In a world plagued by uncertainties and the coronavirus scare, India appears to be providing a beacon of hope for advertising giant WPP. The domestic market 'stood out' in an otherwise challenging 2019 for WPP, growing 10 per cent in terms of top line, ahead of Brazil, said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Read on Tuesday. The company follows a January-December accounting year.
On a four-day visit to India, Read, who took over from predecessor Martin Sorrell in September 2018, has been accompanied by WPP's global executive committee on the tour.
They will hold their first international meeting in the country over the next two days, coming at a time when Read has put a three-year transformation plan in place at the world's largest advertising company.
On Tuesday, Read also announced that WPP had bagged the global advertising mandate for tech giant Intel, whose ad budget in 2019 was estimated at $1.4 billion.
The Indian unit of WPP will also work on the business, said industry sources, which will see the group harness skill sets from various verticals, including data analytics, creative commerce and technology apart from advertising.
According to analysts, WPP's Intel win, billed as one of the largest advertising pitches in recent years, represents the path the company wishes to take in the coming years. Experts said it was an account where WPP creative personnel would be pushed to provide cutting-edge creative work with technology at the heart of it.
Considered mild-mannered and sober by his peers, Read said he hopes to see India maintain its pace of growth in 2020 as the domestic advertising market remains largely resilient amid slowdown challenges.
“India has always been an important market for WPP, where we enjoy leadership position. But we will need to evolve as the business itself undergoes a transformation, being not just creative, but also simplifying our structure, driving collaboration and integration across the group and providing a broader offer to clients led by data and technology,” he said.
Forecasts by the top media networks in India, including WPP’s GroupM, Madison and Dentsu have pegged domestic advertising growth for 2020 between 10.4 per cent and 10.9 per cent, saying that India will continue to be among the fastest-growing markets in the world. The domestic ad growth will be led by digital advertising, they say, with its share in total advertising standing at 27-30 per cent.
WPP itself has been quick to pick up the cues and adapt to change, working closely with top clients in the country, including Hindustan Unilever, Colgate and Google across traditional and digital advertising, setting up innovation hubs and tying up with domestic start-ups and internet firms in recent months. WPP's GroupM is the largest media agency in the country, with an estimated 50 per cent share of the market, said experts.
The group has also shifted to an integrated campus in Mumbai to ensure that teams work jointly on client briefs and collaborate closely during business pitches, said Read. A second integrated campus will open by the end of the current calendar year in Gurugram, he said, housing 4,000 people. The two campuses will together have 8,000 people, he said, a number that could grow as WPP evolves and adds new functions and divisions to address client needs.
Read is also eyeing acquisitions in India and the globe after a year-and-a-half of realigning operations within WPP. Areas that could interest him, said experts, include marketing tech, content, production, e-commerce and analytics, capabilities that the company is keen to drive in the future.