WPP Chief Executive Sir Martin Sorrell is in high spirits as he dissects brand Modi, shares his thoughts on Indian brands, identifies competition and puts in a word of praise for Ogilvy India's creative leadership, says Madison is off the table from an acquisition perspective, all in a brief chat. Excerpts.
What are your expectations from PM Modi? What is your view on brand Modi?
Brand Modi means leadership. He is a very good communicator, he understands brands, understands the importance of personality, communication. Leadership is important to run a country as well as a company. Expectations are at a high level whether you look at the stock market or talk to people on the ground. It is early days but I think he does signal a tremendous understanding of the importance of communication. The question is, can you implement? Are you going to have the strategy and the vision, with the implementation?
If there’s economic growth, we will see media growth. The faster the economy grows, the faster the media grows and the faster our businesses grow. I want him to succeed. The ground work has been done, now you have to complete the building. The question is, he did it in Gujarat, can he do it on a national scale. I hope he can.
What is your advice to Indian brands?
The fundamental message is that strong brands win. Weak brands don’t. Money spent on branding is not a cost, it’s an investment. The payoff is fundamental. In other words, companies that invest in their brands have strong brands.
Anymore acquisitions in the pipeline for India?
The best acquisition we can make in India is organic growth. That is one thing. The second thing is, some of our competitors have made ill-advised acquisitions in India. One of our competitors; actually said in the first quarter or the second quarter their revenues were down by 11 per cent in India. Something is wrong in that case, because you don’t drop to 11 per cent in a country like India unless you have a massive problem. That’s not a client delaying or deferring a budget, there’s something much more fundamental. I think there have been some ill-judged acquisitions as you’ve seen with Publicis in Brazil. We saw Omnicom acquire Mudra, we don’t know how that worked out. Dentsu has been very aggressive with Taproot, but I think the structure of that deal and the valuation was way out of line. I mean, it certainly changed the valuation metrics in the Indian market.
The best way for us to grow is organically. In India, if there are things that we think are right for us and if we think the value is right, we’ll do it. We’ve done it 13 times in the last ten years in India, and seven times in the last five years in India. There have been companies, small and medium-sized companies which we thought from valuation point made sense.
So there is no possibility of acquiring Madison?
We have a joint company with Madison which is doing extremely well, (MediaCom) But Sam is impossible, in a good way.
Who would you consider your competitors in India?
In India, IPG, Dentsu Aegis, Taproot. That’s it really.
How do you strike the balance between data and creative or science and art as you refer to them?
It is not for me to strike the balance; it is for me to indicate that the balance should be struck. I think some of our people do too much on the qualitative side and some do too much on the quantitative side. Often our business may be too suit driven than creative driven. Ogilvy is very interestingly led in India by a creative genius, and yet he manages the business very well and he understands the balance. It’s interesting that some of the best agencies, globally and locally, are being run by creative people. They have understood the need for the balance but there are creative people who don’t. There has to be a balance, it doesn’t make a sensational article until someone says it is all science, it is all art. But very disappointingly it is a boring both.