Mumbai: Move over, Singapore and Hong Kong. Mumbai and New Delhi are emerging as the new power centres of global advertising in the Asia-Pacific region. India has become a favoured destination for advertisers. In turn, Indian agencies are being chosen to take part in global pitches and handle regional and global businesses. Agencies such as Lowe India and Ogilvy & Mather India Ltd are also hubs of their global networks’ Asia-Pacific operations.
Earlier, it was multinationals, such as Unilever Ltd, who entrusted their regional advertising duties to their Indian agencies when their brands moved into South Asia. Now, advertisers, especially in new-age sectors such as technology, telecom and insurance, are doing the same. This marks a big shift in advertising power equation in the region.
Says Nakul Chopra, CEO & MD, Publicis India Pvt. Ltd, which handles Aviva Ltd’s advertising across India, Hong Kong, Australia: “Earlier, regional mandates in marketing were led by Hong Kong and Singapore, but now India is in the lead. Multinationals keep their key market in mind. If you (India) become one of the largest markets, then half the work is done.”
There has been a spurt in the number of regional campaigns on the rolls of Indian agencies. JWT India handles Nokia Corp.’s advertising work for India and parts of Asia-Pacific; Ogilvy & Mather steers Lenovo Group Ltd’s global communications out of India; and TBWA India Pvt Ltd has been appointed brand consultant by Afghan Wireless Communication Co., with an ad budget of about Rs20 crore.
Lenovo, though the latest, is not the only software major on O&M’s register. It handles IBM Ltd, the global computer technology giant, and also does advertising work for Castrol Ltd, Nestle Ltd, and Singapore Airlines Ltd, across the world.
Other agencies, too, have secured international campaigns from the new-age sectors. Grey Worldwide handles Genpact Ltd in India, China and Hungary; Mudra Group’s specialist communications unit, Mudra Group’s Tribal DDB, manages British Telecom’s global online communications.
Indian advertising’s rise on the regional stage is likely to continue as there are significant synergies to be exploited. A centralized team saves on costs and time.
Says Kurien Mathews, director, TBWA India: “Advertising clients are discovering what software clients discovered quite a while ago: a hugeEnglish-speaking talent pool, and significant cost efficiencies in sourcing their global requirements out of India. If anything, advertising is making a late entry.”
Then again, size matters. “Global brands have a large vision for India; it’s one of their biggest consumer markets and hence they have an Indian agency leading creative,” says Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT, which handles Rin’s (known in some markets as Radiant or Viso) advertising duties in Latin America and South Africa, besides India. Take Lenovo, for instance. India is its key market and production centre. It would be logical to centre its global communications in Bangalore with O&M India.
The growing reach of Indian agencies is contributing to changes in the creative process, too. Agencies are increasingly thinking both global and local. “We use global ideas for multinational brands, but also weave in local nuances. India is culturally diverse, so we don’t have difficulties in translating these across regional markets,” says Harris.
Lowe India is taking the ‘dirt is good’ (daag achhe hain) ad theme for Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s (HUL) brands across South Asian markets. The agency handles HUL’s Lifebuoy ad business across Indonesia, Vietnam, Africa, and West Asia.
Says Pranesh Misra, COO, Lowe India: “Indian executives are getting wider responsibilities across markets in strategic planning, account planning and creative. For Unilever, there are three main markets—India, China and Thailand. Language-wise, culturally or economically, India is big on their agenda.”
To win these mammoth global businesses, agency networks have to demonstrate India’s presence at the business-pitch stage. Indian teams are, hence, increasingly becoming part of global pitch teams now. Lowe India Pvt. Ltd was a critical part of a global pitch for Unilever’s Omo. The TBWA India team was part of the global team that won Singapore Airlines business.
At times, client relationships start from India and then extend across markets. Carat Media Services India handled media duties for ABN Amro Asset Management Ltd. and Mattel Ltd, which extended to other markets. The Indian team was part of the global pitches.
Still, media buying and planning responsibilities for Asia-Pacific are rarely handled out of India. Explains Chopra of Publicis: “The nature of the business is such that it can never be handled across markets. It’s too local and relationship-focused.” But Indian managers are making their presence felt here too, globally, adds Mathews of TBWA.
India’s regional parade is, however, at a nascent stage. Cautions Pratap Bose, CEO, O&M India: “It’s a good start for India, but it still has to prove its capability. Unilever’s hair care brands always get handled out of Bangkok.” And we still are not considered to be a Thailand in creativity, adds Santosh Padhi, executive creative director, Leo Burnett India Pvt Ltd.
Still, more roadsigns will point this way.