Cannes: Laura Desmond, the newly appointed CEO of US-based Starcom MediaVest Group, spoke to Mint on the firm’s plans for India and the world, during the Cannes International Advertising Festival. Edited excerpts:
What are your priorities for Starcom India?
Fundamental focus : Laura Desmond, the newly appointed chief executive officer of US-based Starcom MediaVest Group
When I was in New York and Latin America, I focused on fundamentals such as investing in capability, bringing in talent internally and externally, and creating the right leadership team to win. The three things you will see me do in India is to invest in people, focus on clients and drive good relationships with our multinational clients.
There could be an import and export of talent. I think that what we have done in Russia is, we’ve had stable leadership across the board; not so much in India and China . Also, we haven’t had multinational talent flowing in and out in India. When we think it’s appropriate, we will bring people in. They will stay for two to three years, or long term. Starcom has done this in Russia, where we’ve transported five to six of the crème from the network, and flown officials from there out to New York and UK on short expat assignments.
How do you propose to grow business in India specifically?
Starcom India will look seriously at mergers, acquisitions and alliances and whatever else it takes to expand operations. In other markets, we have tried various combinations. Mergers, alliances, organic growth. Nothing’s off the table.
Will MediaVest emerge as a separate media specialist brand in India?
Currently Starcom and MediaVest exist together and separately in 18 markets around the world.
In India, we are growing at a pace and rate where we can have several brands. In the US, we have three operating media companies: Starcom, MediaVest and Spark (which does media buying and planning.) It is my hope that we should have a growth in India that would warrant the kind of complex sophisticated media structure that we have in USA.
You are expected to unveil a new structure soon. Tell us about this. Didn’t your rival Mindshare do something similar?
Starcom MediaVest Group is launching its strategic programme “Agency of the Future” globally.
One of the things I have done at Starcom is to spearhead a strategic programme called Agency Of the Year as a platform that will get us ready for the next 10 years.
We are in the process of rolling it out globally and it’s not short-term growth we are looking at. This platform that we have designed goes well and beyond what Mindshare’s done. Ours is new wine in a new bottle.
I feel that what WPP Group’s Mindshare did in terms of its restructuring recently was to take media as it is right now and put it in different boxes. Same wine, different bottle.
How would you take on the might of WPP’s GroupM in India? This group controls more than 40% of the media buying market here?
As the market develops, it will be a different game with various global networks putting in more investment. In developed markets, there are no monopolistic franchises for any of the companies. Also, if you are an aggregate power player versus specialized services, you are going to run out of growth a lot faster.