NEW DELHI : Arun Nanda, who co-founded advertising company Rediffusion with Ajit Balakrishnan and Mohammed Khan in 1973, sold the agency to Mogae Media, based in Mumbai and run by publicist Sandeep Goyal. Nanda, a first-ever batch IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) gold medalist in 1966, worked for Hindustan Lever Limited (now Hindustan Unilever Ltd.) for six years before going into advertising. In an interview, he explained why he created Rediffusion, the role of an agency and why it was time to sell. Edited excerpts:
Why did you create Rediffusion?
After graduating from IIM-A, I was immediately recruited by Hindustan Lever Ltd and worked in marketing from 1966 to 1972.
I was in charge of their biggest brands: Lifebuoy, Sunlight and Lux. Then I decided to learn advertising, because being in marketing and spending millions on advertising, I realized that I was approving campaigns costing millions of rupees without really knowing if I was approving great communication or an average. I couldn’t tell the difference. So I told Levers that I had to go out and learn advertising.
HLL offered me to join any of their agencies: Thomson, Ogilvy or Lintas. But I went to MCM, which was India’s hottest agency at the time. I only stayed there for 10 months because my value system didn’t match theirs.
I created my own agency with Ajit Blakrishnan and Mohammad Khan.
I spent 47 years working. It’s a long time. My creative juices are still active. But there comes a time when the body says “remember your age”.
You’ve always talked about ads creating long-term brands, but with social media, there’s more viral content and 10-second ads with no real connection to the product. Is there a way to reach the young consumer and build long term brands?
The media scenario in India has changed. No one can wish for the cell phone anymore. Creativity must adapt to the new visual-audio format. The screen size is different.
A lot of mobile ads are not creative at all. This means that advertising agencies have not created works suitable for the mobile phone format. What we create now must be able to adapt to smaller formats.
Like television, print and radio, mobile is a media vehicle. This instrument is here to stay and it is used for vehicle delivery, message delivery, communication and conversion.
What advice would you give to young advertising professionals?
I will advise, don’t look at short-term or immediate deliveries. When you want to build a brand, you have to change buying habits, consumption habits. We had a Lakme client led by Simone Tata, Ratan Tata’s mother-in-law.
When we introduced him, we told him that he first had to understand why people wear makeup and why people don’t wear makeup. In the 80s, prejudice against makeup among women was very high. The company only allowed certain professionals like flight attendants to wear makeup. We had to change that attitude; a social campaign was therefore necessary. One of the campaigns we created for Lakme featured a creative with a title that asked “How bad is it to look good?”, basically telling women that it’s not bad to look good. using makeup, which is simply a tool to enhance your natural features.
Another tip will be strategic thinking in planning. Be strategically sound. The strategy of a brand campaign must be thought out before putting pen to paper to begin the creative work. Involve the creative team in the strategy process. Half-hearted thinking and loose assumptions can lead to disaster because you’ll be wasting someone’s money.
Has the advertising industry lost its romance?
Yes, he totally lost the romance. Why? Previously, an advertising agency was not a media provider to buy and how much. He was a partner of a client in building a brand and sat with him on an equal table. The role of an advertising agency was to ensure that the communication strategy was the right one, and that the communication was going to the right place, to the right people with the right tone or the right voice. I don’t think that’s the case for many customers.
Today, it’s the supplier-agency relationship. Clients lost the value of the agency as a thinking creative partner. Will it come back? It has to come back. Because, like advertising, marketing companies are finding that the quality of talent they attract is getting lower and lower. People take other jobs. It’s time for those two, marketing and advertising, to come back to the table together.
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