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As media agencies gear up for a Terra Nova in 2013

01-January-2013
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As media agencies gear up for a Terra Nova in 2013

One thing about the media agency business in India that has stood for years is its stability with wise leaders who have taken key decisions that have impacted the growth of the industry and have shaped the very face of the media agency business in India. Some of these decisions have impacted the communication business in India per se. Media agencies simply put has become known for a business that has fostered leaders to reckon with.

For the past several years, an annual account of the media agency business has either been about a year of high number of pitches and hence businesses exchanging hands or various agencies embarking on missions that elevated them from being mere agencies to clients to being partners in their line of work. The year-enders have also brought digital in and out of the conversations to highlight the focus that media agencies have paid to the new ways of connecting and communicating.

But the year 2012 was not so much about big pitches and innovations as it was about people, and senior-most people for that matter. After a period of almost six years, the Indian media agency business is gearing up to a new thought process at the top and this is bound to impact everything else that follows. The year 2013, in that sense, would be a new world for the media agency business in India.

Terra Nova
Drawing a comparison to American TV show Terra Nova for the Indian media agency business is very obvious. Much as the show was about the Shannon family going back to prehistoric times to bring in changes in the world, they lived in, 2013 was about most media agencies looking at their roots once again to grow their individual businesses.

The biggest move needless to say was the announcement of Vikram Sakhuja, hitherto CEO GroupM South Asia, to the global role of Maxus Chief and GroupM’s decision to see this post work from India. This is a global first for the business and a possible trendsetter for other agencies – many of whom are looking up to Sakhuja and Maxus right now to see how a global set up would be managed from India. GroupM’s strength across markets may have made the decision easier for the media holding company but fact remains that the decision will test India’s ability to work as a global CEO’s office. But more importantly, even though Sakhuja continues to be a leader based in India, he can no longer come with the mindset of an India operations leader. As Sakhuja and Dominic Proctor, President, GroupM Worldwide pointed out to exchange4media earlier, the road ahead is first about unlearning and shedding off regional biases for Sakhuja to truly wear a global hat.

Sakhuja’s move led to the hunt for a new GroupM CEO – a position that had remained steady with Sakhuja for six years. All eyes are now on the new man on the coveted seat --- CVL Srinivas, until a month back, Chairman, Starcom MediaVest Group India. Though a former GroupM hand, question is: how will Srini take the baton forward and what are the changes that will come with him?

Both men assume their new roles from January 2013.

IPG Mediabrands made a big move in the year too and consolidated its operations with a single leader. Shashi Sinha, who until November 2012 was only the Lodestar UM India head, is now in-charge of IPG’s media holding company in India – IPG Mediabrands. The true impact of this move would only be visible in 2013, when the leaders of the different companies within IPG Mediabrands will begin to see changes in their roles and whether the move has worked to be an enabler, as IPG Mediabrands envisages it to be globally. For Sinha too, the road ahead involves a conscious working of detaching from the Lodestar UM avatar to make place for a thought process that would include Initiative, BPN and other IPG Mediabrands assets as well. As dynamic and loved a leader as Sinha is, 2013 would see him evolve into a new leader to take IPG Mediabrands to its logical next level in India.

Lynn de Souza, who exited the media agency business in the year to become a social entrepreneur, while would still be around for her work in readership research in India would be missed in the leadership league of the extraordinary media agency leaders. 

Sam Balsara, popularly quoted as the owner of the last independent agency in India whose media agency is its crown jewel also brought in several top level changes in his agency – the key one being the appointment of Gautam Kiyawat (from RIM) who came with a digital mindset to lead Madison Media Group as the agency’s old hand Punitha Arumugam quit the company after a 13-year stint. Will Sam finally sell his agency in 2013? Who can really answer that but irrespective of that Kiyawat’s stamp on the agency will be more visible in the year ahead.

As Omnicom Media Group becomes a more mature player in the business in India, all eyes would be trained once again to see how Jasmin Sohrabji and her team on the magic potion, as OMD’s Global CEO Mainardo de Nardis often quotes, would keep the magic going in 2013 and further expand Omnicom Media Group’s operations in India. For Sohrabji too, the year ahead would be of growing a media holding company that would have multiple media agency brands to a level of reckoning.

What will become of Dentsu’s takeover of Aegis brands in India and how this will affect Dentsu Media, Carat Media and Vizeum is another big question to which we will find the answer in the year ahead. Dentsu’s and Aegis’ India leaders too would need to see things differently in the new scheme of affairs, and that too will bring about changes in the business.

Media agencies are headed into Terra Nova, a New World, courtesy all the changes that came in 2012 which would result into a new kind of leadership leading the way. For the last six years and more, media agencies have built on what they have been doing in previous years but in 2013, it is time to go back to the roots and bring changes in the foundations they have built to sustain bigger growth stories in years ahead.

The theme for Rewind 2012 is Different Strokes. All write ups on various aspects of the Indian media, marketing and advertising industry, will be around an international TV show or sitcom that best described the year that was

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