“My first task here is to speed up on digital”

Chitra Narayanan Meenakshi Verma Ambwani November 14 | Updated on November 14, 2021

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Veteran adman Sandeep Goyal, Chairman of Mogae Media, on his plans for his new acquisitions - Rediffusion and Everest

This May, Rediffusion and Everest got a new owner and home when Sandeep Goyal, Chairman of Mogae Media, an integrated marketing communication investment company, bought out the agencies. New ownership always brings with it questions — will it mean sweeping changes for India’s biggest independent agency founded 48 years ago by Diwan Arun Nanda and Ajit Balakrishnan, and behind iconic campaigns like the Garden Vareli commercial? Of course, while Rediffusion goes to a new home, the agency and Goyal are no strangers to each other — the veteran adman was president of the agency between 1997 and 2001. Excerpts:

Rediffusion seems to have found a home with a familiar face, considering your history with the agency. Can you take us through how this deal got sewn?

I was in Rediffusion from 1994-2001. So it has come back to me after 20 years. Diwan Arun Nanda continues to be Chairman. In 2018, he bought out stakes of Denstu and Young & Rubicam from the agency.

He asked me to literally come out of retirement as I had gotten out of most operating roles that I had been doing. When he asked me to come back and lead Rediffusion, it was something I found difficult to say no to. We began chatting a few months ago, and in April we closed the deal and on May 1, we took over both the companies 100 per cent.

What synergies will Rediffusion and Everest have with your existing businesses and what changes are you ushering in?

There are four agencies in the fold — Rediffusion, Everest, Rediffusion Healthcare and Rediffusion Direct. We have just launched a new sub banner, Rediffusion Studios, where we are going to do a lot of work in content.

It is not an independent agency but a sub-set of Rediffusion Brand Solutions. So there will really be five entities within the group.

Separately, there is Mogae Media, which now works very closely with Rediffusion agencies. So, all our wealth of experience in mobile and digital comes to the table. We own 51 per cent of the India entity of Zeotap (a German customer intelligence platform).We have significant shareholding in Sync Media (an ad tech platform) and continue to have our investment in FoodFood TV with Sanjeev Kapoor. So, all those synergies, wherever relevant, also kick in.

After you exited Dentsu, you had been very focussed on mobile? How does it feel to come back to traditional advertising?

The return to mainline advertising — I will not call it traditional, because there is no such thing now — means I am discussing 360 degree solutions with clients. The Rediffusion that I have come back to and what the Rediffusion of the future is going to look like is going to be vastly different from the agency that I ran 20 years ago.

Getting the agency up to speed on digital is really my first task and I was lucky I spent all my years post my Dentsu stint, before coming into Rediffusion, in mobile, and created a very significant and visible business through Mogae Media. Luckily, while all other agency guys were in legacy businesses, I had the advantage of doing a lot of stuff in mobile. We have been pioneers in programmatic and performance marketing, and all of these skills I’m trying to cross-pollinate or cross-fertilise in Rediffusion.

We are going aggressively first into digital media and then into the regular media business. We are building a team for that. We are also aggressively re-launching our operations in Delhi and Bengaluru, as these are large and key markets. Good news is that in the six months I have been around, we already have 15 large clients that have come to the agency. Rediffusion continues to have a very strong brand and is extremely well-respected. The fact that I am at the helm of affairs and will run the agency on a day-to-day basis is reassurance for a lot of clients.

Rediffusion has a lot of Tata clients, right?

Rediffusion has worked with the house of Tatas for more than 44 years now. Currently, we have Tata Motors (trucks and buses business), the Tata Trusts business, which is the entire philanthropy area, and we have now begun working with Taj Hotels as well.

For Everest, the biggest business remains Parle. We are parallely rebuilding the Everest business also.

The future direction of Everest is that I am looking to make it an agency which is devoted to new age businesses. We plan to take on a lot of fintech businesses, edutech, e-commerce, payment gateways and any of the new start-ups as clients. That agency will not just be digital first but wholly digital, if need be.

So legacy businesses will largely be with Rediffusion and digital and new-age will largely be with Everest.

You talked of ramping up talent. By how much and where will you find this talent from?

We are looking to double the size in the next 12 months. Right now between Rediffusion and Everest there are about 250 employees and we are looking at having 400-500 employees by this time next year.

Regarding finding talent, you need to change the paradigm. One of the first investments as an agency I’m looking to make in the next placement season is to start recruiting again from better schools and colleges.

My most important learning from the first agency I worked for (HTA) is that if you bring talent with good educational pedigree, invariably their body language and cerebral capabilities are such that they develop a big game mentality.

The most important thing I want to rebuild in Rediffusion back again in the next few months is the pride in the Rediffusion brand name.

You can only be best in class if you consistently invest in the best of talent.

Any thoughts on how advertising of tomorrow will look like?

Advertising of tomorrow will not look as we know it in the past, of copy writers, art directors, etc. I ask myself the question often — will the agency have more coders than copywriters? The problem is that when you get coders, they don’t know anything about advertising.

So these are new challenges for agencies in the days ahead.

The consumption of brand messages, the platforms and mediums in which they would be consumed, the manner in which they are consumed, the coming of 5G and even 6G, all this will mean more and more of AI, machine learning, more augmented reality, more blockchain. The manifestation of brand messages connected to new technologies is where the challenge is going to be.

The point we need to take note of intrinsically is that brands are moving towards conversations, immersive content, collaborations and finally community. These are the new 4Cs of communication.

Published on November 14, 2021

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