Rohit Ohri, CEO, FCB India: The Brand Story that will never be finished.

Selected as India’s Most Trusted CEO in Advertising, Rohit Ohri, Chairman and CEO, FCB India impacts businesses by converting consumers into brand loyalists

FCB INDIA

Rohit Ohri, CEO, FCB India: The Brand Story that will never be finished

Selected as India’s Most Trusted CEO in Advertising, Rohit Ohri, Chairman and CEO, FCB India impacts businesses by converting consumers into brand loyalists

Website: www.fcbulka.com www.fcbinterface.com

Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman _ CEO, FCB India

The Differentiators that set your business apart.

We are in the business of storytelling and every brand has a story to tell.

At FCB India, it is believed the best part of a brand’s story is “Never Finished”. The part that always asks what we can do better. And always wonders what’s next. What’s out there. What’s waiting to be discovered. And it’s not just the story of a brand or an idea. It’s the story of all of us. Always moving forward. Always a work in progress and that’s our agency’s philosophy.

What is the big idea of the business that is impacting human lives?

An important factor that influences the brand journey at all touchpoints is consumer behaviour and we are committed to changing consumer behaviour for the success of our clients. The only way to do this is by understanding what makes them tick.

For a brand to truly tell a Never Finished Story, it needs exceptionally strong roots. At FCB these roots are called ‘The Brand Bedrock’.

Being in the business of communication, understanding brands is essential and the Brand Bedrock defines the premise and purpose basis which the storytelling comes alive.

The Bedrock is far more than a proprietary agency tool, it defines the strategy for any and every brand. We like to think of it as a guiding North Star that resolves tensions between the past and the present and provides room for the brand to stay relevant for years to come. It sparks behaviour change towards a brand purpose and informs and influences every element of a brand’s ecosystem from packaging and promotion to service and storytelling which is based on insights from consumer journey across touchpoints.

For a better understanding and functioning of the ‘Bedrock,’ FCB India conducted a two-day off-site workshop for all planners across the country, to come together for an induction to the new tools. Over the duration of the workshop, the employees imbibed various aspects of the Brand Bedrock, the Never Finished Creative Brief and worked on live cases to take their brands to the next level. Beyond the tools, the workshop allowed planners across digital, strategy and consulting from multiple offices to come together, collaborate and strengthen the bonds within the FCB India team, inspiring each other to greater heights of creativity.

FCB INDIA

It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?

No matter the situation or environment, a leader is ought to lead.

With just two moves in his twenty-eight-year career, and both astounding success stories, Rohit Ohri is better described as Advertising’s ‘Turnaround Man’. He started his career at JWT in Kolkata and would have well been a lifer at the agency had fate not intervened. After heading the Delhi operation of JWT, the country’s single largest ad agency office and making it one of the most profitable in the JWT global network, Rohit moved to Dentsu.

At Dentsu, in three short years he put a flagging operation back on track to become one of the fastest growing networks in the country. He was the architect of Dentsu’s landmark acquisition of Taproot, that is to date a talking point in the industry.

Circa 2016, and fate brought Rohit to FCB and a challenge of a different sort. An agency with a 55-year-old heritage, a solid brand building track record and some steadfast, decades-long client relationships was ready for change. Rohit was tasked with the paradox of making the change without really making a change. It was a fine balancing act – nurturing legacy client relationships while bringing in the growth impetus; changing the creative profile of the Agency without compromising the ‘strategic’ image; infusing freshness into the culture without disturbing the things that were right. 

Taking the corner office of an agency that had not seen a leadership change for 25 years was more than daunting, true to the adage ‘a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.’  

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What has been your core strategies of retaining customers?

In a market rife with creative competitors- many of them exceptionally strong, we decided that our take on creativity needed to be driven by purpose. We needed our work to not just change the fortunes of our clients, but also change the world for the better. And while the idea of purpose itself may not be new, our approach to it most definitely was- real world action, as opposed to reel world advertising. Our sore strategy is to build brands with a purpose.

3 Business Strategies of yours that were winners?

Culture First

Rohit believes that two Ps defined the culture of any organization: People & Philosophy. He single-mindedly focused on building these two pillars at FCB. He brought in fresh talent wherever the gaps existed. He embraced the old timers, recognized them for their strengths and empowered them to flourish. The result was a diverse yet unified team that was raring to go.

Rohit then enrolled this very team in the process of articulating the Agency’s philosophy. Collectively they built on FCB’s global philosophy of ‘Never Finished’ and gave it a whole new meaning:

To build brands with a purpose. Never Finished is a way to create a culture where creative ideas challenge each other and the best creative ideas flourish. Ideas that build brands with a purpose. Ideas that make a difference. To consumers, to society and to the world at large.

With a fully charged up team and a sharply defined vision and mission, the process of organizational transformation started.

In the trenches

Rohit spent a large part of his early months in the Agency connecting with its 700 plus employees. He took a road show from office to office, sharing his vision and creative agenda. The idea was to get every single employee to believe in the Agency’s purpose and rally around it.

180 one-degree changes…

…over one 180-degree change was Rohit’s strategy. He believed that a series of small changes would have a far greater impact than a few drastic ones. From reorganizing the Agency’s branding to refining systems and processes to revamping talent practices, Rohit meticulously managed the process of gradual cultural transformation.

