Interpublic Group or IPG, the world’s fourth largest advertising network after WPP, Omnicom and Publicis, is close to acquiring the largest digital marketing agency in India, called Interactive Avenues (IA).
While the deal size could not be ascertained, it is expected to bolster IPG’s presence in the digital space here. With clients such as ICICI Bank, Sony India and ITC, among others, Interactive is a full-service digital agency, doing online media buying, planning, creative work, search analytics and mobile marketing. It has offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, with a little over 150 people in these locations.
Apart from IPG, groups such as Publicis and Dentsu were also in the race for IA, persons familiar with the development said. But the New York-headquartered company is expected to seal the deal with IA in the next few days, owing to the familiarity the latter has with IPG. An email to IPG in New York had elicited no response till the time of going to press.
IPG already has a 51:49 joint venture with IA, called Reprise Media. This JV, also in the digital space, is part of the media arm of IPG, called Mediabrands. The current acquisition of IA is also expected to be bunched under Mediabrands, persons in the know said. The latter, like WPP’s GroupM, is the umbrella media entity for IPG, including a combination of mainline media agencies and specialist units.
Mediabrands was launched in India this February, the last of the top four advertising networks to do so. In recent years, Paris-headquartered Publicis Groupe has consolidated its media operations under entity VivaKi, while Omnicom has introduced its media arm, OMD, in India.
An India board was constituted for Mediabrands in February, including veterans Lynn de Souza, chairman & chief executive officer, Lintas Media Group (LMG), and Shashi Sinha, chief executive officer, Lodestar UM. The two oversee operations of Mediabrands in India, besides managing their respective agencies. LMG and Lodestar UM, both IPG group agencies, are also increasingly working together under the Mediabrands banner. In an earlier interaction with Business Standard, Mediabrands’ worldwide chief executive officer, Matt Seiler, had said, “We’ve had two agencies here, who worked separately all this while. We needed to bring them together.”
The second phase of IPG’s media consolidation saw the launch of a new agency called BPN a few weeks earlier, to focus on technology clients, besides handling conflict businesses. Next on Mediabrands’ agendum is the launch of Magna Intelligence, a media research unit. This will, apart from providing data to group agencies, slowly begin consolidated media buying for LMG, Lodestar UM and BPN in the country.
According to people in the know, IPG’s game plan is to have a complete bouquet of media services by the end of this calendar year. IPG’s pace is also partly linked to competitive activity. Groups such as Publicis have been quickly acquiring digital and other assets in India. A week ago, Publicis acquired Resultrix, a digital agency which has operations in India, Dubai, Singapore and the US. This acquisition would help strengthen the digital operations of ZenithOptimedia, a media agency under Publicis.
Besides Resultrix, another digital acquisition, Communicate 2, was wrapped by the London-headquartered Aegis Group last week.