Despite its changing phases, the singular truth about the Indian media and advertising industry is that it is first a people’s business. This year, the industry has seen some interesting changes in its senior most talent, the effect of which would be seen in the times to come.
When Punitha Arumugam announced her decision to leave the media agency business after spending over two decades here and head to a technology led media company, Google, quite a few believed that it was a great move. The mention of Google tends to attract that reaction. At the same time, many thought that it was a significant loss to the media agency business.
The industry had already seen change of guard in the largest media agency, Mindshare, earlier in the year with R Gowthaman (G’Man) moving to Singapore to don on the APAC hat and Mindshare’s Unilever account head Ravi Rao leading the agency in India. It is too early to talk of any changes that Rao is bringing in the Mindshare order but one would soon see his imprint clearly much as one could see G’Man’s when he had taken charge of Mindshare India.
And now there is news of Anita Nayyar, another very senior hand deciding to leave the media agency business and move to another super media brand – The Times of India group.
Not that this is the first time that such moves are happening. The Indian media agency business has seen many veterans exit the business and it has also been interesting to see the likes of CVL Srinivas (returned to join the top role at Starcom MediaVest Group) and Divya Gupta (took charge of media at Dentsu) comeback to the field, where they have been regarded heroes.
It was homecoming for Suresh Balakrishna as well when he joined back the Lintas Media Group family just as N P Sathyamurthy was leaving the agency to head DDB Mudra Max. Madison saw the return of Karthik Laxminarayan not so long ago.
After a long time, the churn at the top level has been this strong for the media agency business that was beginning to become ‘stable’ in its top talent.
The return of the experts is good news for the business but what adds to it is the advent of fresh talent in the senior mix.
Arumugam’s exit meant a great challenge for Madison – was the agency going to look for someone from the media agency mafia itself? And if yes, then who? But Sam Balsara had an answer of his own. Balsara was not going to contribute to the merry-go-round. In Gautam Kiyawat, he found a new leader not just out of the industry but also out of the country. Ever since Kiyawat’s announcement was made, the industry has been speaking on ‘good move’ or ‘wait and watch’ move. Kiyawat’s experience has seen him work largely on the marketer side but what makes him an interesting choice is his experience in new media, a route that Madison took up very seriously in its re-architecture last year.
R K Swamy Media Direction Group brought some more ‘fresh’ talent to media agencies with the appointment of Sandeep Sharma, who had largely worked from the sales side of the media owner table in his vast experience.
These changes signify changing times for media agencies. The question remains whether the new leaders are able to leave their signature on the business and contribute to make the business future ready as some of their predecessors have. But with such change of guard at senior posts, 2012 promise to see some of the most interesting times for the media agency business in India.