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I am more bullish about India than I have ever been: Mark Patterson

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I am more bullish about India than I have ever been: Mark Patterson

The year 2013 began with a flying start for GroupM India with CVL Srinivas, CEO – South Asia, GroupM bringing a dynamic new energy and focus to the Group, feels Mark Patterson, CEO, GroupM Asia Pacific. On his visit to India, he shares the focus areas for the Group going forward, his belief of clients showing an increased confidence on their media agencies as partners and tie-ups in the pipeline.

Patterson remains bullish about growth in India and talks about replicating successful initiatives of the Group such as the recent MashUp (with Optimystix Entertainment) and Dialogue Factory in other markets. Excerpts:

What are the significant trends you are seeing in the client community globally and in India?
Apart from slower economic times bringing different pressures from clients and challenging conversations on commercial terms, the positive side is that we are seeing more and more clients employing us in out of scope services and using products such as Xaxis.

Clients today are giving media agencies the lead in creative conversations as well as a lead role in overall business, not a classic following role. This emanates from clients placing a great deal of confidence on the media agency. It has been a growing trend we have been seeing in the last 15 years, where clients say my primary relation is my media agency.
Are you seeing an increase in risk and experimentation undertaken by clients?
No. Different types of cultures have different clients, but most of them are risk averse. We are in the business of selling clients new ideas and not buying, but providing media. We are very transparent in our manner of working and our job is minimising the risk element. I wouldn’t call our clients risk takers, but they are not conservative as well. Our job is to get them out of their comfort zone; if we are not doing that, we are failing.

In certain areas such as digital, clients are experimenting. We are seeing a new form of risk-taking today. Fifteen years ago, sponsoring a programme was taking a risk. Risk takes different forms as media evolves and learnings get built in the system. Our digital trading initiative Xaxis has received a good response from clients as they see the value it brings.  
GroupM India has had a good start to the year. How is the rest of the year looking?
Srini (CVL Srinivas) has hit the ground running and we are off to a flying start in terms of energy, change, re-organisation and focus; not that we didn’t have that before, but we have it in a different way now. This makes me very positive about the rest of the year. I am more bullish and optimistic about India than I have ever been. With the size of the business we have, we need someone orchestrating it from the centre, which is what he is doing now.
Besides digital, what are the other areas of focus for this year?
Yes, we are focussing on digital in all its guises. With our size, it is hard to grow share; we are growing horizontally now and offering a broad range of high quality services to clients.  Our focus is also on experiential marketing. We have taken two businesses ‘Dialogue Factory’ and ‘Dialect’ and brought them together; we now have end-to-end experiential marketing solutions, with great clients and a great consumer base as well. This is a great consumer business, but there is potential for business like that in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. Over a period of time, we are going to lift that learning.

Within the digital side, we are focussed on content; we have Mash Up – again an unique Indian business. India is leading the way with this kind of business; something that will be replicable in other markets. India, again, will have to move faster, deeper and broader, and because of the market share, we have to push the envelope. On the mobile front, we are constantly learning and trying new things with Madhouse. Our focus is also in the areas of automation in planning, talent, and organising ourselves in different ways.

What are the other tie-ups in the pipeline?
We are in talks about some four – five new ventures and ideas; some more advanced than the others. Some are in digital partnerships and the talent area. While the PR and media part of the deal are the easiest, the tough part is integrating the business. We have a long track record of acquisitions. We’ve learnt not to go in for acquisitions first, but work with the people and get to know them.

We are also wary that other companies want headlines about India and China; we are more Asian and media-centric than any other company. We are in the fortunate position as we have a lot of businesses coming to us.

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