What could have been a better way to establish Dentsu Creative in India than an incredible three Grand Prix wins at Cannes Lions.
Dentsu Webchutney, now merged with the newly launched Dentsu Creative India, made the country proud with the historic win. Its campaign “The Unfiltered History Tour” for Vice Media has also become the only work to win three Grand Prix globally this year as on Thursday.
Amid the cheers for India and a newfound fandom, BestMediaInfo.com caught up with the men in blue, Dentsu Creative India CEO Amit Wadhwa and Group CCO Ajay Gahlaut, to share their feelings with our readers.
Dentsu Creative India's "Unfiltered History Tour" has become the world's only campaign to win three Grand Prix this year. How do you feel? Would you consider this the best year for Dentsu International India at Cannes Lions?
Gahlaut: We are flying in the air as this achievement is rare. We are enjoying every minute of it. With one more day to go for the Cannes Lions Festival to get over, we are getting greedy. Something like this has never happened before. It’s a validation of the quality of the campaign. We have earned a lot of respect due to this campaign and made India proud.
Wadhwa: To see India getting recognition in the global A&M fraternity is a mind-blowing feeling.
Are you expecting to win the ‘Agency of the year’ title, this year?
Gahlaut: That’s a difficult thing to predict. One can never know which agency gets this till the end. We can become the ‘Agency of the Year’ at Cannes Lions this year, but we are not thinking about that as of now. We are just enjoying every trip to the stage and every new piece of metal that we win.
If not the ‘Agency of the Year’ award, how hopeful are you for ‘The Unfiltered History Tour’ to win the ‘Campaign of the Year’ award?
Gahlaut: Our Worldwide Chief Creative Officer Fred Levron told us that it’s possible for the campaign to be in the top three campaigns of the year. But as I told you, one can’t tell until the final tally comes in. The campaign is definitely the contender and just being a contender is a big thing.
Whose brainchild is the ‘Unfiltered History Tour’ campaign?
Gahlaut: It was PG Aditiya's idea that initiated the campaign.
Wadhwa: It was PG Aditiya, who initially saw the Vice Media documentary ‘Empires of Dirt’ and thought to do something about it. Then the team got excited to create the campaign and took it to a different level.
Does that mean there wasn’t a brief shared from Vice to create a campaign?
Wadhwa: Creative agencies proactively keep on coming up with ideas for clients. This was one of the ideas we pitched to them.
What was the business objective of the ‘Unfiltered History Tour’ campaign and what did the client gain from it?
Wadhwa: One doesn't necessarily fulfil business goals in one campaign. Brand building exercises give revenue over the years. Such campaigns give recognition and increase brand life in a stronger way. It's going to help them in earning revenue in the long run. This campaign has helped Vice gain immense brand recall and taken its respect and authenticity among people to a different level.
Gahlaut: Vice Media is very excited about the campaign and the wins. Obviously, the brand has benefited from it and will continue to benefit in the future as well.
Do you miss Sidharth Rao, the founder of Webchutney, PG Aditiya and other leadership team members involved in the making of the campaign on the stage while receiving the awards?
Gahlaut: Of course, we do miss them. They were there to receive awards at the Kyoorius awards.
What are your views on India's performance at Cannes Lions this year?
Gahlaut: India’s performance at Cannes Lions this year has been fabulous.
In the past, whenever Dentsu won at Cannes, it was mostly Taproot or WebChutney. Would the people from these two brands be given preferential treatment or would it create an imbalance between different capabilities and people if they're merged?
Wadhwa: There are fantastic people across the Dentsu Network in India. Previously, WatConsult, Isobar and Dentsu Impact have won several awards. There will be preferential treatment for every one good. Now it's the time for the symphony to happen where everyone is going to play with their own roles.
Previously, when BestMediaInfo.com did a story on whistle-blower complaints at Dentsu, several former Dentsu employees reached out to us to share their tales of suffering due to nepotism and favouritism which they alleged was prevalent at the agency. What do you have to say about it?
Wadhwa: This never happens at our agency. People are appreciated when they perform well. If someone is good professionally, I will appreciate it openly and unabashedly.
Which is the one biggest challenge that you had to overcome in the last 1.5 years?
The restructuring exercise at Dentsu was very painful. One has to go through pain to actually arrive at something different. If we would have not done this, we would have merely just talked and not walked the talk. Integration is the most abused word in this industry. Everyone says that but nobody does anything about it. To actually walk the talk, one has to make some structural changes to the agency. The whole restructuring exercise has been a big challenge. But it's been it's a good challenge to have.
What are the long-term and short-term objectives that you've put in place for the agency?
Gahlaut: Our objective is to try and elevate work and to facilitate genuine integration between all the units. We want to improve the quality of work produced across the board.
Wadhwa: Firstly, good work is the premise of our existence. Secondly, this industry is not run by machines but by people. We need to have the people on board. The third objective is the by-product of both these things which is business. It will automatically start happening if good work and the right people are in place.
How would you change the negative perception that has been built around the agency in the last 1.5 years?
Wadhwa: The truth is that internally we are having a lot of fun. We've all moved on from whatever happened in the past.
Gahlaut: This campaign has helped us get a lot of respect in our industry. Dentsu is a formidable opponent at every pitch. We know exactly what we are doing. So, the perception outside will change with time.
What we understand is that Dentsu Creative has become a one-stop creative shop merging all creative agency brands. So, it is the end of award-winning brands such as Webchutney and Taproot. Do these brands cease to exist for clients as well? How are the clients reacting to the restructuring?
Wadhwa: There is no end to any brand. The brand is people, how they work, what are their ethos and the talent they bring to the table. All this is certainly not changing. What's changing is the brand name. All the units have come together to become a strong team. Dentsu has now become a more powerful brand.
But the people behind these brands have also left!
Wadhwa: Only a few people have left. There are some amazing people within the system who have come up, raised their hands and done an absolutely fantastic job. Secondly, there are people who have come from outside and made this place even more vibrant. I am proud of the amazing people we have at the agency.
Ajay, anyone who has once worked at Ogilvy, finds it difficult to adjust anywhere else. How has your journey been at Dentsu so far?
What you've said is absolutely correct. I enjoy it a lot here. I get to meet so many people. I'm also blown away by the quality of the people. It’s like gems hiding everywhere. The junior-level team has fantastically talented people. I’ve got all the freedom that I need. I am getting to build a team here and having the time of my life. In the end, I would only like to say, ‘Aage aage dekho hota hai kya!’.