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Disrupting the downturn

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Well-known for his strategy of disruption, ad man Jean-Marie Dru tells BrandLine how he and his clients are facing the recession together..

Jean-Marie Dru, Chairman, TBWA Worldwide
Jean-Marie Dru, Chairman, TBWA Worldwide

We have to be efficient, and it is a good time for integration. We have been telling our clients this for 20 years. Now more and more clients are able to understand.

Varada Bhat

The model of disruption has changed the face of many brands. It has made legends of brands such as Apple. The man behind the model, Jean-Marie Dru, Chairman of TBWA Worldwide, spoke to BrandLine at the GoaFest in an exclusive interview on ‘disrupting the downturn’.

What exactly is disruptive strategy? Can you cite any companies which have used this?

Disruption is a tactic about creating changes. In the last five years, 2,000 companies have been using this network. We do two things in disruption: We try to challenge old conventions in the market and then we define a long-term vision for the company. We do these things together. We have done that for clients such as Apple and Pedigree. For example, Pedigree had the same campaign all over the world for the last 30 years. It was a campaign which said that the brand was recommended by dog breeders. It was very successful but after 25-30 years it could not be depicted.

We came up with a very simple vision, because Pedigree is number one and our vision was that no other company understands the love people have for a dog like Pedigree does. Nobody understands it better. Everything we do is an idea for the love of dogs. We changed everything. It’s like if you’re a salesman, we have a dog photo on your business card. We changed the whole soul of the brand.

What solutions are you providing to your clients in grim periods such as this?

Lots of people are saying that in times of recession you spend more as it helps you gain market share but we can’t say that to clients who are short of cash as some of them really are. So you have to work slightly differently. So we try to work on short term to a plan that doesn’t prevent you from being out of the picture. More importantly, we have to be efficient, and it is a good time for integration.

We have been telling our clients this for 20 years. Some of them are convinced and some of them are less convinced. They feel we shouldn’t put all their eggs in the same basket. In fact, it is very effective. And now more and more clients are able to understand to put everything under one roof. Our answer during these times is ‘more integration’.

Has the TBWA strategy in India changed after Omnicom gained 100 per cent ownership in the agency last year?

There is no difference between India and rest of the world. We have been in India for a long time and it’s a fact that we have not been extremely successful till now. So we made a few changes. Now we have a new management and a great creative department. Our Sony MAX-IPL campaign has been a big success. TBWA Worldwide is in great shape. In India we have added new clients such as Visa and adidas, we have a great team now with great client lists. The turning point happened six months ago when we started building a new management and made significant changes to the quality we deliver.

How is the Indian market different from Europe?

India has not felt the downturn the way European market has seen. You come to Western countries, you get a feeling of depression, but here people are very optimistic and dynamic. We are looking at India as one of the key countries, because there is so much happening here. That’s the big difference. Otherwise in terms of business it’s the same as the rest of the world. You have to come up with big ideas, you have to have talent but you should never forget your job to help increase short-term sales and at the same time build long-term brands. At the end of the day, brands are so important.

How has TBWA been affected by the economic downturn?

We have been affected like everybody else. It’s tough. We have our answers like integration and new business. The only good news for us is 2008 was our best so far. When you have a good year, the next year we suffer a little less than our competitors.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 16, 2009)
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