Interview with Banerjee & Partners, 1947 Communications' founder and brand strategist Dave Banerjee
 
'Outsourcing advertising is the next big thing and can change the dynamics of the entire industry'
(Posted on 2 February 2005)
 

Outsourcing advertising may just be the next big thing. At a time of tight budgets and fierce competition in the market place; outsourcing helps cut costs by almost 40-60 per cent. One amongst the first to dabble into outsourcing advertising is New York based Dave Banerjee. His agency - 1947 Communications is the 'only real' advertising agency in the South-Asian American space.

Early this year, Banerjee's "Eureka" came in the form of Banerjee & Partners, which is the first mainstream ad agency that offers a blended outsourcing model of carefully considered combination of onshore strategy and offshore production and creative execution.

The New York team comprises Losang Gyatso, Seema Trivedi and Mukul Bakshi. The Indian backend- with offices in Mumbai and Delhi, will have names like Freddy Birdy, Naved Akhtar, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Robert Anthoney, Suresh Manian, Tony Lawrence and K J Jacob to reckon with. The wave of outsourcing advertising is literally knocking on India's door!

In this interview with Indiantelevision.com's Hetal Adesara, Banerjee throws light on this upcoming phenomenon and more...

Excerpts:

 

You have worked with the likes of JWT, O&M and Lowe and then you started your agency 1947 Communications… in the midst of this how was Banerjee & Partners conceptualised?
One evening, I was driving back from work and I heard this hilarious radio spot on 104.3 classic rock station, about outsourcing to India. The spot was about a girl who calls a restaurant named “New Delhi”, and the call is actually directed to a call center in Delhi, offering to deliver Indian food in New York in five minutes. This was funny because it was impracticable, but the thought that went across my mind was:“Outsourcing to India has become such a hot topic. How come no one is doing this in advertising?”

I suddenly realised that we were already outsourcing some of the creative and production work to India, though on a much smaller scale through 1947 Communications. So why not take it to the next level? The next moment I knew that we were sitting on a great idea, an idea whose time had come -- outsourced advertising.

Having spent many years in Indian advertising, I was in a unique position to compare talents- US versus India. I knew that if I could get the best of Indian advertising brains I could potentially build a great agency. It happened just like that. One minute I was dead tired dying to reach home, the next minute I was ready to set up a new agency and pioneer a new business model in advertising. From next day onwards, for over a year, we worked towards setting up Banerjee & Partners- a mainstream advertising agency that offers a blended outsourcing model of carefully considered combination of onshore strategy and offshore production and creative execution.

 

1947 Communications was the first advertising agency in the US, which focused on the South Asian community. Who are your clients and how is the agency faring?
Despite the South Asian market being very small, we have been fortunate to work with some major brands like MetLife, Johnson & Johnson, Wells Fargo, DIRECTV etc. The agency is doing well and 1947 Communications is still the only real advertising agency in the South-Asian American space.

 

What is the core difference in the functions of Banerjee & Partners and 1947 Communications?
Banerjee & Partners will do work for the US general market. Unlike 1947 Communications, it won't have any ethnic focus. We are now talking about a $280 billion advertising market.

 

Who are Banerjee & Partners clients and what are the different services that the agency offers?
We launched the agency on 17 January, 2005 with our first client Alfred Hammel- a Swiss boutique watch brand. Our services are pretty much identical to what other agencies offer.

 

What according to you is the differentiating factor of Banerjee & Partners viz-a-viz other agencies?
Banerjee & Partners brings some of the world’s best advertising talents- irrespective of geographic location- to work on American brands while offering 40 - 60 per cent cost savings over traditional agencies. We are pioneering a blended outsourcing model that we believe will soon become a trend and can potentially change the dynamics of our industry. We are offering best-in-class advertising, at an unprecedented cost.

 

Banerjee & Partners mostly outsource work from India. Can you explain in detail the company’s outsourcing model?
First of all it’s not just India. India is our first stop for back-end infrastructure, but we are not stopping there. By the end of the year we plan to set up offices in two other English speaking and advertising savvy countries.

Blended outsourcing is a collaboration between advertising professionals in our NY headquarters and their counterparts in another country. We have build a very strong team here, that will work with our offices in India to create persuasive and memorable advertising for American brands. The traditional outsourcing model can't be applied into advertising as then it will lack the local market knowledge and consumer insights.

 
'We are after all the first company to outsource advertising, the market size could be $300 million or even $1 billion'
 

How much would you peg the US outsourcing market at and where do you see it going?
No one has an answer to this one as there's no benchmark, no research at all. We are after all the first company to do this. It could be $300 million or could be even $1 billion.

 

In India (Mumbai and Bangalore), who are the core people working for your agency?
Mumbai office is being set up as we speak. It should be operational from March and will be headed by Amitabh Bhattacharya who used to be the creative director of McCann- Bangalore. Bangalore is being led by four key people Robert Anthoney, Suresh Manian, Tony Lawrence and K J Jacob. As and when we start our New Delhi operations, it will be headed by Freddy Birdy and Naved Akhtar, who in any case are an integral part of our Indian backend.

 

Apart from India, which are the other two countries that Banerjee & Partners is looking at for having backend shops by the end of this year? What was the reason for choosing these countries?
I can only mention one for now- Singapore. We are not really choosing countries or cities. Our model is about talent. And Singapore has a lot of that.

 

Can you elaborate on the agency’s proprietary brand planning tool - Insight Map?
I'Map is an extension of a model that was created by Geert Hofstede for understanding various cultures and societies. The original model was first brought into advertising by Mr Ranjan Kapur of Ogilvy. I learnt about it when I was at Ogilvy & Mather. We have developed the model further and have taken it to the next level. It essentially plots target audience insights and brand insights on two different plains, and once superimposed, it reveals the hot buttons that exist between the two.

 
Are there any other proprietary tools being developed?
Not really.
 

Sam Balsara’s Madison Communications can be touted as being the only true “Indian” ad agency. Did the thought of opening your own agency in India occur to you? What was the reason for choosing the US as Banerjee & Partners’ headquarters?
India has many advertising people of my caliber and some who are much better than I can ever be. My dream is to bring all those brains under one roof and let them do the work they always wanted to do. And that can only happen when they work on the US market. There are some exceptional advertising talent in India who will have a blast creating work for this market. They are unlikely to reach their peak otherwise.

 

What are the agency’s expansion plans in the near future?
Apart from geographic expansion, Banerjee & partners will start outsourcing media planning and buying to India. This one will be only to India, and will have the same blended model where the front end teams will handle the qualitative side of planning.

 

Will you be looking at tying up forces with any other ad agency or you prefer your independence?
Certainly not with an agency, but may be a holding company. There could be some backend tie-ups, not front end.

 

What are the latest trends in the US ad market?
US being the single largest advertising market has many trends in every single aspect of our industry. However, I think the next biggest trend will be outsourcing of advertising. The writing is on the wall and most people are just in a state of denial. This one can potentially change the complete dynamics of the way the industry is set up right now.

 

What is the core difference in the way an ad agency functions in the US and India?
I think in India agencies take less short-cuts. They still follow the discipline. They still think of 'ideas'. Here, baring a few exceptions, the industry is lead by execution. It's all about style.

 

 
 
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