We will announce our third acquisition in India by end of 2019: Peter Mears, Havas Media

Peter Mears, Global CEO of Havas Media Group, lays out ambitious India plans for their third acquisition after Langoor and Think Design

e4m by exchange4media Mumbai Bureau
Updated: Nov 15, 2019 11:07 AM

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Peter Mears Havas

In his 25 years of being in the media industry, Peter Mears, Global CEO, Havas Media Group, believes that the business still remains about connecting brands to clients, but the tools to do that have evolved.

On his visit to India, he delves into their philosophy of creating meaningful media experiences for clients to help brands become more impactful. He further shares how the agency is adamant about fulfilling its aggressive acquisition plans in India by the end of the calendar year.

Edited excerpts:

How has the year panned out for you? Can you share some of the highlights?

On the media side, we've kind of transformed the way the organisation is structured. We've changed the global structure and the local structures in each market to break down some of the silos that we had. What we've tried to do and what we have done in most markets is introduced a more client-centric structure, so, building teams around different client responsibilities. That was the first thing we did, then we looked at rolling out our new positioning which is around meaningful media, so understanding that not all media is the same. We've done some research in better understanding what makes media more meaningful.

With that kind of knowledge in hand, we've created a new way of working which is MX Media experience. It bothered us that the media planning business is very similar today to the way that it was 25 years ago, which feels a little off, given the explosion of different choices that we have on the media front. There should be an evolved way of thinking about media and the role that media can play. We call it building a media experience for clients not just building media plans.  We have obviously been through the Vivendi transition, which is now really starting to embed in a number of markets, including India which I'm really pleased to share that we've made great progress here. And then also, the things that you'd expect from an agency, looking after clients, pitching new business, attracting and retaining talent.

Which have been the top-performing markets for Havas Media?

Historically, we have been a very European focused network but we've been very successful in the US for the last three years. We're obviously focusing on the Indian market, and on the China, market to be areas of growth for us this year and for the next couple of years. We're really trying to make a concerted effort to grow our presence in India. It's a super important market for not just the mass media but for the Havas group and the Vivendi group.

What has been the main agenda or purpose of your India visit?

My agenda, for the unfortunately very short time that I'm here, is obviously to catch up with the team. We're coming towards the end of our financial year, so to check in how we are. I was here at the beginning of the year in February, so it's a good moment to be back. I've been meeting with some talent and I've been meeting with some acquisition prospects. We set our agenda, as you know, at the beginning of the year to build our portfolio in this market. There're the two acquisitions that you're aware of in Langoor and Think Design. We committed to closing three deals this year, we've closed two and we're confident that we'll have a third before the end of the calendar year. That's part of my visit and then there's what we are going to do next year as well.

Can you give us a sense of the nature of the business you plan to acquire?

As the media marketplace continues to diversify and fragment, we need different resources around to help offer the services that our clients need. Performance is an area in which we are interested in India and in other markets as well, so, we're having conversations with different performance agencies around the world.

What are the kinds of investments you have planned for the Indian market? Has the economic slowdown impacted any of those plans?

We set out an aggressive plan at the beginning of the year, which was a combination of 12 plus months’ work to build the plan. We signed off on that plan and we stand by that plan. We're on target to deliver that plan this year. Next year, our ambition continues to be high in terms of acquisitions. Talent attraction and retention are important to us. We have new leadership in the market already, we will continue to look for the best talent in the marketplace. You can expect us to be very active both in talent attraction and on the acquisition front. And has the slowdown impacted our desire to deliver that plan? No, absolutely not. We're on target to deliver the plan.

Yannick Bollore had outlined an ambitious growth plan and increasing the India workforce to about 1,000 from 300 by the end of 2019. How far has that progressed?

We're right on target to deliver it. By the end of the year when we are close to the final acquisition, we will be there. We are right on target to deliver the three acquisitions and 1000 people.

Going a little deeper into the MX methodology, how has it fared in the markets that you have rolled it out in? How has the narrative changed?

When we started doing some work on that, what we discovered was that you can actually create a framework, create a toolkit to help you understand which media are more meaningful than others. So, in TV, for example, we've developed a new tool called meaningful rating point which elevates us beyond basic GRPs or TRPs to understand what's the relationship that the audience has or a viewer has with that show?

Similarly, in the digital space, we've created a meaningful digital matrix as well, which allows us to add layers of texture to digital research to understand which sites are more meaningful than others. What that allows us to do, is look at the really complex portfolio of options that we have for a client and start to make choices to think about, rather than just building and activating a media plan for this client. We're looking to build a media experience, which means we grab all of those more meaningful media and package them together around a specific consumer for a client. And it is shifting the way that our plans look now.

With 25 plus years in the media agency business, you're the right person to tell us what are the big trends are for 2020.

There are two ways to answer that. The first macro answer is, I think the business is the same as it was 25 years ago. For me, our business is still about how we connect consumers with brands. The tools that we have to do that with have changed and evolved and developed, but that fundamental is exactly the same today as it was 25 years ago. Now, what are the kind of hot things that are coming in 2020? We'll continue to see new platforms arise, there will be new tech platforms. There'll be new ways of communicating with consumers, but the fundamentals of the business will stay constant.

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