Advertising leaders suggest doing away with organisational hierarchy to be more fluid

The first session of Goafest 2023 saw agency veterans come together to discuss at large the future of creativity and the impact of technology on the product, what is the talent requirement in agencies and what should an ideal ad agency structure look like in the contemporary world

Shreya Negi
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Advertising leaders suggest doing away with organisational hierarchy to be more fluid

Industry veterans came together to discuss the various problems affecting agencies and the cure for them at the first session of Goafest 2023.

The session titled “Future of Creativity” was moderated by Rohit Ohri, Chairman and CEO, FCB India, and it had agency players such as Anusha Shetty, Chairperson and Group CEO, Grey Group India; Josy Paul, Chairman and Group CCO, BBDO; T Gangadhar, Co-founder and CCO, Quotient Ventures; along with Dheeraj Sinha, Chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett and BBH discuss by and large the nitty-gritty of agency set-ups and the impact of technology.

BBDO’s Paul stated that having been through and embraced the four generations of the technology boom in terms of Print, Television, the Internet and social media, it was not the medium that he fell in love with but the people to whom they were talking to.

“When we talk about technology today, we find ourselves being pushed to use technology, but the truth is whenever there is a new influence, from a creative perspective, I embrace it because it allows me to do something deeper. It’s like a filter that makes me look at the world with new eyes,” he said.

He also opined that what really makes the technology unique for an individual in the contemporary world is not Artificial Intelligence but Emotional Intelligence which makes the former look good.

“If AI is the ‘what’, EI is the ‘how’ and that how is going to make individuals or companies or brands stand out because with the democratisation of creative work what changes is one’s unique perspective which often comes from various elements - including AI,” he said.

Grey Group’s Shetty emphasised that scale is not very easy to attain in the advertising agency setup because a lot of big brands already work with more extensive networks. In her viewpoint, since more than 50% of media spends today happens on digital mediums, despite the resistance, the team members themselves have realised that if they don’t adapt and change with times, they’re going to be left behind.

Commenting on how he sees technology changing the ad world, Quotient Ventures’ Gangs stated that while there may be a dystopian narrative around technology eating jobs of people, it is important to understand that it is not the man vs machine but the man with the machine.

“You need technology to run your ones and twos, but you still need intelligence to keep and play it safe. In fact, while human creativity is imperfect and spontaneous, it is very hard for technology to replicate the same based on past patterns,” he stated.

He also went on to add that in order to use and harness data in the service of generating interesting insights, the rigour of arriving at data points which ride on the back of creativity is real and evident on the springboards for creative avenues.

Moreover, Leo Burnett’s Sinha also shared the view that it is probably the best time to be in advertising because earlier it was about playing with words and images. Still, today there is a huge palette available in terms of technology, product innovation, data, etc.

He added that there is no future business without the future of talent and why should it be the case that only the senior people in the agency structures are given credit and paid more as compared to the rest of the talent.

“We don’t need to have people from copy or art, but the ones who have the ability to build solutions,” he stated.

Adding to this, Grey’s Shetty stated that since finding the one professional who is good at both mainline brand thinking and digital is difficult, in her opinion, agency structures should focus on operating in a collaborative manner.

Commenting on the future structures of agencies, she also added that it ideally should be fluid because at this time solutions can only come from collaborating with people, depending on the openness to having one, because as of now the industry has already seen the focus being on horizontal and lead structures.

“I see hierarchies not playing a role and only the people who have the right ideas and thinking process being required to tackle the complex world that we’re working in today’s day and age,” she said.

To this, Sinha also added that in cases where the concept of hierarchy is broken or done away with there is not only increased access to the team members to approach the senior leadership and more importantly, the structure needs to be changed on the inside.

“A tribrid of Jesus Christ (a visionary or a missionary), Da Vinci (an artistic bend) and a prison warden (knowledge of rules of the land) in an individual is ideal, but when we look for people, we often look for an elastic mind and fluidity,” Paul opined.

He also shared the view that in cases where there is an existing organisational structure, people often tend to mimic the past as there is a reference point in this case, however to him, agencies should throw away the designation hierarchy and keep their names after rivers so as to be fluid.

impact of tech Josy Paul designation FCB organisational structure Goafest T Gangadhar BBDO ad agency Goafest 2023 fluidity Quotient Ventures future of creativity Dheeraj Sinha Grey Group Anusha Shetty Rohit Ohri Leo Burnett