Mumbai: Dominic Proctor should know about the specialized media planning and buying business—he practically invented it at WPP when he founded Mindshare Worldwide in 1997. Still chief executive officer of the company that went on to, in turn, found GroupM, the specialized conglomerate-within-a-congl-omerate, he spoke to Mint during a recent visit to India on Mindshare and GroupM’s plans for the country and his outlook on the media buying and planning business. Edited excerpts:
The basics first. How was 2010 for Mindshare?
2010 was very good for us. A lot of countries recovered a bit quicker than we expected. Growth in India, we expected. But we also got significant growth in (the) US, that we did not quite expect. The (US) government put so much money in the economy that it was going to recover at some point. But the speed of recovery was what surprised most people.
Sharing space: We see all our competitors as threats--not just one company or group, says Proctor. Hemant Mishra/Mint
China and India are our main engines for growth. We see potential in other emerging markets also such as Vietnam and Indonesia but when you look at the scale and growth potential, China and India are the defining markets. We expect the media business in India to grow by at least 25% in 2011. In China it would be less than that but China’s coming off a very good period as well.
Your share in India is higher than your share in China. Why?
The market structure is different there. There are city- based brokers—more local operators working in individual cities and regions.
GroupM already does around Rs 4,000 crore of business in India (much of it from Mindshare). How will you grow that?
Our challenge here is still to grow, since we have such a huge market share. We have clients in most categories already. The challenge is different...to grow products and services and value-added areas for our clients. It’s primarily NPD (new product development) that’s relevant here, diversifying our business further. (It is) to develop the content business further, the analytics business, the search business...
Are acquisitions part of your plan? Are there any specialized units under Mindshare you plan to bring to India (to help growth)?
It’s not so much companies as skill sets—as in digital or social media. We are not particularly looking to buy companies, there are very few companies with that kind of specialization. It’s more a question of training our own people, so that they are up to speed with all activity. There’s not too much M&A (merger and acquisition) activity planned and nothing immediate on bringing in any Mindshare global companies or units at this point.
You spoke of digital media. Which media platform is growing the fastest in India?
Digital media is growing the quickest—35% this year on last. Television broadcast, print and radio are all growing between 20-25% this year. There’s all round growth in Indian media; (it’s a ) healthy business to be in.
GroupM’s rival Omnicom is bringing media specialist PHD to India this year. How do you see this?
We’ve always been quite surprised that Omnicom hasn’t had a strategy to grow in India until recently.
I am not surprised that they are bringing in PHD; I am just surprised that it took a while to do so.
Who does Mindshare see as its biggest threat in India?
We see all of our competitors as threats—not just one company or group. Beyond that, we see other kind of companies as threats. We are constantly competing with consultants, ROI (return on investment) analytics, content providers, specialist firms. The competitive set for Mindshare is much broader than all these immediate competitors. When you’re a diverse company like Mindshare, you are competing with specialists. We are diverse and integrated and they are singular silos.
Do you see merit in Dentsu’s ad inventory website where people can buy and sell ad inventory (across platforms) in real time? Is Mindshare exploring it in India?
We are investigating all over the world, different platforms, especially digital media for trading. More demand side platforms than supply side. As an agency, we are flexible enough to continue to experiment. We will see where it goes.
Do you see newspapers holding up in the digital era?
I look at my own habits and I read more of newspaper content online—high quality and largely free. But when you look at the forecast for India, there’s a high likelihood that newspaper business continues to grow as literacy spreads. For the foreseeable future, I don’t think newspapers are going out of business.
But in Western markets, a lot of newspapers are becoming much more local. They rely on classified advertising and a lot of it is going online but there are a lot of examples of local newspapers trying to strengthen their position because people crave local news. It’s a strange dichotomy, really.