Should the likes of WPP be worried? WPP is the largest media holding company in India across domains – media, creative, direct and other disciplines. The last two years have seen close rival Interpublic Group (IPG) strengthen its presence in India in various ways. Lowe Lintas and Partners may have been rechristened Lowe Worldwide in 2001 itself, but the fact that India is important for IPG was distinctly seen in 2005.
What began as a new structure then has now turned into deep and expanded footprints with the take over of Lintas India and FCB Ulka, and IPG is a lot stronger than it has been ever before in India. More importantly, these initiatives have opened many more opportunities for India. Prem Mehta, Chairman and MD, Lintas India, pointed out, “Through this consolidation IPG would inevitably seek to integrate these businesses more closely into their global businesses. It would facilitate better exchange of tools and technology; exchange of people and expertise; develop the integrated and media businesses in India; data analytics and so on.”
He cautions that there would be no immediate major impact with this move in India, but over time it would help IPG to better utilise the Indian assets to develop businesses here. Another opportunity is to give the media units further scale in India, if a decision is taken to increase collaboration between the Lintas Media Group and Lodestar Universal.
Nonetheless it should be noted that some of the earlier IPG initiatives didn’t materialise in India, and a reason could’ve been its lack of control in Lintas India and FCB Ulka. An example was the creation of Magna Global in July, 2001, when IPG intended to consolidate its entire media buying under Magna Global. Nothing of the nature was seen in India.
On the recent IPG moves, Mehta divulged that the market feedback had been very positive. He said, “Clients are expecting more benefits with this. Also, IPG has the option now to bring in brands like Momentum and Rivet in India, which are very successful brands internationally.” He further informed that for IPG, this move also means that the Indian results can be shown in the American balance sheets, and that would be a substantial difference to IPG’s numbers.
An official communiqué further informed, “In addition to these units, IPG also has plans on setting up a 24-hour production studio in India, which can therefore enable Lintas India to offer cost-effective, holistic solutions to its clientele.”
The IPG track in India
Tracking some key IPG movements in India, in July 2005, as part of the global restructuring at Lowe Worldwide, Mehta was appointed to the Global Management Board of Lowe Worldwide. With this appointment, in addition to his responsibilities on the Worldwide Board, Mehta continued as Chairman and Managing Director of Lintas India. He also assumed regional responsibilities for the Lowe network in South Asia, which includes Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Following the new structure, Lowe network, which has businesses in 91 countries, has been managed through 12 lighthouse agencies, each representing a ‘cluster’. India is one such lighthouse agency in view of its success, diversification and influence in the worldwide system. The new lighthouse structure eliminated the need for regional offices and ensured better alignment of the global team with cluster leaders.
Just as the effects of this was setting in, the second ever meeting of the Lowe Worldwide Board under the new global management was held in Mumbai between November 15 and 17, 2005. This was the first time Lowe Worldwide board met in India.
The big one came in August 2006, when IPG joined two of its media assets – Lodestar and Universal McCann in India and officially launched Lodestar Universal in India with Shashi Sinha as the CEO of this entity. The merger gave the agency significant billing figures to talk in the market about. At the same time, the Lintas Media Group on launched the national rollout of the Lowe Worldwide strategy planning toolkit at its annual senior management meet in Mumbai. The toolkit consists of 16 processes of which the Lintas Media Group has adopted four – Path2Purchase, GrowthGrid, MasterMind and Encounter.
Where such synchronies were taking place in India, Draft merged with FCB worldwide and the impact of that began trickling in India. One of the first steps included the identifying of four regions representing various markets, one of them being the South East Asian region, for which India is the hub. Correspondingly, FCB Ulka’s Anil Kapoor was made the President of the region.
Yet another IPG initiative in India was seen in July 2002 when it launched Interface Communications as a standalone agency. Interface exists in India as well, as a sibling to FCB Ulka, and has some key brands like Birla Cement, Mahindra and Mahindra amongst others.
IPG to get complete control over FCB Ulka by Sept 2007; agency to be renamed Draft FCB Ulka
IPG acquires Lintas India; integrates it with Lowe Worldwide