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July 11, 2007

With many firms setting up studios to provide 24x7 support to creative functions across the globe, India's creative reputation becomes critical.

Pratap Bose,CEO, Ogilvy & Mather India

Our core strength is that we communicate in English, are low-cost and have impressive skills in design and creatives

Indian advertising surely has what it takes to become the outsourcing hub of the world. When we are outsourcing for just about anything why should advertising be left behind? Can we become the outsourcing base for Asia-Pacific? Yes, we can. Can we be an outsourcing base for the world? Yes, we can. But it might take five to ten years for that to happen.

The efforts have to be set now to make it a reality. Right now we have just taken baby steps. If we rather take giant leaps, it's possible to become an outsourcing base in five to ten years. We have a long way to go to reach that pinnacle.

The Asia-Pacific region records the highest growth in advertising comparative with the rest of the world and India plays a vital role in this region. Looking at beyond the traditional travails of advertising there are certainly areas like gaming, animation, outsourcing of design, production and research that India exports internationally. India is a regional hub already for certain clients and brands. But we cannot in any sense be called a truly global hub.

Many companies like Ogilvy & Mather and Lintas are now opening studios that work as 24-hour centres and provide support to creative functions across their global networks. In the case of Ogilvy, our Bangalore office has already become the global hub for Lenovo.

In the case of cellphone maker Nokia, its recently chosen worldwide agency, Wieden and Kennedy, would take care of the company's global creative work and adapt it to local market conditions. India could look at doing the same thing. Ad agency JWT, for example, makes ad campaigns from a single location for Unilever. The campaign however runs in several markets.

Our core strength is that we communicate in English. We are also a low-cost destination with an impressive talent pool coupled with great skills in design, research and not to forget great creative skills as well. When the industry talks about China, this is a challenge they face. This pool of talent certainly works to our advantage in handling global clients.

We also have the expertise and knowledge in understanding low-income group consumers, which is a major advantage to communicate with developing markets across the globe in places like Africa and even Eastern Europe. We have the wherewithal to understand the pulse of consumers in these markets. This is another valuable bargaining chip in helping global clients. How to communicate with them will stand us in good stead while addressing consumers in Africa or other parts of Asia.

At the recently held Goafest, industry experts spoke of the growth status of advertising in the country. If we need to move the advertising contribution from 0.55 per cent of GDP to 1 per cent, outsourcing will facilitate that.

If India proves its mettle in being able to handle a minimum clutch of clients this will instill a huge confidence among international clients who, in turn, shall begin to view India as a capable outsourcing destination.

Arvind Sharma, Chairman (Indian sub-continent), Leo Burnett

India's creative reputation is not formidable enough - Indian agencies still haven't won a TV gold at Cannes

There is no doubt that India is one of the world's hottest outsourcing destinations. And with good reason. Here is a huge pool of immensely talented people with the right education, dedication and sufficient command over English language. For any regular function that makes for an excellent outsourcing hub.

But then, advertising is not a regular function. Nor is it an exact science, where the right training or the right 'degree' can guarantee the right output. Therefore, part of the challenge for Indian advertising before it emerges as a serious contender in the outsourcing game is to build credibility among global clients. In my view, before we get anywhere, we will need to resolve four key issues.

First of all, we will need to build our creative reputation on a far more formidable scale. Our handful of bronzes and silvers at international award shows don't change the truth that Indian agencies still haven't won a television gold at Cannes. On the global creative scene, that places us below markets like Thailand, which are regular gold winners. In the future, we will need many more and better advertising ideas that win gold and perhaps go on to bag a Grand Prix. Till then, our credentials are still in the making.

Our second challenge is to build strength in non-mass media communication. Globally, advertising is moving towards formless ideas that work without mass media. A shining example is this year's Titanium winning 'Earth hour' promotion by Leo Burnett Sydney. This campaign against global warming invited Sydney residents to turn off their lights between 7:30 and 8:30 pm on March 31.

More than two million people responded and the city registered a 10 per cent drop in energy used that night! Ideas like this form able representatives not just for the agency, but also for the industry. Unfortunately, Indian advertising continues to remain television centric. If we are eyeing the global market this needs to change, and a good start might be to have an awards show that celebrates non-mass media ideas at the Indian award shows.

Our third challenge is the woeful shortage of talent.We are losing out on good people because of our failure to match the compensation structures of client organisations. Even an institute like MICA that was ostensibly set up to meet the advertising industry's need for trained youngsters, has students opting for client positions because of significantly higher pay packages.

In a creative profession like advertising where people make all the difference, we must find ways of managing agencies more efficiently to bring more money into play in retaining talent. Having said this, I don't doubt that the day will come when India will become international advertising's favourite outsourcing hub. I believe that one day, global clients will see a face of Indian creativity that they will swear by, but that day is not today.

Ask me this same question ten years from now, and maybe you may find me on the other side of the page, rooting for the ayes!

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