Mudra floats new agency for DDB’s India business

Mudra floats new agency for DDB’s India business

Mumbai: Advertising and integrated communications agency Mudra Communications Pvt. Ltd has launched a new agency called DDB Mudra Pvt. Ltd.

Mudra allied with DDB Worldwide in 1988. DDB Worldwide is one of the leading advertising agency networks in the world, with 206 offices in 96 countries, and is part of the Omnicom Group.

Beyond handling businesses that conflict with the mother agency, DDB Mudra will mainly handle global DDB accounts coming into the country, including Unilever Ltd’s entire Lipton range (handled globally by Omnicom), which is due to enter this country.

“The entire Lipton range was not here yet. New flavours and packs should be arriving shortly. Till now, its India presence has mostly been vendor-led," says an advertising chief not from Mudra. The entry of DDB Mudra should give the Omnicom Group a foothold to fight incumbent IPG for the growing Unilever business here, say ad executives.

Also, the DDB business already with Mudra—such as Johnson & Johnson Ltd’s skincare brands such as Neutrogena and Clean & Clear, and Wrigley Co. Ltd’s brands such as Boomer, Orbit, Doublemint and Solano—have migrated to the new DDB Mudra, says Madhukar Kamath, chief executive officer of Mudra Communications.

Mudra’s second agency, Canvas, ceases to exist and has been merged into DDB Mudra. Corporate identity and signage are being worked out for this second agency.

Also, the existing Mudra Communications will give way to a new national agency brand called Mudra Mumbai, currently a creative agency which could evolve into afull-service agency with media functions.

Mudra Communications notches about Rs1,000 crore in billings annually. About 10% of its equity is held by DDB Worldwide, and the rest is with promoter Anil Ambani.

The birth of DDB Mudra in effect adds to the Omnicom Group advertising family in this country, though it’s not clear how much equity stake will be granted to DDB. It’s no secret that DDB has sought to hike its equity participation in mainstream Mudra through the years, without much success. There is speculation that DDB’s equity share will be higher in the second agency, to ensure global alignment of the DDB business here.

Curiously, Omnicom’s response to the birth of DDB Mudra seems rather mixed. Says Michael Birkin, president and chief executive officer, Omnicom Asia-Pacific, “When it’s a strong local agency and there are international business opportunities around such as Lipton, Wrigley’s, Phillips, it would be a conversation in any country as to whether a separate unit or agency should be set up to handle these international accounts. I am not necessarily in favour of this kind of an activity. It’s a short-term tactic and certainly not a strategy that’s going to prevail in the long run. Then again, DDB could be in a mood to handle conflict situations."

Kamath, however, seems upbeat about DDB Mudra: “DDB Mudra started in a quiet sort of way, as a small unit within the agency. In time, we decided to cast it as a full-fledged agency that would handle independent businesses, predominantly DDB clients. DDB is on a winning spree globally. A lot of the DDB business is entering this country and it makes sense to align them here. Then again, there are exceptions to the rule, such as the (Reliance) Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG), which has been put under DDB Mudra although its origin is not from the DDB network."

This is a move towards consolidation, adds Kamath. “In the past, we have looked at various opportunities in terms of setting up another agency. Like Canvas for the Johnson & Johnson business. It brings in senior-level involvement with clients. The agency’s creation is more for this purpose, than to steer conflicting businesses," he says.

J. Mani, who joined Mudra in 2005 as head for the R-ADAG businesses, has been elevated as president of DDB Mudra and will head the agency. Its executive creative director will be Jagdish Acharya, former executive creative director, Mudra South. Bobby Pawar, national creative director, will be involved with both brands, Mudra Mumbai and DDB Mudra.

Mani, when contacted by Mint, said, “The big onus is taking the name DDB and the creative tradition that’s there in DDB Worldwide, flagged off by the legendary Bill Bernbach. As an India unit, it will be crucial to network in the DDB business more." Asked whether it’s a move to basically cash in on global DDB business, Mani says, “Undoubtedly. But I think that it’s more important to do interesting work. Revenues will comeand go by."

The Mudra Group’s structure now: a creative agencies umbrella which shelters Mudra Mumbai and DDB Mudra. Mudra Marketing Services consists of brands such as KidsStuff and PrimeSite. Mudra Media and Content consists of media and content brands such as Optimum Media Solutions, Videotech and Tantra Films.

The client roster for Mudra Mumbai includes Godrej Industries Ltd, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Pantaloon Retail India Ltd, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corp. and Philips Electronics India Ltd.