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Murray says when one looks at countries like Brazil and India, where the illusion of digital is not as advanced, brands need to look at their strategy carefully; else one can seriously damage the business. Photo: S. Kumar/Mint
Murray says when one looks at countries like Brazil and India, where the illusion of digital is not as advanced, brands need to look at their strategy carefully; else one can seriously damage the business. Photo: S. Kumar/Mint

India is one of FCB’s top five markets: Carter Murray

The ad veteran on how technology is changing advertising, the growth of his company in India and his favourite 'Mad Men' character

Mumbai: Advertising agency FCB Worldwide, which has been around for over 100 years, rebranded itself last year, dropping marketing services brand Draft from its name to retain just FCB. Its chief executive officer (CEO) Carter Murray started his advertising career at Leo Burnett in Chicago, later working with agencies such as Publicis Worldwide (chief marketing officer and president) and Y&R Advertising in North America (CEO). During his tenure, he has worked with brands like Nestlé, Kraft, Barclays, Marlboro, Del Monte and Coke in markets like the US, UK, Russia, Sweden, China, Singapore and Germany, among others.

The 40-year-old has made multiple visits to India since taking over as FCB CEO in September 2013. In an interview, Murray talks about the business after the re-branding and his ambitions for FCB Ulka in India. Edited excerpts:

What’s the focus of your visit this time?

This is my third or fourth visit to the country in the past 18 months. I make it a point to visit our India operations on a regular basis because of its importance to the global network. Right now, one of the key areas of focus for us is to make sure that we are constantly improving our creative products. I’ve been spending time with the new creative management, reviewing our work and where we stand. There are three-four campaigns out of our India office which we are really proud of. And there’s some great work in the pipeline as well.

Where does the Indian market fit into the global scheme of things for FCB?

It’s one of our top five markets. And that’s not just because it’s a market where big clients insist you have a presence, but it also happens to be one of our larger operations and a substantial contributor to overall revenues. We’ve got huge creative ambitions and I’m going to be pushing the teams to produce better and better work. If you look at the reel of work we’ve done recently, there’s some really inspiring work that wasn’t there 18 months ago. I’m happy about that.

What’s changed after the FCB re-branding? Has business picked up?

There has been a lot of new business across markets. For instance, we have put a new management team in place in China, and we’ve won four-five pitches in a row there. We’ve also won the global account for Levi’s, which is a big win for us. In the UK, we won the pitch for BMW, which had been with another creative agency for almost 40 years. A year-and-a- half ago, we put together the top 100 executives at the agency and asked ourselves, who do we want to be and where do we want to go, with regards to the re-branding. I think it’s led to a renewed sense of momentum and direction.

You will be completing two years this year as CEO of FCB Worldwide. How would you assess your contribution to the company?

It’s tough to answer this. But, there’s a lot I have learnt and so much I could have done better. Having said that, I hope my biggest contribution has been to get the top layer of the organization excited, focused and accountable for the future of the network. I’m happy and surprised with the amount of talent we’ve been able to attract. There’s been a positive momentum globally for the business.

You’re quite a fan of Instagram. What do you feel about social media advertising in general?

I think, for me, Instagram works as a great tool, since it means I can just snap my way through the day, and simultaneously talk about what I’m doing. Social media has taken a life of its own. For clients, it really depends on their business needs and marketing strategy. For instance, we have one client that gets 10% of its online sales from Facebook. Then there are other clients who use it as a publicity-led channel. It really depends on how effective each tool is for each client.

Is digital advertising ahead of print media advertising in the US market? And if so, by how much?

There are some companies that have gone 100% digital. Automobile companies are, in fact, some of the big spenders here. There’s huge traction around digital in general, given how it’s one of the more advanced countries in this space. However, when you look at countries like Brazil and India, where the illusion of digital is not as advanced, brands need to look at their strategy carefully; else you can seriously damage the business.

Which are the two biggest changes you are seeing in the advertising industry?

I think the most obvious change is something that all other industries are going through. And that’s how technology is revolutionizing people’s lives. We’re seeing that across the advertising industry as well. The second thing is data. In our creative world, data could very well drive us to doing better creative work going forward.

From the popular American television series, ‘Mad Men’, set in the advertising world, who is your favourite character? Do you relate to the ‘Mad Men’?

I started watching Mad Men some two-three years ago. It’s interesting because some of the characters can be over the top and far away from the advertising world as we know it now. What I can relate to are the interactions between clients and agencies. For instance, some pitches go well, others don’t. That’s the thrill of the business that you can relate to. But there are also things about the show I don’t relate to. I think the most intriguing storyline is that of Peggy Olson—how she went from being an assistant to creative director in a male-dominated world in the 1960s and 1970s. In our industry, there are many stories of how people started out in the mailroom, for instance, and have risen to running agencies. I think that’s great.

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