What is the general scenario with respect to succession planning in the advertising industry?
It depends upon individual agencies. The truth is that the advertising and marketing environment is changing rapidly. So frankly, one can plan three years ahead. Anything beyond that is probably not practical. If you look at major global networks, there is a huge question mark on how the industry will evolve. Should the new chairman be from the traditional advertising space? Should he be from digital space? Should he have certain special skills? Or should we look for someone who just has damn good management talent? Therefore, because of the rapid change in the media environment, for anybody to be able to forecast the width of exact skill sets that would be needed for the next line of leadership is a challenge. Even if you look like a company like Pepsi which has a very strong management bench, they’ve revealed that they are looking for someone from a totally unrelated industry. Having said that, succession planning is important. One should certainly have a plan with an understanding of where the environment is headed. It is important to have contenders for succession. It’s fluid who will succeed Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP. It’s fluid who will replace Maurice Levy at Publicis. And that just reflects into structures.

Do you think this sort of a scenario is justifiable or should there be much more planning going into it?
In a stable environment, you work with firm plans. In fluid environments, you work with scenarios. And clearly, today we’re working in a fluid environment. Look at the amount of change that has happened over the last five years. We couldn’t have forecasted the magnitude of change that was about to come. Each one of us does our best to forecast it. But we realise that beyond three years, such forecasting isn’t very productive.

Does such an environment create a kind of uncertainty for people who have been loyal to a particular agency and have been expecting to end up at the top?
No. It rather creates opportunities. The only thing is the possibility of future shocks. Now the future shock is here and that fundamentally changes the nature of how you manage people and how you plan for them.

So if a top executive quits from an agency, do you think there is ample talent to replace him?
I think so. The talent might not have been life long at that ad agency. He might not be the senior most person, but is definitely a person who is more suited for the job.
 
The quality of people coming in to the advertising industry has dramatically changed over time. The level of commitment is not the same as it used to be. Do you think this is true? If yes, what impact has it had on succession planning?
A number of changes have taken place. What has happened is that as I said, the media environment has become a lot more complex. So if you look at a CEO of what has now become a brand agency, if he had very strong training in building brands and particularly training in building brands through TVCs and good team management skills, I think he would be a prime candidate for an ad agency. Today, when agencies are searching for how to provide services full circle to the clients, it is not that clear that the guy who has managed to build brands through television advertising is the right candidate to handle the width of such responsibilities. The compensation environment is far less fixed. New skill sets have to be built. So even if you acquire talent in two areas, four other areas are still left. So you need higher management caliber talent.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2012

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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23/07/2012 11:36pm

Wise words, great thoughts, I'll be looking back for more, that was really great..

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