St Luke's sits pretty on VIP Moderna

By , agencyfaqs! | In | March 20, 2003
Even as Andy Law's resignation sparks debate about St Luke's future in India, the agency has won the account of VIP Industries' range of wooden modular furniture

VIP Industries, part of the Rs 800-crore-plus Dilip Piramal Group, has awarded St Luke's India the advertising account of VIP Moderna, its soon-to-be-launched range of branded wooden modular furniture. Confirming the news, Anil Nair, co-owner & senior vice-president, St Luke's India, told agencyfaqs! that the agency won the business late last week. "Our brief is to prepare the path for the Moderna brand to become a complete home solutions provider," he says. "We shall be offering total branding solutions to the client in their quest for national-level dominance." While Nair did not reveal the size of account, agencyfaqs! estimates that the business should be worth roughly Rs 3.5 crore, in annualized billing.

Moderna, it may be recalled, is an existing trademark of VIP Industries, and the company has been marketing its moulded plastic furniture range under the Moderna tag for about two decades now. However, the company has now shifted its focus, and is revamping the business to enter the branded wooden modular furniture business, using Moderna as its flagship brand. In fact, Moderna entered the modular furniture market - with 'add-ons' such as shoe racks, audio-video trolleys and computer furniture - almost a year ago, but has hitherto maintained a low profile. However, the brand is looking to make a splash with the formal launch, which is expected to happen "very soon". For the record, the company will retain its presence in moulded plastic furniture - which has become something of a 'commodity business' - but will dissociate the Moderna name from that segment of the furniture market.

Interestingly, St Luke's won the Moderna account following a 'bloodless' pitch. "We had made a couple of cold calls, evincing our interest in working with VIP," reveals Nair. "One thing led to another, and we were asked to present our thoughts on this particular business. Our recommendations were in sync with what they wanted, the relationship grew and we got the business." Nair believes that what clinched the deal in his agency's favour was the fact that the agency "addressed the big issue of what Moderna needed to do to be a serious national player in a potentially big market. We didn't do the usual seven-eight campaign ideas thing."

What should particularly please St Luke's is the fact that the win has given the agency an entry into VIP's agency roster - which already has the likes of JWT India and Leo Burnett India in it (Burnett, incidentally, handles Blow Plast Ergonomics, the office modular furniture brand). "Yes, it is a great feeling, considering there are two big agencies that could have got the business," Nair smiles. When asked why he thought the client had given St Luke's the opportunity, he replied, "The client wanted an agency that would work closely to grow the brand in a difficult but promising market. They wanted an agency that will see this as a long-term association. Plus, I believe they saw that we could tap into our global learnings from Ikea (St Luke's London handles that brand) for future requirements."

Speak about the St Luke's network, and one can't overlook the drama that unfolded earlier this month at the London-based shop. It might be recalled that the agency's founder and chairman Andy Law and deputy chairman Kate Stanners quit the co-operative setup following protracted disagreements with the agency's management team. agencyfaqs! understands that while Law and Stanners were all for expanding the St Luke's philosophy to different parts of the globe, the agency management - represented by joint managing directors Phil Teer and Neil Henderson - saw financial sense in keeping the agency in the immediate vicinity of London. Not only did the divergence of opinion see the exit of Law and Stanners, it also put a big question mark on the fortunes of St Luke's Sweden and St Luke's India (where 51 per cent of the equity is with London). While the former is a two-year-old shop, the paint is still fresh on the Indian agency's door.

However, there aren't any indications of nervous nail biting at the agency's office in Worli, Mumbai. "There is no change as far as St Luke's India is concerned," Praveen Kenneth, co-owner & CEO, St Luke's India, shrugs off suggestions of uncertainty following Law's departure. "In fact, we are going from strength to strength, and St Luke's India has proved the capacity of the Indian team to its partner in London. London too has acknowledged its faith in us." When quizzed about speculation over Andy Law starting a new transnational outfit with Kenneth and his team playing critical roles in it, Kenneth replied, "Whatever decision St Luke's India takes will keep in mind two things. Our clients who have entrusted their brands with us, and our team that makes this agency tick." He adds that the agency will spell out its plans "in the coming few weeks".

Till then, it's wait and watch. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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