tremendous momentum. The agency has grown well, is extremely healthy on the revenue and margins front. However, it has been a very intense year for us. We have won 31 new business pitches in the year, added some very reputable clients and great talent to our agency. At the same time, at the Global Product Committee (Leo Burnett’s Global Council on creative work), we have won five 8 Balls (work that’s rated 8 on 10 on the Humankind Scale). So overall, it has been an intense yet a good year for us.

What growth target are you eyeing for the next year?

Growth is the name of the game. If we don’t grow, we can’t retain and attract the best talent, we can’t invest in training and workshops, among other things. Our growth targets for 2019 are ahead of the industry rate.

What are the driving factors that will help you achieve your target?

Our growth strategy is very simple. We have a relentless focus on the 3Ps — People, Product and Profit. Everyone in the agency chases these three objectives in a very systematic way. This sense of clarity and alignment is what will help us achieve our goals.

This is your first year being the MD along with Rajdeepak Das. What are the key things you've done this year?

One of our first priorities has been to strengthen and empower the leadership team. We have got Prashanth Challapalli as the COO of Leo Burnett Orchard, Rakesh Hinduja as COO for Leo Burnett, West and Samir Gangahar as the President of North. We have a very strong leadership team in place. The other priority has been to focus on hiring and growing young talent. We have started a ‘Young at Burnett’ programme, where we are hiring top-end undergraduate talent from reputed colleges such as SRCC, Hindu, LSR (Delhi) and Jai Hind (Mumbai). The idea is for our talent to have a Mutant DNA — to be great at more than one thing at a time.

After a year of absence on the awards front, how are you planning to make a comeback?

As a strategy, we only focus on solving our client problems in the best possible way. So there is no focused strategy on awards. The focus is on doing great work on our brands. You have seen some of those examples throughout the year and there are many in the pipeline.

How is the agency dealing with the clients’ need for integrated communication solutions?

The Publicis Groupe has had a head start on this with our Power of One platform. This year, we added newer platforms for content and entertainment. We have the ability to deliver a brand narrative through all mediums that surround our consumers through the precision of data-driven strategy.

Marcel, the AI-powered solutions platform of Publicis Groupe, will finally roll out in January 2019. What kind of an impact are you expecting it to have in India?

You will hear about this through Groupe communication.

What are the major trends you are seeing that will shape the future of the Indian advertising industry?

Firstly, the emergence of other forms of communication like content piece, integration in a movie, a technology platform or programmatic marketing, beyond television and print is a clear pattern. This pattern will give rise to younger talent, who are more conversant with the language of today. We will see more clients sign up for integrated relationships, with a single point of contact orchestrating the whole gamut.

How much does digital contribute to the overall revenue? Do you see the ratio of digital to traditional media changing in the coming years?

Yes, it is changing in a significant way. Our Power of One offering is already contributing a significant part to our revenue.

What are the challenges that the industry is facing?

The biggest challenge for our industry is to define its place in the value chain. My view is that we need to play an upstream role in building innovations in marketing rather than get trapped in the downstream.

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