Mediaedge:cia (MEC), part of Group M, was adjudged the top media buying house globally in a recent survey by Ad Age magazine. In India, however, the agency still remains over-shadowed by its larger associates such as Mindshare and Maxus (they are also part of Group M, which, in turn, is owned by WPP Plc). Stephen Li, the agency’s CEO for South and Southeast Asia and Australasia was in Mumbai earlier this week and Mint’s Gouri Shah spoke to him about the agency’s plans for India, and emerging trends in media buying.
Where does India stand in MEC’s scheme of things?
I look at all of MEC’s interests across a rather wide region covering South and South-east Asia, and Australasia. India is a jewel in the crown for me, for more than one reason. It is really the growth engine for South and South-east Asia. The country grabs a lot of attention in the entire region because we have some of our major global clients based in India. India ranks in the top five or six markets globally in terms of quality of work done here.
What are the trends in India and the region as far as media buying and planning is concerned?
India is not too different here from the rest of the Asia Pacific region. Traditional media, by which I mean television and print, is by no means dead. There is still a lot of space within these which has yet to be tapped. Moving forward, we see a lot more innovation and experiments in areas such as branded content, retail and interactive media. We are at that point in the communications continuum where it is all about active engagement. It is more about how we can actively engage consumers.
Why has MEC been a quiet player in India compared with its associates in Group M?
The reality is that we are the youngest agency among all Group M shops. We have achieved a lot in the past few years, but obviously don’t have the same heritage that, say, a Mindshare has.
Mindshare has, over the course of many years, built a very large client base which has afforded it a lot of publicity, whereas, we just haven’t made enough noise. We have been focusing on work for our clients, thinking good work fosters goodwill and that subsequently also generates good relationships. But it won’t do us any harm to publicize our success.
On the one hand, we see agencies consolidating their business and on the other, there are new specialized units being set upeverywhere…
I think that’s a natural progression in business. On one hand, consolidation (of media buying) has its benefits for our clients. In other areas, it’s important that we recognize the importance of having the right kind of disciplines and skill sets for different work we do. And quite often that will involve setting up specialist units to tackle those spaces. I also think, that, as media companies, we’re not in this business to be charitable. We are in the business to be profitable companies in our own right, and the fact is when we are dealing with these alternate spaces, it is sometimes very beneficial for us as companies to see them as different business units.
What are major challenges faced in India and the region?
I don’t think the challenges necessarily change over time. For all our talk about systems and processes, and having different operating systems, it all boils down to people. We are intrinsically in the people business.
Hence, getting the right talent is the biggest challenge for us today.