Global headwinds to have an impact on adex this fiscal year: Rohit Ohri of FCB Group India

Ohri, Chairman and CEO, FCB Group India, stated that the FCB Group India's business has seen an upswing in the past year, despite facing various hardships in the second half - wherein global headwinds, including inflation and recession, had significantly impacted the agency's global clients

Shreya Negi
New Update
Global headwinds to have an impact on adex this fiscal year: Rohit Ohri of FCB Group India

Rohit Ohri

Since India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, there’s a lot of interest around how it will grow in the times to come, and FCB Group is keen on watching how things unfold here as it will shape and define its global ambitions, as per Rohit Ohri, Chairman and CEO, FCB Group India.

“One of the big proofs of that is the fact that IPG has also invested in Kinnect, which is the largest independent digital agency. Since we already have a minority shareholding in the same, we are looking to have a stronger and better integration with them because they are undergoing very rapid growth and are doing very well,” he said.

He further went on to add that with the coming together of both FCB and Kinnect, the growth is ‘definitely’ accelerated. In conjunction, Ohri also stated that he is hopeful that FCB Group India will have a bigger impact on the global revenue of the agency business.

Commenting as to how 2022 fared out for FCB Group India, Ohri stated that the agency business has seen an upswing in the past year, despite facing various hardships in the second half - wherein global headwinds, including inflation and recession, had significantly impacted the agency’s global clients.

“While the global multinationals felt a lot of heat and pressure, what balanced the act for us was that a lot of our Indian clients were really doing well,” he said.

During the interaction, Ohri also spoke about how the ‘talent’ which had once gone to Google, Facebook and Amazon will now be coming back and that the ‘reverse-flight’ or the ‘homecoming’ of talent, who have experienced creativity from a very different angle and aspect, will infuse new learnings and technologies to the agencies.

With regards to Google announcing the phaseout of third-party cookies in 2024, he highlighted that the move will be impacting the data access of both brands and agencies and that the ecosystem will have to eventually build and leverage first-party data, which is a big challenge for a lot of brands and clients.

“One of the things that we have done to address this globally is that we have created our own hub called ‘FCB/SIX’ which is really about mining the first-party data for clients and using it in new, interesting and creative ways to stay ahead in the race,” he added.

FCB’s transformation which led to it being crowned with adland accolades

Recalling the time of his onboarding, Ohri shared with that when the then Global CEO of FCB, Carter Murray, flew to India to make the announcement of his appointment and guide the way forward for FCB’s business in the country, one of the press members referred to the agency as fuddy-duddy’ and ‘boring’.

“When I had joined FCB which was always a good ‘solid’ agency, the single-mandate given to me by the Global CEO was to transform the agency’s creative reputation as it was the creative that had actually lost a lot of its shine at the time,” he said.

One of the most crucial tasks at hand for Ohri, since the time of his joining, was to re-energise and give creative a whole new impetus within the agency and that’s precisely what the agency has succeeded in doing in the past couple of years, in his opinion.

“The creative transformation for FCB Group India has been really significant. In fact, the one thing that we believe in is that creative transformation has to be linked to results- business results for the clients and obviously for the agency,” he added.

In that sense, it has been good and a win-win for everybody as the agency has grown along with the growth of its clients and that, in his view, is the best measure of growth.

In fact, the agency has been consistently crowned with some of the most prestigious awards of the adland - including Cannes, Spikes, D&AD, The One Show etc. in the past six years which in itself is a testimony of recognition of the work that has happened at the agency’s end.

Furthermore, Ohri also went on to point out that it was in the December of 2021, that the same individual who once referred to FCB Group India as a ‘fuddy-duddy’ and ‘boring’ agency took back his words and said that the agency had truly undergone a complete 180-degree transformation and emerged as a ‘top-of-the-line’ and ‘cutting edge’ creative agency.

‘Timeliness’ and ‘Timelessness’ as two key focus areas for FCB Group India

As an agency, FCB’s philosophy has always been to build both ‘timeless’ and ‘timely’ brands as that’s the way forward, as per Ohri.

