Saturday, May 18, 2013

2012. Leo Burnett Kenya. Deputy Managing Director.

The next stint at  Kenya was a short one. I joined a group which had tied up with Publicis and ran the brands of Leo Burnett Kenya, Saatchi & Saatchi Kenya, as also the media brand Starcom Media Vest.  The laws in Kenya require you to have a work permit and since I did not find one being arranged, decided to come back to India and safety. The stint however resulted in some great work on Nestle and Samsung.

On Nestle the agency pitched and won the corporate communications account. It started with an internal seminar where the entire East African contingent participated. I had to play Creative Director on this one since the market was not familiar with the kind of song and dance that happens in the sub- continent when such events are done. It hit the bulls eye and the songs which were written by the Agency with cover tunes of hit numbers had the entire team dancing. Yes, it showcased the Agency's skills and got us empaneled in the Agency roster for future work.

The work for Samsung Kenya involved setting up structures and systems to service the Client as it migrated into ERP and BPR procedures after becoming a subsidiary of Samsung . A new Standard Operating Procedure was devised to dovetail the Client Organizational Structure and Product Portfolio. The first assignment which was developed locally, was done for the IT Division. It was a campaign to promote the entire range of Samsung laptops.

Here again, the first response from the team was not acceptable to me since I could not find any consumer insight and consumer research was clearly required. Working with the team and after some trade visits we began to get a picture of the market which was clearly being driven by HP which had a strong institutional presence. People were being guided by the IT professional at work and ended up choosing the brand that the office purchased. Very few had any grasp of the technicalities and could not decide on which configuration suited them best. Clearly Samsung had to change the rules of the game and communicate in easy to relate terms, what they were offering and who was best suited for a given set of benefits. When all this was being prepared I was also pitching for business for the Agency and in one meeting a prospect remarked that he loved the Samsung posters for air- conditioners which had the line "Built for Africa". He mentioned that with most electronic products the key concern was whether it would survive the conditions in Africa, with its erratic power supply, its harsh weather, poor after sales service networks etal. This little conversation helped me finalize my brief and proposition for laptops. Samsung laptops were built with you in mind and each variant was specifically designed to fit a certain personality type. The top end lightweight Series 9 laptop was for the  senior managers and people for whom status connotations were key as much as speed and performance. For the middle managers who were working their way up and for whom performance was crucial at work and elsewhere, the Series5 was a work accessory.The Series 3 was for the college going kid for whom style and peer pressure competed with the need to stay within a budget, since most such laptops were financed with loans. Three options were presented and the one that was approved is shown below.The campaign was very well received by the Client teams, Publicis/ LB in South Africa and released. Since it happened after my return to India I could not actually control what finally appeared in media :).

It so happened that while I was in Nairobi, the Saatchi and Saatchi team from London came down to research a TVC that had run well in Nigeria for the brand Guinness. Diageo was a client and in Nairobi, we helped coordinate the pre-testing. It was an opportunity for me to understand the Kenyan consumer better and therefore I made sure I was with them every step of the way. I was quite heartened to see the meticulous attention to detail the religious adherence to the research process For the planner in me, it was one of the most satisfying couple of days of my tenure.
 The TVC itself impressed me much. I thought it captured the ethos and rhythms of a continent that was coming to terms with itself. People were shrugging off the shroud of internecine war and looking to be gainfully employed and overcome their social situation.The recession in Europe and elsewhere had pushed business houses to Africa.They were plying their wares here to a young population which was reasonably well educated and had survived years of exploitation and war.There was optimism in the air and hope. The ticket to sitting at the table with the men who made it was aspirational for the youngsters in Kenya who seemed quite moved by this piece of advertising. Guinness Ticket TVC from Nigeria

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