In some markets, working foreigners are legally known as “aliens”. Here, we just call them firangs, expatriates or non-resident Indians. And an increasing number of such people can be seen in India’s ad industry, which is already dominated by international ad networks.
Lowe India now has seasoned ad hand Charles Cadell as regional chief executive, while R. Balakrishnan is chairman. Cadell was regional president of Arc Worldwide, based in Kuala Lumpur, and will undoubtedly bring integrated marketing skills and Asian and global insights to this post.
Still, some industry executives wonder if a market as diverse as ours could prove too complex, even irksome, for the foreigner, especially since ad and media-buying domains here are driven by long-standing relationships, opaque practices and local sensitivities. They cite the experience of Bruce Matchett, creative chief at Singleton Ogilvy and Mather Australia and New Zealand, who moved to JWT India as creative chief some years ago. Creator of some of Australia’s most respected ads for brands such as Tooheys, Coca-Cola, Qantas and BMW, Matchett was expected to substantially raise the creative bar at the agency. He, however, did not stay here for more than two years and, whatever the reason for his departure, his India stint was low-profile.
John Goodman’s successful tenure as CEO of Ogilvy group, India, some years ago could be presented as counter argument. Having a creative icon such as Piyush Pandey as executive chairman could, however, have eased transition pangs for Goodman, especially those involving client and employee interactions. Goodman was also an Asia veteran.
The outsider can also be an Indian who has never lived in the country, or has lived and worked here and overseas—such as Starcom Worldwide managing director for India, west and south, Sandeep Lakhina, or creative superstar Sonal Dabral, who has moved back as chairman of Bates David Enterprise, India, from Ogilvy and Mather, Singapore.
The future belongs to the global mind and to mindsets that can bring both universal and local insights to ad creation. Lowe India’s chief strategy officer for Unilever brands Brent Gosling is helping render the “dirt is good” detergents ad theme for other markets.
“Being a foreigner is actually an advantage for Brent. He brings the outside perspective, which gives him the ability to ask simple questions to what we take for granted,” says an ad man, who did not wish to be identified.
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor.
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