TBWAIndia now completely part of Omnicom

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | September 16, 2008
The acquisition, which was on the cards for a long time, has finally been completed

Anthem, the & #BANNER1 & # agency which K George John founded in 1988, and which later gave way to TBWAAnthem and then TBWAIndia, is now a 100 per cent entity of Omnicom.

TBWAWorldwide announced today the completion of its acquisition of 49 per cent shareholding in TBWAIndia, currently held by Indian shareholders. Following this acquisition, TBWA, together with Omnicom, will own 100 per cent of TBWAIndia, as it already had 51 per cent stake in the agency.

In an official communiqué, Keith Smith, president, International TBWAWorldwide, says, "The consolidation of our stake constitutes the closing of a very significant chapter in the history of TBWA in India. We have had a very successful new business run in the last two years, which has propelled us up the agency rankings list. Our ability to deliver truly disruptive solutions together with strong creative work has really seen TBWA arrive on the advertising map in India."

John, Sethuraman and Smith
In its early days, Anthem handled several brands, including JCT Fabrics, Weston TV, Limca, Electrolux, Escorts Ltd, Kelvinator, Yamaha and Amul Chocolates.

George John set up Anthem in 1988. The three partners at that time included George John (85 per cent stakeholder), Kurien Matthews (holding 10 per cent) and N Krishnan (holding 5 per cent). In 1998, TBWA Worldwide acquired 51 per cent stake in the agency from John to form TBWAAnthem, while Matthews and Krishnan held their respective 10 and 5 per cent.

In 2003, John took the decision to drop Anthem from the agency's name and it became known as TBWAIndia. "I was planning to retire initially by 2006 and wanted TBWAIndia to gather its own standing," John says to afaqs!, explaining the name change.

Kurien Matthews
However, John did not retire in 2006 and was asked to stay on for two more years. Since the decision was made that all stakeholders would sell their stake, TBWAIndia needed a chief executive officer to head operations. Shiv Sethuraman was brought on board in June 2008 to fill that role.

George John, the largest of the three local shareholders, and Kurien Matthews, director, TBWAIndia, will remain with the agency until the end of September, after which John will serve TBWAIndia in an advisory capacity.

The third shareholder, N Krishnan, will assume an expanded role as chief operating officer, TBWAIndia Group.

Matthews will be with the agency until the end of September, but he hasn't decided his next move. "I've been with Anthem and TBWA since the time it started off and was the decision maker there. Now, staying on as just an employee didn't seem appealing," says Matthews to afaqs!

He tells afaqs! that since he's been in the advertising industry for close to 25 years, that's where he'll be. Matthews is weighing certain offers. "In 1988, advertising was way different than it is now. But wherever I'd be moving, it won't be traditional advertising," he says firmly.

News is that he is in talks with StrawberryFrog, an independent agency that plans to set up shop in India.

What changes for TBWAIndia now that the acquisition is complete? Sethuraman says, "Moving forward, TBWA will focus more on investing in India. Now that we are 100 per cent owned by Omnicom, we will look at acquisition more strongly."

Most of TBWA's global clients, who have a presence in India, are handled by TBWAIndia. These are Adidas, Apple, PlayStation, Henkel, Nivea and Standard Chartered. Other businesses include Planet M, Tata Gold Plus and Polaris.