Authenticity is one of the biggest things that a brand can own: Rohit Ohri, FCB India

Rohit Ohri FCB India

In an exclusive conversation with Social Samosa, Rohit Ohri from FCB India speaks at length about the changing landscapes of the A & M Industry, evolving marketing strategies, the How-tos of award-winning works, and much more.

As FCB India makes a hattrick with the Grand Prix win at Spikes Asia 2021, we speak with Rohit Ohri, CEO and Chairman, FCB India, to understand the secret sauce behind the award-winning work in the A & M Industry, nuances of advertising with the changing landscape in India.

With over 3 decades of experience in his advertising journey, Ohri sheds light on some of the pertinent points to keep in mind while crafting communications for the brands, keeping consumers at the epicenter.

Edited Excerpts:

2020 was a year of challenges with brands and agencies bouncing back and creating opportunities for the A & M industry. How was the year for FCB India in terms of spends, creativity, and innovation?

2020 was a challenging year for everyone. But coming together as a team to create newer relevance for our clients worked for us. We also invested hugely in digital capabilities within the agency in the last 5 years, which brought us richer dividends in business. Those were the major things that helped us quickly pivot and offer solutions in this challenging environment.

I believe it is all about being there when the challenges are insurmountable, to make things happen.

On the creative front, 2020 has been another great year for us where we won prestigious awards for our work and helped to drive meaningful conversations for our clients across the sectors.

How did you keep your employees stay motivated during challenging times? The top 2-3 things to keep in mind to handle a crisis.

In this pandemic, being able to work from home for more than a year is a testimony to the fact that how well have we adapted to the evolving situations with talented people in the organization. 

A sense of transparency and openness from the management helped the team. 

Fear is one of the biggest impediments to creativity. What we also reassured our employees was that we were a rock-solid agency and they won’t have to worry about not getting salaries on time or the monthly remunerations so that they could focus only on their work and health & well-being. 

As an agency, we were supporting them to frequent town-halls, and have access to medical and mental health facilities. Further, enabling them on how best they can work from home setup were some steps taken by the leadership team of the agency. 

From the marketing perspective, there is a lot of uncertainty in the industry during such times when brands are faced with some choices. One is if the sales are down should we cut down on advertising? Here, the brands can do it or wait for the light at the end of the tunnel. 

But according to me, what brands should do at this time is rather light up the tunnel, walk with the consumers every step of the way. The consumers will remember it even afterward.

For example, Dominoes pivoted towards delivering essentials with their delivery networks during the pandemic.

These are some of the ways when brands stay relevant and stay connected with the consumers during a crisis period.`

FCB India recently hit a hattrick while winning Grand Prix at Spikes Asia 2021. What are your thoughts on the acknowledgment of work in the A & M Industry through such prestigious awards? How is the essence of awards changing with evolving times?

At a time of crisis, creativity is at its premium and one of the most valuable assets, that has ever existed. People were trying to find creative solutions to their problems. Similarly, brands and agencies had to up the ante to find creative solutions.

For us, to be recognized and valued for our creativity, especially in a pandemic year was very important. It was also a testimony to the fact of us building on our creative work and reputation and pushing it further.

One of the things that have changed is awards for awards’ sake. We believe in doing the work that makes an impact in the world. We started in the direction with our campaign for Times with Sindoor Khaela, and the rest of the work also followed.

Thus, our creativity is quintessential to being like an economic multiplier. It helps clients build businesses and achieve their marketing goals and at the same time, has an impact in society and their thought process.

Why should the work be honored through such events in the industry and why do you think that awards are relevant even in recent times?  

We have observed throughout jury members of the awards’ events where the panel shares that they do not want to reward the works that are done only to win awards. So, people are evaluating and looking at the impact of these communication strategies on business, society, brand fortunes, category fortunes, and how is that going to change.

Three years back, when we presented our work at the Cannes to the Live jury, they wanted to know the impact of the work, and how do you see it growing in the future while impacting lives and is something that brands can build on for over the years.

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Please share the secret sauce behind creating award-winning campaigns. 3 tips for the marketers to stand out while going beyond, in sometimes the cluttered market.

