MullenLowe Lintas’ ‘Year Of Effort, Not Recognition’

Looking at the journeys of some of India’s creative powerhouses in our series, #AdlandUpclose, here’s talking with the leadership team at MullenLowe Lintas Group (MLLG) on how they pulled through the past year

If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that anything and everything about the way we run our businesses can be challenged and changed overnight. MullenLowe Lintas Group’s trajectory in the past years, especially its navigation through the pandemic, is a testament of leadership stepping forward and embracing this process of change, rather than taking a step back to delay it, or even standing at the same spot and waiting for it to hit its stakeholders. Honesty, focus on innovation, evolution and open to feedback remained the key ingredients for its operations in these uncertain times.  

Along with having an explicit communication with its employees and making them a prime part of agency’s journey, MLLG also endeavoured to build a sense of direction and solidarity as it navigated through the past one year.  

On the agency’s client front, the challenge was to respect the rules of the game and needless to say, it faced it head-on. The pandemic forced both marketeers and agencies to rethink their structures, models and the way they think and communicate. To minimalize the damage caused by the pandemic, MLLG switched from a reactive to a more proactive setting and engineered some of the most laud-worthy campaigns. 

Its ‘Hum Andar Corona Bahar’ campaign for Zee was one of its kind, that aimed at creating the first-ever completely #FilmedFromHome #HumAndarCoronaBahar Initiative. The entire campaign was created by people working from home and was pushed aggressively on social media platforms with some clever video edits of show and movie footage.

In another interesting effort to change the world’s handwashing habits forever, the agency partnered with Lifebuoy, for its ‘H for Handwashing’ campaign, to encourage more children to adopt handwashing habits. It revolved around teaching children the simple associations with everyday references such as ‘A’ for apple, ‘B’ for ball and ‘C’ for cat. With this campaign, Lifebuoy hoped to fundamentally assign the letter ‘H’ with Handwashing.

Where Creativity Is A Way Of Life

It is no hidden fact that agencies and marketers have always aspired to make creativity in adversity more meaningful. On being asked how the leadership team kept the morale and motivation of the creative champions high, Amer Jaleel, Group CCO & Chairman, MullenLowe Lintas Group shares, “It’s been the reverse actually. There has been no need to ‘keep the creative motivated’. A crisis brings out so much emotion and that bursts into creative thoughts. We have had to control and channelize our teams. It’s been an absolute profusion of insights and thoughts and ideas that has burst from Lowe Lintas, Mullen Lintas and Lintas Live.” 

This unprecedented time has had a mixed impact on the industry, while it broke some, it also built some. Jaleel suggests that as a collective of marketing and advertising, we should recognize what is happening to our professional lives, come together and examine this work collaboratively to seek solutions to reduce the pressure both from marketing and downstream from advertising. “If this happens then some greater good would have been achieved as ‘collateral benefit’,” he hopes.  

Jaleel also insists to dig out and celebrate those stories and those people from the industries that are close to us. “This is the year of not top-fiving or top-tenning, but top-alling those guys, their efforts,” he believes. 

Revealing the agency’s mantra for consistently executing a series of admirable work, such as its recent ‘CliQ this summer’ campaign for TataCLiQ, where we witnessed a witty banter between Karan Johar -Twinkle Khanna in quick 15 seconds videos, or the ‘#SwitchOff’ campaign for Vivo, that aimed to encourage smartphone users in India to switch off from their mobile devices and spend quality time with family and friends, Jaleel urges, “Stay close to your consumer, your audience. Stay close to your core, your brand. Stay alert to opportunities that work for your brand. Stay true and honest and never exploit.” 

Determined To Deliver 

Brands have always been demanding and businesses are under increasing pressure to deliver. There is a constant need for agency folks to update their playbook with stakes being higher than ever. Within this context, it’s important to understand that the brand-agency relationship is a very delicate one.  

“The best of the relationship is built on shared ambition, shared values and culture. Most importantly, on mutual respect and inspiration. Agencies need to always bring in the new and fresh view from the outside, whether its strategy or creative or execution. It’s the best bet for a marketer to keep their brands looking desirable. To this end, it’s important that agencies understand the developments in not just consumer insights, but also technology, data and digital platforms to be able to find the new opportunities.  

Falling into the sameness trap is the agency’s worst nightmare. They also need a marketer that understands this and welcomes it. Equally, agency teams can move mountains for a brand they love, respect and get inspired by. It can be a very, very powerful force in the marketing arsenal of a brand. Great marketers recognize this. Average marketers are those that are myopic and treat agencies as interchangeable creative people that can deliver the scripts for the next campaign,” explains Virat Tandon, Group CEO, MullenLowe Lintas Group.  

The advertising game is changing and keeping up with the dynamic market is a new challenge altogether. Commenting on how the agency is coping with the changing dynamics, Tandon agrees that the role of digital platforms, data and technology in marketing and advertising has gained a massive momentum and that these have helped with newer ways to serve the brands better. “We have increased our investments in training our talent and in hiring of new skills. We have developed new tools that bring the valuable data driven insights. We are driving a culture of “Hyper bundling” to bring in an integrated solutions approach by collaborating with specialist teams from within MLLG and with other IPG companies and sometimes with other new MarTech startups,” he adds. 

The agency’s key strength remains in its absolute grasp on the changing consumer mindset, identifying insights/ideas that represent major shifts in our complex and diverse culture. This, combined with their ability to build brands over time, using right interventions along its lifecycle, has allowed them to be the best custodians for their partnering brands.