Madison World has given the industry much to discuss in the last many years. Who else can claim to forge unprecedented relations and partnerships – whether it is Madison World’s Chairman Sam Balsara acquiring a 51 per cent in MediaCom India (a GroupM company) or a joint venture with the globally celebrated creative director Trevor Beattie’s firm BMB to launch BMB Madison in India? Always measured in its approach, Madison has seen an interesting 2011 – and not from a new wins perspective, but from changes visible in the very constitution of the company.
Earlier in the year, the agency lost some of its key people, but what became interesting were the people Madison started bringing on board. According to Sam, the company embarked on a few ‘agendas’ a year ago, and now these efforts are seeing fruition.
Elaborating on that, Lara Balsara, who has been the chief architect of these changes, says, “We have been concentrating for sometime on the kind of processes and structures we need at Madison Media to comfortably absorb and manage the growth that we have been fortunate to achieve and prepare for more. It became clear that our current model needs to be modified to achieve and absorb the next phase of growth. We looked inwards critically rather than outwards to see what we need to do.”
And the answer came in a four-way strategy.
A Four-Point Approach, beginning with ‘Diversity in People, hence Product’
“Our business is people-centric” --- global leaders such as WPP’s CEO Martin Sorrell and Omnicom’s CEO John Wren and leaders from the Indian industry have mentioned this time and again. And Madison’s first area of focus also is its human asset.
Lara lays the context here, and says, “Madison is what it is today because of the hard and smart work that every Madison-ite puts in every day. Although Sam and other seniors are the face of the company, we would not have been able to achieve what we have if it weren’t for every Madison-ite. We want all Madison-ites to act as entrepreneurs because only if they are happy and committed, will they grow and in turn the company will grow.”
The key objective was to bring in diversity in the senior talent pool of the company.
“In a very mature media agency, given the merging environment, where there is so much focus on integration and ideation, Madison was becoming too much of the same. We worked on getting more diversity in our talent pool. And now you can see the diver backgrounds, we have in our leadership team,” Sam observes.
The COOs at the Madison Media units bring varied experiences to the table. Lara informs, “We have got in many new senior people to bring in a fresh perspective that will contribute to our offering to our clients and also help us improve and strengthen our internal systems. We have identified some other senior level vacancies as well in the system and are looking at closing those shortly.”
Earlier in the year, Sushma Y Jhaveri was appointed as the COO of Madison Media Infinity, and Jhaveri has worked in media and research agencies. Dnyanada Chaudhari, again a COO at Madison, brings experience from both the media and advertiser side, having worked with companies such as Hindustan Unilever, Marico and ICICI Prulife. V S Mani, COO of Madison Media Infinity in Bangalore, is another example, where he brings experience in advertising and media agencies. Amandeep Khurana, who the company appointed as COO of Madison Media Plus, too has experience over various facets of marketing – including the client side, and in creative agencies like Rediffusion YR and Bates.
Sam observes, “Within the teams itself, we have had total media specialists but now we are trying to bring in diversity within that too and break the mould in what we offer to our clients.”
Lara adds, “We are looking to bring in diversity at the junior level as well. Unless the operating teams understand our vision and put it into action we would be paying only lip service to Diversity.”
Create Time, to Think...
The second major focus area for the last year was automation. Madison Media had worked on 5 million spots on TV alone in 2010. And this was the case despite the company being technologically progressive on various counts. Until last year, while the processes were automated, it was in parts and done separately for either planning or operation or billing. This year, Madison embarked on integrated one end-to-end software to make the process “as painless as possible”. For instance, the agency has its own integrated software called Empower, which is customised for Madison in finance. Sam notes, “The sheer volume of work in mammoth, and this allows us to relieve our teams of their drudgery, and they have more time to think and ideate.”
For Lara, an ideal media organisation should be a ‘Brains Trust’, with a ‘Factory’ attached. A factory implies rigid processes, strict discipline and adherence to set protocols combined with on-time performance and delivery. The company’s focus therefore was to standardise and automate as many of the routine processes as possible and request its clients to accept standardised formats and processes so that planners’ time is freed up to think about what to do.
On the ‘Brains Trust’ front, Madison’s focus is to encourage teams to meet internally as often as possible in brain storming sessions and infuse diversity in teams. “Brainstorming sessions work well when participants come in from different backgrounds with varied experiences and expertise. The objective finally is that the client’s brand can make a bigger impact in the market place and grow,” adds Lara.
A good job in automation makes way for the third leg, Ideation. And for Sam, the results have already begun to show. And one measure for the agency has been its performance at the Emvie Awards 2011. Madison Media agencies won 10 awards. Sam points out, “This is the highest that Madison has ever won. More importantly, we have been able to win awards across clients. In awards, there is a funny way of the awards getting concentrated with one client but we had advertisers like Marico, Airtel and Cadbury, where we won awards. And if you add MediaCom to it, we have 16 awards plus the Grand Emvie. Our efforts are generating desired outcome.”
Digitisation – from the inside out...
The fourth and last focus point for the agency is Digitisation. Madison Media is not a believer of creating a dedicated unit that brings the digital expertise. The agency would much rather add the expertise to its team, and bring the digital thinking at the core of the operation. As they say, soon everything would be digital, and Madison wants to be geared for that future.
“Our approach from day one is that digitisation is not specialisation, and it should be core to the media agency. We don’t have one digital outpost. We have people within the teams who evangelise digital but not as a separate unit that works on digital,” informs Sam.
The reason for specialisation or fragmentation is when the mental faculty required to perform that task is different and unique. Then there is a need to have a separate, dedicated unit. A case in point is the OOH domain, which given the mindset required intense specialisation and Madison Media has three different agencies in OOH. “But the current, highly innovative planners are suited to handle digital, so there is no need to have a separate agency. I strongly feel, and even though standalone digital agencies may disagree with me, but the future of digital is in a media agency and not in a standalone agency,” states Sam.
Some may argue that digital needs the extra attention and hence a dedicated cell for it but when things are small, that is alright but once is begins to get a life of it own and it will not get a life of its own as long as it continues to operate outside the media agency, which I think today large players such as Google, Yahoo, recognise that for digital to grow it has to operate from inside the media agency. That also is tremendous focus for us.
He admits that this is easier said than done. Madison hence is investing significant time and energy in training its people more to understand digital. The agency has done three workshops for its entire staff.
As Madison silently pursues its course with these four cornerstones for its future growth, the company has also begun to see action in some of its recent launched divisions.
(The report had first appeared in IMPACT issue dated September 26, 2011)