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Here’s how Sandeep Goyal’s Rediffusion turned the tables in 18 months

Speaking to, Goyal, MD, Rediffusion, stated that it was due to the sheer hard work of his team that Rediffusion won 20-25 clients in the past 18 months, beating some of the renowned global agencies

Sandeep Goyal

Founded in 1973, Rediffusion is India’s original creative agency which executed some of the most famous campaigns in Indian advertising in its initial two decades of existence, as per Sandeep Goyal, MD, Rediffusion.

“Inevitably all boutiques have to grow up and thus from being a ‘very hot’ creative boutique, Rediffusion also went on to become a much bigger and larger agency later on,” he added.

Goyal also stated that when Colgate Palmolive (which had been a client of Rediffusion since 1984) began working with the global agency Young and Rubicam (Y&R), they recommended Y&R tie up with Rediffusion.

“But since Y&R had a relationship with dentsu running parallelly, both of them came in as investors into Rediffusion in the mid-90s and that is how the new agency became dentsu Young and Rubicam,” he added.

Post the unison of the three bodies, the new agency began to grow up by leaps and bounds.

“When I joined the Delhi office as Head of New Business, I brought with me the account of Airtel and when I was at the helm of it, the agency saw clients like Maruti which previously hardly spent any money on advertising beginning to spend heavily,” he added.

Goyal also went on to point out that at the time, several big accounts like BPL also began gravitating to the agency and that certainly catapulted Rediffusion into the list of top five agencies in India, or even in the top three as a matter of fact.

“Rediffusion as an agency took brands like Airtel from zero to market leadership. But eventually, what happens with that is while you continue to produce good creatives, it doesn't necessarily mean that every single campaign that you come out with will be as hot as it used to be,” he said.

Citing an example, Goyal stated that while Rediffusion didn’t produce campaigns on an everyday basis, it did produce a stellar campaign with AR Rahman as it knew that it had to fight a price war in terms of the media.

“The agency cannot be expected to create breathtaking advertisements when a lot of the work that you are doing for large clients is more functional and, on the ground,” he said.

Similarly, in the case of Maruti, Goyal pointed out that Rediffusion’s work was largely focused on the brand in addition to dealers, second-hand cars, insurance etc. which is why the agency grew from being a boutique agency to becoming a large agency with big clients while it continued to produce good creatives.

“Later on, in the early 2000s when I had moved on, there was a debilitating war between the shareholders- Martin Sorrell, the founder of WPP, and Diwan Arun Nanda, who was a leader of the Indian company, after having a good equation at some point of time. Sorrell who was well known to be quite a ‘predator’ wanted to acquire another agency at prices which were not fair which led to an altercation between the two,” he said.

In the aftermath of these issues at the shareholder level Sorrell left, and he took away with him the accounts of Colgate Palmolive, Citibank, Ford, and eventually muscled out Airtel from Rediffusion as well.

“Any other agency which would’ve lost so many large clients or businesses in normal times would’ve shut down, but Rediffusion always had the resilience, stature, foundation and strength which is why the agency kept going. But what it resulted in was that in the next 12-14 years, the agency lost its sheen and it was no more the agency that it used to be as it suffered on many fronts be it clients, talent or even shut down of offices,” he said.

Last year, when Goyal took over the agency, he was very clear in his head that Rediffusion as a brand name is a very iconic and venerable brand name with very few parallels.

He also pointed out that in his views, the market in modern times had become highly polarised where there are a lot of networking agencies like JWT, Ogilvy, Lintas, FCB, DDB etc. juxtaposed to a host of small boutiques which are Indian owned and are run by creative minds of the ad land, mostly.

“I was very clear in my mind that there was a very big opportunity that was available for a large independent Indian agency as it would perhaps be a far better alternative than large network agencies whose businesses are largely led and driven by global clients like Unilever, PepsiCo, etc.,” he said.

In Goyal’s opinion, while Indian clients do work with global agencies, they’ll be far better served by agencies that are Indian-rooted, owned and run. Rediffusion this year launched its new vertical Next by Rediffusion for its large Indian clients like the Tata group, he added.

“The opportunities to work with big Indian clients are large enough and I don’t have to be a giver agency to survive. At the same time, Indian agencies which have competencies that equal or exceed those of the large networks are actually a far better bet to work with because we are far more nimble and our turnaround time coupled with the swift decision-making and willingness to invest is far quicker than global businesses,” he said.

Goyal also pointed out that Rediffusion’s latest account win for BMW happened at a very competitive agency pitch, wherein they had beaten three very large global agencies- Wunderman Thompson, Weiden+Kennedy and TBWA.

“We not only have the talent and resources but also have depth and experience to beat any of the large multinational companies, despite the fact that they have the advantage of international networks which bring in international brands,” he added.

