WPP will double its size in India in next five years: Mark Read

The Global CEO talks about WPP's scale-up plans for India, his belief in the country’s growth possibilities, and more

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Published: Sep 12, 2023 8:56 AM  | 7 min read
Mark Read

WPP is looking at hiring 7,000-8,000 employees in India in the next five years, says Global CEO Mark Read. Read, who is here for the company’s board meeting, spoke to Naziya Alvi Rahman about their scale-up plans, his belief in India’s growth possibilities & talent, the country being WPP’s fastest growing market, and more. Below are edited excerpts:

What brings the WPP board meeting to India this year?

It's a really unique point in India's history with the G20 Summit over the weekend and India becoming the world's most populous country this year. One can really see the importance of it now. It's something we at WPP have known for some time. India today is our fifth biggest market- a real area of growth, innovation and vibrancy for the company. We really wanted the board to come here as we haven't been here since 2017. We wanted the board to come and see how the market has developed here. 


As you mentioned, India is your fifth largest market, as well as one of the fastest growing centres, what factors are working in favour of WPP in India?

India has been our fastest growing market for the last 10 years. It's been driven both by domestic and international growth. We have around 10,500 people in India, out of them, 50 per cent are working with Indian companies and clients and the other 50 per cent are supporting our global businesses. What's been amazing is that both these areas have grown substantially. India contributes close to 4-5% of our global business.


According to your latest financial numbers, India grew by 0.8% in H1 compared to 37% growth last year for the same period. This shows a significant drop. What were the factors that caused this decline, and how do you plan to regain the growth trajectory?

GroupM expects to grow about 12% this year overall. But there's no doubt about the slowdown. Second half of the year is awaited and we are hoping for a rapid growth. India perhaps is the only market that didn't decline in 2022. The growth was flat during Covid, but in 2021 and 2022, we saw very strong growth. And so, it's no surprise, against those comparatives, that despite a slightly tougher first half of the year, we hope to see strong growth maintained in the second half of the year, and for the many years to come.


In a recent statement, you said 50% of WPP’s tech services for global clients are offshored to India, and you are looking to scale this up rapidly. Could you please share your plans for scaling up?

We have a really great offshore development business here. We call them centres of excellence. These are companies or parts of WPP that help people with production, building e-commerce websites, implementing Adobe or Salesforce and technologies. Those skills are in great demand. What we have in India is really strong technical expertise at a price point that makes it extremely competitive.

Having said that, I don't see India as a low-cost country. It's really about the combination of skill & expertise and a price point. We see demand for those services expanding around the world as technology has impacted the advertising communications business and has become much more people-intensive. GroupM has been the fastest growing part of our business in India. AI is going to drive the demand for technology services. It's a really important role that India can play in delivering AI services to WPP’s global client list as well.


Coming back to the scale-up question, can we expect any announcement about an expansion plan in India?

We got things that we need to announce. It's really a continuation of what we've been doing so far. A lot of it will come from organic growth, expanding the capabilities that we have. We have been bringing a lot of our IT people to support the company. We will be spending our finance capabilities on technology development centres here as well.

We have been talking about doubling the size of WPP business in India in the next five years. I think that’s achievable. That would mean we'll be hiring 7,000- 8,000 people in the company over the next five years. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to do that. So, that's the scale of the investment that we're going to make in this market.


WPP won the prestigious 'Company of the Decade' title at Cannes Lions 2023. How does the company differentiate itself from other agencies in the business?

Creativity is integral to WPP’s DNA and to our way of working. Clients come to a company like us because they need the very best ideas. In some ways, it's because we employ creative people, mavericks, people who come up with fantastic ideas. We have people who have a great understanding of marketing strategies and consumers, and we're able to bring them together with our clients to produce groundbreaking work.

The work that we did for Cadbury’s Diwali campaign, with Shah Rukh Khan, is an idea that's been celebrated on a world stage. What does the campaign contain? It contains a creative idea, innovative use of technology, an understanding of the media landscape, and how to develop and deliver it around the world. India can play a really interesting role in the future of our industry which is about creativity and technology. We are in the business of imagination and intelligence, and the role that India can plan is of a country that has great strengths and creativity, as well as great depths of technology expertise. It's a unique market for us.

