Hun­dred, and Count­ing

What is a for­mer CEO do­ing with a full-ser­vice agency?

The Brand Reporter - - EDITORIAL | CONTENTS - By Su­nit Roy su­nit.roy@afaqs.com

One look at He­mant Misra’s LinkedIn pro­file and the line that will grab your at­ten­tion would be - “I have now stepped away from all man­age­ment re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to fo­cus on in­gre­di­ents for a com­pelling story.”

Walk into the fifth-floor of­fice of Mag­icCir­cle Com­mu­ni­ca­tions on Sohna Road, Gur­gaon and you’ll see that com­pelling story un­fold. In­au­gu­rated about three months ago, what strikes vis­i­tors, is the seren­ity of the space, although in­hab­ited by quite a few young men and women work­ing nose-to-the­grind on cre­atives.

The for­mer CEO of Publi­cis Cap­i­tal - with Nat­war Singh (for­mer se­nior cre­ative di­rec­tor at Publi­cis) and Dheeraj Ren­ganath (for­mer unit cre­ative di­rec­tor, Lowe) - launched this full-ser­vice ad agency.

In the 100 days since its launch, Mag­icCir­cle has won the cre­ative man­dates for MakeMyTrip, Goibibo, In­tex Mo­bile and In­tex’s en­tire port­fo­lio of con­sumer durables. Very re­cently, the agency added Apis Honey to its kitty.

So, what is a for­mer CEO do­ing launch­ing a full-ser­vice agency?

THE BACK STORY

“There are many rea­sons...” is the prompt re­sponse. Misra points to client be­hav­iour - as clients’ vi­sion dropped from five-year time­lines to three years and fur­ther down to three months, due of the pres­sure on profit and loss ac­counts. It be­came a ques­tion of survival first and thriv­ing later. That hit the qual­ity of out­put.

Tal­ent in agen­cies - or mis­di­rected tal­ent - was an­other fac­tor. “Be­ing in an agency for 10 years doesn’t make your ca­reer. Be­ing on a brand for four or five years makes a ca­reer. Only then are you ac­tu­ally con­tribut­ing,” he says.

The con­stant harp­ing on growth meant that the time to think was taken away. It was a vi­cious cy­cle that Misra wanted to get rid of. The first so­lu­tion that came to his mind was re­tire­ment. “I knew that one in­di­vid­ual could not change the in­dus­try. I just wanted to re­lax and en­joy life. But peo­ple who knew me and my work started ask­ing me why I didn’t just start my own ven­ture. My team, es­pe­cially those peo­ple who ac­tively worked on the MakeMyTrip cam­paign, firmly sup­ported this idea. In fact, it was Nat­war who pitched the idea and pressed me hard to start Mag­icCir­cle,” Misra out­lines.

JOIN­ING HANDS

“Nat­war and Dheeraj were the two peo­ple who worked ac­tively on the MakeMyTrip cam­paign. And that’s the team I am most com­fort­able work­ing with,” ac­knowl­edges Misra. He has his own style of work­ing on a cam­paign. He seeks the opin­ion of the the ju­nior­most copy­writer in an agency. This gave him a ‘clearer’ idea than hav­ing the in­for­ma­tion flow back up via the se­nior copy­writer, then the cre­ative di­rec­tor and so on. “I get to hear a fil­tra­tion of all that,” he smiles.

Misra feels that the beauty of Mag­icCir­cle is that ev­ery de­ci­sion is taken with freedom. “I don’t have to wait for the ap­proval from Paris, New York or London,” he says tongue-in-cheek.

THE PAST

Misra’s jour­ney in ad­ver­tis­ing started in Septem­ber 1986 with Mile­stones, learn­ing how to think, eval­u­ate and make a pre­sen­ta­tion for a brand. He worked on the In­dia To­day (Hindi edi­tion) launch cam­paign. Af­ter Mile­stones came Ever­est. He says, “I learnt a lot while work­ing on Pan Parag and I con­sid­ered my­self lucky to have worked on the ac­count. It was M M Kothari, the founder of Pan Parag, who taught me that if you can en­gage with the client and add value to the brand, there’s noth­ing to worry about.”

At Mu­dra, Misra was the cre­ative per­son and head of strat­egy. It al­lowed him to de­velop his en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills and gave him the con­fi­dence to work on big brands like Nestle. Soon af­ter, Misra joined JWT be­cause he “wanted to work on Pepsi”. In a short one-and­half year stint, he had a “won­der­ful time” head­ing the en­tire busi­ness of Pepsi - from bev­er­ages to snacks. That was the time Pepsi launched its Blue Bil­lion cam­paign for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2007. “Un­for­tu­nately, In­dia lost in the first round and the cam­paign did not re­ceive the kind of fi­nale it de­served,” he says rue­fully.

Publi­cis came next and he spent 10 years learn­ing cor­po­rate man­age­ment. “I give a lot of credit to Nakul Cho­pra - af­ter Mile­stones, the big­gest learn­ing I had was from Nakul who taught me how a boss should han­dle his team,” Misra adds.

THE FIRST 100 DAYS...

For Misra, it has been a “fab­u­lous jour­ney so far. Our peo­ple get along with each other very well and we don’t have to mo­ti­vate them. The only worry I have is that we may have to move of­fice to a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion as we will be ex­pand­ing the team.” How does he see his work on the MMT cam­paign?

Misra says, “While at Publi­cis, I com­mit­ted to MMT that I would lead the ac­count. The MMT team are al­ways open to shar­ing ideas. When we launched, Alia Bhat wasn’t that big a star. Even Ranveer was just be­gin­ning to come up. But I am re­ally im­pressed with their per­for­mances in the films. Both are young stars and they get so in­volved in the char­ac­ters that they start con­tribut­ing to them. What they en­joy and what we have con­sciously done is not use them as stars, but as char­ac­ters. And we con­tinue to change those char­ac­ters.”

... AND THE NEXT

Ac­cord­ing to Misra, ad­ver­tis­ing is not what it used to be three decades ago. The client’s ex­pec­ta­tions have changed so dras­ti­cally that it is stran­gling the busi­ness. Clients ex­pect more at a much lesser cost and in quick time. “Many peo­ple in ad­ver­tis­ing have, un­for­tu­nately, quit and joined mar­ket­ing. That is tak­ing the respect out of the busi­ness,” he adds. How does Mag­icCir­cle pro­pose to take on the world?

Misra says can­didly, “I don’t pro­fess that I have a USP. I want to cre­ate a pool of tal­ent which is care­fully se­lected.” The eight­mem­ber team he started out with is now 19-peo­ple strong and the agency is self-funded; there are no in­vestors. Misra’s idea is sim­ple Look for sto­ry­tellers! “I am look­ing for peo­ple who can lis­ten to the web. In the next 100 days I am look­ing to cre­ate a team of great sto­ry­tellers and lis­ten­ers,” he signs off. ■

“In the next 100 days I am look­ing to cre­ate a team of great sto­ry­tellers and lis­ten­ers.”

HE­MANT MISRA

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