Mumbai: Advertising’s equivalent of Linux is back in India. Worldwide Partners Inc. (WPI)—which calls itself the world’s ninth largest marketing communications network, with collective capitalized billings of around $4.1 billion (Rs16,400 crore)—is based on an “open-source” collaborative model, in which agency shareholder partners are invited to pick up a stake in the company, instead of the other way around.
Aware that India is “very hot now”, as Lisa Kettman-Kervinen—director of Emea (Europe, Mid East, Africa) collaborations for WPI—puts it, WPI has found itself an India shareholder partner—the at least 40-year-old Pressman Advertising and Marketing Ltd. Pressman has picked up a 1% stake in the network.
Localized accents: Lisa Kettman-Kervinen, director of Emea (Europe, Mid East, Africa) collaborations for Worldwide Partners. (Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/ Mint)
The 92 other shareholder partners agencies, which are owner-managed agencies across 51 countries, each have equal stake in the network, and everyone pays an annual membership fee. Previously, India’s Image Ads was a partner of—and shareholder in—WPI, but the agency sold its stake back to WPI after it was acquired by Percept H, a subsidiary of Percept Ltd.
Pressman is equally owned by Niren Suchanti and brother Navin Suchanti. It has advertising, public relations and interactive divisions, and was once known as an “initial public offerings specialist,” though it has been out of the limelight for a while.
Niren says that Pressman’s total capitalized billings is Rs250 crore, fed mainly by big government businesses such as the Delhi government and Union Bank of India. Pressman was invited by WPI based on their working relationship— Pressman’s public relations section is a non-equity member of the Echo International global network, which has a strategic alliance with WPI.
Technically, WPI can work with other agencies in India, though Kettman-Kervinen emphasizes that it is only looking at agencies offering complementary services in areas such as direct marketing, events and sports, where Pressman is not present. “It is not in our interest to find a competitor to them (Pressman) in India in the areas (where) they are present. Outside the US, WPI has usually had one agency per country.”
At one end of the global ad market are multinational networks such as WPP Group that own agencies and companies in all parts of the world. At the other end are global ad networks formed with loose affiliations without equity participation. Somewhere in the middle is WPI, which can be called the anti-multinational network or, as Kettman-Kervinen calls it, “the upside-down multinational model”.
She sees this bottom-up approach that accents localized insights and work as their edge over the multinational Goliath. Fees charged by WPI agencies would also be significantly lower than multinational networks, since they don’t have the huge overheads needed to run a multinational network. For member agencies, it ismore a pay for what you need/use policy, she says
What is the payback for each member agency? Business gains, most definitely.
WPI targets largely mid-sized clients and business-to-business companies globally that are not aligned with any of the large networks.
Al Moffat, president and CEO of WPI, recently told Advertising Age that its niche is companies that behave like middle-market clients, with budgets of $40-200 million, especially marketers who fear getting lost in major holding companies and big agencies.
Many of these thriving businesses are now expanding internationally—including to India—and as a WPI agency, Pressman would get first shot at these businesses. Similarly, WPI clients already present here could choose to work with them, since global WPI resources would be on tap, says Kettman-Kervinen.
WPI works on brands such as Avon fragrances, WalMart, Guardian glass, Baby Wipes, Novartis, Lehman Brothers, Epson printers, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Underwater Laboratories, Caterpillar, 3M and Hormel Foods.
Also, for its own clients, Pressman can access global resources. WPI is really the backoffice and facilitator in this process among partner agencies, says Kettman-Kervinen.
Member agencies can also co-pitch for huge businesses across markets: Recently, the New York and London WPI teams joined forces to win the $30 million global Ciba Vision FreshLook business.