Mumbai: The global economic slowdown has led companies across the world to reappraise their use of mainstream media for advertising and look for new ways to reach the people, says Richard Pinder, chief operating officer of Publicis Worldwide, the advertising network of Paris-based communications group Publicis Groupe.
Global strategy: Pinder says the group sees organic growth, stealing of market share from rivals as a way out of the current crisis. Ashesh Shah / Mint
Publicis has agencies in India such as Publicis Ambience Advertising Pvt. Ltd, Publicis India and Capital Advertising.
In an interview, Pinder talks about the network’s performance, its business priorities in India and merger and acquisition (M&A) strategy. Edited excerpts:
How has the Publicis network and Groupe been performing?
We are at minus 4.4% growth in the first quarter as a group globally and that is a less bad situation than other holding companies in our industry. Maurice (Levy, CEO of Publicis Groupe) has indicated in the recent annual general meeting that the second quarter would be worse, but that we would outperform a number of our competitors. The Asia-Pacific region has surprisingly been a drag on those numbers and has performed less well.
Everywhere else the conversation is how are you going to protect your margin if you are declining…our conversation with India is that you are one of the few economies that is growing, how do we get you to double the scale of business in the next three years.
What are your business priorities globally and in India?
Three things I’m trying to do globally: Ensuring that we are clearly positioned and seen as the company providing contagious ideas that change the conversation. I believe the role of our business is to provide much more than TV commercials for clients. It’s to provide an idea that people want to talk about and share with each other.
I want our creative profile to rise substantially. We are already among the top 10 of the Gunn Report in our 83-year history and now I want to be in the top five in the next three years.
The second is digital. I want 30% of my global revenues to be in digital by 2012. I’m already at 15%. When I took over the job we were a little under 7%. In India, I think, we can grow at a faster pace but we’re starting at a lower base of about 5%.
The third is, the world we are in has seen a huge rupture with the past and I want the new generation of clients and talent to look at us and say “wow, you’re leading the way”.
What is your M&A strategy globally and in India?
We have in Red Lion an interesting design company, that we’re looking at creating a global brand consultancy design business. The group sees organic growth, stealing of market share from competitors, as a way out of the current crisis—not acquisition. But if we have opportunities to acquire in fast growing geographies, or fast growing industries, such as digital, then we will. The fact that India has both makes it quite exciting.
What is the co-investment programme offered to Publicis Groupe key executives?
The co-investment programme is about a small group of senior executives being offered the chance to invest in Publicis Groupe stock at the current share price.
But if those members stay for a suitable period of time, they get a certain reward on top of that. (A co-investment offer was also made to Nakul Chopra, CEO, Publicis South Asia.)
You’ve said that recession marks a rupture from the past and signals the need for new ad models. What models are you looking at?
Clients globally are reappraising enormously their use of mainstream media, and looking very closely at new ways of reaching people.They are also looking for enormous efficiency.
We can’t just cut our price since the quality of product collapses. I have to instead find a new way of working that dramatically changes the time and effort we have to spend to get to the result. The old model used a huge amount of creative time and effort to get from the brief to the proven work.
What I am urging is that instead of researching endless rounds of creative execution, we start researching very early on, creative ideas online, cheaply and quickly in two weeks. You know which one is likely to be the better idea and you brief that idea to your creative people. Then you’re focusing on just good or bad execution of a known good idea. You do that in much shorter time, it’s more reassuring for clients and more likely to succeed in the market.
In terms of business models, Procter and Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser has spoken about the brand agency leader (BAL) model. We are one of the first agencies to have all of our brands on BAL; it’s a new structure where you have very senior people chosen to effectively be a partner of the top client. They (client) have one cheque they write to the agency, which effectively coordinates 11 different functions from design, direct marketing to digital, etc.—uniting all the capabilities and skills the brand needs in one place.