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Cautiously optimistic about the second half due to World Cup and upcoming festive season: Rohit Ohri

Ohri, Chairman and CEO of FCB Group India, said that while the Cricket World Cup and festival season will act as a buoyant force to Indian ad spends, the second half of 2022 could also be challenging due to rising inflation, the slowing down of US economy and geopolitical challenges

Rohit Ohri, Chairman and CEO of FCB Group India, believes that the agency’s H1 of 2022 has been satisfactory due to increase in client spendings and the recently held IPL 2022, but the bigger challenge would be the second half of the ongoing financial year due to rising inflation, the slowing down of the US economy and geopolitical challenges.

He said, “The first half has been satisfactory and we are on track. The bigger challenge is in the second half of this financial year. We are seeing the US economy slowing down, inflation is at a high and the geopolitical situation is unstable. Clients are also facing challenges as the input cost of raw materials has gone up. They are being forced to hike their prices. That is a great challenge as eventually, the client will have to cut costs. They will have to decide if advertising is one of the costs they want to cut.”

Even after the socio-economic challenges looming over the world, Ohri is cautiously optimistic about the second half due to the Cricket World Cup and the upcoming festive season. 

He commented, “There will be a sense of normalcy around the festive period this year. Even though, honestly, the situation is not that good. Covid is still there, but people now are ready to live with it.” 

This year, FCB India bagged the highest number of metals (14) from India at Cannes Lions 2022. The agency won three Gold, 6 Silver and 5 Bronze this year. This is not the first time the agency’s performance has been phenomenal, it has been doing great at Cannes since 2018. 

On being questioned about the massive pressure to match the previous year’s performance at Cannes Lions every time, Ohri answered, “When we won our first Lion in 2018 for the TOI campaign, I had asked myself the same question. Is it going to be a fluke or can we sustain it? The fact is that we have sustained it over many years now. In 2019-20 we were the most awarded agency at Cannes Lions. We won the maximum number of metals and points as well. What I am happy about and I keep saying is that ‘Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, thrice is a habit’. We have passed the three-times benchmark.” 

He continued, “The question is about understanding the global standard, what makes an idea the best in the world and recalibrating ourselves to that level. Once you have that, it becomes a relatively easier task.” 

So many campaigns that win at Cannes Lions are amazing creative ideas but don’t really solve the clients’ business problems. Many a time, people put forward the argument that such campaigns help the clients in brand building over time, but isn’t solving the business problem should be the ultimate goal and the agency’s immediate objective?

Ohri said that while it is a valid point, FCB and Kinnect’s ‘Chatpat’ campaign won eight Lions this year and was measured only by solving the client’s business problem. There was no second measure for that campaign. “SOS Children's Villages wanted to increase corporate funding. A lot of corporates are pre-decided on which organisations they will fund. The single-line brief was ‘Let’s activate corporate funding’. With that in mind, we came up with the idea of creating ‘Chatpat’ wherein we said to the companies that we will create content for you and in return, you give us donations. We managed to collect money and meet their target.”

Chatpat campaign:

https://www.youtube.com/shorts/jAZvYUjgj_Q

He added, “There are a few campaigns that don’t really solve business problems and I am not denying the end goal is to earn creative awards. Our philosophy has always been that creativity is an economic multiplier. It must deliver results to clients. Other than this, it is just art.” 

While the campaign won numerous awards at Cannes, the grapevine in the industry pointed out similarities between the ‘Chatpat’ campaign and Ogilvy’s campaign ‘Message barter’ which was done for ‘Akanksha Foundation’ in 2014 and called it not original. The ‘Message barter’ campaign had also won at Cannes that year.

The NGO carried out promotional activities for celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Hrithik Roshan and Chetan Bhagat without their knowledge. The NGO sent the videos to these celebrities along with a plea to tell their fans to teach. Almost all of them responded. The campaign at that time reached over 18 million people and increased the NGO website’s traffic by four times. 

Message Barter campaign:

https://youtu.be/a0bv0Y2Y0zw

Ohri countered by saying, “Chatpat was all about recreating ads. People can draw similarities from anywhere so I am not particularly bothered with it. The Chatpat campaign won at Kyoorious and Cannes. Even the jury members were not born yesterday. So, people can say whatever they want to say, but in the end, Lion is resting on our shelves.”

FCB India acquired a majority stake in the digital agency Kinnect last year and Ohri believes that the partnership couldn’t have been better-timed. He said, “For the next two years, my plan is to integrate the capabilities of the two entities and offer the best solution to clients. Covid acted as the Chief Digital Transformation Officer for many organisations. People who were on the edge have all taken the plunge and now realise the dividend of that. This whole partnership between FCB and Kinnect could not have been better-timed. They are a large successful digital agency on their own. We are leaning in on Kinnect to give flight to our ideas with the data and technology they have.”

He further said that he isn’t in the race for revenue acquisition, but capability acquisition. “Finally, the one who wins in the market is the agency that can demonstrate the capability of handling challenges that clients are looking at today.”

The agency also has a strategic partnership with XP&D, which is helping FCB India in offering experiential solutions and brand experiences to the clients. “We are looking at experiences in the digital world with Metaverse. We are looking at what we can demonstrate in the real world. A lot of consumers have moved to online shopping, so how do you bring the same touch and feel there. All this is something we are working on extensively with them.” 

Some people are quite optimistic about how the whole Metaverse ecosystem is shaping up, while a few others are sceptical about its relevance and call it over-hyped. 

Sharing his views on how Metaverse will shape the advertising and marketing landscape, Ohri said, “We have been pole-vaulting on the digital front. The digital progress in India has not been steady like in the West. A lot of technology used in the US is outdated and it makes me think we can do so many things better, faster and easier in India. We have had the last mover advantage to bring in the cutting-edge technology. The US did all its progress 40 years ago and now they have to rework.”

He further said, “I wouldn’t say Metaverse is over-hyped. When it comes to new trends, we can’t say they will take longer to come to the surface because so many times we have proven to the world that if the need arises, we jump on it. If Metaverse brings enough value to the consumers then of course it is the next big thing. Otherwise, it is just a fad. The problem is that people are still trying to understand how brands can use it. It is still early days, but we shouldn’t assume time frames.” 

The only thing that gives Ohri sleepless nights is the fight for retaining good talent. “To produce the best work, one needs the best talent. We want FCB India to be the best agency for our employees. The only thing we can do is to create a culture and an environment that people want to work in. Money is something you can never give enough of; it is an unending race.”

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