The outcomes:

  1. Business on a roll

Barely a year after Rohit took over, FCB India had a win that was historic not just for the Agency but for the industry. Horlicks, a brand that had an 80-year-old partnership with its agency moved to FCB India.  It was a momentous victory that changed the Agency’s image not just in India but in the FCB global network. When most agencies in India land accounts without any effort because of global alignments here was the possibility of a global alignment born out of India. And the momentum continued. Today, FCB India boasts 75 new clients (time period 2016- 2019, since Rohit came on board in 2016) with 80% annual growth in comparison with 2015.

  1. Creativity unleashed

True to its purpose, the Agency created work that deeply impacted India’s socio-cultural fabric. And while doing so also changed the fortunes of a brand in a tough market. The biggest demonstration of building brands with purpose was Times of India. The TOI campaign Sindoor Khela: No Conditions Apply emerged as the most awarded campaign of 2018 and is the most talked about work in recent times. It won at every Advertising festival – Indian and international. The Agency won more awards than ever before in its 57-year history with 83 awards and The Times of India became the No 1 newspaper in Kolkata beating The Telegraph for the first time in ten years with a growth of 12.4%.

In 2019, FCB India was the only agency that won Gold at the distinguished Cannes 2019. FCB India won a Gold and a Bronze Lion at Cannes for the inspiring work- ‘The Open Door Project’ for The Millennium School.

  1. Image overhaul

Year on year FCB India’s ranking in the Brand Equity Agency Reckoner has gone up from No. 13 in 2014 to No. 6 in 2018 and to No. 5 in 2019! From unranked to rank No. 5 in the Hottest Creative Agency list in India as per Campaign Brief Asia’s Creative Rankings. And one of the most notable moves up in the creative table in Asia-Pacific.   

  1. The final verdict

The ultimate high for Rohit is the recognition that comes from employees. What his people say is what matters the most. FCB India’s scores in FCB’s Global Employee Engagement Survey have been steadily increasing over the years since Rohit took charge. From 64% in 2016 to 70% in 2017 to 78% in 2018.

 Your strategies to ensure that you stay in touch with employees and customers in line with the company’s goals?

Rohit spent a large part of his early months in the Agency connecting with its 700 plus employees. He took a road show from office to office, sharing his vision and creative agenda. The idea was to get every single employee to believe in the Agency’s purpose and rally around it. 

He introduced a flat hierarchy system wherein anyone could reach out to him, without hierarchy pulling them down and the initiative was called “Burn the Collar”. It was an expression of change, of letting go of the baggage that comes with being an agency that is over half a century old. It marked a change in leadership and a change in mindset.

Brand Fest an annual FCB India event, was introduced to celebrate the work that brands across FCB India have done in the year. The teams present their brand’s success story in a manner that is fun, funky and funkier. They talk about how the brand idea came about, what made it solid enough to stand out from the clutter, or liquid enough to go across multiple media. Since it is a competitive event it encourages our people to aim higher and higher.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard? How do you create trust with the employees and the overall management?

The most important lesson in the advertising business was from my first boss in advertising and it still is as relevant as it was then- ‘when you pay attention to detail, the big picture takes care of itself.’ Ram Ray, Founder Chairman of Response India, was my first boss in advertising.

Today, trust is not about Brand Age but Brand Authenticity. It’s not just about Desirability, but Discovery. It’s not just about Reach, but Reviews. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not just about Product but People.

Rohit’s endeavor is not just to leave his mark on the agencies he leads but the whole Advertising industry. Rohit is actively involved in the Ad Club and AAAI and is driving initiatives to help the industry navigate the many headwinds it is facing. 

The awards that Rohit has won are a testimony to the TRUST he has built within the organisation as well as outside the organisation.

  • No. 7 on ET Brand Equity Agency Reckoner’s ‘India Top 50 Most Influential People In Advertising’ list
  • Won CEO of the Year at the ET Now Stars of the Industry Awards 2019
  • Voted to the list of the Top 10 Most Influential People in Advertising by the Brand Equity Agency Reckoner- 2016 & 2017
  • Creativepool UK recognized him as one of the top 100 influencers in advertising and marketing across the globe in 2016
  • WCRC conferred on him the title of Most Trusted CEO 
  • The Indian Express included him in their list of the Top-10 Advertising Gurus in India in an edition entitled ‘The Most Powerful Indians’

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What has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?

Having an entrepreneurial mindset is imperative for survival in today’s corporate world. It’s about the way one approaches challenges and risk taking. It’s about thinking of failure as a learning experience. It’s about welcoming change and loving challenges. It’s about taking action and being fearless. It’s about curiosity and always looking to be surprised.

What strategies do you use in terms of planning your personal career progression?

Learning every day. That’s my mantra for personal career progression. Collaboration with people with diverse skills, attending professionally unrelated talk sessions, reading and interacting with the youth of the office are some of the ways I enrich myself professionally.

Your Favourite Book, Automobile, Cuisine and Quote of all time? How do you maintain work-personal life balance?

Favourite Book: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Favourite Automobile: Tesla Model S

Favourite Cuisine: Japanese

Favourite Quote: ‘Integrity is the most valuable and respected quality of leadership. Always keep your word.’

If one keeps one’s passions alive, work-life balance happens automatically. Theatre & golf are passions. I always find time to play golf every week and act in a couple of productions every year. My mantra for success in the creative business is – ‘Lead an interesting life’.

What do you think?

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