Madras Brand Solutions creates a nimble business model with a global reach

The Drum 15 February 2017

The name Madras has several meanings. It could be the heady curry blend that tempts palates worldwide, the former name of the Indian city of Chennai, or the colorful patterned texture and lightweight cotton fabric commonly used on shorts of the same name.

All those come together for a new agency that has chosen that moniker – Madras Brand Solutions.

“There are roots from the company that were in India – our parent [company] is the Ad2pro group out of Chennai, and Madras was the old name for Chennai.” said chief creative officer, Andrew Ladden. “The perspective we take on it is that it’s a woven fabric and it’s the coming together of many different things to create one seamless, beautiful pattern, it’s reflected in our logo as well.”

The agency was launched by Ad2Pro earlier this year and put ad veteran Fred Schuster, formerly of RedWorks (WPP) and Craft Worldwide (IPG), in charge as chief executive. He said that the typical agency model is front-loaded and expensive, meaning that by the time strategy and ideas come to life, there is little time or budget left over for amplification. When consumer behaviors shift or competitors pivot, as they often do, brands struggle to find the funds to react quickly and effectively, and Schuster and company sought another way.

“Marketers need to be ‘always-on’ and have constant engagement with their consumers across multiple channels. The traditional agency model is just too linear and slow to accomplish that. It places too much emphasis on initial strategy and creative development, leaving little funding left for ongoing development of communications to keep a campaign fresh,” said Schuster.

He added that they designed Madras around a continuous engagement model where the company’s strategic and creative talent not only develops powerful brand platforms but is constantly seeking opportunities to develop impactful content, so marketers can respond quickly to changes, opportunities and threats that appear every day.

Whereas top creative directors typically disengage after delivering the initial big idea, Madras creative leads stay connected to address clients’ changing needs fluidly. By focusing on longer-term engagements, Madras enables the heavy creative investment to be amortized over the course of evolving campaigns.

“We see ourselves as a new type of full-service agency and look to an AOR model that is able to generate more work for our clients against the same marketing budgets. Thus returning agency value beyond just ideas and insights,” Schuster added.

A familiar duo helps create success

Ladden is new to the company. He and co-chief creative officer Bill Davaris came to the agency in November of 2016 before the official launch and they fit the mold of the company perfectly.

“Bill and I have been partners for 20 years,” said Ladden of their collaboration. We started at a small agency where we met, called Karlin + Pimsler where we worked on the British Airways account,” said Ladden.

The two then went to Ogilvy & Mather to work on the Sheraton account. In their time there, they met Schuster. The three clicked within the corporate structure, but didn’t always run their end of the company like a traditional agency.

“We always felt like we operated in this boutique-y, hands-on kind of way even when we were at Ogilvy, but we were always in the big agency, the gigantic holding company. It’s great – obviously we were there so long. But this is a chance to build something that’s more independent – I think that independent vibe is really strong,” said Ladden.

Ladden and Davaris stayed at Ogilvy for 17 years through several departments. During that time, Schuster stayed in touch with the dynamic duo and eventually brought them over to Madras.

“We just kind of lived and grew at Ogilvy, taking on several different roles and actually running one group called RedWorks, which Fred took global. As years went on, we started another group called The Shop, which functioned as an AOR for mid-sized businesses, doing brand work and strategic creative for lots of opportunities that Ogilvy wanted to take on but maybe couldn’t quite figure out how to do with their model,” added Ladden.

Now re-teamed at Madras with Schuster, the three have an opportunity to run the model they way they planned.

“We’re storytellers. A storyteller is a storyteller, no matter if you’re at Ogilvy or a small boutique shop. The big differentiator for me is offering our clients a new engagement model,” said Davaris.

“What I love about this model and why we’re so excited creatively is that we’re telling the client that we don’t want to just create content now, we want to create content and themes throughout the year and allow the brand to be this opportunistic brand,” Davaris added.

Global independence and a streamlined approach

Madras is essentially an indie shop with a global reach, which Ladden sees as a positive.

