Quantum Brief

Why did Godrej Consumer Products set up an in-house ad agency?

Sudhir Sitapati, MD and CEO of GCPL and CMO Ashwin Moorthy, share their reasons and reactions to the big ad shift in-house with Lightbox.

By  Indrani BoseNov 23, 2023 9:05 AM
Why did Godrej Consumer Products set up an in-house ad agency?
Two years ago, GCPL spent Rs 500 crore globally in media spends, in FY23 it spent a ballpark of Rs 1000 crore. (Representative Image: Dragos Gontariu via Unsplash)

When Godrej Consumer Products Limited (GCPL) launched its own in-house ad agency, Lightbox, on April 1 this year, it was responding to a realisation that its internally designed branding had become quite iconic and successful.

Sudhir Sitapati, Managing Director and CEO of Godrej Consumer Products Limited says of LightBox. “It wasn’t a eureka moment. Before I joined GCPL, I was always very impressed with the design and packaging of GCPL products. I found Cinthol packaging quite iconic. When I joined GCPL, I realised that it has in-housed packaging, something that most companies outsource. I was very curious to know the advantages of it."

The design and packaging team had continuity. They had enormous consumer connectivity and they were very close to the people who were running the brand. "That’s why GCPL was able to come up with iconic packaging, and so I thought about how an in-house agency would be for GCPL," adds Sitapati, in a conversation with Storyboard18's editor Delshad Irani.

Two years ago, GCPL spent Rs 500 crore globally in media spends, in FY23 it spent a ballpark of Rs 1000 crore.

When GCPL set up an internal marketing team, Sitapati decided to build a team under Thomas Dawes who was both strategic and creative. Sitapati saw him participating in some of the early ads. "That's when I thought why not build a team under him and see where it takes us," shares Sitapati.

Ashwin Moorthy, chief marketing officer, GCPL, says there has been a shift in thinking. The level of collaboration is higher. The level of challenge is also quite high. When you have an in-house advertising or creative team, their ability to challenge is a lot more. They are not worried about you as a business, they are worried about the brand as an objective.

Recently, a leader of the Lightbox crew at GCPL wasn’t quite happy with the brief she was given. She went and met consumers herself and got a better insight. The lines of servicing, brand management and creativity are beginning to blur a bit.

While addressing whether GCPL is setting the same sort of benchmarks and targets that they did with agencies, Sitapati says that the mandate with Thomas and team is business growth. Thomas is not only responsible for the quality of advertising; his biggest mandate is market share and growth.

Talking about how top two creative heads of lightbox came into being, Sitapati says, "Bombay is a global mecca of advertising; so it’s been pretty cool to get talent in. I spoke with some of the guys I worked with and asked them who are the best guys they have collaborated with in advertising, and we got Gaurav and Shalini as the two creative heads in Lightbox".

Part of the debate against in-housing was that talent doesn’t get room for too much creativity and being in a corporate structure, one doesn’t get to work on different brands and different categories.

Moorthy says it all comes down to culture and scope. The culture we have here is quite an open one. We value creativity. We are willing to take risks on some of our brands. That’s also helped the Lightbox team as they come from a client culture.

The second thing that has worked well for GCPL is the palette that it offers. It has global mandates where a person works across categories. So, it keeps the creative mind tickled as there is a sense of challenge as well.

Sitapati says there was a question of keeping creative talent engaged when they set out to start Lightbox. A lot of people in the agency think that the agency model needs to change; it needs to respond a bit more to the new world we are living in.

Now, having seen the body of work in the last six months since launch, Sitapati is confident this will work and also points to the cost saving.

Moorthy continues that line of thought and says that costs are saved on agency overheads. The roles are merged as well, brand management talent does strategic planning, the copywriter sits in the same meeting as Sitapati does, the structure in an in-house agency is leaner and less costly.

Sitapati points to the technology revolution over the last 20 years that has opened up multiple ways by which companies can radically reduce overheads using talented people. Covid has also made people bolder in the use of technology and made them imagine, he says.

Sitapati talks about witnessing business impact in many of GCPL's categories. "The most business impact has been in Godrej Air, which is pretty much an in-house design idea. It is based on this insight that people use the Air care product for the first time when guests come home. When your back is turned, the guests gossip about you! So guest gossiping was a big idea. The ad had these characters in talking rooms gossiping about the smell of the room.

We have also had good results with Goodknight where we are using the idea of trying Dads," reveals Sitapati.

Moorthy talks about Godrej Genteel and says that while relaunching the laundry detergent, when the brief was given to LightBox, Shalini, (one of the creative heads) wasn't quite convinced. She met consumers in Chennai and came up with a new insight revolving around the negotiation between smart kids and smarter mums.

Sitapati shares that he gets involved in the first ad, as he believes once the first one works out, the rest of the ads follow the same route. There is no insecurity in the organisation and fresh perspectives and a certain level of risks are welcomed. The proximity plays a huge role here.

Creativity has to trump, Whatever is the best model for creativity to succeed, that will succeed, signs off Sitapati.

Watch the full conversation on Media Dialogues With Storyboard18 on CNBC-TV18.

First Published on Nov 23, 2023 9:02 AM