Storyboard | Leadership changes at Dentsu linked to its ‘transformation'

Asia's Tech News Daily

#ad holding company, #Advertising, #company transformation, #consolidation, #creative agency, #Dentsu, leadership changes, #Storyboard, series of leadership changes, Dentsu Webchutney, Dentsu India, Padhi left Dentsu group, David Droga

In 2020, Dentsu announced that it would cut the number of its global brands from 160 to six. (Image: ShutterStock)

Accelerated ‘transformation’ of Dentsu International’s operations in India has led to a series of leadership changes, consolidations and dissolutions of agency brands over the past few months.

The latest in the series of leadership changes is underway at Dentsu Webchutney. The agency’s current CEO Gautam Reghunath and its chief creative officer (CCO) PG Aditiya will leave the company in early-2022 to set up their own venture, according to a company statement.

Dentsu Webchutney is now back under the direct charge of dentsuMB Group’s chief executive, Sidharth Rao, who founded Webchutney in 1999.

In a press statement shared by the company, Rao said, “As a founder, you want your people to find their calling at the company you build, and the legacy the two of them leave behind is the best possible example of this. From joining at entry-level positions in 2010 and 2012, respectively, and rising to the very top… It’s a story that makes me believe that we’ve created an organisation where anyone can shine. And now, they have a chance to do it for themselves as creative entrepreneurs.”

Rao added, “Business, clients and talent-wise Webchutney today is at its strongest position ever. Today, we celebrate their leadership. They’ve also assembled an outstanding leadership group… all of whom give me and the rest of Dentsu’s management immense confidence in how we will march forward as a company.”

The road ahead  

This year, Dentsu India fast-tracked its global HQ’s plans of “transforming into the most integrated group”. In 2020, Dentsu announced it would cut the number of global brands from 160 to six as part of a major transformation of the Tokyo-based group’s international operations. Consolidation of its over 20 agency brands in India accelerated earlier this year.

While Dentsu International’s big ambition is to simplify its structure, several rival networks’ chief executives that Storyboard spoke to said that in India, it is “confusing and complicated”.

Confusing because “not all clients are aware of the restructure,” said an agency insider. In a recent instance, a major client was taken aback when he saw the credit list of his brand’s campaign with the mention of the rebranded agency name, a senior executive of the network said on condition of anonymity.

An advertising executive employed at another ad holding company told Storyboard, “Re-structuring units as an exercise is not new in the ad business. However, they should have been careful about not diluting some of the businesses it acquired and made a noise about.”

Dentsu in India started its acquisition spree in 2012 with celebrated creative shop Taproot India and digital-first agency Webchutney brought into the fold. Taproot was founded by two of the country’s top creative leaders, Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi.

Dias and Padhi left Dentsu group and the agency they founded, in September 2021.

From 2014 to 2017, Dentsu acquired several companies including Communicate 2, Milestone Brandcom, WATConsult, Fountainhead Entertainment, Perfect Relations, Fractal Ink Design Studio, Happy Creative Services, Sokrati, and SVG Media, to deepen and expand its capabilities.

Last year, the network shut Fountainhead Entertainment which was merged with Dentsu’s experiential marketing arm psLIVE to create Fountainhead MKTG.

What’s the big picture?

Looking at the big picture emerging from this transformation, a senior executive with a communication agency remarked that “it is a clear indication that traditional creative businesses will take a backseat; digital and media services will be the front runners.”

Another chief executive of a leading ad firm noted that “Dentsu (globally) is trying to compete with the Accentures of the world”, referring to Accenture Interactive, the marketing services arm of the management consultancy behemoth, Accenture.

In 2019, Accenture Interactive acquired New York-based agency Droga5, which is one of the hottest creative shops in the world. Famed adman David Droga, who founded the agency, was promoted to CEO of Accenture Interactive in August this year.

In May 2021, Accenture Interactive reported “the highest worldwide revenue of any digital agency network”, at more than US$10.6 billion for Accenture’s fiscal year 2020 (ended August 31, 2020), reflecting 3.5% annual growth.

Media reports state that Accenture Interactive is bigger than legacy agency brands Ogilvy, BBDO, and McCann – combined.

A recap of the transformation and other big moves

In August 2021, Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO of Dentsu India, quit, and Ashish Bhasin, CEO APAC, and chairman India, Dentsu International, and Peter Hujiboom, global CEO of Media and global clients assumed leadership duties in the interim. The company is still searching for Bhadkamkar’s replacement.

Senior-level leaders were also hired and existing leadership was reconfigured during the past few months.

Storyboard was first to report that Divya Karani, chief executive officer (CEO) of Dentsu Media South Asia and CEO, Dentsu X India, would get additional responsibilities after Bhadkamkar’s departure. Karani did get an additional role.

Also in August, Haresh Nayak, president of Posterscope Asia Pacific, left the company. Dentsu aligned its OOH businesses to Amplifi, its supply-side management platform. And Karani was put in charge of Amplifi.

Sources close to these developments say the group’s Indian operations are being closely monitored by regional and global leaders, following many high-profile exits. More changes are expected as the Japanese advertising group further accelerates the transformation and consolidates its operations in India.

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