Mumbai: He is executive vice-president and director of new business development at global media specialist Starcom MediaVest Group, or SMG, which launched the Indian unit of its media agency MediaVest Worldwide last month. Marston Allen’s job is to tap growth opportunities and help the network expand.
Known as a consummate rainmaker, Allen previously helped MediaVest win business including the $500 million (about Rs3 trillion) Mars-Wrigley account after the merger last year of Mars Inc. and Wm Wrigley Jr Co. that created the world’s biggest confectioner. He is also credited with winning the $600 million account of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and $250-300 million media business of fast food chain Wendy’s International Inc. On Friday, during a visit to Mumbai, Allen spoke about his plans for SMG globally and in India. Edited excerpts:
Client bonding: Starcom MediaVest’s Allen says a bad economy accentuates a bad relationship and solidifies a good relationship. Ashesh Shah / Mint
What are the new business projections for SMG globally and in India?
Globally, revenues for SMG is over $27 billion ending 2008. Projected growth for 2009 globally changes every day, based on the leaky bucket syndrome. We expect India to grow in high double digits this year, as it has done for the past four years. Roughly 15% of our global revenues come from Asia Pacific. In digital, we have more revenues than any other group—as much as 20% comes from digital. We have certain goals and the vast majority of it comes from new business (in developed markets), versus organic growth. In established markets, organic growth is not even half of overall growth. Emerging markets are different though and organic growth is much higher because clients are growing exponentially here.
What are your plans to grow new business for SMG?
The hardest part of new business is resourcing it. New business takes a lot of time and energy... Starcom MediaVest has created a global resource where everyone reports to me globally. It’s not just a strategy group, it is also a design group. Design in terms of professional materials/creative material (for the pitch) so that we have the right kind of collateral. We are creating regional teams and in our most important markets, we have dedicated resources. So we have global resource, regional resource and in our biggest and most important markets, we have dedicated resources. In Latin America, we can have one regional resource for many countries and plus they speak the same language. Asia’s different because it’s a big place. We have sub-regional assets here in India and China and Singapore (for South-East Asia).
The more companies globalize, the more they need to capture and cascade their best practices. The way to do that is to have alignment of their marketing resources across borders. A good network needs to be a good agency everywhere.
Will your global clients align with the newly formed MediaVest India?
Very possibly—those which are relevant. There are two or three of our clients that will want to do business in India and do it well. Those companies are familiar and comfortable and confident with the MediaVest brand. And so they will help build the MediaVest brand in India and in China as we make MediaVest a real second brand.
Have there been more new business pitches and account attrition worldwide over the past year?
In a bad economy, two things will happen. If there is a stressed relationship that already exists, some clients will use that opportunity to say, “you know what; I will go and look at something else.” A bad economy accentuates a bad relationship and solidifies a good relationship.
New business is expensive in time, money and effort on the part of the client. It’s one of those value questions clients have to ask themselves: Is it worth disrupting my operations for two-three months to make this change? The market is in such a state of flux that the agency that was a great partner three years might not be a great partner today. We have had relationships with some of our clients for 34 years. I think if you last five years with a client, that’s good, but not great.
Do pitch consultants help in the pitch process for new business?
Consultants are important, though most are very average. There are just one or two that do a really good job. Running a pitch if you are a client is very distracting and takes a lot of time. So you hire a pitch consultant. But a lot of time, pitch consultants affect relationships because they say you (agency) cannot speak to the client. I absolutely believe that’s a disservice to the client.
The best pitch consultants get their clients involved in the process and make the process for the media agency clear, if not simple, and with firm dates.