It’s not a succession plan, but a success plan: Piyush Pandey
The second week of July turned out to be an Ogilvy India week, with the announcement of Sonal Dabral as the agency’s new Group Chief Creative Officer & Vice Chairman, even as National Creative Director Rajiv Rao exited to pursue his interests in filmmaking. Close on its heels came the announcement of a new, integrated creative leadership structure that will come into effect from August 1, 2017. It includes the elevation of Ajay Gahlaut as Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy North & Deputy CCO, Ogilvy India. Sukesh Nayak, Kainaz Karmakar and Harshad Rajadhyaksha will take on the role of Chief Creative Officers, Ogilvy West, while Mahesh Gharat and Azazul Haque are now Chief Creative Officers, Ogilvy South. All the CCOs will report directly to Sonal Dabral. Meanwhile, Ogilvy veteran Sumanto Chattopadhyay has been made Chairman & Chief Creative Officer of Soho Square.
Since then, Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman and Creative Director, South Asia Ogilvy & Mather India, has not tired of explaining to all and sundry that it is not a succession plan, and he has absolutely no plans to retire. “This is not a succession plan, but a success plan,” he quips with his inimitable humour, “If anyone writes a will, it doesn’t mean that he has a death wish tomorrow morning!”
Here are excerpts from a conversation Srabana Lahiri had with Piyush Pandey:
Q] How does the new creative leadership structure in India align with the global Next Chapter transformation at Ogilvy?
It’s all in line with John Seifert’s plan of One Ogilvy. It combines all the disciplines – the plan is for digital people to sit along with creative people and now there is a leader for that. While we have not set a clear deadline, it will happen in the next 3-4 months. Meanwhile, we are not changing anything that can disturb our whole system or clients’ expectations. Every transition has to be done in a fashion that the new adjusts with the existing and they both grow together.
Q] How do you see the new creative leadership structure delivering better results for clients?
That we will have to see when the time for delivery comes. Let me put it like this - you put the best team together with the best intention, but you cannot predict that you are going to win the match by 180 runs. The match we will win, that I am confident. But, by how many runs will I win it, only time will tell.
the Q] Why did you pick Sonal Dabral for Ogilvy over all the others out there in the industry?
I am 100% confident in the courtroom that I stand, in the entire industry, and when I come back to my original decision, that he is the obvious choice.
Q] What are your expectations from Sonal Dabral?
Sonal’s appointment is about nurturing and flowering more creative talent than ever before. I simply expect that Sonal will let a thousand flowers bloom at Ogilvy. He will give the creative team support, nurturing and a safety net, and at the same time rub shoulders with them and write great campaigns. But, the biggest thing is to hold aloft the standards of Ogilvy at the same height or even greater heights than we are at today. And that means team work.
Recently, I called him up at 6.30 a.m. and I said, ‘Sonal, get used to morning calls from me again!’ I am a morning person, and if I get an idea, I want to share it with my partner, no matter what the time is!
Q] Ogilvy CEO John Seifert’s target is to achieve 50:50 gender parity at the critical leadership level. When do you see that happening in India?
I am not too worried about it because we never had that problem. I am a believer in women leaders. Today, we have Tithi Ghosh in Bangalore. We have Hephzibah leading all the international businesses. We have Kainaz who is making us look brilliant in the world. There are others too. The idea is not 50% reservation. The idea is that tomorrow if there are 80% rockstars who are women, then so be it. There won’t be a number to it.
Q] What could Ogilvy do better than what it is already doing now?
Whatever you have done yesterday, was yesterday. So, everything that you do today, we hope to be better than yesterday. Given that, I think we should have the lead in digital, we must consolidate it even more. We don’t like winning by 10 runs. I would love a wide margin. We have a long way to go in being a leader in PR; we would like to be that. There are gaps here and there. Overall, I am a very happy man, but I would like to believe that I’ll be a
happier man tomorrow.
Q] It’s been an Ogilvy week all along… with Ogilvy veteran Roda Mehta winning the AAAI Lifetime Achievement award…
Considering the kind of revolution she brought to Media, she should have got this award 15 years back. If you believe I made a difference to Creative, then I would like to say that she made a difference to Media long before I came in. I am very happy for her. And I am thankful to AAAI for finally recognizing her for what she truly deserves.