India Has Got To Be Grey’s Next ‘Famously Effective’ Agency Grey’s CEO Jim Heekin’s Exclusive Interview
Brand Equity caught up with Grey's CEO Jim Heekin on the sidelines of a regional meeting to see how he's transformed a stolid old school agency into a profitable, creatively driven global operation. And his plans for Grey's Indian outpost which spent most of the last couple of years playing to an entirely different script:
By Ravi Balakrishnan | March 10, 2015
How did your clients react to the sluggish growth phase that India as a country went through? What's your prognosis?
India has been frustrating. Everyone sees the size and there's excitement around the opportunity. But by the same token, we've not seen the changes and reforms to make the business environment easier. But have clients pulled away?
No. Which leads us to the present time: there's a tremendous inflection point and a sense of transition and excitement about the leadership. Overall one can foresee a really solid GDP over the next decade. From an ad standpoint, there aren't too many markets where you get 10 per cent growth. India has got to be Grey's next 'famously effective' agency.
Hiring Sunil Lulla (as CEO) was a very big step and signals our ambition. We have great digital capability and have made quite a few acquisitions. We closed a big one in rural marketing with RCM and have two more that we hope to close by June: in CRM and digital. India is poised. Our key clients are here. It's a question of having the right leadership and continuing to invest in creative talent.
Prior to the arrival of new leadership, Grey India went through a rough patch, losing out on pitches.What sort of a revival strategy do you have in place?
The vision has been set for nine years. It starts with strong leadership with a modern view of the business and a focus on creativity. The ambition is to be one of the most creative agencies in the market.
We need to ask each other, every day, are we in the Top 3 or 4 and if not what are we doing about it? The third ingredient is to focus on multi-channel marketing. It's not about making commercials but about communication on the web, shopper marketing, events and all points of contact.Sunil has been like a wild man in terms of new business.
We've had more success in the past 6 months than in the previous. A lot of government business has come in and we've done pretty famous work like 'Save The Girl Child'. The work we did for Gillette around the cricket World Cup has 2.5 million hits. I think the turnaround has begun.
Where would you ideally want the agency to be?
We ought to be able to double in size in four years through just organic growth. Acquisitions are on top of that. From a more conceptual standpoint, creativity in India is at a critical juncture. I'd like Grey to be part of the leadership of the next direction in creativity. That sounds very ambitious.
Like maybe I am smoking some funny stuff.(Laughs). But it's no different from me saying nine years ago that we are going to be the most creative network agency in the world. I'd like people to say four years from now, 'Grey may not be the biggest but are the most forward thinking; the leadership brand in terms of where the business is going.'