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“It is shameful I haven’t been to India in the last 25 years,” says Kevin Roberts, the worldwide chief executive officer of Saatchi & Saatchi, who is also the author of the best-selling advertising & marketing manual Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands. In the last eight years since its release, Lovemarks has sold millions of copies and is available in 20 different countries. It has also made Roberts an international star, helping his agency, of which he has been the global CEO for the last 15 years, predicate its work on this philosophy.
“We live in a super VUCA world,” he says. VUCA here stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. “The role of marketing in this VUCA world is to inspire and involve, and not just provide information. Marketing is no more a rational science, but an emotional art, where you reframe everything. You tell stories that have mystery, sensuality and intimacy. You build an emotional connect. What helps you achieve this are not brands, but lovemarks. That is, products that invoke loyalty beyond reason,” he says.
Roberts is now looking to bring this thinking into India - a market that is clearly important for it given the look-east policy of most of its clients, chief being Procter & Gamble, which is counting on the country besides China for its next level of growth.
Apart from P&G, where Saatchi & Saatchi handles brands such as Olay and Pampers, in India, the agency has advertisers such as Skoda, General Mills. Novartis, BPCL and Reliance Industries on its rolls.
“Saatchi & Saatchi India was born on January 1 this year,” says Roberts. “Everything that happened earlier didn't exist,” implying that the Publicis-Groupe agency is now looking to make a fresh start in India.
The ball was set rolling with the appointment of expatriate Matt Seddon as the CEO of the Indian unit in November last year following the resignation of incumbent Kamal Basu.
Seddon has his task cut out: To grow the business with a mix of organic and inorganic measures. “Digital will be central to this. We are looking at building our digital resources,” he says.
A key reason for the focus on digital also has to do with Roberts’ vision of a digitally creative agency that is fast in its execution. “The killer app is execution,” Roberts says. New is already old. We will live in the age of now,” he says.
The thrust on digital will also mean that increasingly the agency will leverage the medium for creative campaigns. “Advertising here (in India) is still traditional,” Roberts says. “But the consumer is not. He is sophisticated,” alluding to the growth of mobile and internet in India. Mobile phone subscribers in the country are over 400 million at the moment. And this figure is slated to grow with more rural consumers coming into the fold.
Against this backdrop, Roberts says that he would like the Indian unit to be prepared.
Plans are currently afoot to beef up the over 100-strong workforce located at the agency’s three offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Seddon says that the thrust will be on hiring people who are in sync with the agency’s philosophy.