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2019 was challenging but achieving targets in 2020 would be harder, says FCB India's Rohit Ohri

In an interaction with BestMediaInfo.com, the Group Chairman and CEO of FCB India says he's aiming to expand the agency's digital business and hoping that 50% of the total revenue will come from it in the next three years. Ohri says the agencies must keep creative excellence at their core instead of focusing too much on technology

Rohit Ohri

FCB India is aiming for a high single-digit growth in 2020, although it considers it harder to achieve given the economic slowdown conditions in 2019.

“The economic slowdown impacted our growth in 2019. It has been a challenging year for the agency — one of the big reasons being our large footprint in the automotive industry. The automotive industry, as we all know, has seen enormous headwinds over the last 18 months. This negatively impacted advertising spends,” said Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman and CEO, FCB India, in an interview with BestMediaInfo.com.

He further said, “We are aiming for high single-digit growth in 2020. Because 2019 was soft, the targets in 2020 will be harder to achieve. We are planning aggressive strategies to push our growth agenda.”

To achieve growth targets, FCB Ulka will focus more on digital-first businesses. "Currently, digital contributes around 25% of our total revenue. We want it to contribute 40-50% in the next three years," Ohri said.

The agency has plans to have collaborations and partnerships in digital space to strengthen the digital business.

Excerpts:

How was the year 2019 for the agency in spite of the economic slowdown? Could you share the growth numbers?

The economic slowdown impacted our growth in 2019. It has been a challenging year for the agency — one of the big reasons being our large footprint in the automotive industry. The automotive industry, as we all know, has seen enormous headwinds over the last 18 months. This negatively impacted advertising spends. On the other hand, some of our clients from other industries have done relatively better and contributed to our growth. Overall, our growth in 2019 will be lower than our expectations.

What overall growth are you expecting in 2020? What will be your strategy to drive that growth?

We are aiming for high single-digit growth in 2020. Because 2019 was soft, the targets in 2020 will be harder to achieve. We are planning aggressive strategies to push our growth agenda.

We’ve identified three pillars of growth — first would be to strengthen and grow our existing client relationships, second to focus on winning new businesses, and third to scale up our digital business by taking our capabilities to the next level. Digital-first businesses will be our new targets.

That said, our continued focus on creative excellence is what will be at the centre of our growth agenda. We will continue to focus on creating platform ideas for our brands. Our belief is that platform ideas drive integration and create long-term sustainable growth for our brands.

Platform ideas are born at the intersection of cultural, consumer and brand truths. They are media-neutral and spark brand conversations.

Project Streedhan by DSM is our most recent pieces of work that won the hearts and minds of women in India: A brand platform that sparked unprecedented conversations around iron deficiency and anaemia.

What were the agency’s significant achievements in 2019 in terms of businesses and awards?

We have had a good year in terms of new big business wins and work acknowledgement.

FCB India won 31 new businesses in 2019. Mumbai won 19 new businesses, Delhi won six, Bangalore won four and Chennai won two.

FCB India Group won awards at distinguished National and International shows. We were the only agency to win gold for India in three of the biggest advertising festivals — Cannes, Clio and LIA.

According to you, what is the next big thing that will shape the Indian advertising industry in 2020?

Creative excellence needs to be the key focus of advertising agencies. There is a lot of conversation about how technology and new media are changing the advertising business. Consequently, AI, AR, VR, programmatic, machine learning, etc., become the prime focus of some agencies. Technology only powers creativity. It can never be a substitute for creativity.

Technology gives creativity a velocity. And this velocity is directly proportionate to the quality of the creative idea. Understanding how to generate that velocity in the new world we live in should be the biggest focus of agencies. 

You once told BestMediaInfo that creative excellence is your primary target in FCB? How have you been able to strengthen the creative team at the agency?

We’ve been ranked the #1 Creative Agency in India and the 18th most Creative Agency in the world by WARC. The Cannes Global Creativity Report has ranked us as the #2 Creative Agency in India. This is the greatest testimony to our creative transformation in India.

In an interview in 2018, you mentioned that in 2019, FCB India would aim to up the digital contribution by 25% to its overall revenue in 2019. How has the plan panned out? How do you see it changing further in 2020?

Digital has contributed close to 25% of our overall revenue this year. Over the next two to three years, we are aiming to up the contribution to 40-50% of our overall revenue. To achieve this revenue percentage from digital, we have plans to scale up our capabilities.

The agency has plans to have collaborations and partnerships in digital space to strengthen the digital business.

How is FCB’s content arm Fuel Content performing in India? How has it added to FCB’s growth in India? What kind of work has been produced by Fuel Content?

We have seen a big move towards creating branded content. What we offer our brands is content that starts a new conversation around the brand’s core platform idea. Fuel content has been working with a host of clients across offices. And right now, we are more focused on capability building rather than revenue building.

There is a notion in the marketing fraternity that creative agencies can produce good ads but not good content. One needs to think differently when it comes to creating content marketing and branded content campaigns for brands. What do you have to say here? Do you have separate teams in-house to work on content and advertising?

As an agency, we have, over the last three years produced some of the best branded content for our clients. ‘No Conditions Apply’ Sindoor Khela for TOI was India’s most-awarded branded content for 2018-19. We won four Cannes Lions and 79 other awards at some of the world’s biggest award shows.

We have consistently produced content that has not just added value to brands but also defined their purpose.

We don't have separate teams for content and advertising because we are brand storytellers. These divisions are artificial. The idea is to understand what a brand stands for and tell the brand story in a way which is truly meaningful and can impact change. Whether it is content or main-stream advertising, storytelling is the key.

The agency announced the launch of Bushfire in 2017. How is the business fairing for Bushfire? How much does it add to the overall revenue of the agency? Which clients are handled by Bushfire?

We have closed down Bushfire as it was not proving to be that effective for the agency. The original thinking around the agency was to service the demands of big and small start-up clients specifically. Very small start-ups didn't have money for advertising, and mature start-ups wanted large agencies.

It is known that the agency’s Delhi office is doing great in terms of business? How do you intend to up your game across India offices?

While Dominos has been a big win for our Delhi office this year, our Mumbai and Bangalore offices have had significant wins as well. Reliance Smart (Retail) has been the biggest win for our Mumbai office. 

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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