“The thing about timeless brands, in my fundamental belief, is that they are the ones who solve rudimental human needs. It is not just about selling an attribute of the product, but satisfying an elemental need. If one can satisfy that in a way that no one else can, that’s when one really succeeds in building a timeless brand with timeless equity,” he said.

In his viewpoint, it is equally important to succeed in the present as it is over a period of time in this new world and what one really needs to build any brand in today’s day and age is the right balance between the two.

“Because if one focuses more on the here and now, one will become more tactical and reactive to what’s happening in the current market and won’t be able to build a long-term brand with great values and equity amongst other things,” he opined.

Elaborating further as to how can one gain traction while being timely and timeless, Ohri said that what is highly essential herein is understanding the consumers’ knowability of how they live their lives and then identifying where the product really fits in their lives in a truthful and meaningful manner.

“If one is able to do that with honesty and integrity and deliver, one can find a lot of traction,” he added.

Ohri on the state of adex for the current fiscal year

Commenting on his expectations for adex growth for FY23, Ohri said that looking at how things have been unravelling in 2023 so far, the year is likely to have a fair degree of global headwinds which will pose a significant impact on brands not just in India but worldwide.

He further shared the opinion that since FCB Group India is already seeing the US recession impacting a lot of its global clients, the adex growth, in his viewpoint wouldn’t surpass single-digit figures in FY23.

“If one looks at the global scenario, a lot of the big tech players like Google, Twitter, Amazon, etc. have been getting rid of a lot of their employees in a big way. A lot of the tech companies, which are big spenders, had perceived the onset of the pandemic as a transformational black swan event at the time and they had projected that the entire world would change, but what has happened with the growth of the digital economy and brands accelerating their digital transformation, the earlier projections have not been met. As a result, they are under a lot of stress and are recalibrating their high targets, which is why we’re also seeing a pullback and slowdown impacting the adex,” he stated.

Furthermore, Ohri also pointed out that if one looks at an IPL today, one will find that many of the brands that advertise on the property today have been in existence for just around two years.

“You wouldn’t see the classical FMCG players and big brands on the IPL, despite it being the hottest media property at this point in time. It’s all the new brands who advertise therein and that’s where the big spending is happening and if there is a slowdown there, it would impact the adex,” he elaborated.

Has the agency-client relationship really become ‘transactional’ now more than ever?

Unlike various adland members who believe that the agency-client relationship has become very transactional, Ohri believes that most of the big clients look for partnerships even today.

“Seven of our top-ten clients have stayed with us for more than three decades now and it is the partnership that has sustained our mutual relationship for such a long period of time,” he emphasised.

As per Ohri, the two years of Covid can be attributed as one of the big reasons for a little bit of task orientation, both tactical and non-relationship kind of work situations for both clients and agencies - as most of the work in those days was happening remotely.

“But now as we all come back to five days at work, there’s a big shift that needs to be consciously made to go back to being proactive and thinking about what’s new and what’s next that we can do for our clients and that’s the next phase which we will see happening a lot in 2023,” he stated.

What does Ohri think of new and emerging technologies like Metaverse, ChatGPT, etc.

“For a long period of time, people were under the misconception that advertising and ad agencies will die because there is so much of other media that is taking over the consumers’ lives. But the truth of the matter is that this is actually a point in world history where creativity from brands through their advertising agencies is the most needed. There is so much out there that unless one can cut through the thick layer of pollution and shine on the basis of how creatively can one deliver the message,” he said.

In his views, one can be on any ‘so to say verse’, but the right way for any brand to build on is to use that particular medium or leverage the platform for occupying space that is fundamentally core to what the brand does and what its core equity is as that particularly needs to be demonstrated on different platforms through different technologies.

“Technology is not the idea, the idea has to be lifted by technology! That’s why one of the things that we’ve been talking about now is powering creativity through data and technology,” he pointed out.

He also went on to add that because what’s central to all things is creativity, it has to be enhanced through data and technology and not that data and technology will be the reason why consumers will buy products.

Upon being questioned if FCB Group India has begun playing around ChatGPT as of yet, Ohri candidly stated that the agency has not started as of now but is probably on the lookout as the tool looks quite exciting.

IPL creativity ad spends FMCG IPG FCB India technology ChatGPT data Rohit Ohri Metaverse FCB India Group global headwinds