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M G Parameswaran, fondly known as Ambi, has been elected President of Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) for the year 2014-2015, following a formal announcement on Friday last week.

“I am indeed honoured to be elected as the President of AAAI and I could say that this is a culmination of my involvement with AAAI which started almost eight years ago. AAAI has had some advertising legends serving as the President in the past, and several leaders from my agency FCB Ulka have donned this hat in the past, so it is a double honour to do it. The post comes with a lot of responsibilities and duties to the member Ad Agencies, Creative Agencies, Full Service Agencies and Media Agencies. I am fully aware of these responsibilities and I do hope to fulfill these to the best of my abilities,” he commented on his election.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Parameswaran talks about his unwavering commitment towards resolving issues that pervade the ad community across the country, his ambitious plans of making Indian media and advertising field at par with its Western counterparts, nurturing young talent, and more…

What are your plans and approach to take things forward?

AAAI was set up almost 70 years ago with the objective of helping Advertising Agencies serve a better role in society. AAAI provides a strong voice to advertising agencies when it comes to dealing with powerful industry bodies and the government agencies. AAAI is not a one man show and as the President I am only serving the cause of the general body which has elected me, unopposed at that.

The meeting of the newly elected Executive Council of AAAI is set to take place in two weeks and I will work with my EC colleagues to evolve an agenda for the next year on what AAAI can do to help its member agencies, clients, media and the society at large. I have my ideas and plans, but I will move only when I have the full support of the EC.

What are the main of the challenges faced by the industry in your view?

Advertising agency business around the world has been buffeted by winds of change and the wind speed dramatically changed with the growth of digital medium, in the west. I believe that just as television changed the way advertising was delivered many decades ago, digital too will change the way advertising is delivered. Agencies will have to learn how to do this well, in India as well.

Advertising agencies in India are also facing multiple challenges, in addition to the one mentioned above. Clients want more and more services for less and less. Agencies who win a pitch are then told to negotiate with the Procurement Team; often agencies are not prepared in the fine art of negotiations.

Media owners have always been bigger than advertising agencies, at least in terms of capital employed and they are creating innovative sales methods that are causing heartburn to agencies [as recently as last week, AAAI had to intervene to help a small South India based agency which had got caught in the cross fire between a media group and a client].

AAAI has to play a role in acting as a strong yet fair intermediary force between clients and media. We also need to be active in presenting the cause of advertising to the powers that be. This may need new measures, new processes, new training, etc. We will discuss what can be achieved in a reasonable time frame and get to work.

How are you going to involve younger people?

AAAI’s Goafest initiative is aimed at helping the younger members of the advertising community to get exposed to top class speakers and great advertising, all under the Goa sun.

AAAI also holds contests to send bright young people both from the client side and from the agency side to international contests and conferences.

AAAI would love to create a forum for the young leaders from the ad agency world to provide it with new ideas on how AAAI can serve the larger cause better.

Education and training is on the top of our agenda and hopefully we will be able to create some online courses to help raise the talent level in the industry.

What are the new initiatives we can expect to see under your leadership?

AAAI is deeply involved with several industry initiatives such as BARC. You may not be aware, but AAAI was one of the founding partners of ASCI. Initiatives like NRS were also actively supported and midwifed by AAAI. We are also older than Ad Club [ an organization that I was fortunate to lead almost a decade ago] and proud of our partnership with Ad Club on many fronts.

You can be rest assured that AAAI, going forward will be actively involved in industry bodies that will help ad agencies, clients and media do their job better.

If you were to single out one area for me, I would pick on talent upgradation. AAAI can do a lot more. At Ad Club, I piloted the concept of CEP [Continuing Education Programs]. AAAI may want to explore that option, but now with the power of the Online Classroom model. We will also make sure that colleges in the key cities of India offer a competent Advertising Management course and AAAI will endeavor to help them do it by creating material for their use, under the AAAI banner.

We will also explore ways of getting involved with other media vendors in a more systematized manner; we do have arrangements with the larger media, but other key media such as digital, outdoor and radio are on the agenda.

We hope to create forums to involve young leaders, digital agencies [who may not be part of member agencies] and other specializations who need a stronger voice.

The international world of advertising needs to see a lot more of the intellectual and creative prowess that exists in Indian agencies; we may need to set in motion initiatives that can get Indian advertising professionals a stronger voice on international forums.

Even in our own country AAAI needs to work hard to ensure that advertising professionals are seen as value building consultants and not as mere suppliers of creative, to be hired and fired at the whim of brand management. This cannot happen just because we want it to happen; it will happen only if we make our competencies and deeds speak this language.

Do you think the industry lacks unity at this point given the differences we witnessed at the last Goafest? How do you plan to bring the industry together?

It is unfortunate that industry unity is seen through only one lens: Awards ! Yes, we compete aggressively for business [show me one industry where this does not happen]. Yes, we are hungry for awards [Is this not common to all the creative arts?]. Yes, we poach talent from each other [again tell me a service industry where this does not happen]. But we are also together united on facing the issues confronting the ad agency business: challenges of revenue generation, challenges of getting the right talent and of truant clients and media. We all know the importance of a strong association that can be a voice in the courts that matter. We have come together many times in the past to face the challenges and that seems to be lost in translation.

So we are a lot more united that you think. Yes, when it comes to the business of advertising, we are a lot more united that we are given credit for.

Finally, I do have a 9 to 5 job at FCB Ulka, but from Monday, I hope to devote 5 pm onwards to whatever it takes, every day, for AAAI and bigger industry causes. I look forward to the support of member agencies, clients and definitely the media in this endeavor.