You are one of the most experienced and influential leaders in the media industry, what according to you are some of the challenges this sector is facing right now?

I think that we do have to navigate our way around privacy, and make sure that the consumer is protected during data collection. Also, I think brand safety challenge is a problem for many of the platforms. We have to make sure our young people are safe when they use this platform, something I feel quite strongly about as a parent.

Any time of change is also a time of uncertainty. We have to understand how we're going to use technology in order to connect the various platforms together and deliver ROI to our clients. We don't blindly leap into the new platforms.

But I think that the role of advertising is substantial. If you look at your phone, and all the apps and functionality that are enabled by advertising (industry mapping, email, social media, search), you will see we are providing or funding great services to consumers that lower the price point for people who couldn't ordinarily afford it. I think that's something that our industry really contributes in a positive way to society.

Before we wrap up, would you like to say something for your team here?

Since I've been here last (March 2020), India has had a difficult time, particularly during the second phase of Covid that hit the country very badly. I think Srini (CVL Srinivas) and our other leaders really stepped up extremely well and the whole team here in India helped each other. Many clients helped us and we helped other clients, I think we should thank them for that. And then we have a great business here and have great potential. Our job is to support them. We're here for we truly understand what's going on in the market and see the potential for India as India, and also for India on a global stage. And in a way, that's what we saw over 2020 as well. So that's what is on the agenda for us at this week at WPP.

Finally, by when do you think India will be in your top three markets?

Forecast is that India is going to be in the top three global economies in 2028. So, maybe that's possible in the next five years. 

The remaining part of the interview will be published in Impact Magazine. Stay tuned for the detailed video of our conversation with Mark Read. 

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Rungta Steel onboards Shahrukh Khan for #EkdumSolid campaign

This adds to the brand’s line-up of ambassadors - Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor

By e4m Staff | Sep 30, 2023 8:51 AM   |   2 min read

Rungta Steel onboards Shahrukh Khan for #EkdumSolid campaign

Rungta Steel has unveiled its most significant brand collaboration, teaming up with Shahrukh Khan for its latest TV commercial.

This partnership adds even more star power to the brand’s line-up of ambassadors - Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor.

The TVC shows the inherent strength and distinctive qualities that define Rungta TMT bars, establishing a parallel with the enduring appeal of Shahrukh Khan, who remains the most sought-after actor in the industry. His relentless work ethic, unwavering determination, and profound passion resonate with the core message of the commercial.

The TVC connects the concept of #EkdumSolid willpower, the brand's tagline, with the idea of building a strong foundation, drawing a comparison to Shahrukh’s iron will and relentless pursuit for excellence in Bollywood.

Arvind Kumar, Chief General Manager, Sales & Marketing, Rungta Steel, expressed his enthusiasm saying, “We are thrilled to introduce our latest brand campaign, featuring the legendary Shahrukh Khan, Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor as our brand ambassador. This collaboration epitomizes our dedication to quality and trust. Just as ‘King Khan’, as India fondly calls him, consistently continues to deliver his best in his craft of cinema, associating with him allows us to convey Rungta Steel’s deep commitment to delivering nothing but the best. We strongly believe this partnership will connect with our valued customers and partners and solidify our standing as a frontrunner in the steel industry.”


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Saffola film: Kareena Kapoor gives reminder on heart health

The actress urges all to take ‘Roz Ke Healthy Steps’