“The global nature of it is that we have the capabilities. There’s a management team and a structure in place but it’s not as beholden to shareholders and holding companies. So if we need capabilities, whether it’s out of London or out of India or anywhere else in the US it’s just a phone call away and we’re all working together. It’s really seamless – there’s no bureaucracy or red tape. We can just click into gear really quickly,” he said.

Schuster added: “Our business model brings world-class insights, ideas and implementation that delivers more creative and more content. This allows our clients’ brands to create more meaningful and connected customer experiences. To do this, we identify strategic insights and develop creative solutions in our near-shore hubs of London and New York, then cost-effectively executes them via our off-shore content and production teams in Bangalore and Chennai.”

For Davaris, he sees the Madras way as a newsroom mentality but doing it in a very high-touch way – not trying to do all the work and spend all the money in the first three months.

“We’re saying ‘let’s turn the brand on right now and have the brand react to a trend, truth or topic.’ Let’s say a brand has $2m. $1.2m of it gets completely eaten up by the strategy, discovery, creative expression, in the first three to four months, and the client’s left over with $750,000 to go make some stuff. The brand kind of tapers off. We’d rather have a different engagement model, where we put some skin in the game. We do some big, thematic strategy work up front and try and show the client that we can be more cost effective and keep some of that budget so that we can make more compelling work throughout the year.”

Madras has broken its model into four types of content to help define its touchpoints:

  • Why content – Why does the brand exist and what is its purpose?
  • How content – Proof that they’re a thought leader in the space.
  • What content – Informative, regarding services and capabilities.
  • When content – Madras’ concept, which is all about timing, including events, PR and anything else timely.

“We’re saying to the client – we’re willing to do the upfront strategy for a much lower cost for the why and to create some themes for the how, so we can keep more of the budget available in case we need to do when content. When something breaks in the news and the brand should really react to it, jump into gear and make something,” said Davaris.

Without a typical siloed approach, the agency is making it financially easier so that they can shift some of that strategy cost towards making and doing more. They are realistic about that, admitting that they can’t turn $100,000 into a $3m campaign. But if it’s an AOR-type relationship, they can put the budget into the Madras model.

Finding the perfect client

A perfect client for Madras would be a retailer, because they have seasonal and event needs, but also have brand awareness and cultural needs.

“We want to remain flexible to communicate throughout the year,” said Ladden. “We can help them to be very productive during the busy times but we can help them to be relevant during the times when things are typically slower.”

Even though Madras is in its early stages, it’s already seeing chances to grow.

“I think the story we’re telling is intriguing a lot of clients. We’re not having to pull, we’re being pulled in,” said Ladden.

Creatively, the team is looking for clients who are entrepreneurial creatives, those who are searching for opportunities and always on. They’re also looking for what Davaris calls ‘social geeks’, those who understand video, and behavior on a mobile and social level.

Davaris and Ladden think Madras is poised to be opportunistic with their more nimble approach to business.

“We have to be pitching our clients on great opportunities all year. What Fred Schuster has allowed Andy and I to do, is say, ‘I want you to have at it. Make it as if it’s your brand. Constantly look for opportunities.’ Because we know that’s where the great work is going to come out and we have to prove great work right away of stage one,” said Davaris.

Added Schuster: “Madras focuses on what’s important – making it financially easier to create more continuous and impactful content for our clients.

This New Shop Is Seeking to Redefine the Agency of Record Model

Adweek 02 February 2017

Clients around the world are moving away from agency of record relationships in favor of cost-cutting, project-based contracts and in-house assignments. But with the acquisition of U.K. agency Somewhat and the subsequent hires of chief creative officers Bill Davaris and Andy Ladden from Ogilvy & Mather, Ad2Pro Media Solutions CEO and agency veteran Fred Schuster thinks he’s found a solution to one of the industry’s most pressing problems. And that solution has a name—Madras.

The new agency aims to attract clients by redefining the AOR model via a network with global reach and an eye toward continuous engagement across multiple platforms with the idea of pushing ideas to market as soon as they materialize.

Schuster thinks clients moved away from an approach that became too linear and financially unfeasible with resources spent up front and agencies left unable to adapt.

