“It’s the year of the Dark Horse,” Lynn de Souza, Director, Lintas Media Group (LMG) opines, and she has good reason to. Losing senior professionals and back-to-back businesses, the group was in a poor state last year, but 2005 has been all celebrations. LMG has added some big businesses in the year and has managed to retain fiercely competed businesses too.
Looking at the year gone so far, between Initiative, Insight and Interactions, LMG has in all added Rs 340 crore in 2005. Even though two of the businesses – Bajaj Auto and ITC – were a retention fight, at the end of the deal, the respective agencies got more from the same clients.
The year saw Initiative aggressively pitching and in the course adding DHFL, Gemini Oil and MTNL in February 2005, making billings worth Rs 40 crore. In May, June and July, it added another Rs 45 crore with Classic Polo, IIHT, PC Chandra, Samsonite and PVR and Khadim. The recent win of Tata Mutual Funds, which is worth Rs 15 crore, has given Initiative alone a grand total of Rs 100 crore in new business wins.
In terms of new businesses, Insight added Rs 10 crore with Torrent Engery and Coal & Oil, Dubai. The high point for the agency was retaining the Bajaj Auto account. As is known, prior to the Bajaj Auto pitch, the account was divided between MindShare and Insight. With the consolidation and Bajaj Auto upping its spends in the year, the agency added Rs 60 crore to its billing from the same client.
A similar win situation came for Interactions when ITC consolidated its complete portfolio with Interactions last month.
In standalone new wins, the group has added over Rs 100 crore and an equal amount from more business of existing clients. “It is the best way to grow,” said de Souza, “New businesses are a joy, but it is even better when existing clients give you more business and all these are fiercely competed pitches. The year has been a very good one.”
Definitely a complete change from last year. De Souza expressed that the group stayed on course of the objectives that the specific agencies chalked out in the beginning – Initiative went out for the more modest businesses, aggressively pitching and consequently adding Rs 100 crore to their kitty, Insight retained Bajaj and Interactions retained ITC – two of the biggest pitches in the year.
Throwing light on some setbacks faced by LMG, de Souza said, “To begin with, the industry saw changes that had a direct impact on us – even something like the GroupM consolidation. Full service is an important area, which is why the consolidation effected us more than it did to an agency like say Madison, which is a pure media AoR kind of agency. It was various things like this that made 2004 a miserable year and also a wake up call.”
Last year, LMG lost businesses like HSBC (due to international alignment with GroupM agencies), Britannia, LG and Pantaloons. Even on the people count, Lintas lost senior executives like S Yesudas, Pavan Varshnei and even though just for a while, and Kartik Iyer in subsequent movements.
“Initially, I cried buckets, but as I said, it was a wake up call and then we took deliberate steps to arrest the problem. I was already in talks with Raj (Gupta – Head, Insight) then. Sudha (Natrajan) was taking care of Bangalore. We knew we had to work very hard and we didn’t waste any time,” de Souza added.
She explained that on a broad level, the change inculcated was in the attitude of LMG officials, encouraging them to challenge norms. “That was the basic premise. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it and appear happy. If something can be done in a better way and hasn’t been tried before, try it. And the change in attitude was needed to actively change into an institution that was strategy led than just a good implementer, which was the image we had previously sported.”
According to de Souza, LMG had always been seen as an agency that could efficiently execute a plan. The agency’s thrust was then on developing tools and technology and bringing in the right people at all levels.
“The space has a scarcity of skilled professionals and there isn’t much that was happening in this regard. We wanted to change that, and so we set up an institute at North Point, initiating a course on this subject, and this has helped us tremendously. Then people like Raj came in, followed with Kartik coming back and Sudha going strong in Bangalore – in all making the people power of the organisation right,” she pointed out.
In context to tools and technology, Intellect, the research arm of the agency, which is now two years old, started delivering in terms of new kinds of technology and some examples of this was ‘Intelligrip’ and even industry studies like IRS-NRS comparison and so on. De Souza divulged that more surveys and studies were in the pipeline.
“These give us the position to offer media solutions to the client. Most other agencies today operate on the basis of volumes – buckets of GRPs, doesn’t matter where they are coming from. We aren’t in that game and these initiatives help us to be in the right direction. Clients today are concerned about the money they are spending in television. Maruti Swift pulled out of the medium completely. There is ad avoidance and a need to comprehend and address other such problems. Our survey and tools are already this and there are other efforts in this area, which will throw results soon,” she asserted.
Even though the wins are in place and so are various such efforts, LMG is fighting perception problems and de Souza thought that much could also be attributed to the fact that the group hadn’t actively participated in industry events like awards.
“We are looking into that very seriously. When we profile our works to any new clients, we can see the amount of good work across mediums that we have done but we haven’t really showcased it and we want to do that now,” she added.