DDB Mudra Group Bends Rules & Pushes Limits To Beat Crisis

As part of our #AdlandUpclose series, the leadership team at DDB Mudra Group describes how they called for solidarity in the pandemic year and kept creativity at the core

The pandemic certainly created a ripple effect across the adland. However, DDB Mudra Group’s integrated product offering, along with its commitment to deliver engaging work, helped them navigate the crisis on the back of creative ideas and stand as true partners to their stakeholders.   

‘Effectiveness’, ‘consistent communication’ and a ‘clear direction’ remained key to bringing people together for the larger cause, resting on their “client delight” and “employee-first” approach.   

Having been one of the first few agencies to allow a four-day week in May, DDB Mudra Group’s focal point persisted on the well-being of its people, their families and the community. From granting emergency leaves to bearing the cost of Covid vaccination to providing 24x7 free mental health counselling, their initiatives gave succour and strength to those in distress.  

“Our teams are going to extraordinary lengths to help each other through this crisis. I couldn’t be prouder of them,” expressed Aditya Kanthy, CEO & MD, DDB Mudra Group on supporting employees with quick access to verified medical help, financial support, flexible and reduced working hours, more help at work, mental health counselling and much more.   

Managing peoples’ emotions with empathy and propelling them to stay focussed and motivated kept the management wired with others.   

On Revamping & Re-energising

DDB Mudra Group is one of the few agency networks in the country that enjoys an advantageous position, simply because of its integrated offering. This particularly assisted brands as they did not have to worry about managing multiple partners, given the group proffers the power of creativity, data, technology and media under one roof.    

“Restricted budgets often lead to creative solutions and that clubbed with data and technology ensures you get the best out of what you have if distributed correctly, which is what our media division did, eventually leading to client delight,” shared Rammohan Sundaram, Country Head & Managing Partner – Integrated Media, DDB Mudra Group.  

On revamping and re-energising the media function to meet the changes that had come about during the crisis of 2020, Sundaram asserted that the agency was pivoting to a new structure and the pandemic accelerated that process. “We wanted to be lean and mean and our transformational efforts were well underway when the pandemic hit us in March last year. We restructured in June 2020, verticalized our teams nationally, changed our product offerings in digital, which again was absolutely bang on with the need of the market due to the pandemic,” he said. 

DDB Mudra Group’s new product offering was a triangle of digital video, e-commerce and Online Relationship Management (ORM). Their focus on mass media shifted to non-fiction and cricket which reflected the number of brands that participated in some of the largest events including the IPL.  

“So, even when budgets were slashed, we were right there in the thick of the action with our new product offerings in media, thereby building efficiencies and scale for brands,” he added.  

Brands, on the other hand, too responded to the overall situation with compassion and sensitivity. “They have been incredibly understanding at this time. They’ve graciously extended to us, the help they’re providing to their people. We’ve been offered support on flexibility on deadlines and prioritization of projects.  I think they are doing the right thing as well in putting people first,” pointed Kanthy.  

He further explained that brands have been demanding and rewarding in equal measure. “The key is to stay as close as we can to our partners and their path to growth,” he assured.   

On Creative Competence 

DDB Mudra Group is privileged to be part of an industry that continues to be relevant through this churn. With helping brands like Unilever, Pepsico, McDonald’s, J&J, Diageo and TTK, deal with these changes and enter new territories, as a natural consequence, the agency has grown too.  

On the work front, the pandemic triggered the floodgates of human ingenuity and productivity. The agency took this opportunity to create moments of happiness, togetherness, motivation and morale to offer hope and relief in whichever way possible.   

In its effort to inspire positive change, the EatQual initiative for McDonald's touched a million hearts. Its work for Meesho also helped fuel the entrepreneurial energy of women across the country, deeply empowering on the subject of identity and gender.  

The Stayfree ‘It’s just a period’ campaign also struck many conversations. It served as a great example of data lending more power to Stayfree’s brand purpose of normalising the conversation around periods.   

“Over 2 million girls would have their first period during the lockdown. And this is in a society where the conversation around periods is taboo, even between a daughter and her mother. So instead, girls confide in and reach out to their friends and teachers. But the lockdown meant they would not have that access. So, Stayfree used the occasion of World Menstruation Day to urge family members to normalise the conversation around periods. Our communication reached an audience of 15.33 million, of which 1.03 million were men in the age group of 25-45 and parents,” informed Rahul Mathew, Chief Creative Officer, DDB Mudra Group.  

Highlighting how creativity unfolded in times of crisis, Mathew commented, “I believe as long as you don’t have a crisis of creativity, you’ll always show creativity in a crisis. The pandemic has been a great learning experience for us – we bent more rules and stretched more boundaries.” 

He further suggested that the messaging for brands had always been born out of their consumers’ needs and emotions. “So, the pandemic didn’t change the way we think on our brands. We just had to put newer needs and emotions at the heart of our communication,” explained Mathew.   

It is not surprising that DDB Mudra Group’s primary focus in 2021 is on digital-led media investments, given the change in the overall media landscape.

*Note- The interview was conducted in mid-April and has been published now.