Asiya Bakht
Jun 16, 2010

Profile: Visa marketing head Dee Dutta welcomes a hands-on role

Less than one year into the job and Dee Dutta, Visa's head of marketing for Asia-Pacific, says he is already feeling the benefits of switching from a global to a regional role.

Dee Dutta Visa
Dee Dutta Visa

Dutta was previously the vice-president of marketing for Sony Ericsson, a company where he spent six years before taking up the regional role for Visa left vacant by the promotion of Rajiv Kapoor last August.

In his former position, the India-born and UK-raised marketer barely had any free time from his hectic globetrotting schedule. "I was travelling constantly within Asia, Europe, US and Latin America," he recalls. "Now I focus more on Asia, which is far better for my life-work balance."

And it is not just the lighter travel schedule that is pleasing to the marketer. Dutta points out that from the perspective of his career, the change has also been a positive one. "Asia-Pacific is more than half the world," he says. "We have seen tremendous growth. In the countries that I am responsible for, we have some of the most exciting markets like China, India, Korea and Japan, where a lot of things are happening."

Dutta says the other good thing about the transition is that as a regional head he is lot closer to his local teams, with whom he spends 50 per cent of his time. "In a global role you are quite removed from the day-to-day running and I quite enjoy the local flavours that the markets and operations are going through here," he adds.

Then there is the obvious attraction of working for Visa, a brand that is not only large, but also has some of the best assets in the world, including the two biggest sporting events on the planet, the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

"If you want to be a marketer and you want to work on a brand which has world's premier sporting assets then there is nothing bigger [than the World Cup]," he says. "The Olympics is a great global thing, it's something we have been involved with for a long time, but football is a world sport. For us, as the most pre-eminent global brand, to have that association is very exciting, both from a personal and professional point of view."

Dutta is animated when he talks about Visa's association with FIFA and it's clear that sports sponsorship is a personal passion. He has been closely involved in Visa's global FIFA campaign that has been adapted for local Asian markets.

"Lots of people think of football as very tribal, like red versus blue versus yellow. What we are saying is that while we are cheering for our nations and yes, there might be different flags, it's all about soccer."

On sports sponsorship Dutta says "what we want to see is how we use that property, not only in terms of corporate hospitality, but in terms of engaging our consumers and telling them our brand story."

His passion for sports sponsorship is backed by an impressive track record. In his last job, Dutta negotiated the deal to sponsor the Sony Ericsson tennis Open in Miami. He also signed up Maria Sharapova to be Sony Ericsson's first global brand ambassador in early 2008.

Dutta has also brought another passion to Visa, his enthusiasm for digital. Shortly before he took up his new role, Visa dropped their incumbent agency BBDO after a high profile pitch process. TBWA was appointed as the brand's AOR for its US$600 million global business in 2008.

Recently, Visa handed TBWA's new unit Digital Futures its digital account. Until then, the credit card giant had no dedicated digital agency, yet Dutta emphasises that digital is something that the company has always believed in.

"TBWA and OMD have been absolutely instrumental in driving our digital journey, in terms of not only creating a digital manifesto and what we need to do and how we need to do it but, more importantly, how we go about doing it cost effectively and through out our reach," he says.

Barry Cupples, CEO Omnicom Media Group Asia-Pacific believes that it is this acceptance of change that makes Dutta such an unusual client. "Dee has a strong new media awareness and is an extension of the team here at OMD," says Cupples. "He wants to see change implemented and is extremely optimistic and great to be around."

Watch Dutta discuss Visa's plans around their debut sponsorship of the2010 FIFA World Cup in a recent video interview with Media.

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This article was originally published in the 3 June 2010 issue of Media.

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