Michael Isor Roth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Interpublic Group of companies, tells exchange4media’s Rashi Bisaria that he views the Publicis-Omnicom merger as an opportunity to recruit the best talent and that his outlook for India is extremely positive.
How has the Publicis-Omnicom merger affected IPG, particularly in terms of your media clout?
We view the Publicis-Omnicom merger as an opportunity for us. Your question on media clout is what everyone has been asking us. In 2013, media was the best performing asset within the IPG group. We competed against WPP, Omnicom as well as Publicis. If you think of size, the Publicis-Omnicom merger creates a media offering similar to the size of WPP, and we have been competing against WPP successfully. In fact, the number of our business wins in 2013 on the media side was against WPP. So the size does not affect the outcome. We believe we have the size in terms of the marketplace to make a difference and have an impact for our clients but more importantly, we are not so big that we don’t have the flexibility and creativity to meet the needs of our clients. Frankly, that is what we are bringing to the table and why we were so successful at it in 2013. We don’t think of the merger as a threat, particularly on the media side of the business. We think of it as an opportunity in terms of the recruiting side of our business. Whenever you have a merger of companies of this size and different cultures, there’s going to be disruption and whenever there is disruption, there is an opportunity to provide a stable growth environment and that’s what we provide. So we have seen a number of opportunities to recruit talent across the IPG networks as a result of this merger and frankly, it hasn’t taken place yet, so it’s all going to take some more time and the more time it takes, the more disruption there will be in the marketplace. What we focus on is our clients and that is what we have always done and that is what we will always do.
What expectations do clients have from their marketing communication agencies?
Clients are demanding from us the best in class offerings across all the different disciplines whether it is media, activation, creative or PR. They are looking at us to provide a single source vehicle to integrate all these disciplines in meeting their needs. We are seeing more and more of such demands in the pitches we receive. In 2013, we participated in four RFPs dealing with an IPG solution. What that means is that we had to put together the agencies to meet the needs of the clients. We are proud that out of the four we competed in, we won three. This shows that we have the resources and the ability among the group to work together, with a single client in mind, to provide the best solution across all those different disciplines.
Do the various advertising agencies under IPG have the same values in the kind of work they do or are they different from each other?
All the agencies under IPG have a unique DNA, I wouldn’t call it values. I would call it a go-to market strategy. Some go-to market strategies are based on specific creative expertise while others on analytic expertise, but more and more of it is a combination of both. Most of the agencies have a mix of those capabilities. For example, we have specialized digital agencies in the form of RGA, Huge or MRM but each of the agencies has its own distinct expertise in digital. Lowe, which has a big presence in India, recently acquired Profero, which is a digital agency. We bolstered the digital offering of Lowe so that all our networks have their own capabilities for digital, while we also have access to expertise we can tap into. All the go-to market strategies include these different disciplines and each agency has a different way of approaching the marketplace. That is what makes it great to be a holding company, we have different offerings for different clients and different markets.
What is your outlook for India?
Our outlook for India is very positive, which is why we brought the board of directors here. The talent and size of this marketplace dictates that it’s a market that we have to be in. If you look at the history of our presence in India, we are the No. 2 holding company in the country and all our agencies have creative expertise. They win awards, they are successful, they have relationships with clients like Hindustan Unilever and the Tata Group which go back many years — it’s a great marketplace for us. Given the continued expansion of the middle class in India and the country’s projected economic growth, this is a place we have invested in and will continue to invest in.
Can you explain your new corporate identity, FCB Ulka?
In India, Ulka is one of our long-standing agencies. We changed the name several years ago when we merged Draft into FCB, calling it DraftFCB+Ulka. It was a successful merger. To modernize our offering, we have a new management team to focus on the creative aspects of the history of FCB and in this case, FCB Ulka. It was appropriate for us to go back to the kind of identity that led to the great growth and strength we have here in India, so changing it back from FCB to FCB Ulka is a two-fold statement. One is the strong heritage of FCB and second is the strong heritage here in India that we are very proud of and are looking forward to continue to grow.
Post the acquisition of Interactive Avenues, how do you see your digital assets evolving in India?
Our acquisition of Interactive Avenues was a very planned and well thought-out strategic acquisition in India. It’s a great digital offering within the marketplace and provides avenues of expertise that we can leverage with all of our agencies within the IPG Group. During the meeting with the board, we had a presentation and I am very pleased with the integration of Interactive Avenues into MediaBrands — more importantly, the integration of Interactive Avenues into our other networks. Whenever we acquire a company like Interactive which has the required expertise, we want to make sure that all our agencies have the opportunity to utilize that expertise.
There is a rumour that WPP and IPG will merge one day. What do you say to that?
You better ask Martin Sorrell that question! But our perspective is quite simple. There is no need for us to do a transaction. At IPG, we have the size, the scale and the expertise. We are not missing any part of the go-to market strategy - be it media, activation, creative or PR. The only issue is our share price and we have a duty to our share-holders to entertain any offer that potentially comes into being. So, if there is an offer that is extremely attractive for our share-holders, I have always said we must entertain it. Right now, our strategy is to put our heads down and meet the needs of the client as best we can.