MEC’s Global CEO Charles Courtier gets candid about not playing the under-cutting game, why more regular pitching is the new normal after the ‘Mediapalooza’ of 2015, take-aways from as well as focus areas for MEC India
The agency globally saw a double digital growth last year (above 10%), which in 2015 was a very good performance, feels Courtier, even as he says that it is a bit early to comment on the agency’s performance this year.
Courtier declares that the overall view around India is very optimistic and global leaders continue to have faith in India as a fast growing market, more so, because growth in China has started to slow down, making the gaze on India more pronounced. On digital, Courtier believes it is just a matter of ‘speed’ at which digital takes over the Indian market, when comparing it with global markets like the US, Europe and even China to some extent, rather than ‘when’ it will take over.
Edited excerpts from a conversation Charles Courtier had with Priyanka Mehra:
Are we done and dusted with the craziness of last year's ‘Mediapalooza’ wherein an extraordinary number of big clients put their accounts up for global review at the same time?
I don’t think it is done. But you are right... it was crazy, and if I were a big client, the last thing I would do now is pitch my business, because how on earth would I get the best out of any agency when they are drowning in these enormous pitches? Having said that, I think much more regular pitching is the new normal. And I don’t think it started in 2015 - I think we are quite used to pitch and re-pitch of businesses on a very regular basis and that’s going to continue. It might not be 2015 every year, but I think we will continue to see a lot of media pitches every year.
What are the possible reasons for this, in your view?
I think there are two key reasons. One is procurement, because companies and businesses are all under tremendous pressure, and the media number on the balance sheet is a very big one in most clients’ businesses. So, procurement is a fact of life, it is very important for these companies to get the best efficiencies and value that they can for the money they are spending. Procurement is competitive from a pricing point of view. The other side of it, to some degree, is fear in the sense that the communication business is changing so massively, that I think clients want to test if the agency has the right skillset to navigate them strategically through the chaotic, difficult and fast-changing media world driven by changing consumer preferences. Marketing is changing so fast; if you are a CMO in a big company, you know it’s hard to keep up with everything that is going around. The way the consumers are buying your goods or entertainment is changing so fast that the CMOs in that situation need to know, and they want to check that the skills they need are there.
How do you deal with under-cutting, especially given the added pressure of significant global pitches and a cut-throat competitive scenario?
The only way to deal with it is responsibly. We have to be competitive on price. Yes, there are situations where somebody does something crazy and you get under-cut; yes, everybody has a story of when that happened. But honestly, if you get into that game, it’s a very short-lived game; don’t think you are doing your client any favour because you can’t sustain under-cut prices. In the end, you have to be responsible in terms of pricing that you are putting forward; you have to deliver it over a long-term basis. So to answer your question, we won’t play that game.
What are your focus areas for India from a global perspective?
Digital is key, because I believe it is the tipping point and India is on the cusp of that. It is all about ensuring we are ahead of competition in terms of our digital and our data capability. So, absolutely that is the priority, because we can see the wave of opportunity about to come so we have to be ready for it. The business has grown fantastically over the years and has great opportunity. You have to have talent to manage that growth and also to sustain that growth. The development and diversity of talent is another key focus area; growth of talent is equal to growth of the business for us.
What would you like to take from MEC India to MEC globally?
India is a very entrepreneurial country. When we look at MEC here, in comparison to MEC globally, there is a real tough entrepreneurial spirit in India. And if I could take that, box it, move it and export it around the world, I would.