ITC Ltd broke a decade-old relationship with Lintas Media Group last week. Last month, Coca-Cola India changed its media agency partner ending an 11-year old relation. And a few weeks before that, L’Oreal ended a six-year old partnership with Lodestar UM (the agency retained only digital). Earlier in the years, for whatever reasons, Colgate Palmolive India ended a decade old association with TME.
Yes of course, there are examples like Bharti Airtel, Godrej Group, Maruti Udyog, Bajaj Auto, Mahindra & Mahindra, Amul, Hindustan Unilever and others that boast of long partnerships that are still in place. In fact, some of these businesses have not even called for pitches in years for the kind of relationship they share with their agencies. But despite that, 2010 has been a year of very big changes for media service brands. Some of these transitions may even be painful for the weak-hearted, or for those who serviced these brands with passion for years.
I would not call these changes losses to the agencies anyway. For every broken relation, a new one has been formed... Lintas managed to hold on to big businesses like Sony India and added a whole range to its kitty in the year; Madison retained large clients like Bharti Airtel and General Motors and ended the year by swinging ITC in its direction; Lodestar UM walked away with the Coca-Cola India business... Indian agencies have fought and survived - no one expected anything different with the kind of leaders these agencies have.
And it is not a loss of any kind for the advertiser either - they took the conscious decision to call for a pitch, and then settled with the agency they wished to go with. And Indian agencies today are thinking out of the box, they are aggressive and they are out for the kill. Most reputed players are set to make a difference for their advertisers. And some of the younger agencies have proved that agency age, in fact, is just a number. My favourite example for that is OMD India.
This year was great for both OMD and Maxus India given the kind of business wins they managed. For OMD India however, it was good times continued because the agency has been steadily growing its ops since its launch. In 2010, OMD got itself on the map as a formidable player. I know from conversations that some of our friends in the older agencies, and bigger agencies, are looking at OMD very seriously.
For Maxus, Ajit Varghese’s aggression is obvious in the way the agency is ready to take on big brother Mindshare, let alone other players.
But a lot of these changes would not have happened, and a lot of new heroes would have not been born had it not been for the sudden churn in business in the industry...
Some of the older industry hands still blame it on slowdown. Was that reason alone? I wouldn’t say so. Slowdown may have been a trigger, but there is a lot happening in the Indian media service business.
The first is the growth of the business itself. Madison-launched Platinum is active now; Lintas got itself Karishma Initiative, Vizeum is probably stronger and buzzier than Carat itself right now and MediaVest India, according to Laura Desmond, Global CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group, has been the strongest growing MediaVest office. If that was not enough the more mature agencies (read agencies that have large clients in most key categories) like Madison Media and Mindshare are still adding new businesses to their kitty.
Agency partnerships is back – Havas and Percept joining hands for buying is one example and TME has followed an open partnership model for a while now.
Clearly, Indian media service brands are not taking anything for granted. The year 2010 has ushered in a new era – as we move forward, 2010 would have contributed significantly to the history of Indian media service brands, and I guess some of us would be glad that we were here to witness it all.