“Our agency in India remains a large source of regional and global talent for the network around the world and we’re looking at the possibilities of India being a “Best Practices Hub” for the region. Joe (Joseph George Regional President|South & Southeast Asia & Group CEO of India at MullenLowe Group Asia Pacific) and I are also in conversation about if and how we could take the Lintas brand across the APAC region and flex it in other markets beyond India,” says MullenLowe Group’s Global CEO Alex Leikikh on brand Lintas going global.
The Group is harnessing the strength of its Indian operations in a number of ways — across talent, creative output and clients. Interestingly, three Unilever brands, Lifebuoy, Fair & Lovely and Pureit, are now run globally from India.
“Joe is a critical member of our Global Executive Committee, and several senior people from India are part of our Global Planning, Creative, Growth and Technology Councils,” adds Leikikh, who is in all praise of the group’s Indian operations; ask him what the agency here needs to do to take the next leap from a global standpoint.
“Joe and I hold the same view that the journey back toward rebundling is well and truly on. With strong offerings across creative, PR, activation and digital, MullenLowe Lintas Group has the potential to become a model of hyperbundling that our agencies in other D&E markets could learn from and replicate,” he shares, beckoning the days of full service back for the agency in India, no mean statement for a global CEO to make, given the current fragmented scenario in the Indian market.
The group globally is building out their hyperbundled model in key markets, having literally reconstructed working environments in London and New York City to facilitate this. Supplemented by new leadership, the hyperbundled model is something Mullen Lowe Lintas has a clear stance on.
Whether it is the appointment of Aaron Reitkopf, who has been appointed President of MullenLowe Group, New York and leading the bundling development there or the same direction being taken forward in London under the leadership of Dale Gall, CEO of MullenLowe Group UK.
“We’ve long practiced this idea of bundling in India, and now we will be looking to add media services there in 2017. The combination of media strategy and connection planning with creative is a powerful force in developing world-class, business-driving creativity, and this is an imperative part of the hyperbundled model,” adds Leikikh, confirming the addition of media services to the group next year in India.
Edited excerpts from a free –wheeling chat with Alex Leikikh, Global CEO MullenLowe Group on his recent India visit on the reasons’ for the Group’s silence on the acquisition front in India, why ‘Jet Blue’ is the best brand tagline that likens his journey so far as Global CEO and more …………..
On the acquisition front, MullenLowe Lintas Group has chosen to be rather quiet while we have seen a number of acquisitions from WPP, Dentsu and Publicis agencies in the Indian market varying from digital, social and PR to healthcare. What is the reason for this silence?
We’ve been reluctant to buy market share through acquisitions in India. To expand our service roster, we’ve chosen to build rather than buy capabilities, and it’s worked well for us so far. Having said that, any acquisition that strengthens our offering as a truly hyperbundled agency will always be seriously evaluated and considered.
When can we expect an acquisition in India and in which discipline is it most likely? Isn’t an acquisition required at this point to tie in further with the hyperbundling philosophy?
Yes, absolutely. We are open to collaborations (including acquisitions) in areas where complementary offerings and skill sets exist. There are some proposals on the table right now, but nothing specific that I can share at this stage.
How much does MullenLowe Lintas in India contribute to the global revenues for the Group?
India is a significant contributor to the MullenLowe Group’s global revenue and profits. What’s more important, though, is our growth in India. Over the last five years, MullenLowe Lintas Group has delivered higher growth than any of the other large agencies operating in India.
Two of the reasons for Mullen and Lowe coming together were Lowe entering the US and Mullen’s entry into international markets. What are the major businesses in these respective markets that the Group has benefitted from in the past one year? Both in terms of infiltration of existing clients as well as acquisitions of new clients?
The rationale for our merger was based on the fact that Lowe and Partners offered Mullen an international network with world-class creative pedigree, the opportunity to grow global Unilever business in the US and a vast amount of talent who shared the same sense of values as Mullen. Similarly, Mullen offered Lowe a strong talent pool, US clients with business ripe to expand abroad, the hyper-bundled operating model that has proven to be successful for growing clients’ brands, plus a guiding challenger culture that influences each and every one of us.
In the past 18 months, we have grown US brands that were ready for development in international markets, as well as continued to grow the global Unilever business in the US, with brands such as Degree, TRESemmé, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, Country Crock and Knorr. One of our most recent UK and US collaborative campaigns for Knorr, “Love at First Taste,” delivered two billion global impressions (more than 70% earned) and was the number one most watched ad on YouTube in May of 2016.
In addition to organic growth, we’ve been successful in winning new global clients with the new MullenLowe Group network. These include global hyperbundled wins such as Harley-Davidson, which was a creative, media and digital win for MullenLowe Group as part of IPG’s Team Ignite. Other key wins include being named global AOR for Hyatt, global media AOR for Western Union (MullenLowe Mediahub), and global CRM and loyalty AOR for Etihad Airways (MullenLowe Open).
When can we expect to see MullenLowe’s US clients coming to India, given that the current portfolio consists 100% of local clients?
Well, of course we have several global network clients that we work with locally in India, from our oldest client, Unilever, to new relationships from our recent global wins, which we hope to kick off in India in 2017.
If you had to liken your journey so far as Global CEO to a brand tagline, what would it be?
I would choose a tagline from one of our own clients, JetBlue: “You Above All.” I like this line because, from our perspective, it sets the standard for how we treat clients and also how we treat each other. As a company, we will only be great if we respect our clients and one other in equal measure.