Nakul Chopra, CEO - South Asia, Publicis Communications India, the newly elected president of the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), talks about his focus areas and what can be improved at AAAI
Q] Tell us about some of the goals you have set for yourself as President of the Advertising Agencies Association of India.
I have been actively involved all AAAI activities even during the past two years as vice-president. [Then AAAI President] Ambi’s style of working is very collaborative; so I was actively involved in the decision-making process. To that extent, there will be a lot of continuity. But when we talk of goals, AAAI is first an industry trade association, and our main agenda is to help our members conduct their business, and find solutions to issues - be it regulatory or in dealing with other industry bodies. It so happens that we also run the number one festival for this industry, Goafest. We represent the interests of the 104-odd agencies that are our members, and what substantially occupies our time is that. Also, in the last two years, BARC, in which AAAI is a stake-holder, has made a lot of progress. While it has come a long way and become quite stable, it still has a long way to go. That will continue to be one of our focus areas. The impending GST Bill will also have a lot of implications for our industry and members and that is something we want to focus on.
During Ambi’s presidentship, we restarted some of our old training agendas and while moving into AAAI’s new office premises, we were particularly mindful of this. The facility can take a large number of people, and we had training sessions on negotiation skills, leadership and Digital. But one thing I feel is that we are not communicating the activities of our association as much as we should. Recently, we revamped our website, etc., but we need to be more aggressive - we need to get out there and talk. Lastly, I would like to distinguish that we are not an association of individuals. We are a trade association. So, our activities are not focused at individuals in our industry; rather, our primary role is to address issues faced by organizations.
Q] What are some of the challenges for the advertising industry in the current scenario?
The challenges that our industry faces are not very different from what all businesses face in this environment. The world today is going through a very economically turbulent time, and the expectation is that things will be at this level for some more years to come. Such an economic environment throws out challenges for every business, including challenges on the cost side, etc. Our members face these challenges. Customers want more and they want to pay less. So, how do we equip ourselves to make our customers perceive the correct value of the service that we provide, protect our members from any issues that become unfair to us as an industry and equip ourselves to compete with one another in a healthy manner within the constraints that the economic environment presents… that’s what the association can do.
Q] The AAAI is said to be the Big Boys Club. Now while we know there are fewer women in top leadership roles in the advertising industry, over the years we have never seen women as leaders or even participating much in AAAI. Why is that?
This is a rather sensitive debate around the world, not just in our industry. There is an acknowledgement of the fact that there aren’t enough women in leadership roles. AAAI represents the current leadership of the industry and I acknowledge the fact that it has fewer women than it should have. We have tried to make sure that whenever there are women in leadership roles, they are inducted into the Exco at AAAI.
Q] We’d like to hear some anecdotes or stories with regard to your association with the AAAI and the industry in general.
I have been chairman of Goafest thrice. But I have never given a speech at Goafest. I am not exactly the kind of person who is very keen to deliver a speech. Goafest is about celebrating and listening to those who have been invited to speak. It is not a place where people come to pontificate on the festival itself. I have never given a speech at Goafest, and slowly I have almost obliterated the practice of any organizer speaking at Goafest.
Q] What are your own focus areas for AAAI?
Leadership is about vision and getting that vision bought through. When it comes to leading an association, listening becomes as important as doing or speaking, because it’s not about what I think is best for the industry, but what we collectively think is best. Building a collaborative association where every stake-holder has a feeling of ownership, even if sometimes it’s not my point of view going through. Respecting each other despite the differences of opinion that we might have... That makes for a healthy association; one that is apolitical, respects all members equally and is willing to give a patient ear to all points of view before arriving at decisions.