The signs are visible. As global advertising networks increasingly strengthen their presence in India, the question that rings loud and clear is: Who will occupy the number two slot ?
Traditionally, the Indian advertising industry has been dominated by WPP, the London-headquartered advertising group, controlled by Chief Executive Martin Sorrell. WPP agencies in India span the marketing communications spectrum from Ogilvy, JWT, Contract, Grey and Rediffusion Y&R on the creative side to Mindshare, Maxus, MEC and MediaCom on the media side and IMRB, Millward Brown and TNS on the research side. PR is represented by agencies such as Genesis Burson-Marsteller, Ogilvy Public Relations and IPAN Hill & Knowlton.
By industry estimates, the revenues of the WPP group, which is the world’s largest advertising network, in India is roughly close to Rs 2,000 crore. Interpublic Group or IPG, which ranks fourth in the world after Omnicom and Publicis Groupe, and has a decent presence in the country with agencies Lowe Lintas, McCann-Erickson and DraftFCB, has revenues of about Rs 650 crore, while Paris-headquartered Publicis has revenues of Rs 500 crore, and the New York-headquartered Omnicom, Rs 250 crore.
Most agency heads admit that knocking off WPP from the number one position in India will not be easy. “Martin is a visionary who saw the shift in the centre of gravity from the west to the east early on,” says Mahesh Chauhan, co-founder of ad agency Salt Brand Solutions, who has worked with WPP agencies Ogilvy and Rediffusion Y&R in the past. “They clearly have the first-mover advantage, which they have worked hard to retain,” he says.
With WPP then out of bounds, at least for now, what appears in sight is the number two position. While incumbent IPG occupies the seat for the moment, this could change as both Omnicom and Publicis aggressively expand their presence in India with a string of acquisitions. In the last few weeks, Omnicom has increased its stake in Mudra from 10 per cent to 51 per cent, while Publicis continues to scout for assets in areas such as advertising, PR and digital.
In the last few years, the Publicis Groupe has acquired and merged Delhi-based Capital Advertising with flagship Publicis India, bought PR agency 20:20 Media, social media consulting firm 2020 Social and Mumbai-based healthcare agency Watermelon besides consolidating its presence with allied group agencies such as Leo Burnett. “We are growing ahead of the industry,” says Arvind Sharma, chairman, India sub-continent, Leo Burnett, when quizzed about his agency’s growth.
At a time, when full-year growth of the Indian advertising industry is estimated to be in single digits only, Sharma’s statement is important. The agency is expected to close this year with double-digit growth.
But the Publicis Groupe is not sitting still, it is currently restructuring operations at Saatchi & Saatchi, another of its agencies in the country, with the appointment of expatriate Matt Seddon as chief executive officer in India, following the resignation of incumbent Kamal Basu.
Seddon says his priorities remain growing the business with a mix of organic and inorganic measures. “Digital will be central to this. We are looking at building our digital resources,” he says.
Omnicom, the world’s second-largest advertising network, is also looking to consolidate its presence in the digital space besides areas such as direct marketing and customer relationship management (CRM). Apart from getting interactive and digital agencies such as Tribal DDB into the country, the group has also launched its direct and CRM arm Proximity in India. Chris Thomas, chairman of Proximity Worldwide says, “Proximity's strength lies in the incredible network it has. There are good resources it has. We will draw upon this strong network base in India to address the requirement of brands.”