“We need to be creating without looking to hand it off somewhere down the line,” Schuster said.”The problem becomes a financial one, [and] we can offer the resources we have at a much more competitive price. What clients need today might not be what they need tomorrow.”

Madras evolved out of Ad2Pro Brand Solutions, whose client roster included Macy’s, Lenovo and Clark Shears, by combining the resources of Somewhat with Ad2Pro’s network in London and India. In order to strengthen his new unit’s ability to produce work, Schuster convinced executive creative directors Davaris and Ladden to leave Ogilvy & Mather New York after 17 years and join the agency as co-chief creative officers.

Several months ago, consultants attending an industry conference said Schuster’s model made “perfect sense” but needed the “credibility of world-class creative talent.” At the time, Schuster was still in negotiations with Davaris and Ladden.

“What we love is being an ‘always-on,’ proactive creative, trying to pitch clients on how we can create engagement for the brand,” Davaris and Ladden explained, adding that they plan to leverage Madras’ international teams when needed. “We know Fred and Madras have our back on allowing the client to leverage more of a budget on making stuff rather than discovering stuff. It removes a shackle that a lot of creatives feel, being forced to think about budgets a lot.”

They summed up Madras’ philosophy as a series of small creative projects rather than “just one big idea,” but they remain firmly steeped in tradition when discussing campaigns unified by a “big purposeful theme.” For the model to work, they will have to work quickly to address trends and breaking news for clients in a way that resembles PR.

“Engagement involves strategy brand work up front,” said Ladden. “Billing for that will be less than what is typical, and the leftover budget allows the agency to continually create content. Bill and I will work on content creation and digital assets, and we can rely on the network in London and India to help us get it done.”

“Some of the ways that agencies have used offshoring as a throw-it-over-the-wall kind of thing, that’s not what we’re about,” Ladden and Davaris said, stressing that the talent in India, London and other locations is “first rate and the type of people we can work with—not just feed projects to but collaborate with.”

Ladden and Davaris ultimately see Madras as encapsulating “the partnership that was always meant to be [in the AOR model].”

Time will tell if Madras can convince clients of that.

Ad2pro Launches New Ad Agency

by Steve McClellan @mp_mcclellan 02 February 2017

Marketing services company Ad2pro has launched a new ad agency called Madras Brand Solutions. It will be led by CEO Fred Schuster, who joined the parent company last June as CEO of its Global Brand Solutions division.

Schuster is an industry veteran who previously ran WPP’s ad and marketing services shop RedWorks and Interpublic’s commercial production and distribution unit Craft.

Also joining Madras are two Ogilvy & Mather senior creative executives Bill Davaris and Andrew Ladden who have worked together at the WPP agency network for 17 years.

In 2015 Ad2pro acquired UK digital creative agency Somewhat, which will now become part of Madras.

Ad2pro was founded in 2006 to deliver high-­volume digital and print design, marketing communication and technology services from its India studios. The launch of Madras represents the parent company’s continued expansion into the ad agency space.

“We believe great brands are leaving too much value on the table,” said Schuster. Whether it’s due to cost, timing or inefficiency, there are brilliant tactics and ideas that deserve to be seen and experienced, yet most of them are left behind.”

Davaris and Ladden will lead the Madras Global strategy and creative teams in New York and London, as well as a content creation and delivery unit out of Chennai and Bangalore, India. At launch the agency’s staff totals 1,100.

The new agency counts as clients Macys, Lenovo, BBC, Tesco, Clarks, French Connection, Manolo Blahnik and American Outdoorsman. Services provided include strategy and planning, traditional brand communications, websites, social and mobile campaigns, experiential and engagement, content fulfillment and execution.

People on the move: Featuring Above+Beyond, Prophet, BBDO and more

By Danielle Gibson 31 March 2017

This week has seen another wave of appointments and departures at brands, media owners and agencies. The Drum has rounded up the key moves from the EMEA, APAC and North America regions below.

EMEA

Above+Beyond

Above+Beyond has appointed Karmarama’s planning director Matt Sadler as its first head of strategy.