By e4m Staff | Sep 28, 2023 7:19 PM   |   3 min read

On World Heart Day (29th September, 2023) Saffola has joined hands with Kareena Kapoor Khan to urge India to prioritize their health by taking #RozKaHealthyStep.
“The Saffola 40 Under 40 campaign, a movement aimed at addressing the pressing issue of 60 ki bimaryiaan 40 mein by inspiring India to embrace healthier living, has already inspired over 25000 individuals to take the Saffola Lifestyle Score and choose a healthier lifestyle over the course of past 8 weeks. To spread this message far and wide Saffola partnered with 40 young achievers and influencers, under 40 years of age, from diverse backgrounds who urged young India to take #RozKaHealthyStep towards a healthier lifestyle,” shared a press release.
The brand has released a video featuring Kareena Kapoor Khan, where she shares a powerful message with India about prioritizing their health.
Kareena Kapoor Khan in her inimitable style emphasizes on how neglecting one’s health could lead to missing out on key opportunities to enjoy moments of joy that make up life. For instance, not being present to receive an award, missing out on your child’s school performance or being unable to accompany your parents on their special anniversary trip, all leading you to depend on others to stand in for you during life’s important occasions, all because your health is not supporting you. She goes on to emphasize that in the face of '60 Ki Bimaariyaan 40 mein', referring to the rising trend of lifestyle diseases among young Indians, people are missing out on special moments of happiness.
Speaking about the campaign, Somasree Bose Awasthi, Chief Marketing Officer, Marico Limited said, “The rising prevalence of lifestyle diseases among young Indians is a cause for concern, diseases that once happened at the age of 60 are now happening as early as 40. Hence, this World Heart Day, we want to remind everyone to take care of their health by eating right because if we truly want to enjoy moments of joy with our loved ones, we need to be healthy to be able to do so. We are proud to have partnered with Kareena Kapoor Khan, who is admired by millions, to encourage more and more people to take Roz Ke Healthy Steps and prevent 60 ki bimaariyaan in 40. As a health-centric brand, Saffola has always been committed to raising awareness about healthier living. With the Saffola 40 Under 40 initiative, our goal is to instil lasting habits that can enhance the lives of our consumers.”
The campaign comes at a time when a lack of focus on health has led to a significant rise in lifestyle diseases like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes impacting young Indians. Conditions and health issues that were once commonly associated with individuals in their 60s are now affecting Indians much earlier, at the age of 40 and under.

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Seagram's Royal Stag Packaged Drinking Water unveils AI campaign for World Cup

The campaign gives each fan an opportunity to become part of a personalized film featuring the cricketers

By e4m Staff | Sep 28, 2023 5:34 PM   |   4 min read

royal stag

Seagram's Royal Stag has announced the launch of an innovative and immersive AI-led fan experience ‘A BILLION FILMS FOR A BILLION FANS.’ The campaign features three cricketers, team captain Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, and Surya Kumar Yadav. Fueling the larger-than-life emotions associated with cricket, the brand aims to ignite a whole new generation of young cricket fans, many of whom are witnessing their first World Cup in India as adults.

“This World Cup is happening in India and is already slated to be the “Greatest World Cup Ever.” Syncing with the brand’s ‘Live it Large’ philosophy, the AI-integrated campaign gives each fan an opportunity to become part of a personalized film featuring the cricketers,” read a press release.

Conceptualized in association with creative agency partners FCB India, Digital Agency partners Dentsu India, Technology Partner Artizens Events, and Experiential solutions & media partners Wavemaker; the campaign is groundbreaking where every fan is able to not merely live their dream, but also, live large.

“The whole fan experience has been curated keeping today’s youth, aka, the digital natives, in mind by offering them a simplified user journey. A selfie and a voice sample coupled with the power of regenerative AI creates an ultimate fan experience. With these tools, the campaign uses the power of generative AI technology and machine learning, to create a platform that enables each fan to feature themselves as part of the Royal Stag Live It Large star cast. With the aid of this innovation, each fan can create a personalized edit of the film. Face-mirroring algorithms precisely map the unique facial features of fans onto the characters in the main film. In addition, with just a brief voice sample it also emulated the tone, pitch, and nuances of the fan's voice. In essence, this campaign will transform the consumer journey into an extraordinary yet personal experience. The consumer experience also gives the fans a chance to go beyond boundaries and get close to their favorite players and World Cup trophy,” the release stated.

The campaign will be amplified through a high-decibel 360-degree plan spread across digital, print, radio and OOH to offer an immersive, unforgettable experience.

