Publicis Groupe launches VivaKi in India

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | December 22, 2008
Srikant Sastri, managing director, Solutions Digitas, will be the country chair, India, VivaKi. Ambika Srivastava, chief executive officer, ZenithOptimedia India, takes on the additional responsibility of chairperson, India Media Exchange (IMX)

VivaKi, the & #BANNER1 & # strategic unit of the Publicis Groupe launched worldwide in mid-2008, has officially flagged off its Indian operations. The unit was created by the group to leverage the combined scale of its media and digital operations.

Two key leadership appointments have also been announced in India. Srikant Sastri, managing director, Solutions Digitas, will be the country chair, India, VivaKi. Ambika Srivastava, chief executive officer, ZenithOptimedia India, takes on the additional responsibility of chairperson, India Media Exchange (IMX).

Sastri will work in collaboration with the regional and local leadership of Digitas, Starcom MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia to strengthen and grow the agencies. He will report to the VivaKi board of directors.

Srivastava will preside over the IMX, a media investment unit formed in 2007 to leverage the combined strengths of the Starcom MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia. She will continue to work in the marketplace and with the VivaKi brand leadership to deliver textured, differentiated and context-specific solutions from media owners.

In an official statement, David Kenny, managing partner, VivaKi, says, "There are two strategic opportunities for VivaKi to leverage its powerful scale in India. One is to leverage our significant media buying clout and the other is to aggregate additional resources and investment dollars to deliver new tools, digital capabilities and technology platforms to clients.

"We are fortunate to have two proven leaders uniquely qualified to deliver on the full potential of our scale in this robust and growing market. Srikant's digital expertise and capacity for activating solutions will benefit our brands in the market. Ambika will bring her investment acumen and reputation for innovation to IMX."

Kenny maintains that India is one of the fastest growing marketing markets, having grown more than 50 per cent in billings since 2006.

In an official communiqué, Sastri says, "The challenge of creating synergies for the business while enabling SMG, Digitas and ZenithOptimedia to flourish in their own right is one that I relish. We have great opportunities to offer end to end digital marketing services by combining the strengths of the three brands. Additionally, we're gearing up to tap synergies in the non-digital space by offering our clients an array of consumer touchpoints as part of a media-neutral strategy."

Sastri cofounded Solutions Integrated in 1995 after spending 10 years in Unilever (on the Pond's business) and McCann Erickson. He led Solutions to a leadership position in the market by offering an integrated suite of customer relations management (CRM), digital, experiential and shopper marketing services. After the Publicis Groupe acquired a majority stake in Solutions in 2006, and then aligned it with the Digitas network, Solutions Digitas has expanded rapidly in both India and Southeast Asia.

Speaking to afaqs!, Sastri says, "VivaKi aims to be a complete digital agency. It will be a shared pool of talent, offering both creative-led and media-led solutions in the digital space. Besides it will also operate in the traditional media space, mainly in the areas of events, promotions, CRM and retail activation. We will have a Nerve Center, which will provide new digital technology tools and platforms and nurture and develop talent in this domain."

Sastri feels that in India, there are independent entities which offer digital solutions in both the creative and media spheres, but these often fail to deliver because they are either not properly organised or lack scale. VivaKi, he feels, has an edge on these counts. Apart from this, digital media has actually ended up benefiting from the economic slowdown because more brands are opting for this cost-effective medium, which also enjoys a high level of measurability.

Commenting on her new role and added responsibilities, Srivastava says, "I am very happy at being given the opportunity to lead India Media Exchange in what are challenging and exciting times. Today, IMX enjoys a formidable reputation as a strong buyer focused on delivering great value to the clients of both Starcom Worldwide and ZenithOptimedia."

As chairperson of the IMX, Srivastava brings in more than 25 years of experience of working with India's leading advertising agencies such as McCann Erickson, Lintas (now Lowe Lintas) and HTA (now JWT). She has launched and established brands for a number of clients, including Coca-Cola, Gillette, General Motors, Fidelity, HP, Nestle and Unilever.

The IMX, in its turn, has dealt with the launch of Zed Digital and Zenith Consult, as well as new clients such as Aviva, The Discovery Channel, Emaar MGF, Haier, Hyundai, the Ministry of Tourism, The Oberoi Hotels and Times Business Solutions.

For the record, VivaKi is a strategic entity launched by the Publicis Groupe and is designed to drive growth by improving the performance of advertisers' marketing investments in the context of rapidly expanding digital markets. It leverages the combined scale of the autonomous operations of Denuo, Digitas, the Starcom MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia. Its Nerve Center is the world's largest centre for developing new technologies and digital marketing platforms.