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St Luke’s India buys parent’s 26% stake

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St Luke’s India buys parent’s 26% stake

St Luke's India, the three-year-old operation of London-based advertising agency St Luke's, has severed ties with its overseas partner, with the Indian agency's head Praveen Kenneth buying out St Luke's London's 26% stake in the Indian JV. In a related - and perhaps more significant - move, Mr Kenneth has launched a global advertising agency network, Law & Kenneth Worldwide, in alliance with maverick adman Andy Law, the original founder of St Luke's who left the agency in early '03 after disagreements with the management team.

Law & Kenneth commenced operations in London yesterday, and the network's rollout in Sydney, Paris, Mumbai, Stockholm and Dubai is slotted over the next couple of weeks. In line are launches in Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Stuttgart, Cape Town, Moscow, Milan, Seoul, Tokyo and the US. “It's an idea that's been germinating for five years, one I couldn't bring to life for all sorts of reasons,” reveals Law, speaking to The Economic Times on the eve of the agency's London launch. He adds that meeting Kenneth three years ago helped crystallise the idea of launching the network. “I saw in Praveen a partner who believed in changing the way this business is done, so we just came together,” he explains.

Law & Kenneth, which promises to offer clients the entire spectrum of marketing services, professes to be a nodal network of small offices, where the focus is on building partnerships between people and with clients. “The idea is to create a mutual agenda to co-create value and deliver better advertising,” says Mr Law. “The network marries the wisdom of mature, Western markets with the energy and freshness of emerging markets to offer an East-meets-West confluence. With the right people who are committed to the belief in place across markets, we are in a strong position to create a network of this kind.”

The network will own 26-40% stake in each of the markets it operates in. “We don't believe in owning people 100%, so we haven't bought into agencies, only bought into revenue streams,” avers Mr Law, displaying flashes of that Orwellian thinking that characterised the St Luke's of the '90s.

“The local partner will own and drive the business, and each agency will retain its own culture and identity. They'll only be linked to a platform called Law & Kenneth.”

Barring Sydney, none of the network's offices are startups. The Paris operation, for instance, is Mr Law's own creative agency, boymeetsgirl (BMG), while the London office is a setup of ex-McCann London executives Luke White and Nick Wright. India, of course, is essentially the St Luke's operation. Mr Kenneth, in fact, takes pains to inform that the only thing that's changed about the Indian operations is the name on the agency's door. “We've planned this for a long time, and our clients were taken into confidence four months ago,” he says.

“The people who were servicing different accounts and businesses are the same, the minds and talents we have are the same. What's changed is that this agency has now become a truly global network.” He clarifies that all of St Luke's Indian clients - including ITC, Bombay Dyeing, ICICI and Godrej - continue to be with the agency.

Mr Kenneth also presses upon the implications it has for India. “The creation of Law & Kenneth puts India on the international advertising map. We've opened the door to the world, and we've opened Indian capabilities to the world,” he says, adding that Law & Kenneth has already been invited to three global pitches involving big holding companies. “What's really critical for India is that it's the Indian team that'll be driving these pitches,” he says triumphantly.


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