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Lots of me-too-ism among media companies: John Sheehy, SMG

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Lots of me-too-ism among media companies: John Sheehy, SMG

John Sheehy, President, Global Operations, Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) is of the opinion that there is too much of ‘me-too-ism’ among media agency brands.

Sheehy who was transferred from SMG’s sister company Leo Burnett, in August last year, is touring India currently. In an interview with exchange4media, he said that till about a year ago, even SMG's offerings in India were too similar to that of other agencies.

However the group has been committed to move beyond a mere ‘media agency’ and become a ‘Human Experience company’, with its three-pillar strategy – focusing on Insights & Analytics, Digital and Content. “Our task, from the beginning of the year, was to develop Starcom and MediaVest as two independent agency brands in India that both leveraged SMG’s global reach combined with each agency’s local expertise,” said Sheehy.

This, he said helped the company create a differentiated media product, attract quality talent and grow SMG's business at a pace faster than the market average. Unlike other agencies in the marketplace that “are still working in the commodified world of planning and buying”, SMG hopes to “become more than an agency that simply releases advertising across a variety of channels, but as a storehouse of research and insights that can help integrate communications plans across media and non-media channels. We feel we’ve carved out a unique place to operate that’s focused on where the industry is headed, not where it’s been”

Doubling Digital Revenues in India
Another focus area for SMG in India in 2012 is the digital space. With clients willing to experiment and more money flowing into digital experiential marketing and events, Sheehy believes that social media and other digital platforms will enable the company connect “with the hard-to-reach youth segment”.

“In India, 10 per cent of our revenue comes from digital, which is a strong performance for this market and I fully expect that percentage to double within the next two years,” Sheehy said.

SMG in India has had a good 2011 with 18 new business wins and revenue growth that, according to Sheehy, was “nearly twice the industry growth rate”. But more than anything, he calls 2011 a building year for India. As is known, the company in India also saw senior team building with the likes of CR Mallikarjundas being appointed as the CEO, Arnab Mitra as the National Digital Director and Amrit Kaur as the Insights & Research Director. Sheehy credits these new appointments to SMG's Chairman CVL Srinivas, who Sheehy believes is a “a world-class operator” and a “talent magnet”.

SMG, like it's done in many other major markets, is also committed to establish a Centre of Excellence in Analytics in India, in 2012.

2012: The Big Year
Are there any signs of a slowdown and will it impact the growth rate of SMG as well? Sheehy agreed that while there's been a “measured optimistic outlook” and clients have fallen into a “watch-and-wait” mode and predictions of 15 per cent growth have been scaled back to 8-10 per cent range, the growth rate of SMG globally should be better. “Regardless, based on our 2011 performance, our large client profile, diverse revenue streams and the changes we’ve made to position us for growth in 2012 and beyond, we expect our agency’s growth to surpass the industry average,” he said. And digital media is expected to contribute to that in a big way.

Much of this growth is expected to come from emerging markets, which Sheehy sees as the “growth engine for the network”. “We expect China and India to be leaders of that segment. While I won’t get into specific percentages or estimates, we expect the overall market to grow by double digits, and we anticipate outperforming the industry average,” he said.

“A short answer” to his expectations from 2012, is that he expects to see a lot of activity from SMG's existing clients, as well as to expand upon the group's current base. “Because our story in the marketplace is so different from what others are offering, we expect to see significant new business action as well. Globally, 2009 was a big year, however, we look forward to 2012 being a big year for us in many markets,” he said.

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