Tim Love is the chief executive officer of Omnicom’s Asia-Pacific, India, Middle East and African (APIMA) regions, markets that are the fastest-growing for the world’s second-largest advertising network. The New York-headquartered holding company of agencies such as DDB and BBDO was late to enter this part of the world unlike its rival WPP, which has traditionally enjoyed leadership especially in markets such as India. But the rapidity with which Omnicom has moved in the last few years suggests that its not-so-serious approach to the APIMA belt is a thing of the past. Love, who has been to India a few times before, explains to Sayantani Kar and Viveat Susan Pinto how the market here has evolved and how Omnicom is adapting to the changes. Edited excerpts:
Will you prefer doing outright acquisitions or opt for partnerships like the one you had with Mudra for almost 20 years before becoming a majority shareholder?
We are not averse to acquisitions. But at the same time, we are looking to make the most out of our partnerships. In the world in which we operate, collaboration with diverse minds will make ideas more relevant and powerful. It is not about saving money. It simply is better thinking.
Most holding companies today are paying greater attention to non-advertising services since the growth coming out of them is much more than advertising. Your take on this?
We are interested in any marketing services discipline that will help our clients build their business. We have to be at the forefront of new technologies. We also have to be at the forefront of young talent that understands this new technology. Our future investments and developments will be guided by our client needs and by the changes happening around us.
You spoke about how you need to be at the forefront of talent. Increasingly international ad agencies are turning to India in their search for best-in-class talent. Does this make your task easy?
It does. India has a rich diversity of talent, hard work and history that will benefit not just us, but the entire industry. You can already see it. Josy (Paul, who is the chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO India) or Bobby (Pawar) before, now Sonal Dabral (chief creative officer of DDB Mudra), they all have a creative reputation that is respected not just in India, but abroad too. And the agencies they work for want to fully exploit this. Why I say this is because in a globalised world, problems are increasingly becoming universal and more often than not you are looking for a diverse set of people, who can provide solutions or offer insights to the problem at hand. The recognition that Indians can contribute to this process has grown in the last few years, which is why you find so many of your creative people as well as those in account management and strategic planning becoming global and regional resources of their respective agencies. I see this trend continuing and I won’t be surprised to find in a few years that younger people are taking to the global and regional stage. At the moment, it is restricted to very senior people at the top, but this could change in the coming years.
Omnicom has believed in a model of decentralisation as opposed to centralisation. While allowing your agencies to function with some degree of autonomy is fine, the strategy is also fraught with risks. Your comments.
In today’s environment what we need is principles, not rules. Human beings tend to look for rules. It is easier when somebody else tells you what to do. But it is not creative. Our focus is not on an individual or personality. We focus on the operating companies, where the ideas and talents are. As a holding company, we help them raise capital and invest in good people. Micro-management is not our job. That is best left to the agencies at hand. They are good at it and when you give them the freedom they desire, they prosper.
Apart from overseeing operations in the APIMA region, what does your role entail?
My role at Omnicom is to help group companies and clients be more globally-sensitive, collaborative and effective. In doing so I am looking to help people understand Omnicom, our philosophies, and to get talent and businesses to talk to us.