Chennai:Speaking to tvnews4u.com in an exclusive interview, Vijay Xavier, RK SwamyBBDO Principal Consultant, (Executive Vice President), shares his experience and his views on the advertising industry, and says gone are the days where you do business with sentiment. It’s absolute ruthlessness now. It’s a dog eat dog business.
Vijay Xavier is an Economics graduate from Madras University. He has been with TTDC, Lintas, and later took up publishing.
He returned to Advertising. Since June 2011, he heads the Chennai Office of RK SwamyBBDO as their Principal Consultant (Executive Vice President) handling a plethora of International and National Brands like Snickers and Galaxy Chocolates and Pedigree Pet Foods.
Vijay Xavier is a Visiting Faculty for several management Institutions. He is the Past President and currently in the Executive Committee of the Advertising Club Madras. He organised and successfully ran the country’s largest and only International advertising convention – FUTURE SHOCK – under his Presidentship and again under his Convenorship in January, 2007. The South India Annual Advertising Awards Nite has been entirely conceived and executed by him for the last three years.
He is married. His wife is a Speciality Cuisine Food specialist. He has a daughter who is a Post Graduate in Mass Communication and is a Deputy Manager – Response Division of the Times of India.
He is a keen sportsman. He represented Tamilnadu State Schools and the University of Madras in Hockey, Football and Athletics. Hobbies are Swimming and Jogging.
Speaking to tvnews4u.com in an exclusive interview, Vijay Xavier shares his experience and his views on the advertising industry.
Q: After travelling so many years in advertising, can you share with us your experience?
A: On 1st June 2013, it was 40 years in advertising. When I started, it was not a sought-after profession. It used to be one of those wicked professions. With all the MNCs coming in, the perspective began to change. Of late with this 360 degree service, it has become more disintegrated. Today, an account executive’s job has been reduced to a post man’s job. Because if you want a creative, the client will speak directly to a creative agency. If it’s a PR requirement, then there are agencies that offer you PR services. Now, in terms of technology, we have gone far ahead!
Q: How do you compare the agencies in the past to the ones in the present?
A: There have not been any new agencies which have upset the past. It has always been JWT, McCann, Lintas, O&M. Only one agency which has come up recently and succeeded is Mudra. All others have fallen aside. RK Swamy was a break-up from JWT. Mr. Swamy used to head the Chennai office of JWT and due to difference of opinion he came out of it and started this. Therefore, this is the only national agency with a Chennai Headquarters by default. If you have to run this business, you have to have very strong norms. You cannot be in it only for the money; you have to possess a driven and be passionate, otherwise you won’t survive!
Q: Currently, a lot of clients who are based in South opt for agencies in the North. What is the reason for this?
A: It’s a temporary phenomenon. It’ll come back! Relatively speaking, advertising agencies developed faster in the North and West. All the South industries are B2B. There are a lot of industrial clients here! The FMCGs did not happen here. FMCGs and Automobile Clients are the ones who spend the most. Good brand managers did not come in here because there is no scope for them to grow as brand managers. Bcause it’s all B2B here. Advertising is more for B2C business.
Q: What are the kinds of clients you handle at RK Swamy?
A: Our Chennai Clients include- Snickers Chocolates, Galaxy Chocolates, Pedigree Dog Food, Whiskers Cat Food, Moods Condoms, Sriram City Union Fund, Sriram Ventures, Tafe Tractors, Lotte Chocolates, TTK’s Fryums, Saint Gobain Glass, Chennai Silks, KVB, Sri Kumaran Thanga Maligai and Viveks, and we just got Indian Bank. From September 1, ITC Mangaldeep Agarbathis will join us. Bombay handles Raymonds, Mercedes Benz and a whole lot of banks. Delhi handles a lot of Government of India business.
Q: How is the work culture like at RK Swamy?
A: My first year was hard because I worked for Lintas for 37 years. I joined as Management Trainee and retired as the VP and Head of Chennai. So, the initial difficulty was unwinding from 37 years of MNC culture to what I then thought was a proprietary culture. A positive of this agency is that though it is a private limited company, it’s very professional. Everyone has their own responsibilities to run. JWT, O&M, Lintas, etc are not owned by anybody. Here, there is an owner culture, so quite naturally the decision-making process happens. Pride and imagery will play a large part in the decision-making there and return on investment will play a large part in the decision making here.
Q: Can you recollect some innovative campaigns?
A: Saint Gobin Glass. The entire launch happened 10 years back. Earlier it was a commodity market. We converted the commodity market into a branded market. That, any day, will be my top mark. In 40 years I have done a lot. But the proud moment and the best work I ever handled was Saint Gobin but the best people and the best client – I would say Ponds.
Q: How do you position South as a market for advertisers? What is the kind of scope we have here?
