MPG India aims at Rs 1,000 crore by end 2009

By Prajjal Saha and Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Planning & Buying | October 03, 2008
On her first visit to India, Maria Luisa Francoli, Global CEO, MPG, has quite a bit up her sleeve for the agency in India. afaqs! finds out

On her & #BANNER1 & # first visit to India, which was long due, Maria Luisa Francoli, global chief executive officer, MPG, is positive about the way MPG is taking shape in India. In an exclusive chat with afaqs!, she talks about the current scenario for the agency in India, its clients, a study on climate change undertaken by the agency and much more.

Havas Media is the holding company for MPG (Media Planning Group), the media agency; B6 Integrated Entertainment, the entertainment network; Havas Sports, the sports management company; and Media Contacts, the online and digital network. The companies stepped into India at various points of time.

What about a second new agency? "We have a second media agency, Arena, and we will bring it to India at an opportune time. The time will be right when MPG has overgrown and the issue of handling competitive businesses crops up. We want to do such a thing when it is necessary, rather than do it just for the sake of adding an additional brand. There is still room for MPG to grow, consolidate and build on what we have before launching a new media agency," says Francoli. However, one shouldn't expect it before the end of 2009, she adds.

Arena operates in Latin America, Spain and Portugal, and was launched in the UK earlier this year.

Maria Luisa Francoli

Anita NayyarIn India MPG has almost doubled its billings in the last 1.5 years, since Anita Nayyar has come on board as the CEO. The agency is now eyeing the Rs 1,000 crore mark by the end of next year.

Nayyar feels that the global economy is facing a slowdown, India will not be impacted as much as the West. The agency will be at par with the growth rate of the market. However, she says, "When the base increases fast, the subsequent growth couldn't be as fast." Francoli differs - she is happy with the rate at which MPG India is taking leaps and claims that the company is growing at a faster rate than that of the market.

MPG is also considering entering the celebrity management market. The group runs celebrity management as an offering currently in two markets - the US and Paris. The Paris branch not only handles the French operations, but also the worldwide operations.

India, says Francoli, is one of the biggest markets for celebrity management apart from Latin America and Mexico. "We are definitely looking at something in this arena for India and the operations for it should commence in India by the end of next year," she says.

The agency launched its out of home (OOH) media service agency in June through a joint venture with Skyline Outdoor Media. The group, however, is not dependent acquisitions for its foray into different verticals in the country, however a joint venture can't be ruled out.

"We are not very keen on acquisitions, but it's not like we are rejecting them either. We do not prefer this mode of expansion and believe in organic growth. However, joint ventures in the local markets are alright. It makes sense to go in for a JV with a company which has the required expertise, rather than set up all of it from scratch," say Francoli and Nayyar.

On the integrated form of services offered by the agency, Nayyar explains that traditional media has a strong hold in the media market and will continue to do so. For MPG, nearly 80 per cent of media budgets are showered on traditional media. However, even though new media accounts for only 20 per cent of the media budgets, it plays an essential role in offering an integrated solution to the client.

When asked about the business the synergies between MPG and its creative counterpart in winning business as exits in agencies of other large networks such as WPP, Publicis, IPG, and Omnicom, Francoli says, "There are a lot of instances wherein Euro RSCG and MPG have assisted each other during pitches and otherwise as well, whether it's known or unknown to many. There is the support and the advantage that both leverage out of each other,".

Regarding, global alignment, Francoli says, "WPP is a US based network, while the Havas Group is based in South Europe. Unlike WPP, many of the clients that MPG or Havas group handles internationally do not have a presence in India or aren't significant players in the market. However, when ever there is an opportunity, we do grab the business."

MPG India handles global clients such as Air France and Credit Suisse. "But it's not like the yesteryears, where businesses fell into the agency's lap through a global alignment. Some global pitches are decided locally on a country to country basis," Nayyar said citing the example of Reckitt Benckiser, one of its biggest accounts.

The agency also took up a global study across nine markets, one of them being India. The study was undertaken to understand the consumer's sentiments on the issue of climate change, the degree of concern, who consumers hold responsible for taking a leadership stance in fixing related problems and other similar questions.

The study revealed the kind of communication to be adopted in the future regarding the issue of climate change. "It is about how corporates should talk to the consumers and how consumers want to see the corporates. It has changed the way corporates behave," reveals Francoli.

On an ending note, Francoli says, "Previously, it was about the price and the discount for the agency. Now, it is no more about volume as it is not the driver of anything. One definitely needs a minimum critical mass, but it is more about intelligence, data management and analytics."

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