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"There's no validation for that": IPG's Shashi Sinha on Dentsu's 'No.2 network' claim

Which is the No.2 agency network in India - IPG or DAN?

Over the past several months, Ashish Bhasin, chairman and CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN), South Asia, has been very vocal about his ambition to overtake IPG and become the No.2 agency group in India.

After issuing a press release about having met this goal, the network has now released an outdoor ad campaign (in Mumbai, Delhi and possibly elsewhere) to the same end. The copy on the billboards reads: #2ndPlaceGreatPlace. Now India's 2nd largest advertising network. So much to be grateful for. So much to look forward to.

The hashtag implies a digital leg to the campaign.

"There's no validation for that": IPG's Shashi Sinha on Dentsu's 'No.2 network' claim

We asked Shashi Sinha, chief executive officer, IPG Mediabrands, what he makes of Bhasin's claim. Sinha says dismissively, "Third party media data shows that Dentsu is not even in the top four, let alone the climate of No.2 - there is no validation for that claim," adding, "In RECMA, the gap is so huge that nothing can cover it. Last RECMA, we were more than double so I am curious how he can cover that gap."

In an interview last May, Bhasin said to afaqs!,"I am happy to be measured on any scale. Revenue, profit, billings, new business, growth... pick any parameter that is fair and uniformly applied. Let's judge and decide on December 31, 2017. In fact, we're going to be No.2 well before that but I will announce it at a time when there can be no controversy around it."

"There's no validation for that": IPG's Shashi Sinha on Dentsu's 'No.2 network' claim

So, in the wake of his outdoor campaign, we asked Bhasin - On what basis are you saying you are No.2? There are no official figures to support this claim.

"There's no validation for that": IPG's Shashi Sinha on Dentsu's 'No.2 network' claim

He told afaqs!, "There are four parameters on which one can measure an agency group - people, billing, revenue, profits. These are the benchmarks against which we are happy to be measured."

What about RECMA, the research company, that annually evaluates the media agency industry?

Bhasin responds, "The RECMA report is a report only on traditional media billings. It doesn't capture digital," adding that over a third of his employees are part of the group's digital function.

"RECMA doesn't capture digital, out of home, creative..." Bhasin explains, calling the RECMA report "an old, traditional media billings report, which comes with a one year lag."

Bhasin goes on, "We have never claimed we are No.2 on old world legacy, traditional media. We are saying we are the second largest agency group in India."

By that logic, even the next RECMA report will not reflect DAN's 'No.2 agency group' claim.

Which is the No.2 agency network in India – IPG or DAN, then? In the case of privately listed companies such as these, there's no way to validate any claims. IPG's Sinha says, "...how (then) is he (Bhasin) making a claim without third party proof?"

It's hard to imagine that DAN will back off on this or that IPG will let it slide. We're yet to see the last of this, it's safe to assume.