Kartik Mohindra, Chief Marketing Officer, Pernod Ricard India stated, “Royal Stag aims to share the electric atmosphere in the stadium with cricket fans across the world. As a partner of ICC, AI allows us to deliver a truly “Live it large” experience to die-hard cricket fans everywhere. This year, we are giving each fan the power to craft their own Live It Large Story through this unique AI platform that integrates with the brand’s commitment to relishing every moment in their journey to success. While on one hand we celebrate cricket’s heritage, on the other we have embraced cutting-edge technology to broaden brand engagement and inspire cricket fans to immerse themselves in their favorite sport like never before.”

Abhinav Kaushik, President, FCB India added "In an age where experience is the only currency amongst the digital natives, how can a cultural icon like Royal Stag do something that epitomizes 'large' during the biggest sporting spectacle of the year. This was the starting point of the brief, and we are excited that this idea truly allows every cricket fan to create their own unique 'Live it Large' experience. I am confident that this power of creativity fuelled by technology, will not only deliver brand engagement but enhance the love for the brand multi-fold."

Ajay Gupte, CEO - South Asia, Wavemaker said, "Cricket World Cup is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated sports properties and this World Cup 2023 is touted to be the greatest ever. Through this collaboration, we aim to extend brand synergies and offer a unique, memorable, and thrilling ‘Live it Large’ experience to each and every cricket fan".

Amit Wadhwa, CEO, Dentsu Creative India said "This campaign provided us a big platform where we could showcase how modern creativity can be infused into the Indian Cricket fandom. It's a great example of how technology can be used to enhance and enrich our connection to sports and entertainment. This multi-faceted campaign has the potential to inspire fans to become more deeply involved in their favorite sport, creating memorable moments and experiences that will stay with them for a long time."

Aditya Joshi, Founding Partner, Artizens Events & Experiential Solutions said "As technology partners to this innovative campaign, we are trying to harness the connection with the Generation Large who crave for social currency and vicarious thrills by bringing together AI and Machine learning and creating a never seen before immersive experience."

The ICC Men’s World Cup is scheduled to take place in India from October 5 to November 19, 2023. Royal Stag is an associate partner for all ICC events.

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Focus on your ‘khoobsurat chinta’ not financial ones, says Tata Capital in new film

The film stars brand ambassador Shubman Gill

By e4m Staff | Sep 28, 2023 5:15 PM   |   2 min read

tata capital

Tata Capital, the financial services company of the Tata Group, has unveiled a new campaign featuring their brand ambassador Shubman Gill. The campaign is based on the insight that financial worries often take centre stage and customers get less time to focus on and enjoy the meaningful and important moments in their lives. The campaign urges customers to rely on Tata Capital to take care of all their financial worries and focus on more meaningful things (what they call ‘Khoobsurat Chinta’). The campaign will bring to life the brands’ purpose of being a responsible financial partner fulfilling India’s aspirations.

The campaign is comprised of 5 films, a key brand film and 4 shorter product films. The brand film is a metaphor of Shubman’s own journey where his father took care of all his needs, allowing him to focus on his own ‘Khoobsurat Chinta’– his dream of playing for the Indian cricket team. The emotionally charged campaign unfolds through a touching narrative, highlighting Shubman’s achievements and his father’s role as an enabler in guiding him on the road to success. It draws parallels to Tata Capital’s role as an enabler in helping its customers achieve their dreams and aspirations. Shubman’s journey in the world of cricket also mirrors Tata Capital’s journey of growth in the financial services sector, which is driven by passion, skill, and relentless pursuit of excellence.

In addition, the set of four short product films (Two-wheeler Loan, Home Loan, Personal Loan & Business Loan) are themed around getting instant loans through a seamless process from Tata Capital. These films also ride on the same theme of allowing customers to focus on ‘Khoobsurat Chinta’ by enabling loans easily. The campaign will run over a period of 5 to 6 weeks and will be visible across TV, OOH, Print, Social Media and other digital platforms.

Speaking about the campaign, Abonty Banerjee, Chief Operating Officer- Digital and Marketing, Tata Capital said, “The essence of the campaign thought is to portray Tata Capital as an enabler in the financial journey of our customers, while allowing them to focus on life’s beautiful moments. Khoobsurat chinta are those beautiful ‘worries’ which we enjoy thinking about, such as the colours of a new home or the venue for a wedding. The campaign uses Shubman’s life story as a metaphor of how one can focus on the more meaningful things in life when financial worries are taken away.”  


