If someone wants to buy us, they better put a nice number on the table: Michael Roth

The Chairman & CEO of IPG negates all speculations regarding IPG's acquisition in an exclusive chat with exchange4media, besides demystifying his leadership approach, maintaining a low media profile and more...

e4m by Priyanka Mehra
Updated: Jul 15, 2014 9:17 AM
If someone wants to buy us, they better put a nice number on the table: Michael Roth

IPG has had a good year in India, and Michael Isor Roth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Interpublic Group of companies remains upbeat about the India market, and is a self-confessed believer in India and its potential.

The Tanishq Remarriage ad, Nestle Child Adoption Ad and the Unilever Dirt is Good campaign rank among the IPG Chief’s favourite ads from India.

In a high spirited conversation with exchange4media at Cannes 2014, Roth talks about speculations regarding IPG’s acquisition and touches upon, his leadership approach of surrounding himself with the best and brightest people and empowering them to do their job, maintaining a low media profile and more...

There have been a lot of speculations regarding IPG’s acquisitions...
Everybody thinks someone is going to buy us, my position on that is very clear. If someone wants to buy us, I have an obligation to our shareholders to listen, but as far as I am concerned, we don’t need to do a transaction. We are going to deliver against our objectives, and there is value in our shares as a result of this. And if someone wants to buy us, they better put a nice number on the table, and in the best interests of our shareholders, we will have to do it, but I am not running around looking for offers. I think it is just a lot of noise and right now our people are very focused on delivering results for our clients for 2014. That is the primary focus for everyone at IPG.

Your views on the failure of the Publicis-Omnicom merger...
Throughout the entire process, both were distracted. For us, that was a good thing from a recruitment and client point of view. We picked up some clients and talent, as a result.  

Throughout this period, we continued focusing on what we have always focussed on – meeting the needs of our client and working on our own business plans. There has been so much noise about acquisitions, we make acquisitions worth about $150 million in a year, there is no need for us to do a huge transaction from a buying or selling point of view, at this point.

What are the four factors to keep in mind while making an acquisition?
·       First of all, the need
·       Price and return on investment
·       The strategic reason and financial reason for the transaction
·       The integration and retention of all the people that we want to retain in the transaction.

If you are successful on these counts, you are doing well.

On the media front, it has been a good year in India with three huge wins like  Samsung, Heinz, Reckitt Benckiser, along with others. What is the next quarter looking like?
It is too early to comment. After the first quarter, we are on track to deliver our targets, that is all I can say right now. We have different rules from that of WPP and Publicis on disclosures, we don’t give monthly numbers, and I don’t talk about where we are in the year.

Your leadership style comes across as understated...
I am glad you said that, that is on purpose.

You are also not seen a lot in media unlike some of your competitors?
I let our work and results do the talking, this isn’t about me, it is about our brands and our clients; you have to institutionalise an organisation, it isn’t about an individual. I think if anything distinguishes us from all the other holding companies, it is our brands, our creatives, our people, our network, relationship with our clients and frankly, it is our results. Accountability ends with me, I don’t need to be on television every day, it is quite distracting frankly. I am not shy, I am willing to talk to people and be out there, but that is not the primary reason of IPG.  

Are you a hands-on leader?
Some people would say I am. My approach to leadership is very simple – surround yourself with the best and brightest people you can get, give them the empowerment to do what they have to do. Give them resources, be there to help if something is not working, step in and help straighten it out. It is hands on, but it is really the team’s responsibility to do the job. My responsibility is to make it easier for them to do their job.

What are your views on the effective merging of creativity and data?
Our business is great for creativity, but from a client’s perspective, it is to make sure that the work is accountable. You can come up with the most brilliant and creative ad in the world, but unless it is reaching the right audience with the right message, clients are not really interested in it. They are not doing this just for the sake of art; however, the good news is that the data being used to reach the right audiences is working with tailor-made messaging. We are at a point in time where if you are looking at buying automobiles, we can send you messages about automobiles, so that you won’t have to go through ads on perfumes and detergents. Advertising needs to be relevant and trustworthy, and data helps make it relevant.

Is this also happening in the India market?
The issue is that India is so large; there are so many places without broadband connectivity, while mobile and data are spotty; landlines are the only means of communication. But eventually, there is a huge potential here, which is why we brought our Board of Directors to India for our annual meeting this year, and which is why we have three global networks that are so effective in India.

Which are your favourite ads from India?
Tanishq Remarriage (Lowe Lintas) and Nestle Adoption (McCann Erikson) really stand out. I think the Unilever ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign (Daag Achche Hain - Lowe Lintas) is absolutely brilliant, so does Unilever by the way.

What are the focus areas for IPG in India?
We have to make sure that we have the best offerings in media, creative, digital and PR; grow with our clients and help them get there.

I am excited about where IPG stands globally and the progress that we are making. We are looking forward to delivering on our objectives for 2014 and beyond. As far as India is concerned, we have great offerings in the country that we are committed to, and will continue to invest in our organisations and our people here. 

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