Mumbai: The past few months have been very busy for Gerry Boyle, regional chief executive officer, Asia-Pacific, at Publicis Media, the newly created network which aligns the Publicis Groupe’s media agencies and operations. In India to announce the launch of Publicis Media, Boyle talks about the group’s decision to reorganize its structure and consolidate six of its global agency brands into four agencies, the importance of strategy in a price-driven market like India and the potential of the mobile medium. Edited excerpts from the interview:
What is the group’s vision for India, especially in light of the recent changes?
In December, Maurice Levy announced a new vision for Publicis Groupe and a new approach to Publicis Media was included as part of that vision. The transformation is being unleashed through the Power of One and a line-up of end-to-end solutions for our clients, delivered in a simple, flexible and efficient manner. The idea is to bring in a structure that eliminates complexity. Getting rid of silos is the key. The big focus is to make the business leaner, simpler and more scaled up in line with our objective of getting to the future first.
Under the new structure, six of your global agency brands will be consolidated to create four global agency brands. That is a mammoth task.
A big task, but we do not see too many challenges here. All our brands have shown tremendous growth in the last two years and the India growth story is here to stay. The advantages outweigh the challenges by a large measure. Removing individual P&Ls will make the business more easily managed and add to efficiencies. Quite a few areas like data, tech and analytics that are complex, fast-changing and require high investments will emerge stronger and more robust, given the scale and the higher investment ability.
When will this new structure be rolled out in India?
You will see it being rolled out over the next few weeks. In this new model, the agency network names of Starcom Mediavest Group and ZenithOptimedia Group, both well established in this market, will be retired.
How will the media accounts be divided in this new structure?
Client delight and satisfaction will be at the heart of all of this. Any account changes and alignment will be mapped in line with client requirements, to the brand with the most relevant proposition, talent and offering. The idea is to build on client delight, not break what is working and start from scratch. The structure will also fully take care of any conflicts.
Will Publicis Media launch Blue 449 and Spark in India with this restructuring? What will they bring to the table?
When the time is right and the client demand is there, we will look to bring all of our global brands to this market. They will bring unique positioning, yet be backed by the power of Publicis Media. Blue 449 has a unique ‘open-source’ positioning and Spark is a brand that stands for both creativity and agility.
Blue 449 and Spark may have a branding challenge here considering that they are yet to make an impact in this market.
You can see it as a branding challenge or a wide open opportunity. Things can move very quickly here. Look at Resultrix—an acquired shop which became fully integrated and has grown at a scorching pace. This is not on the back of branding but on the back of strong client referrals and award-winning work. A top-of-mind name can help open doors, but it’s the offering, talent and work that is more important to our clients.
India is considered to be a volume-driven media market. What is the role of strategy in light of this?
Volume is an important aspect of media, not only in India but globally. This is why the barriers to entry for media start-ups remain so high. Having said that, scale and volume are nothing unless applied with intelligence. The smartest negotiation can trump volume at any time. The role of strategy cannot be underestimated—convergence has disrupted the consumer journey beyond recognition. The role of strategy is to ensure that we connect with our consumer across these three-dimensional journeys.
Price metrics remain important but... the sweet spot is where strategy, insight and volume converge.
Agencies buy a lot of traditional media in India, especially TV. Is digital still an afterthought?
Not so for us; almost 50% of our business comes from digital activity. We are experts in sectors like BFSI, travel, telco, entertainment and others—sectors which are heavily data and performance-driven. Digital thinking plays at least an equal part in the working lives of most of our people, every day. In India, there is, of course, media-planning and client needs which require delivery of macro, mass market consumers—rural and semi-urban—where TV still holds the key and it is probably okay to think TV first.
What role will mobile play in a market like India?
Massive. We must be where the consumer is. Mobile has a tremendous role to play in India. India’s mobile phone subscriber mark has touched 1 billion as per Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) data. An average user today is spending 193 minutes a day on mobile. For most digital consumers, the first access to net is through mobile. Brands are slowly, but surely, dialling in to the mobile medium as we have seen from the rapid increase in mobile ad spends of our clients. Mobile is inherent to everything we do, and will continue to be a key pillar of our communications plans and strategy going forward.
How much does India contribute to the Asia-Pacific region?
India is a substantial contributor (about 20%) to the region and an absolute engine of our future growth. We have grown through acquisition, strong diversification and organic growth, and we plan to continue and accelerate this trajectory.