In this new role, Sadley will head up the agency’s strategy team, strengthen its “agency for the audience age” plans and navigating its key accounts like Amazon, Betway, Meantime Brewing and Ornua.

OpenX
OpenX has decided to shake up its EMEA business by appointing Dominic Trigg as vice-president for the region and the promotion of Richard Kidd to head of business development.

In their new roles, Kidd will be responsible for accelerating OpenX’s reach in the DACHA region, while Trigg will take the lead on their partner services business.

Jellyfish

Jellyfish is heading to Barcelona in a move hat the agency said will ‘future proofing its business amid Brexit concerns’.

The new office will be overseen by Edward Ball, managing director EMEA of Jellyfish, with the day-to-day running of the agency being managed by analytics director Elias Nuevo, who moves from the agency’s London headquarters.

National Geographic

National Geographic has appointed Maria Maranesi as Vice President, Consumer Products, NGP Europe & Africa and Nathan Philpot as Director, Travel, NGP Europe & Africa.

Maranesi will lead on driving and transforming the consumer product division while Philpot will take on the role of developing and launching the branded consumer travel experiences across Europe and Africa.

Energizer Holdings, Inc

Energizer Holdings, Inc has announcee two new appointments at its European headquarters in High Wycombe, UK.

Johan Rasmusson has taken on the role of Vice President, Europe in the company’s International Leadership Team and working under him will be Jens Stimpel, formerly Business Director for the markets Poland, Central Europe, Spain, Benelux, Greece and Israel, as Business Director, North Europe.

ASIA

Prophet

Former Asia-Pacific chief executive at J. Walter Thompson,Tom Doctoroff, has been snapped up by Prophet as a senior partner.

With two decades of experience working with brands in Asia, Doctoroff will work between the company’s US and Asia offices and help Asian companies and multinational brands to operate and grow in Asian markets.

Bloomberg Media

Bloomberg Media has announced a new head of marketing and live events in the form of Serene Chew.

Chew has over 20 years of experience in media marketing and advertising sales development, and will be responsible for consumer marketing and live events as well as overseeing strategy, development, design and execution for Bloomberg Live events business.

NORTH AMERICA

BBDO

BBDO has appointed Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ Kate Catalinac and DDB’s Corinne Goode as its new creative directors.

Their new role will have them both work across the agency’s expanding roster of clients.

Havas Chicago

Havas Chicago has brought in Paul Hirsch as the executive creative director.

Hirsch will partner with Drew Donatelle, executive creative director of The Annex and lead creative directors and the creative work of Havas Chicago.

Arnold

Arnold are to lose global chief creative officer, Jim Elliot with the position remaining unfilled once he leaves.

The company shake-up follows a volatile period at parent firm Havas, which is undergoing a global restructuring that will see it streamline management to four regional chairmen.

Madras Brand Solutions

Madras Brand Solutions has appointed Mark Cerame as head of strategy.

Cerame will work from the New York office, where he’ll team with Madras chief creative officers Bill Davaris and Andrew Ladden and collaborate with Madras offices in London and India.

Blast Radius

Blast Radius has taken in Kevin Drew Davis as its chief creative officer.

Joining Blast Radius from DDB San Francisco, Davis will oversee all creative operations, brand strategy and experience design in the Chicago and Canadian markets.

Midnight Oil

Midnight Oil has announced two new executive-level employees in the form of Scott Murray and Dani Kollin.

Murray will lead Midnight Oil’s creative content team, having previously lead content teams at Herzog & Company and Buddha Jones, and Kollin, having experience in campaigns like Microsoft, Samsung Mobile, Hot Wheels and Matchbox, will lead the creative on the company’s SoftBank Robotics account.

Formula 1
Formula 1 has appointed Ian Holmes as Global Director of Media Rights and Kate Beavan as Global Director of Hospitality, Experiences and Packages.

Holmes will be leading a team responsible for the licensing of audio visual rights to third parties across linear, non-linear, full length and short-form content. Beavan will take on the role of continuing the growth of the “best in class” hospitality programme as well as driving innovation corporate and fan packages associated with the Formula 1 schedule.