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Clients are driving as much inefficiency out of their system as possible: John Sheehy

21-July-2015
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Clients are driving as much inefficiency out of their system as possible: John Sheehy

The Starcom Mediavest Group India  is on a high with SMG India bagging the media mandate for Dabur( estimated to be around Rs 400 crore), followed by Oppo Mobile and the global media mandate for Jet Airways following a global review.

John Sheehy, President of Global Operations at Starcom Mediavest Group, talks about the reason for the surge of global media pitches, SMG continuing to be a challenger brand, growth in double digits and focusing on making India a global hub for data and analytics.

What can we now expect from SMG India?

SMG India will continue to be a challenger brand. We are going to push the pace for change in the marketplace and try and create the markets, leveraging the core competencies of data analytics, to get better audience measurements, better outcomes, continue to push the pace of digital change, I think a key driver in India will continue to be areas like search, which also feeds into commerce and mobility, and making sure we continue to be on the leading edge of that.

Combine that with passion or focus on clients businesses. We have already turned a corner from where we were a year ago on Samsung. Our desire is to rebuild our reputation and win Samsung back which we are doing every day, continue to grow the clients we have and build our portfolio into not just a challenger brand but the market leader.

What are the growth numbers you are looking at for SMG India?

We are going to get back and continue to be in double digit growth. We have turned the business around we are in significant double digit growth this year so far. We will continue that in the second half of the year. You see some of the big scale clients come back to SMG because we have a compelling offer in terms of how we can help right from what is a very traditional look at growing a business into a more diversified look. I’ll put it at 20% (low end) in India in terms of what we’re looking at. That includes internal growth and external growth.

What are the focus areas and changes you have made in the last one year?

Since last year, we have continued to go down the strategy we’ve been on, which is everything is going to pivot around a couple of things. The first one is audiences; the second one is content and then measurability; important to that is the data and analytics that gives us both the outcome and also allows us to reach audiences with more precision now. Our India operations continue to be a global hub on two fronts. The first one is on the data analytics with Aarti (Aarti Bharadwaj Vice President, Analytics - Center of Excellence, SMG) and her team, who continue to work at analytics not just for India which is very critical, but on making India a global hub. 

Knowledge is power and that information allows us not only get smarter about the consumer but to measure and really understand how efficient and effective we can be. We leverage that against our global clients and do a lot of work on the analytics across our top ten clients. Secondly with Convonix, we have the capability to continue to push for our search capability and our digital capability and they continue to be a global hub and expanding our footprint beyond India and into those other markets and other clients. So that becomes a critical capability that we have, allowing us as an organization to have consistency across all markets across top ten clients. Malli (Malli CR, CEO Starcom MediaVest Group) and Aarti are big architects in that.

Could you name some clients, that India has become a global hub for?

The key client is Samsung, we have Coca-Cola; we do some analytics for Kellogg’s, and some other clients throughout the region.

What is the growth you are seeing in Mobile?

Overall if you break it down in digital, and break it down further into social, mobile, search, you continue to see search growing and certainly see mobile in a lot of different forms continues to grow. A strong double digit growth in those areas. We also see data analytics continue to grow as it becomes more core to our offering to our clients. And then content in all its forms, whether it’s branded entertainment, real-time and relevant content, or content that helps us communicate in social, since last year we have also acquired two content companies.


There has been a surge in media pitches globally. Is the core of this a trust issue which stems from lack of transparency?

The genuine answer to that is yes, trust is one of the drivers. There has been a lot of talk in the market place of what is happening as dollars shift and dollars go into programmatic or whatever the vehicle. There has been a lot of discussion about what is going on in terms of relationships with vendors and how money is transacted. We are very conscious of that. And we go back to each and every client and look at contracts and look at how transparent and how visible we’ve been. So we are very confident that according to business principle we are doing every account and every client in a manner that is as trustworthy and as transparent as we can be. That’s just one of the factors. There are two other driving factors. The pace of change in the marketplace, driven by convergence is so rapid, so  pervasive, that clients who haven’t done a pitch, in the last couple of years, are stepping back and saying it is getting more complicated, and asking ‘as an agency how are you helping me bring these together and drive us forward?’. Part of the pitch is to understand agency’s capability that is the primary driver. The last reason is there is a tremendous amount of pressure clients are under, when you look at the clients and some of the categories. Category growth is absolutely critical, and if you look at all the categories, given the shift in commerce, shift in their business, they’re just making sure that they’re driving as much inefficiency out of their system as possible.

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