Global CEO of Ogilvy Devika Bulchandani is currently on a visit to India. On Tuesday, she sat down for a chat with e4m editor Naziya Alvi Rahman.
Dev, as she is popularly referred to in the advertising industry, talked about exporting learnings from Ogilvy India to their other centres across the globe, the areas where she wants the Indian team to up its game, and more.
Meanwhile, Bulchandani, who is on her first international Ogilvy market visit after taking over the top post last month, also interacted with the media.
She started off the conversation saying that it was an honour for her to be sitting next to Piyush Pandey, the Chief Creative Officer Worldwide and Executive Chairman India of Ogilvy.
“I call him the godfather of this agency. Ogilvy is the crown jewel of our network and Piyush is the soul of it,” said the CEO.
"The organisation (Ogilvy India) should continue with their creative excellence and they should continue to expand creativity whether it is CRM or performance marketing, but never lose the soul and Piyush is the soul. Ogilvy is doing the best work in the network, they dominate, they have done business like no other. They have a plan for 2023, which is expanding into new territories," mentioned Bulchandani.
On the occasion, Bulchandani, who is the brain behind the very popular ‘fearless girl campaign’, shared her life’s journey. “I was born in Amritsar and I lived there until I was 10 years old. I come from a very conservative Punjabi family. I was always told things like ‘girls don't do that’. When I was 13, I told my mother that I will go to the US. I wanted to have my self-worth defined with what I do.”
“I found ad by mistake. And that's one of the best things that happened to me. This industry has the ability to use the power of imagination. We understand humans and we create imagination. We are changing the course of humanity as we're doing it with Mondelez as well as with Dove,” she said.
“Advertising is a people business where you create an environment of psychological safety and ambition. It's about chasing greatness, but one should do it with goodness. You've got to have a healthy dose of delusional optimism. And if you choose a healthy dose of delusional optimism, I promise, whatever you do will be spectacular,” she shared.
"We are constantly doing delusional optimism to image things that have never been done before. We use tech in new ways, use data in new ways, how would we do that if we don’t have delusional optimism," she added.
Talking about breaking gender barriers to become the first Indian-origin female Global CEO of Ogilvy, Bulchandani said, “Barrier is an opportunity to breakthrough. The most important thing for a woman to do is not to give up. Barrier should be an invitation to do what you want to do. Women come with so much baggage that we have to shed it. And that is a conscious choice that we have to make and it takes fearlessness and courage to do it. I think that is an important thing to do. You have to make conscious choices,” she said.
Sharing how her journey has inspired many women to follow their dreams, Bulchandani said, “Does it make it easier for people to do it? Yes,… (they think) if she can do it, I can do it. Whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it. Hope, which is a very important human factor, drives us. Hope drives us and pride keeps us going. Hope and pride are very important things. There are people who wanted to emulate me. There are women who don’t want to be like me. They said, we don’t want to be like you or do it the way you are doing it. Talk to us in a way that we want to do it. Which is a fair point. So every event I go to, along with leaders, I take three young girls with me so that these girls can see all these moments.”
Talking about making workspace more friendly towards women, Bulchandani talked about the inititaives taken by WPP to support its female employees.
"We are doing a lot of programmes at the WPP-level. One of the global programmes that we have launched recently is to make space. Women drop out for a lot of reasons but one of the biggest reasons is needing to take care of their families. Women also get an undue benefit of taking care of their parents. WPP has this programme that provides flexible work hours. We are not going to go back. There are two extremes; pre-pandemic time was one extreme situation and post-pandemic was other extreme. So how do we get to place where we can get flexibility and a hybrid model, which I know Ogilvy India has as we have paved a balance here. One of the things that women generally ask is: Is it worth it? It’s not actually worth it to be at work at the cost of taking care of people,” she said.
"Hephzibah Pathak (Vice Chairperson & Chief Client Officer, Ogilvy India) and others, we all sat together and launched this programme named ‘JUNO’. We did research, and took insights to talk about the issues and then we co-created the programme. We built a 5s programme - safety, support, system, soft skills and sensitization. We worked alongside the HR team and other people. Everyone has to be on board with it," she added.
When asked how the clients react to it, Bulchandani said, "It depends upon the market. In a lot of areas, the clients are driving along the conversation. I don't think this is an advertising issue, this is in general a societal or a business issue. Because for years, women were not in the workplace and if they were, there were traditional areas and predetermined areas. I get clients who are receptive to these conversations. You can expect to see many more announcements from Ogilvy."
(With inputs from Tanzila Shaikh)