Publicis Worldwide's big push in India

By Prajjal Saha & Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising
Last updated : June 10, 2009
In a recent visit to India, Richard Pinder, COO, Publicis Worldwide along with his South Asia CEO Nakul Chopra speaks to afaqs! on the plans ahead for the Publicis family in India

Last month, Richard Pinder, the COO of Publicis Worldwide stepped up to take sole leadership of the Publicis global network. He made a quick visit to India after China to chalk out the future plans for the Publicis brand in India, and also to meet up with a few clients and media.

Pinder is elated at the Publicis Communications' (this includes both Publicis Ambience and Publicis India) best ever performance at the Goafest - it was ranked third in the metal tally with two gold, seven silver and four bronze. Besides, the agency has also bagged metals and nominations in international awards such as the Clio and D&AD.

afaqs! availed this opportunity to speak to the 45-year-old Englishman along with his South Asia CEO, Nakul Chopra. Here are the excerpts of the interview.

Q. What's the great task ahead for the Publicis Worldwide in India?

Richard: The great task ahead is work towards doubling the size of the group. While enhancing our creativity and going digital will spearhead our aim to go double, good classic planning strategy will back it up. To fulfil this objective, we are ready to invest in getting the right talent and the technology. We have realised that we need to be in the top consideration set when the client is looking for agencies.

What's interesting is that in the advertising business, the more you know and the old you are, the less interesting you are to clients. So as the new interesting kid in the block in India, we are quite happy and excited to play. We intend to stand out and do different things so that people take notice of us.

Q. Publicis always had a perception problem with its creativity. How do you change that?

Richard: We want to design the company in such a way that we become the choice of the new generation be it marketing clients or talent. People are much more focussed on what we call creating contagious ideas that change the conversation around client's brands. We have been doing this globally and want to do the same for India.

We believe that unless two people watching a television commercial strike a conversation on the ad, it's a total waste of money.

Nakul: We already have two teams of good talent in Delhi as well as in Mumbai with Emmanuel Upputuru (Delhi) and Prasanna Sankhe and Ashish Khazanchi (Mumbai). We do not believe in picking up one person as a hero. We need a systematic approach and good ideas that change conversations.

The performance at the Goafest, this year proves that we have invested in and nurtured our talent. Besides, we have churned out some unusual work on Maggi, Citibank - Delhi Metro card, Himani Fast Relief.

Richard: Stars may be good for the culture of the country but it doesn't build the company.

Q. And what about the digital way?

Richard: Publicis Modem already has a presence in India. Globally it contributes to about 15 per cent of the Publicis Worldwide revenue and we are hoping that by 2012, its contribution will just be double.

In India, Modem, is still very small with an annual billing of Rs 5 crore. But we are hopeful that the pie will increase in the near future.

From our learning in the other markets, we have known that the growth of digital medium is dependent on various factors such as broadband and 3G penetration - India has got around 6 million people with broadband; a high degree of inflation in traditional medium which forces clients to move towards other alternatives including digital. In times of economic crisis, clients are more likely to look beyond the traditional media and minimise media wastage.

Besides, I also believe that the media billings in the digital medium might be less, but clients will have to pay more for the idea - it can't follow the 15 per cent commission model. And that will drive the growth for digital agencies.

Nakul: In India, the six million broadband population may be a small pie of the total population but it's a sizeable number in isolation. This might spell good for a certain category of products. For a brand such as BMW, it seems a perfect fit.

Q. So it's a smooth road ahead for digital in India?

Richard: There is a slight problem in India. Here people love to discuss. So, by the time you discuss, research, analyse and execute, the idea is already running a year behind. The cycle is over. Not many countries in the world use research that is one year old. One has to move in quickly. The Ready-Aim-Fire model might work in some categories but increasingly, you need to be ready to respond.

So, you come up with an idea and you should be ready to push it, and steer the idea according to the consumers reaction. You need to constantly monitor it and keep steering it by putting in more inputs.

For the digital medium, you can't have a system that is loaded with the burden of clearances.

Q. In China, the growth for Publicis has been through acquisitions. Will the same strategy be followed in India?

Nakul: We will do whatever is necessary for the growth. In that way we are also open to acquiring. In India, we have already successfully completed four acquisitions, apart from Solutions, which was acquired by the Publicis Groupe.

Q. Has the acquisition of Capital met its purpose?

Richard: The main objective was to achieve scale and in return we have given Capital, the resources of the network. This is why Capital has managed to reach the final rounds of the Unitech Telenor pitch - which would not have been possible without the Publicis umbrella. And if we manage to get the Telenor account, we can say that acquiring Capital was not a nice idea but a brilliant idea.

With Publicis, Capital has got a partner that respects culture unlike the Americans who struggle with it. The French respect culture and that's why we haven't added the Publicis tag to the Capital brand. We know we can do it overnight, but we will do it only when we need it. Till then let it have its own identity. Till the time it's fulfilling our purpose, we do not need to do anything of that sort.

The biggest difference between the America and Europe is that in the US if you travel 100 miles you still are in the US, while in Europe, you are in a different country. We make sure that the cultural differences do not come in the way of the company, since each region or geography has its own culture. Our objective is to be well distributed and Capital serves this purpose. We have other examples like this. For instance we bought Hal & Riney in San Francisco, though it was not the number one in the market. It was to expand our network.

Nakul: Also within India, Delhi is a market with a huge significance and is fast catching up with Mumbai. Given that, you need to consider that Capital is a very strong agency in this market.

Q. How do you plan to increase your network in India when Publicis is known to be very city focussed - Publicis India in Delhi and Publicis Ambience in Mumbai?

Nakul: To clear this out, we have established a strong presence in South including Chennai and Bengaluru. In Chennai, we are slowly growing to be the fifth largest agency. Besides, Publicis India too has a substantial presence in Mumbai with businesses such as Loreal, Fidelity etc.

It's not that we have different agency brands for different geographies. But in a sensible and pragmatic way, if we feel the need to have both Publicis India and Publicis Ambience in all geographies, we are not averse to that. There has to be the right opportunity and timing.

Q. Other networks which have a second agency follow a model where the lead agency plays the role of a big sister. In case of Publicis Communication both the brands are like twin brothers. How do you create a separate identity for both the brands? Why can't it be one brand?

Richard: I agree Publicis India and Publicis Ambience are like twins - two individuals with their similarities and differences.

However, the reason behind having two identities is historical. Ambience has got a strong brand presence among local clients whereas Publicis India has more multinational clients.

With Capital, we now have a three agency set up in India and it works for us. One has to understand the equity of the agency. We buy agencies to nurture them, not to kill them.

A lot of large agencies set up second agencies for conflicting clients or to save one big client. But the effect can be quite bad one too. For instance, Enfatico was set up to service Dell and then the whole thing came crashing down later.

First Published : June 10, 2009

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