DDB, Mudra scotch rumour that 'DDB Needham to go solo in India'

By , agencyfaqs! | In | May 16, 2002
No truth in the rumour, I'm afraid: James Best, group manager BMP DDB and chief strategic officer DDB Worldwide, puts all rumours to rest


There has been an interesting bit of news doing its rounds in Delhi's advertising circle since last weekend. That DDB (erstwhile DDB Needham) is looking for a new partner in India. As a leading business daily reported yesterday, "DDB Needham, one of the three advertising networks of the US-based Omnicom group, is warming up to float a 100 per cent subsidiary, neatly side-stepping the Ambani-controlled Mudra, in which DDB has a 10 per cent stake."

As it turns out there is no such thing in the offing. In an email message to agencyfaqs!, James Best, group manager BMP DDB and chief strategic officer DDB Worldwide, put all rumours to rest. He said, "No truth in the rumour, I'm afraid." This was in response to a query mailed to Best when we heard the same piece of gossip.

And it seemed to fit. The gossip was that Sunil Gupta (who was senior vice-president and general manager, HTA, Mumbai, before he put in his papers December last) was floating his new venture with equity participation from DDB. The first account of this soon-to-be-launched outfit, was to be … guess what… McDonald's - the showcase brand in Mudra's roster, which has helped the agency win accolades in various national ad fests. And it is a brand handled by DDB and Leo Burnett agencies in most international markets.

The rumour mill went on an overdrive when three senior executives - Jishnu Sen, associate vice-president and client services director, Bindu Sethi, national planning director, and Ajit Kohli, vice-president and commercial director - resigned from HTA last weekend. Many suggested that the trio were working on Gupta's impending DDB-McDonald's project, which is why they were asked to go.

When we contacted HTA after hearing these rumours, top officials at the agency's Delhi and Mumbai offices denied any such thing happening. When we contacted AG Krishnamurthy, chairman and MD, Mudra Communications, and Hemant Misra, executive vice-president, Mudra, they insisted it was the figment of somebody's imagination. Sunil Gupta said since he quit HTA last year he's heard similar rumours involving BBDO, Dentsu et al. "DDB seems to be the flavour of the month," he had chuckled.

After yesterday's report none of them are laughing. A very distraught Krishnamurthy told us, "I wish they (the business newspaper which carried the report) had checked with me or James (Best). This breaking-news-without-checking thing has become a new art." Vikam Bakshi, managing director, McDonald's India, clarified, "We also read something to that effect in the newspaper yesterday. If the account were to move we would have been the first people to be contacted by DDB. I haven't been approached by anybody. We continue to have a fantastic relationship with our agency (Mudra) and we don't see that changing in the near future."

Interestingly, the same newspaper that carried the DDB news on Page 1 yesterday, carried an interview with James Best on Page 3 of its accompanying supplement - yesterday itself. In that feature, Best was quoted as saying that DDB has a stable and long-term relationship with Mudra; while it was looking for a bigger relationship, it hasn't happened yet. He had also said, "There's no point in having alternative and multiple agency brands, since there aren't so many clients here." The same feature had - very categorically - stated: "no, they (DDB) aren't looking for a new agency partner." © 2002 agencyfaqs!