It is all about truth and honesty while reflecting on the situation, brand, community, and society, at large. 

Authenticity is one of the biggest things that a brand can own. To me, being authentic and finding the insightful connections that create the best communication pieces, hold great importance for quality work.

A lot of people say I want a viral video. I believe you want a video that should go viral. You can not have it beforehand. Even for Bollywood movies, you do not know which one will be a hit. It becomes superhit when people like it. Hence, the whole thing is what influences the virality of a video and in today’s context, it all depends on the insight that you have, which helps to create differentiated content that people want to share with others.

Truth, authenticity, deep insight, and a way of communication that is refreshing can make for a brand virality.

With unprecedented scenarios still looming at large, what are your expectations from Cannes Festival slated for this year?

I would expect quality if not better. There will be a large amount of focus on the virtual platforms. This will help to widen the scope of the festival and make it something that the community can be a part of. 

You can get the best of the speakers in an online setup. I believe a larger number of people can participate in the festival and Cannes can leverage it as an opportunity for the marketing fraternity.

How will this year fare in terms of the AdSpends? Please share a few trends you foresee.

Before the second wave came in, we observed the recovery of ad spends. The IPL 2021 will be a huge test to that. All indications point that we are on the right track, especially for the IPL spends. What the pandemic has taught us, is that don’t take anything for granted because you never know what will happen next. 

Right now, there is an uptick but the second wave will have a negative impact. There will caution that will be back and cutbacks on spends. We are hoping to return to normalcy once the vaccinations are done by the end of the year.

  • The brands migrating most of their spending and experiences from offline to online is one of the biggest trends at this time.
  • The acceleration of digital capabilities, and transformations in your organization, is another aspect.
  • There will be a new work environment, depending on how organizations cope with the new realities.

The digital revolution accelerated by leaps and bounds owing to the pandemic since the last year. Do you think digital ad spends will surpass television ad spends, this year?

While digital is growing, for us, it is the content. The divide between traditional and digital platforms is evaporating.

In western countries, TV is still working and delivering. The big focus will be on Live events that will fuel online viewing and even Television viewership.

In India, with a diverse audience, it is a bit difficult to say if digital will replace Television ad spends. On one hand, in some parts of the country, digital might be widely accepted and in other parts, it might be lagging behind and growing, slowly. For example, Rural and Urban regions in India

It will be an evolutionary process. Television will play a very integral part in the marketing mix even though digital will grow. A lot of the ad spends will continue to be on outdoor, print, and on-ground activities, as well.

Please share few tips for brands & agencies to help them ace 2021.

I believe not just looking at brand out but the consumer in, that is important for moving forward. 

You can sell whatever you want to sell but consumers have to feel that there is a need to buy. So, understanding the consumers, their mindsets, places they live, is critical. This has become all the more important during a pandemic.

The other thing is not to approach any communication from online, offline, traditional, digital as the channels. These devises exist in our heads. They don’t exist in the lives of consumers as they are seamlessly surfing various devices from online to offline. They’re just interacting with brands. 

We need to approach from an ecosystem perspective vs a channel perspective while understanding the consumer’s journey in the ecosystem.

Could you share some tenets for agencies to follow to ensure a healthy client-agency relationship, especially owing to the year that went by? 

The whole sense of partnership is critical for a client-agency relationship.

For FCB, we are celebrating our 60 years in 2021, and we can proudly say that so many of the clients have been with us for 3-6 decades.

The most important thing that defines this partnership spirit is making the client’s challenges your own. We are like one team and one family. 

We share the same pains, passion, and objectives. That’s the very foundation of the client-agency relationship with mutual trust and faith. This reflects in the brand-consumer connect and conversations.

Way forward for the organization with the top focus areas for the agency in the months ahead

  • Maintaining a razor-sharp focus on creativity and partnering with our clients during the toughest of times, would be one of the major focus areas. 
  • Keeping our focus on changing consumer behavior would be another focus area. 

As a way forward, we have created a new tool called People & Patterns which helps to give an insightful understanding of the consumers, of what they are thinking, and where they are in their purchase journey for an impactful communication for the TG. We would aim to find creative excellence, perhaps, at every touchpoint for our clients.


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