When agencies fail to innovate it is often the client’s fault, says P&G’s Asia CMO

Freddy BharuchaThe man who heads up the Asian marketing operations for one of the world’s largest advertisers has said that a lack of innovation in agencies is often the client’s fault.

In answer to a question on why agencies often fail to innovate, with agency bosses sidetracked by the day to day running of their businesses, Freddy Bharucha, the CMO of Procter & Gamble, told Mumbrella: “When agencies do not deliver on innovation, often the issue is with the client. I strongly believe that you get the creative you deserve.”

However, he also said that agencies were struggling to keep on top of changing consumer trends.

“If you understand your consumers deeply, then engage the agency partners with a simple focused brief, and create an environment of experimentation and ideation, you will bring the best out of the agency,” he said.

“It is not only the role of the agency bosses on this front,” said Bharucha, who oversees media, digital, e-commerce and multi-brand innovations for P&G’s $14bn Asia operation.

He added that innovation was a shared responsibility between client and agency, and “not the sole domain of senior agency leaders.”

However, he added: “I think the agility of learning the new trends on how consumers engage and relate to brands is something that agencies need to stay ahead on.”

“The world of mobile and digital is expanding faster than we can imagine and hence the communication and engagement process needs to keep pace,” Bharucha said, who is one year into the role as one of Asia’s most high profile marketers.

“I think many agencies are still not adept at the knowledge agility to stay in touch with changing trends. Also they are not adept in the extent of flexibility and an “always on” mindset that is required to keep our consumers engaged,” he said.

In answer to a question on how agencies could keep up with P&G’s pace of innovation, Bharucha told Mumbrella: “Agencies need to truly immerse in the consumer and have the same passion around improving consumer lives as we do.”

“For us, it is not about selling a Pantene shampoo or a Pampers diaper. It is about providing a truly superior experience to the consumer, and in doing that, helping make his or her live a little bit better everyday.”

“To do this, we need a consumer service mindset,” he said.

Bharucha stressed that the focus for agencies should not be on “whether the client likes my idea or not”, but on “whether my idea will truly touch the consumer’s heart, and convince him or her to consider our brands.”

There was a bigger challenge for media agencies, he added.

“Media agencies truly need to understand the brand and the consumer, and help guide where to reach the consumer and best engage them with the creative. Innovation in media and consumer engagement is the new frontier. This is where agencies need to be two steps ahead.”

Asked about his favourite campaigns, the Indian Institute of Management-educated executive named P&G’s ‘Thank you Mom’ campaigns that ran in Asia around the London Olympics.

On top marketing innovations, he named P&G’s programs in India for men’s shaving brand Gillette, such as ‘Women against lazy stubble’ and ‘Gillette, the soldier in you’.

A non-P&G campaign he admires is Leo Burnett Melbourne’s multi award-winning Bring Your Cup Day campaign for Slurpee in Australia.


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