We are not far from a reality where mobile screens would be mainline medium: Vikas Mehta

The new CEO of Mullen Lintas chats exclusively with exchange4media on taking on the role, his vision for the agency and more

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jan 23, 2019 8:58 AM

Mullen Lintas, the creative agency of MullenLowe Lintas Group, recently announced the appointment of Vikas Mehta as its CEO. Mehta took on the role from Virat Tandon, who was elevated to the position of Group CEO. MullenLowe Lintas Group also merged its omni-channel agency PointNine Lintas with its flagship creative agency Lowe Lintas, forming what it says “one of the largest hyper-bundled agencies of India.”

So as things seemed to be picking up steam here, exchange4media decided to catch up with the new CEO. Mehta, who chatted exclusively with e4m, talked about the genesis of the merger, thought-process behind the move, unlearning the mainline agency and more.

Edited excerpts below:

Can you share the background of the merger and the thought-process behind it? Also, after the creation of PointNine, some critics asserted that it would either cease to exist or be merged, remarking that the structure doesn’t make sense. Your comment?

Critics have a right to their opinions. As far as we are concerned, PointNine was an attempt to create a new agency model. If you want to build a prototype, it is best to do it in isolation. So like we had said, when we announced it, it was the beta model of a new agency operating system. It was an incubation that was delivering on the objective that we started with-- to find an agency model that can work for a hyper-bundled solution. So we built that, tested that and grew that over 18 months. And once it was ready, the logical thing was to add those capabilities to our flagship brand Lowe Lintas. So the idea was to bring together the skill sets in PointNine with the scale that is there with Lowe Lintas.

After a spectacular run at the Effies, Lintas stopped participating. Where did this decision stem from?

It is a group decision. I don’t think that we have given up on Effies, but just took a break.

You’ve always spoken about unlearning the mainline agency. Why is that relevant in today’s day and age?

While there was a time when you would create brand on mass media and build the surround media. I think today’s reality is far more different from that. We are talking to a connected consumer and are speaking to people in an environment where there is an information overload. So, one set of competencies as mainline is an idea that has passed its expiry date. Because if you look purely by device numbers, we are not far from a reality where mobile screens would be the mainline medium for the country.

How was FY18 for the agency and what are your visions for MullenLintas as we go forward?

Mullen is a young and growing agency. We have done spectacularly well from where we have come up from to almost where it is now after three years. We made it in the top ten agencies in a short span of time. Looking ahead, our ambition is very clear: I want Mullen to become one of the top five agencies in India. It doesn’t get simpler or clearer than that.

2018 was all about large-scale agency mergers. What does that say about the industry and the future of advertising?

The industry is going through consolidation. Consolidation is usually the first sign of an industry readying for a pivot. We went through a cycle of separating out of disciplines. If you look back at the last 20 years, it was all about further splitting of super-specialists. And now, the consolidation and mergers of large holding company brands are pretty much the cycle of all those disciplines coming together. So I think as the marketing priority shifts towards giving people an omni-channel experience, agencies which are service-providers of that skill sets are also finding ways and methods to build their multi-channel competencies.

How tough is it to maintain double-digit growth in a market that has faced slowdown and so many challenges?

It’s not easy. But then again an agency like Mullen, which is new and young, doesn’t necessarily have the baggage that the older, larger companies do. But we have to stay true to our ambition of being in the top five. It’s just that now you got to be inventive and innovative about finding new growth engines which is partly business acquisition and partly competence expansion. Our goal is going to stay focused on both and stay on the growth path that is imperative to survive in a market like India.

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