Mark Heap, CEO, MediaCom APAC, completes a year in his current role today. Heap, who took over from CEO PHD China, is no stranger to GroupM, having begun his career at Mindshare in 1996. He has spent 12 years working in various capacities in London, Sydney and China, before joining PHD in 2008, and has famously likened Mediacom to a ‘Sleeping Tiger’ that is finally waking up. In a conversation with exchange4media, he spoke about bringing in a collaborative spirit into the region, underscoring the need for MediaCom India to ‘up’ its profile and positioning, while elaborating on the mandate to Debraj Tripathy. Excerpts
In one of your earlier interviews this year you referred to MediaCom as a ‘Sleeping Tiger.’ Has the Tiger been finally awakened?
It is waking for sure. The reference to ‘Sleeping Tiger’ was I think within MediaCom. We’ve got fabulous resources at our disposal that aren’t necessarily being utilised to the biggest benefit. Back in February, we got everyone together across the region, country heads, regional and discipline heads and spent two days talking to everyone about the skill sets, areas of focus and expertise we’ve got within the group how we can collaborate more together. That’s been quite a big focus for us. This month, we’ve just launched a new way of operating at a leadership level, with some different leadership circles, commercial and client circles and all of those feeding into overall MediaCom Asia Pacific. Those are the things designed to improve the way we operate as a company, the leverage, the skills, talent and input from more people.
Why were these things not in place earlier?
Typically as an industry, not just as MediaCom, we respond to individual clients, tailor our business and our approach around their needs. So the existing skills weren’t just sitting idle, but they were being put to use for individual clients. So it was really about making the rest of the company aware of the tools, techniques, people that can also be a benefit in other areas, countries, markets, clients. So that is really going to happen now.
What are the improvement areas for Mediacom India?
One of the areas we can improve here is merchandising ourselves. I don’t think we’ve got a strong enough positioning in the market, probably because GroupM, Madison and Mindshare are very strong here. I think MediaCom can strengthen more of 'who we are' in the market, to build up on the business profile. Both internally in India and within the MediaCom network, I’d like to see the talent and the work being done here being spread a bit more.
What is India’s contribution to APAC?
It is considerable. India is our third largest market in the region behind Australia and China.
What I’d like is India playing a more active role in the region and help influence how we develop our products in the future, what we focus on and how we build our business, because there’s an awful lot of talent here.
Who do you consider your biggest competitor in the region?
Honestly, ourselves. If we can get our act together, we have got an amazing amount of skill, talent and resources. Where I want MediaCom is; leveraging the scale we’ve got within the group, across MediaCom, WPP including Kantar. Omnicom and Publicis don’t have access to that. That is a genuine advantage.
How do you think Mediacom is positioned vis a vis GroupM’s other agencies?
I don’t think any agency is different from any other agency. Mindshare has Unilever, we’ve got P&G. We appeal to quite a similar category of clients to some degree. But the way that we do that and what we deliver is different. Maxus has a more localised strategy, Mindshare is a big machine, very reliable, MediaCom is very fast-growing and entrepreneurial within the group, with a lot of energy and developing at a very fast pace.
What are the changes you have brought about since you took over last year?
I’m trying to bring a little more clarity for our staff, particularly for our country heads and our people who are leading disciplines, on what the areas of focus are, some more rigour in how we operate, to be more systematic about things, to be more collaborative, to leverage our resources. Now we have a more consistent method of writing business plans across all markets, evaluating what we should be doing on a country level, prioritising instead of having a big shopping list of KPIs.
What we want to be known for in the market in the future is more around an agency that provides what we call ‘systems thinking,’ because most agencies still operate in silos.
What is the mandate to Debraj (Tripathy, Managing Director, MediaCom India) for India ?
There is an opportunity to build on the merchandising, more clarity on what our product is, and diversifying our client base, to explore some new areas. We’ve got a very strong product globally and regionally in performance marketing, demand generation, e-commerce. Those are the areas which are quite nascent in India. We are focusing on building our capabilities so that we can get some wins in those areas.