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Goafest 2023

We are expanding offices across the world to take care of clients’ needs, says Gordon Bowen

During his India visit for Goafest 2019, the Chairman and founder of Mcgarrybowen and Chief Creative Officer, Dentsu Aegis Network, spoke to about their expansion strategy and the need for thinking glocal for all campaigns

Gordon Bowen

Gordon Bowen, Chairman, Mcgarrybowen, who has also recently been appointed as Chief Creative Officer of Dentsu Aegis Network, (DAN) feels that only those campaigns will succeed that have been thought of as glocal ones. “We are not in favour of the homogenisation of culture. There’s a need for brands to be glocal in their strategy,” Bowen told in an interview.

“You have to see how you are global in your insights and understanding in terms of human tradition, and how you are local in terms of cultural nuances that make people different. Because in the end, many of our clients are glocal,” he said.

He mentioned how Mcgarrybowen ensures it can offer clients the most well-rounded offering. “A part of my job for my clients such as P&G and others is that we can do something interesting with data. So most of the ideation is done around it,” he mentioned.


You have an additional role as the CCO at Dentsu Aegis Network. What does it entail?

I have only had the role for about three weeks. It’s not a new role in the sense of what I can be and nor is it a new role in the sense of what the world needs in terms of advertising. I think a number of things happened that have impacted the industry greatly. Mcgarrybowen, which I founded, specialises in platform ideas, which is larger than campaigns. It would be for clients like American Express and Intel.

What I think is exciting about being the Chief Creative Officer for Dentsu International is that you get the opportunity to touch all the companies that touch all the consumers in a variety of different ways. I’ll use data for an example.

How are you able to balance the duties of Mcgarrybowen and as CCO of Dentsu Aegis Network, singlehandedly?

I didn’t have anything to do between 1am and 3am, so now I have something to do (laughs). But I think the fact of the matter is that we have a really spectacular team at Mcgarrybowen, and I don’t think I could have done it 10 years ago as I was handling every single client hands-on. But now with my excellent staff and their commitment and their backing in terms of what they provide for me, I don’t have to be involved with the day-to-day work.

I also think that you have to remember that many of our clients are served by DAN as well around the world, so there is a natural reason for me, no matter who the client is, to be able to give a broader overview.

I haven’t done it for more than three weeks, so it’s a new thing, but it’s something that I have thought for a very long time. And I had some other roles many years ago at other networks, so I kind of know how that goes.

You have made almost 20 acquisitions across the world. Are you looking at any more acquisitions in India and across the world?

Yes, across the board. Not just for Mcgarrybowen but in our other companies as well. As you know, my job is to be a catalyst for creativity across the network, so to that end I think that what we are looking at in terms of other acquisitions is that we decided to build the network not in terms of where the clients were and not necessarily in the biggest cities of the world, but where the talent is. And therefore, we picked cities where we thought either the talent was going to be the best; it might be the best now, or in the future.

There is great talent in London, New York. We went to Bangalore too, because it’s very digitally focused and we like to be in that area for that reason, and we wanted to have those skills and expertise.

But we don’t aspire and neither do we believe that our clients want to be served in 300 locations around the world. But we are building up our network to make sure that we can meet the needs of our clients with the best talent, in whatever market they get to be.

With Mcgarrybowen's long association with P&G, are you also planning to replicate the same for Happy mcgarrybowen in India with the FMCG giant?

Well, we have many big accounts besides P&G. If you go through the clients we represent, whether it’s P&G, Kraft, Mondelez, Intel or American Express, or any large clients that Mcgarrybowen has, all of them do some business in India. And India is such a burgeoning market, it’s also very tech-centric. And so I think that we will offer a deeper talent base here and serve our clients however they get to be served across the network, because as you know, there are offerings besides Mcgarrybowen here. And my job is to see through all of them.

We are not looking at working with P&G here in India this very second.

What we try to do is to make certain that we can offer our clients the most well-rounded offering. And part of my job for my client P&G is that we can do something interesting with data. Perhaps tying up with data companies like Merkle or if it is something about infusing data with media what we do with our media companies to enhance their ideation.

And I happen to think that the Dentsu offering here, in terms of creative, is spectacular. They do magnificent storytelling. So the good news about me having my name on the door and being the founder is that I can kindly say that this is really right for us and we are the right person to serve the client here. Or I can say I think one of our sister companies has a better offering because it’s more suitable for your needs.

Your mother, wife and kids comment on your work. What kind of inspiration do you derive from their feedback?

I think it varies a great deal. Many years ago, I was in my 20s when I did my very first ad. I got my entire family to watch it. My mother looked at me and said, “You’re a lot better than that.” And so, it is always positive.

Our families, to some extent, are our best critic and our best audience. So what I say to anyone is, listen to your children, pay attention to your wife, pay attention to your husband, pay attention to your families – what are they doing, what are they saying.

How different is India from other markets of Mcgarrybowen?

That’s a complicated question, because on the one hand, I think we are all the same. We love our families, we love our wives, we love our children. We have the same desire to be loved.

But at the same time, we are extremely different culturally. And to some extent, I am not in favour of the homogenisation of culture. I think one of the wonderful things about going to some place is being in that culture.

When I came to India, I bought Indian things because I think they are so magnificent. I think we have to be glocal. You have to see how you are global in your insights and understanding in terms of human tradition, and how you are local in terms of cultural nuances that make people different. Because in the end, many of our clients are glocal. So, it is about finding the commonality in terms of what people have in common and what makes them different.

How are you looking at an expansion plan for Happy mcgarrybowen in India?

So right now, what we want to make sure is that what we have currently is strong, multi-disciplined and we are serving our clients well. We like to say that no matter the size or complexity of the client, we have the resources to serve them and solve the problem.

We set very high standards for our offices, they need to live up to our standards – who we are, what we believe, and how we take care of the clients and how we put our clients first. I think that has to happen in a very robust way before we plan to expand any further.

Which are some of Mcgarrybowen's global clients that are taken care of by the agency in India as well? And how similarly or differently are they taken care of by the Indian counterpart?

I came to India earlier to spread my dad’s ashes because he was here in India and was very happy here. The second time I came to India was for an Intel shoot, and we went all over India for it. It was a very exciting, big shoot.

Then I came to India again for a shoot with Pharrell Williams, which is sort of funny because he is famous for his song Happy, and we have Happy mcgarrybowen. It was completely a coincidence. But that was for American Express and he wanted to be here for the colours festival (Holi). And we were shooting, but it was not just for India, it was a global spot – celebrating diversity, celebrating creativity because he wanted to see the colour festival. So we came with him for American Express. In this case, American Express is in New York, but we used Happy mcgarrybowen in India to produce the spot, putting together the talent and the director. Because we needed it to be really authentic.

It is one of the things that I like most about cross pollination, is that we have people from India and New York collaborating together. This was just a one-off case. But there are also other things going on for each market for each of our clients, it depends on the particular need for the particular client.

Another example is Intel. They are headquartered in the US. And they want to be global, but they want to fit in a larger campaign India. So we take global platforms and cross-pollinate them within the offices here.

So, Intel and American Express have a cross pollination with Happy mcgarrybowen here in India on a regular basis for various tasks.

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