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An expanding Cell

From Network 18’s in-house creative division to a production house that will work with ad agencies and direct clients, Cell 18 has evolved quickly, reports Anita Sharan.

india Updated: May 08, 2008 22:37 IST
Anita Sharan

When it came into existence as a division of Network 18 – then TV 18 – in 2002, The Cell was a unique idea. It was set up to handle TV 18’s news channels’ – the IBN and CNBC networks – advertising and communication requirements. Gradually, it started creating advertising for young companies who did not understand advertising enough but wanted to advertise on TV 18’s channels. The idea was to get the advertiser’s money into the network’s kitty in a larger marketing effort, rather than concentrate on the advertising service’s billings.

In a sense, the just announced extension of the creative division’s services outside of Network 18’s spectrum is again a unique idea. Renamed Cell 18 now, it is promoting itself as a production house that will create work for advertising agencies and independent clients. Its bandwidth of work will include ad films, web films, channel packaging and brand design. While remaining a division of Network 18, Cell 18 will now be a profit centre in its own right, and will also continue to do the work it was earlier doing within Network 18.

The Cell started making its moves towards becoming Cell 18 in the last quarter of 2007-08. Its confidence comes from the work it has started or done for advertising agencies Lowe (the three BILT Matrix TV commercials currently on air), JWT (20 web virals for Pepsi My Can and a couple of Airtel projects) and DDB Mudra (an LIC film and a Nutragena graphic film). “We offer end-to-end solutions in creative services. Our January to March topline has been Rs 2.6 crore,” says Zubin Driver, head of Cell 18. “We are a creative production house with huge scale and width in terms of people, technology and resources. Our post-production facilities are a unique advantage.” Another benefit that Cell 18 offers is cost effectiveness, since it encompasses a lot of resources in-house. Driver feels proud of the logical next step that his division has taken. “This is something we have been growing towards. Our focus will be to professionalise the vast ad film and creative production market place. ”

Would advertising agencies and clients actually give Cell 18 a preference over known and established production houses they have been working closely with all these years? Anand Suspi, creative director, Lowe (Delhi), who worked with Driver and his team on BILT Matrix, says candidly that with constraints on budget and timeframe for the ads, signing on a big production house would have been tough. “Most production houses are booked in advance,” says Suspi, “and we had a two-to-three-week deadline. The Cell may not have done a lot of work but what it showed us was good. Besides, it was willing to deliver on time, at a lower cost and had the advantage of in-house post-production. I would surely use Cell 18 again, maybe not on large clients, but if I have interesting scripts or work that needs an experimental approach.”

Elvis Sequeira, vice president and executive creative director, JWT (Delhi), says that Cell 18 has the advantages of good ideation, animation capabilities as well as a young team that’s capable of non-traditional work. “They can work with the core team at the ad agency as an added resource to take an idea forward. Their understanding of channel (TV) requirements is an added advantage.”

Looks like Cell 18 is off to a good start, but if it is expecting to break open the space in a hurry, it may need to think again. Both Suspi and Sequeira feel they could use Cell 18 for small or more non-traditional or experimental projects. But not on large clients for mainstream work yet. “It would depend on project to project,” clarifies Sequeira. “We would maybe start on collaborative efforts on smaller projects or specific work in non-traditional media. Cell 18’s animation advantage at attractive costs is a big plus.” For Cell 18, business looks assured. Big business may take time and effort till, in Sequeira’s words, “we get into a comfort zone.”