POV: Interview with Vijay Jacob, Grey Group Sri Lanka

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Natalie Stezovsky
Natalie Stezovsky



cinnamon_adDescribe your agency culture in the Asia offices.

At Grey, we strive to maintain an open culture where everyone is a hands-on contributor and feels comfortable sharing ideas and opinions — no idea is too small and no one works in silos. And when not at work, we are hard at play – play inspires creativity.

It’s really the people who make Grey for what it is. Our talent is our strength. Amongst our many talents, we have a ONE LIFE International Photography finalist and the producer of the highly acclaimed movie, “Akshay,” winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Indian Film Festival and winner of ‘Best Director’ at the 2011 South Asian International Film Festival in New York. We hire people who are smart, creative and determined. We place great emphasis on nurturing our young talent and allowing them freedom to pursue their artistic talents.

Giving back to the communities in which we operate is something we also take seriously. It’s not only fulfilling and rewarding, but an opportunity to give back to those who have helped support our businesses. Our team in the Philippines, Campaigns & Grey, for example has been raising funds for scholarships to send underprivileged kids of Smokey Mountain (the rubbish dump of Manila) to school for the past nine years. When Elephant Parade held its first art exhibition outside of Europe in Singapore, Grey Group Singapore offered its creative services as well as adopted the elephant sculpture called “LOVE” in aid of Asian elephant conservation.

To inspire and motivate our staff in Singapore, we run the “Breakfast of the Champions” — a series of talks where motivational speakers share their real-life experiences. For example, we had a cyclist who completed a staggering 6,000 kilometer bicycle ride across central Asia on a self-constructed bicycle made of bamboo.

Does your agency have any unique traditions?

It’s extremely important that we constantly connect with our target audience. One of the research processes that we have actioned in Sri Lanka is affectionately called GREY LOCOMOTIVE. Brand teams travel across the island in trains and have a series of conversations with consumers. This enables them to get direct access to consumers and feel the pulse of change happening in these people’s lives.

We also believe in brainstorming outside the boardroom. The benefit of working in a city surrounded by so much greenery fosters a non-clinical ideation approach. The office itself is unique. Housed in a bungalow designed by the famous architect Jeffery Bawa’s favorite student, it imbibes a warm, familial atmosphere that lends well to the teams working together as a unit.

What is the market in Sri Lanka like for advertising? How competitive is the space? What trends are clients most interested in?

The market works on two levels: clients who want hard-sell work and a minority who want strategic and creative work. Clients are most interested in creative media buys and creative use of space versus ideation in the creative pieces itself. Hence media strategy is becoming a key advantage point.

Due to the increasing availability of satellite television, there is significant exposure to Indian advertising. Clients are willing to spend more time and effort to raise the bar as far as the creative product is concerned.

i_am_srilanka_ad1What type of marketing resonates well with consumers in Sri Lanka? What misconceptions are there?

Sri Lankans respond most to work that combines both local idiom and aspiration. As far as misconceptions go, there is a tendency from the client’s end to not have very high expectations of the consumers. However, consumers are increasingly getting far more savvy and ready for a lot more interesting creative engagement than the clients put forth.

How does your agency differentiate itself from other firms in Asia?

We strive hard to have a creative product with a strong strategic plank. And this we do from a long-term brand perspective. Clients in Sri Lanka are now beginning to appreciate and recognize this effort.

On the main Grey Group Asia Pacific site, there are three characters who enter the screen and are seen throughout the site. Talk to us a little bit about how this adds to the brand of the Grey Group.

We were re-designing the website a few years ago and we thought it would be fun to have some visually interesting action going on — Some icon that might humanize the agency and set us apart from other websites. Something a little whimsical since we are a creative business. We found these ‘Greynauts.’ They were put in Christmas emails, birthday emails and anniversary emails, and they sing and make noises. We received a ton of emails from people who love them and think they are unique.

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