Goyal also pointed out that he will be more focused on building an agency that is a world beater and it is Rediffusion’s intrinsic strength, creative goodness and strategic power that makes it possible to beat any of the large multinational agencies.

“I'm a single owner but when we have to hire someone or set up an office, I don't have to go to a committee or seek global approvals. If I think it makes business sense, I do it and we move on. Thus the one thing that I’ve brought to Rediffusion is the huge amount of speed which is very critical to businesses today,” he said.

Additionally, Goyal also pointed out that he has put together ‘possibly the finest’ strategic planning team in this country under the brand name of Red Lab which comes out with reports that no international agency can compete with.

Post taking over Rediffusion, Goyal had also decided to let go of a number of people as in his views, when an agency has not been doing well for more than a decade, there is a lot of ‘dead wood’ that tends to accumulate.

“In terms of just the sheer quality of creative people and the kind of work we’re doing, we’re far better than any of our competitor network agencies in the current times,” he argued.

But despite all the creative work that Rediffusion has done, the agency is not open to entering awards since it is not a part of their DNA and thus makes no sense to them.

Goyal also highlighted that with himself being at the helm of the company, he has a team of very competent people like Kalyani Srivastava, Joint President; Pramod Sharma, National Creative Director; Rajendra Gupta, Chief Growth Officer; Asheesh Malhotra, Executive Director, Next by Rediffusion along with Rahul Vengalil, Executive Director, Everest Brand Solutions, as part of their top deck and which in his views is a team that can beat the best in the industry.

In addition to this, Rediffusion has also restarted its media business which is doing extremely well under the leadership of Ruchira Raina, said Goyal.

“What I have really done is to bring a sense of purpose, achievement and pride into Rediffusion which it had somehow lost in the past few years, primarily because the agency was struggling due to the shareholder issues,” he added.

Post the acquisition of Rediffusion by Goyal, he said that the agency has been a very ‘buzzy’ agency as it has been making a lot of news owing to its multiple accounts wins and in addition to the interesting work that the agency has been doing while innovating constantly.

“In the past 18 months, we have won over 20-25 clients and have beaten almost every single agency in the business today which itself is an indicator that we’re not just good, but we’re the best in business, talent and resources as we invest in both people and technology,” Goyal said.

Throwing light onto the success mantra of Rediffusion, Goyal stated that the huge number of clients that the agency had added to its kitty in the past 18 months is a result of sheer hard work that went into making sure that the agency gets back to where it belongs.

“A lot of slogging and blood and sweat has gone into making sure that an agency that was floundering and was down in the dumps and doldrums to the extent where many had written it off is today at the forefront of the business again,” he said.

He also emphasised that when too many agencies don’t even have an understanding of how the metaverse functions, Rediffusion launched the Taj commercial there with the help of their team which looks at future technologies.

“In the years that I was away from mainline advertising, I was doing some kickass work in digital, programmatic and mobile among other things owing to which I brought both trends and my learnings back into the system which various clients have found to be extremely useful,” he said.

Since Rediffusion will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023, what Goyal is building and continues to nourish is an agency which has got a grip on the realities of both India and Bharat and thus the work has also been done in more languages so as to ensure that their clients understand the need to talk to Bharat.

“We have some pitch and learnings that will help clients handle Bharat which is distinctively different from India and that’s where most of this country actually lives,” he said.

He also stated that Rediffusion is now moving out of the traditional world of being just a traditional agency which produces traditional stuff and is looking a lot more in the area of technology, experience, UI, UX, etc.

Goyal said that being an agency which is seriously proud of both its lineage and its future, the objective is to reignite the diminished pride in saying out loud that an individual is from Rediffusion and that it is the gold standard of the business when he/she stands beside anybody from large multinational agencies or even clients.

Apart from bringing back the pride quotient, Rediffusion’s objectives for 2023 also include strengthening its strategic planning and consumer insights vertical- Red Labs, ensuring that the creative product continues to sparkle and that both Next by Rediffusion and Everest are on the right track and acquiring some interesting businesses.

Commenting as to what would be some of the prevalent market trends in 2023, Goyal stated that businesses will have to watch for recession as the coexistence of recession on one side and galloping inflation on the other would pose to be a very big downer for the entire economy.

“There is a distinct and defined movement towards digital, thus we have no choice but to continue to strengthen our digital vertical, but the biggest focus point for Rediffusion will be Bharat,” he added.

Furthermore, Goyal also went on to state that Rediffusion might announce a couple of acquisitions in 2023 because everybody is used to the idea of multinational companies and agencies acquiring new businesses.

“When large Indian businesses can do this, why can’t we do the same in advertising as well and acquire other Indian agencies,” he added.

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