Communication is more about content than just ads: Sunil Lulla

Updated: Aug 26 2014, 09:28am hrs
Sunil Lulla has worn many hats. From travelling across the Indian countryside during his JWT days to understand why women liked to wear flowers in their hair to executing a turnaround in HMV's fortunes to transforming an American brand such as MTV into a happy Indian entity, Lulla has done it all. For a short time, he dabbled in the internet world as CEO of Indya.com before moving on to Sony Entertainment Television where he was part of the core team that introduced Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi and Indian Idol to Sony's content line-up. His last stint was with Bennett Coleman & Co. (BCCL) where he was president, corporate development. In a conversation with FE BrandWagon's Anindita Sarkar, Lulla, who took over as chairman and managing director of Grey Group India late last month, talks about how he will use his vast experience in media and communications to grow his agency's business. Edited excerpts:

What are your plans for the Grey Group

I have only recently joined Grey Group India. This is a great business, with stellar brands and outstanding talent, which recently won accolades at Cannes and is the digital agency of the year. My work is cut out for me as the demands of the communication industry is transforming. Enabled with cutting edge technology and the co-creation of content, communication is indeed becoming an engaging conversation. Its more content than just advertising today. Grey Group is well poised to herald this transformation to its clients and the brands on its roster. Growth is very obviously a continuum. Finding new ways to converse with consumers and staying on top of our game is the simple goal. Grey Groups tag line is 'Famously effective' and we need to demonstrate this every day.

You spent more than nine years in various leadership roles at BCCL. How do you plan to use that experience here

Having worked across communication, media, digital and marketing over a range of stellar brands and business over the last 30 years, it is the passion for consumers which drives me. I played a key role in creating and shaping the brands in the Times Groups Television Network. It comes from putting consumer interests at the centre of your vision and building relevant differentiation. Working with talent requires being able to give them space and direction both. Most importantly, effective orchestration is what I bring to the table, coupled with innovation.

You started your career with JWT and today, after spending so many years in television, you are back

to advertising. What is the reason behind coming back to advertising now

One way to stay eternally young, I guess! Importantly, it is the passion for brands and new ways to speak to them that I find exciting. Today, more than ever before, I believe we have many ways to engage consumers in conversation and content. The economy will continue to grow and advertising and communication will play an important accelerator in this growth story.

There have been many exciting opportunities for me. I consider myself fortunate to have built great brands such as MTV, Sony, Times Television Network, HMV and the brands of JWT over the last 30 years. Each experience has only added to my growth. In turn, I have helped each of these businesses grow. Consumers, brands and different ways of connecting are my passions that I cherish each day.

How has the advertising industry evolved in the past one decade How is that different from the evolution of broadcasting

Globally, there are many ways to connect with the consumer. Traditional forms of broadcasts have given way to shorter, swifter modes of communication. Fixed spaces have given way to mobile spaces. This has challenged the nature in which ideas are created, generated and consumed. Newer forms of communication have emerged. There are more brands in every category and there is growth all around. The business is evolving and thats what makes it exciting and so very valuable to clients. India is evolving in the same way as the world and it gives Indian talent global opportunities.

What are the challenges that the news broadcast business faces given its complete dependence on advertising for survival

Unlike the US and Europe, with the plethora of news channels here,

subscription is a very limited contributor to news channels' revenues. In the US, it can be almost 50% for the big news networks. In India, only a few have 10-15% of their total revenues from subscriptions. News channels will need to evolve their digital offerings fast here.

While the advertising market is currently abuzz with the potential of digital media and technology, do you think that its still the 'idea' that forms the backbone of any creative practice

Ideas are and will always be the heart of the business. Technology is only a format of delivery or reception without the right idea the switch does not come on.