A: Let me tell you what BalaKrishnan Iyer of Palghat (National Creative Director of Lintas) used to tell me. South rules the Advertising world. National Creative Director of Bates is K V Sridhar Iyer of Hyderabad. Rediffusion’s National Creative Director is Mr. Chakkravathy Iyenger of Bangalore. Mudra’s National Creative Director is Ramakrishnan of Chennai. Sangeetha is our National Creative Director. Balki also used to say, “If somebody told you North and West are the best, you tell them they can work but they need us to direct them.” Similarly if you take the finance managers of any top agency or any top manufacturing company in the country, it’ll always be a South Indian. This place is for brains!
Q: How does the team here sit together and brain storm on creatives?
A: It works like any national agency. Most of the time, if you don’t tell me something, it’s not because you don’t know it, it’s because you never thought I need to know it. So, it’s up to me to ask. If the client is not a professional, it is up to you to make him one. Not by being condescending but by explaining that if we have certain information, we can do better for you. What we follow is, when there is a brief, there are strategy planning directors, Client Service Directors, Client Service Head, if necessary a Media Planning Director. Creative Director doesn’t come into the picture at all at this stage. And depending on the assignment, which hierarchy goes forward is my decision as Unit head but then there will be a team of these people who take the brief. There is no way the agency can know the business better than the client. It’s then the teams have to work and brainstorm on the creative brief and then the Creative Director is called in and will be briefed. The proposition of “what to say” in clear words has to be alerted by the strategy team to the Creative team. And then leave it to them on “how to say it”. Then the teams have to go and sell it to the client. Then everything starts from there! These are the fundamentals that vary from industry to industry.
Q: With Social Media playing a vital role in the industry today, there’s nothing without Digital Marketing today. What are your thoughts on that?
A: Digital Marketing is here to stay. Right now it is small but fast growing because the cost of Media is going up. It is inexpensive related to the established media. Digital is one-to-one communication. You don’t have a mouse and skip it. Databases have become critical. Therefore, a lot of Data and Analytical specialists are coming up. It will not replace T.V or press. They will co-exist. If you are not on Social Media, you are not a young or happening brand. I won’t expect as much returns from that Media as compared to Digital.
Q: How do you quantify OOH as a medium?
A: Depending on each product, if you are up country also, the Clients dealer will do the checking. You have some kind of control. If I have an MRF tyre hoarding in Hubli, the moment the design is changed, there will be a mail from the Marketing Manager of MRF to the Hubli dealer with the layout of the new design and they also pay them for that. They also have to make sure that no other poster is stuck on that. I can detect the rate for the period where some other poster was in place of my poster. But today it’s not like that! It is uncontrolled Media.
Q: Can you share with us some proud moments of RK Swamy? Awards, recognition, etc.
A: This is my third year. Last year we won Madras Advertising Club’s “Agency of the Year” award. I had done it thrice in Lintas. The last two years have been full of awards. To me, an award is when at the Annual Review, the client comes and tells us that compared to last year, our brand has grown 15%- 20% in value. At the end of the day, if you won 18 creative awards on the same brand but the brand is showing 20% negative, then the annual review meeting will be the last meeting with the client. It’ll be a sack meeting. Do not win a single award, you give 25% growth to the brand, you might get an incentive in that meeting. And you have definitely kept the client for the following year. That’s the best award you can get.
Q: What do you predict on the Ad Cap? Do you think the prices will go up?
A: All these small brands will be out. One, if I am a Media house, depending on current business or pattern, I head a certain number of people. My business module has been worked on the basis of a certain revenue input. My revenue input would be 15 mins of commercial time with this popular programme with 9 mins here and 20 mins there… And my rates would have been booked basically on that. That’s how my entire business plan has been worked out and projected to the management saying I’ll make as much profit if I get so much. So, we need to look into big companies who will give more because secondly, they are the companies that will. FMCGs cannot survive without advertising. The competition is high and hence the need of the brand to stand out is higher, therefore they have to spend. The number of advertisers in the TV medium will come down. But the small companies need to advertise too. So, the press will become the primary medium and TV will become secondary. Therefore, cost of advertising will become expensive. Priorities on media will change and the smaller ones will get little better share. At the end of the day, the TG is important and plays a crucial role.
Q: What in your opinion would be the channels’ reaction to TAM data?
A: In my opinion, channels would not prefer TAM. They wouldn’t want anybody measuring them. Where I have limited time, where I am going to charge a premium, you have the data and you say “This programme is not worth this much of cost”, it’s not giving you returns. If there is no parameter, it’s your word vs my word, there are enough people who will believe Sun is the best. Gone are the days where you do business with sentiment. It’s absolute ruthlessness now. It’s a dog eat dog business.