Even as ‘digital’ was an intrinsic part of most conversations in the communications industry, the slowdown had played a part in minimising action in the space. Where 2007 was still about global media holding companies working hard on getting foothold in digital either by acquiring or by creating in-house digital expertise, the period post 2008 saw agencies focus more on the latter. The instances via inorganic growth, even such as the partnership between Lodestar UM and Interactive Avenues for Reprise, were too few and far between.
It appears that agencies’ interest in digital is aggressive again. And some more is added to the list now.
The year 2011 began with two companies -- Leo Burnett and Draftfcb -- announcing their intentions to fortify their digital presence. Just prior to that, in December 2010, Madison Media tied up with OnMobile for mobile marketing and a key step on the digital side was seen from the company.
Jarek Ziebinski, President, Leo Burnett APAC divulged in a conversation with exchange4media that the company was eyeing two domains very closely – digital and, as Leo Burnett calls it, shopper marketing. Ziebinski said, “As we move forward, the two key pillars of our strategy would be digital and shopper marketing. In the last six months, we have made key appointments in the region to support this.”
In July 2010, Leo Burnett appointed Christopher Lyons as Regional Shopper and Retail Marketing Director to head its retail arm across Asia Pacific markets. Lyons has already made visits to India in order to assist Leo Burnett’s clients in the region including recent wins such as Tashi. Soon after Lyons’ appointment, in August 2010, the agency hired Neil Hudspeth as Regional Digital Director, once again in a role overseeing India as well.
Ziebinski told exchange4media, “We have invested in these competencies and we would be further investing in these since these are the domains that would give us the next level of growth.” Ziebinski informed that India is Leo Burnett’s third high performing market in the region - China and Japan being the top two.
Even as the possibilities of what Leo Burnett’s plans mean for the digital agencies in India are sinking in, Draftfcb has announced its intentions to work aggressively on developing its digital domain along with experiential marketing and retail & activation. Draftfcb’s CEO and President, Laurence Boschetto was candid in his conversation with exchange4media, when he said that digital was topmost priority on Draftfcb’s India agenda and the agency would look at organic and inorganic routes to materialise its plans in this domain.
The mood of the industry has become upbeat once again and agencies are eyeing digital acquisitions even though caution continues to stay in the equation. One reason of that caution also is because, as Nakul Chopra, CEO, Publicis South Asia pointed out in an earlier conversation, while the digital promise is there, the domain has to yet deliver on the expectations that the industry has had.
A senior digital media independent explained, “The ‘not now’ feeling of the slowdown may have gone but vigilance has become the new normal. Even as agencies are shopping again, you would not see the kind of monies thrown like we saw in 2007 – that period is over. And that is a good thing, because some realistic numbers will come back in the negotiations. It is not just these two agencies but many others that are re-focussing on their digital expertise, so the year should be punctuated with more news that one is expecting right now.”