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Ashish Bhasin: 'In situations like COVID-19, trends are accelerated!'

22 May 2020

As the industry icon’s passion for advertising knows no bounds, in an interesting fireside conversation at AgencyCon 2020, Ashish Bhasin shared insights on the current state of Indian agency business, challenges & more.

“Yes, there will be a long dark tunnel but there’ll be light at the end of it”, says Ashish Bhasin, CEO APAC & Chairman India at Dentsu Aegis Network Asia Pacific on the impact of the ongoing pandemic on the A & M industry at AgencyCon 2020. In an interesting tête-à-tête with Social Samosa, the industry icon shares his sheer passion for the advertising industry, tips for freshers, & how all is not lost with recovery to happen in stages in the near future.


Current State of Indian Advertising

“We, Indians swing from one end of the pendulum to the other”, says Bhasin on the Indians embracing new normals & working from home. Speaking on the current state of agency business in India, he shares that while the situation isn’t very good but the worse is behind us. The recovery will happen soon but in stages, the leader points out.

Highlighting digital as the core medium, people have started to embrace, Bhasin highlights that necessity is the mother of all inventions.

“Nothing teaches us more than a necessity and nobody is more adaptive than Indians. ‘Jugaad’ is in our blood,” he shares.

“When you have situations like COVID-19, the trends are accelerated”. Irrespective of age, people are now forced to embrace digital. Agencies are adapting fast and catching up to this trend.

“In the new normal, you will have to find newer and better ways. Moving forward, we will be better prepared and more geared up”.


Remote VS Virtual Choices?

Taking the conversation forward, a glaring question that arises: Will certain things remain the same post-COVID-19, and will the ‘Work from Home’ (WFH) scenarios continue to be the ‘normal’ for many agencies? To this, Bhasin frankly responds that he has never been a fan of WFH and never done it himself.

With the tendency of Indians to be able to meander through problems, the future to the expert looks like a combination of both WFH and the office culture. “The initial 6-months will go in settling down. Eventually, the amount of WFH will go higher. I don’t think working will be only done remotely. Because a lot of things happen only when people come together.

In the new –normal I believe the offices will have lesser seats and more meeting rooms. Things will happen in phases.


Road to recovery and role of agencies in helping brands

“I am not a believer of V-shaped or sudden recovery”, asserts Bhasin. According to the expert, it will take 6 months down the road for the economy to set back on track and there will be 2 obstacles on the road to recovery: Liquidity & Demand. How we handle these will shape up our path ahead.

Clients are first going to come with performance-related advertising to help start liquidity so that the cash starts flowing. They can then start with brand building, he says.

Agencies have a big role to play in giving confidence to clients and newer ideas.

In the month of April, as compared to 2019, the industry is at least 50%-60% down, he highlights. Pointing towards brighter hues, Bhasin affirms, “Yes, there will be a long dark tunnel but there’ ll be light at the end of it too. We need to stay positive”.


Challenges ahead

Agencies will have issues with the confidence to invest first.

Every agency, big or small, has been hit. It will be important for agencies to stay positive nonetheless and support brands, inspiring confidenc, shares Bhasin

People will have an issue with talent. Jobs will be hard to find. Salary cuts are already happening. But when we come back to the new normal, we’ll need the best quality people to work in advertising. That’s what we’ll need to focus on.

So, build confidence with yourself and then clients. And invest in good-quality talent, says Bhasin


Advice for agency leaders & newcomers

It is not a great time to be looking for a job but according to the industry icon, Advertising is a great industry to be in. “It is a great career but not a great job”.

Earlier, he shares, you learned a skill to last you for a lifetime but now it’s different. “You have to unlearn and relearn. You need to constantly up-skill yourself”

As a piece of advice for the newbies, he answers a pertinent question: What is the best quality to be in the agency business? It would be the ability to withstand stress according to the leader. “Younger generation needs to have the tenacity. The greatest quality required in an advertising career is the ability to withstand stress, believes, Bhasin.

Expressing his passion for the industry at AgencyCon 2020, he shares that if he has to relive that one profession, it would be advertising.

“In the long run, Advertising is a great industry. Which is why I am in it & have been into it for over 30 years. I believe in advertising”

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