Mumbai: Global media communications specialist network Mediaedge:cia (MEC) that is part of GroupM, itself part of the WPP group, has plans to engage with customers here. In a few months, the $18 billion-plus-by-billings company will be launching MEC Access in India. This is the division that looks after the company’s sports, entertainment and cause marketing businesses. Charles Courtier, Global CEO, and Alastair Aird, Global COO of MEC spoke to Mint about their plans for this market. MEC’s global divison for digital communications, MEC Interaction, was launched in India last year and will continue to remain separate under the MEC umbrella. In addition, the firm’s dedicated international retail practice, MEC Retail will be launched a bit later in this market in recognition of India’s retail boom and would not come under Access. Edited excerpts:
On MEC Access
Courtier: Media agencies have been diversifying into various areas of specialization. But yes, we are the first to put these diversified businesses under one brand (and integrated with the main media agency). The model is to develop specialized capabilities but integrated into the whole.
We believe that clients need a neutral assessment of how to connect consumer and the brand, using any form of communication.
On possible conflicts with sibling GroupM ESP which is in entertainment and sports
Aird: To put it succinctly, MEC Access is about the planning part of it and GroupM is about buying and implementation.
Scale is GroupM ESP. The bit of thinking and (dealing) directly with clients is Access. We have been incubating ESP within GroupM to have strong equivalent of Access in all the (GroupM) agencies.
Connecting the dots: Alastair Aird (left), Global COO and Charles Courtier, Global CEO of MEC, say they don’t have a specific plan for India, but that the most obvious area is digital. (Photo: Ritam Banerjee/ Mint)
Courtier: We are always on the look out for companies. But I don’t have a specific plan for India. The most obvious area is digital. There are few and far between but way overpriced. Digitas (WPP Group’s digital acquisition) looks over-priced to me.
On MEC Retail
Courtier: Our plan is to drive MEC Retail into major markets in the world such as India. The most powerful channel of communication is retail space. If we are serious about being media neutral, we have to understand that the retail space as a medium, in the same way as television, newspapers, Internet etc.
Retail is a combination of understanding retail space and giving value of what that space is. And yes, within that, luxury is an important part of retail.’’
Aird: We have to build the retail space in our strategic communications plans just as we do with television.
If you spend a hundred dollars on TV, your return on investment is X. If you spend the same amount in the retail space, your return on investment is Y. I need to be able to tell you that, which is what we are working on.
On the US slowdown and its impact on media spends here
Courtier: We will probably see a slowdown in 2009, not 2008. 2008 has the Olympics, European Football Championships etc that will drive momentum this year and keep the spending growing. In 2009, we won’t have those kinds of crutches to hold on to. But I think that the demand for diversification is not going to change.
If you look at inflation technically, it’s forcing clients into other forms of communication. With Western Europe and US in recession, we will see movement of media spends into fast growing markets such as India.
On Rebundling or aligning media and creative functions under one roof for specific projects
Courtier: Most people when they say re-bundling are asking whether the old full-service agency structure is coming back. The answer to that is Rs.No’.
Many of these media companies are bigger than ad agencies, which is why it’s impossible. But I do believe that what clients need is integration between communication planning and the message.
The way we integrate with other pieces of the marketing puzzle needs to change and will change in the future. It will be a new kind of integration.