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Bacardi India’s Legacy Collective with Ranbir Kapoor

The film celebrates the spirit of homegrown brands in the country

By e4m Staff | Sep 28, 2023 12:07 PM   |   2 min read

Ranbir Kapoor

Bacardi’s LEGACY COLLECTIVE has launched its latest campaign featuring a TVC with brand ambassador and actor Ranbir Kapoor. Launched across TV, Social Media, Digital and Cinemas, the brand film drives home the message that a legacy is not just for a chosen few, and with time as one’s ally everyone can carve their own legacy by staying true to their passion.

Bacardi launched LEGACY COLLECTIVE in December last year with the iconic actor Ranbir Kapoor as the face of the brand. The launch of its latest brand film comes as another step in this direction, aimed to celebrate and empower the spirit of homegrown brands in the country.

Commenting on the launch, Ayaesha Gooptu, Head of Domestic Brown Spirits, Bacardi, India & LEGACY COLLECTIVE, said, “Furthering our dedication amidst the emboldening make-in-india wave in the country, LEGACY COLLECTIVE is thrilled to bring to Indian audiences this latest TVC that beautifully captures the ethos of the platform. Featuring brand ambassador Ranbir Kapoor, this first-of-its-kind film is our ode to the spirit of those disruptors, innovators, and changemakers who are crafting a new legacy for the future of lifestyle in India with their relentless passion and creativity.”

Talking about his experience, Ranbir Kapoor said, “Being a part of the LEGACY COLLECTIVE journey has been a thoroughly heartwarming experience. I really enjoyed working on the latest film that celebrates the power of building one’s own legacy in one’s own individualistic way. This is something that truly resonates with me as well, making it a project I will always cherish.”

Explaining the idea behind the campaign, Pravin Sutar, Head of Creative Orchard Advertising Pvt. Ltd., said, “At its heart, LEGACY COLLECTIVE is about progress and inspiring everyone to embrace their individual journey to success by staying true to their passion. Our campaign reflects on the insight that when time is your ally, you can carve your own legacy. And the film featuring the imitable Ranbir Kapor, an icon himself, perfectly delivers this message to our audiences.”

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Punit Goenka plea against Sebi: Understanding the outcome

As SAT reserved its verdict on Goenka's plea, industry experts speculate on the impact of the possible results

By Aditi Gupta | Sep 28, 2023 11:17 AM   |   4 min read

Punit Goenka

The fate of Punit Goenka and his father Subhash Chandra, embroiled in a legal tussle with Sebi after it barred them from holding key positions in Zee and the merged Zee-Sony entity, is likely to be soon decided by the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT).

On Wednesday, the tribunal reserved its verdict on Goenka’s appeal.

exchange4media spoke to legal and industry experts to dive deep into the issue and understand the repercussions of the SAT verdict, whether in favour or against, on the father-son duo and the merged entity of Zee-Sony.

If SAT allows Punit Goenka’s appeal and overrules the ban

According to Sandeep Bajaj, Advocate, Supreme Court, if the SAT order comes in favour of Punit Goenka, it does not necessarily signal the cessation of SEBI's investigation into the alleged fund diversion.

“SEBI will continue its inquiries into the matter, albeit without the ban on Punit Goenka, thereby allowing him the freedom to participate and cooperate in the investigative process.

“This ruling by SAT could also set a significant legal precedent for future cases involving regulatory actions by SEBI, potentially providing guidelines for the standard of fair evidence required in such matters,” said Bajaj.

According to Elara Capital’s Karan Taurani, if the outcome of the case is in Goenka’s favour, he would become part of the key managerial positions of the Zee-Sony merged company.

“Also, it will be a respite for the Goenka family as the proceedings have been expedited, as against earlier indications by SAT that proceedings would take eight months to be resolved,” Taurani told exchange4media.

If SAT upholds SEBI’s ban order

Experts believe that in such a scenario, Goenka could approach the Supreme Court against the verdict but till then he would be kept in abeyance from holding any key positions in the company.

