What digital was ten years ago, e-commerce will be in the next five: Anisha Iyer, CEO, OMD India

Anisha Iyer OMD

Social Samosa caught up with Anisha Iyer in the backdrop of OMD celebrating its 15th anniversary in Indian market and our conversation with her reflects how dramatically the industry has evolved in the last decade and a half.

Anisha Iyer, CEO, OMD India shares insights on the business operations of the media agency, overcoming the pandemic and the lessons learned, and much more in a free-wheeling chat with Social Samosa. We caught up with Iyer in the backdrop of OMD celebrating its 15th anniversary in the Indian market and our conversation with her reflects not only the journey of the organization but also how the Indian A&M industry has evolved since the agency first entered the country.

2021 was a year of challenges with brands and agencies bouncing back and creating opportunities for the A&M industry. How was the year for OMD?

There is a certain level of investment advertisers put in, for us to plan and strategize to help them get closer to the consumers and have a dialogue, none of those things has changed. Advertiser v/s Agency expectations at the core remain the same.

It’s not the advertisers who have changed, their expectations are actually the same, the consumers have changed and everyone else is just trying to keep up.

How did you keep your employees motivated during challenging times?

Me, and my style of working put enough emphasis on delivering results, but I also emphasize on having fun.

Advertising is a fun industry, if you start looking at it as a job, then we will become a bank.

The art of smiling and putting your hand on someone’s shoulder and saying “I’m here for you”, and breaking into a flash mob on a random song at 3 in the afternoon is the only way to keep the motivation high.

Vibe, camaraderie, friendship, masti, team culture, that’s what the culture at OMD is defined as and it is what I’m exploring. Employees need to have a judgment-free space. That’s how teams with high levels of energy, passion, and fun are built.

Why should masti start when you leave office, it should start when you’re in it.

Also Read: Interview: Influencers are reach-multipliers for us, not brand endorsers – Santosh Iyer, Mercedes-Benz

A lot has been said about work-life balance and toxic work environments in the last few years. How, in your opinion, can agency professionals maintain a work-life balance?

Working from 9-6, and going back home after office on time is no work-life balance, it is balancing between pressure and relaxing situations.

Flexibility to (for example) catch up with your friends for lunch in the afternoon, take a 45- minute chai break, watch a funny video on YouTube for 10 minutes, or have corridor conversations with teams or partners, when you’re not physically developing a plan, represents work-life balance, in my opinion.

Indian work culture does not allow you to have a clinical work-life balance as the Western countries do, we have to make do with little joy. You define your own work-life balance. I have no issues with people balancing it out and still delivering.

Everything comes back to what you’re responsible and accountable for, let people be and not be fussy about hours or place of work.

Attracting and retaining good talent and clients depends on the state of mind, rather than other things that you do, everything is okay when the baseline is taken care of.

How have the last few months been for OMD – in terms of business & internal team functioning?

Business is good, growth and ambition are fairly good, hunger levels are at an all-time high. With the pandemic easing off, it has brought confidence in people to physically meet. We’ve acquired new clients and mandate expansions, and have a mix of global and local clients along with a blend of categories ranging from start-ups to established brands. A few of them include Daimler, Philips, Apple, Renault, and more.

OMD won big at Cannes Lions 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?

OMD winning at a global level is a humbling and inspiring experience and a reason to be energized. Would we enter awards again? We absolutely will. Awards help keep agencies keep score, and are an external source of validation for clients and us, and awards are important, whether it is in an Indian or international set-up.

The essence of awards with the changing times is that people and juries are getting more real, we have condensed points of view, awards and people have evolved, whatever existed a decade ago, may not exist now.

What are your expectations from Cannes Festival slated for this year?

I just want to be inspired, that’s the only expectation. You want to look at something and feel inspired.

Please share a few media trends you foresee in the industry.

The biggest spenders are going to be clients who have walked away from fear.

Trends are now are more India-oriented, such as vernacular and localization. Virtual Reality, metaverse, Cryptocurrency, and NFTs are a few other trends, and commuter-oriented media will revive.

Omni-channel shopping and e-commerce have become a serious line of business. E-commerce as an industry will grow, and what digital was ten years ago, e-commerce will become that in the next five.

Please share some tenets to ensure a healthy client-agency relationship

Stop calling them clients, they’re your friends, it’s not a transactional relationship, it’s a partnership. You have to co-own KPIs like sales growth, you have to be as happy as them when it comes to market share expansion, you have to know their families and friends, share meals, and cut cakes with each other.

The typical vibe of this relationship has been transactional, but it does not give you sustenance. Clients and agencies have to pretty much be one, “How can we do this together? How can we fix this?” When the first perspective changes from client to a friend, 50 other things will change on their own.

I always sign off a presentation by saying we’re an extremely capable organization, but I’m not here for your business, I’m here to be your friend.

Article by Aishwarrya Chakraverty and Paawan Sunam.


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