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The Indian market is phenomenally exciting for us: Christian Juhl, Global CEO, Essence

08-March-2018
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The Indian market is phenomenally exciting for us: Christian Juhl, Global CEO, Essence

Last year WPP merged its traditional buying networks MEC and Maxus to fund the expansion of Essence, a digital agency it had acquired in 2015. Eight months later Christian Juhl, Global CEO, Essence on his first India visit tells us how the decision has helped Essence which is being touted as the ‘Agency of the future’ for GroupM.
Excerpts below:

GroupM Global CEO Kelly Clark said he was ‘doubling down on Essence as a growth engine for GroupM and WPP’, what kind of pressure does that put on you?

I don’t feel any pressure from GroupM. We continue to be an agency that’s people- based, that has some outstanding clients. When you are in a position where you are trying to change the industry to become more digitally focused, with regards to data measurement technology, the pressure is little bit self-imposed. We are anxious for change and we would like all media to be able to fall into those patterns but it just isn’t the way yet.

Why we took some of the offline components and added those capabilities at Essence is so that we can represent all marketers and not just ones operating in the digital space right now.

While most agencies expand to bring in digital capabilities, Essence has been a digital first agency which is now opening up services to include more traditional media. So we are going back to the systems and tools and processes that were built over time solely for digital media and looking at how we can adopt those to traditional media. GroupM, is one of the strongest organizations in the world, so getting support from them has been really helpful.

What is the importance of India as a market in the global scheme of things for Essence?

India has been an amazing success story for us. We have seen huge growth over the last several years. While Essence has technology platforms, tools, advanced media usage etc our strength lies in the fact that we have a global operating model with consistency everywhere in the world. But when you get into the local markets you need to allow a certain amount of flexibility and India represents a lot of uniqueness.

Essence is perhaps the largest independent buyer of digital media globally. What do you think of the growing digital advertising market in India?

Each market is different in some way. India has the fastest adoption of broadband and internet, has witnessed a terrific boost in video consumption, seen the success of existing platforms like the Googles and Facebooks of the world, as also new and emerging platforms that are more India specific, like Flipkart. India represents a significant bet on where the next customer is going to come from. So, for global brands it’s the ultimate marketplace. We look at India as a host of innovation and technology, and new audience trends, it’s something that the rest of the world can learn from as well, so it’s incredibly important to us. Right now it potentially has one of the first massive generations coming online that really doesn’t watch television at all. Thus for an agency like ours, India becomes a phenomenally exciting market. Also, Essence is a high-growth agency, and I expect India to contribute to that in a meaningful way and so far it certainly has.

You have met clients like Google, Honda, Flipkart and Britannia on this visit, what have been their key concerns and expectations from Essence?

I think everybody right now is deeply interested in what’s happening in digital, on how to win their space, how to best communicate with consumers, measurement, who are the new entrants in the market place, and what is happening in disruption. I think everybody sees their own data as something that has a very strong competitive advantage but there are still a lot of questions about what to do with it. There are questions about the supply chain as a whole and where should they be investing the money, what’s really viable and what’s wasted money. The role of television surely comes up heavily here, they want to know if they are just chasing the tail or if they should in fact be investing more in it.

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