“SAT’s order turning out to be in favour of SEBI would result in him remaining barred from key positions of the ZEE-Sony entity and the said investigation as stated by the SEBI order would last till April 2024, which means that till the time he doesn’t get the clearance from Sebi he will be kept in abeyance from one of the key positions,” said advocate Soayib Qureshi, Partner, PSL Advocates & Solicitors.

Sharing a similar view, Bajaj said, Goenka would be legally obligated to adhere to the terms of the ban as SAT's decision carries binding authority, and any failure to comply could result in legal repercussions.

Impact on ZEEL and Zee-Sony merged entity

As per the experts, if SAT upholds the Sebi ban on Goenka, significant implications would arise for the companies involved.

“Firstly, it would necessitate a substantial modification of the fundamental terms outlined in the merger agreement, particularly with regard to the continuation of Goenka as the MD and CEO. This is crucial as the proposed Zee-Sony merger explicitly identified Goenka as the key figure to assume this leadership role.

“His participation in negotiations and decision-making processes will undoubtedly have a positive influence on the merger, minimizing potential disruptions and governance challenges that may have arisen in his absence. It's worth noting that this merger, originally agreed upon by both parties in 2021, has already encountered its fair share of challenges, including legal disputes involving lenders such as Axis Finance and IDBI Bank over loan defaults by Zee Group entities. A favourable SEBI ruling will introduce yet another significant hurdle for the merger's progression,” said Qureshi.

“Given their (Goenka and Chandra) pivotal roles, this could have a profound impact on collaboration between the merging entities. Consequently, the governance and operational dynamics of the merged entity would be substantially affected by SAT's decision, ultimately influencing its performance in the market and its future prospects,” said Bajaj.

However, if the SAT order is in favour of Goenka, it will be a positive development for Zee Group and its future prospects.

According to Taurani, in either of the scenarios, the Zee-Sony merger is expected to go through as per timelines, as the NCLT approval is without any conditions.

“We expect the merged company to get re-listed by the first week of December this year. We maintain our positive stance on the merged company, backed by synergy benefit, MNC control, the positive impact of consolidation in the TV industry and scaling up of the OTT business,” Taurani said.

The SAT verdict is expected to come out in the next 8-10 days.

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Avinash Pandey re-elected President of IAA's India Chapter

Abhishek Karnani was named vice-president, Nandini Das as secretary, and Jaideep Gandhi as treasurer

By e4m Staff | Sep 28, 2023 8:26 AM   |   2 min read

Avinash Pandey

The India chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA) has announced the re-election of ABP Network CEO Avinash Pandey as the President. Other elected members include the President, Free Press Journal Group Abhishek Karnani as vice-president, Nandini Das as secretary, and the Founder of Another Idea Jaideep Gandhi as treasurer. Members unanimously elected them at IAA's Annual General Meeting on Wednesday.

Five members were elected as voting members, including Srinivasan K Swamy, the Chairman and managing Director, R K Swamy Ltd; M.V. Shreyams Kumar, the Managing Director, Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Co Ltd; Prasanth Kumar, the CEO-South Asia, GroupM; Anant Goenka, the Executive Director, The Indian Express Pvt Ltd; Janak Sarda, Director, Blue Logic Systems. Megha Tata, CEO, Cosmos-Maya will continue as an ex-officio office bearer as Immediate Past President.

Avinash Pandey said, "The India Chapter of the IAA is arguably the most active industry Association of its kind in the country. Its initiatives cover a wide spectrum of areas including saluting excellence in Marketing, Creativity and communicating Sustainability. In the year gone by, we also started Tech Pulse to cater to the growing digital market. The IAA has always maintained that what is good, is good for business and in that spirit it has converted its Voice of Change initiative into a nation-wide movement aimed at breaking the gender bias in advertising and the entertainment industry.

In the year ahead we will also be spear-heading two initiatives where we walk the talk that Communication is a Force for Good, and will also once again lead a group of CEO's to the USA to study the latest developments in communication.

I look forward to a very meaningful term ahead."

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