There’s no telling when the Maurice Levy-led Publicis Groupe will strike. The world’s third-largest marketing communications network, which announced it was merging with rival Omnicom to create the largest ad-holding company on the globe in July, has just wrapped up its seventh acquisition in India in a year. The latest one is of the Mumbai-based independent ad agency Beehive Communications.
Publicis has acquired a majority stake in Beehive and will rebrand the latter as Publicis Beehive, says Nakul Chopra, CEO, South Asia, Publicis Worldwide, the network under which the new venture will operate. He did not disclose the deal size.
This will be the third acquisition for Publicis Worldwide, the flagship ad agency of the Publicis Groupe, in 10 months after buying out the Delhi-based digital agency iStrat and Mumbai-based brand marketing consultancy MarketGate in December 2012.
“If you were to go down even further, this would rank as our seventh acquisition. In the past, we have bought Zen Communications, Madhyam, Ambience and Capital Advertising,” says Chopra.
While the earlier acquisitions helped Publicis Worldwide build critical mass in conventional advertising, the three it has wrapped up in the last one year have helped it branch out to newer areas like digital.
Beehive, which has a 130-strong team in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, has expertise in both conventional advertising and media besides digital and research.
Chopra says that Beehive’s digital offering will be combined with Publicis Worldwide’s allied digital assets such as iStrat to create a new umbrella unit. This, he says, will take 6-12 months to be launched.
Interestingly, Publicis Groupe’s appetite for digital assets has not been restricted to its flagship agency.
For instance, Indigo Consulting, the digital agency acquired in April last year by the holding company, was bunched with Leo Burnett, to help strengthen its presence in that area. Similarly Resultrix, a digital marketing agency, acquired in August 2012, was made a part of media agency ZenithOptimedia. Convonix was a Mumbai-based digital unit, which now operates within Starcom MediaVest, another media agency under the Publicis Groupe, following its acquisition in March. The buyout of Neev, a Bangalore-based technology services provider, in April, set the ball rolling for the much-publicised launch of Publicis’ global digital agency Razorfish in the country. Branded Neev Razorfish, the acquisition allowed Publicis to rollout Razorfish in India with clients and expertise coming from the local partner.
After digital what?
Chopra indicates that he is keen to beef up Publicis Worldwide’s strengths in shopper marketing – an area that is increasingly catching the attention of most ad agencies given the development of organised retail and the emphasis on consumer buying behaviour.
Acquisitions are most likely to be the preferred route to improve its service offering in that area too, Chopra says.
Integration the name of the game
The overall gameplan, explains Chopra, for Publicis Worldwide is to offer holistic marketing communication solutions for which acquisition of talent as well as capabilities will be critical.
Beehive’s CEO B Sanjit Shastri, for instance, will joint the new leadership team, which includes Chopra, Chief Strategy Officer Partha Sinha, Chief Creative Officer Bobby Pawar, India Chief Executive Officer Hemant Misra, Marketing and New Business Development Director Ambika Srivastava and MarketGate’s founder-director Shripad Nadkarni. A new digital head could also join them.
Chopra explains most ad agency networks today are becoming one-stop solution providers as clients demand greater bang for their advertising buck. Currently ranked amongst the top eight ad agencies in the country, Chopra says the timeline for achieving his ambition of moving into the top three is about two years.
The agency is already integrating its forces with Sinha and Pawar working as a team. “While copy-art partnerships are common in the industry, creative-strategy teamwork is not as common. After Santosh Desai and Prasoon Joshi, who led strategy and creative at McCann over a decade ago, I think we would be the next such pair,” Sinha says.
As a team, Sinha and Pawar have worked together on the Park Avenue Beer Shampoo commercials currently on air and are also putting their minds to elevate the advertising on businesses such as Nestle, LÓreal, Procter & Gamble and Renault.
“Partha gives me much needed strategic insights and information during brain-storming sessions, which helps me fine-tune the creative product. Similarly I could come up with observations that land up helping him,” Pawar says. This chemistry could make all the difference to Publicis.