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Business News/ Companies / News/  ‘India stands as a shining beacon of excellence within our APAC operations’

‘India stands as a shining beacon of excellence within our APAC operations’

EssenceMediacom's rapid ascent post-merger includes securing $120 million in new business in a year and $35-40 million in the current year. The agency's success lies in prioritizing client needs, diversifying business ventures, and adapting to changing media dynamics.

EssenceMediacom’s APAC CEO Rupert McPetriePremium
EssenceMediacom’s APAC CEO Rupert McPetrie

Mergers can signify a seismic shift in any industry, with the potential for both triumph and turbulence. But EssenceMediacom, born on 31 January 2023 from the fusion of two powerhouse agencies within GroupM, has emerged as a strong leader in the industry in just 15 months. Boasting $21 billion in global billing, this amalgamation represents more than just a union of assets. In an interview with Mint, EssenceMediacom’s APAC CEO Rupert McPetrie, and South Asia CEO Navin Khemka, shared insights into the merger journey, the imperatives guiding their approach, and the roadmap for future growth. Edited excerpts:

So, it's been 15 months since the birth of the youngest and the largest agency within GroupM, boasting $21 billion worth of global billing. But mergers of this scale and size are not always easy. What key insights and lessons have you gained from integrating two such distinct agencies?

Rupert McPetrie: Bringing together these two businesses was an extraordinary moment for us—merging two robust agencies, each with a stellar client list and a wealth of talent. Our aim wasn't merely to combine them; it was to forge something entirely new. Hence, we crafted a fresh proposition centred on breakthroughs for brands. Reflecting on the merger, there are several vital learnings and insights. Firstly, prioritising the well-being of our people was paramount. With 2,500 employees in the Asia Pacific, it was essential to keep them informed and cared for throughout the process. Secondly, communication played a pivotal role. Following the merger announcement in 2022, the market buzzed with excitement and interest. Our key insight here was the necessity of consistent communication—keeping stakeholders abreast of our progress and timelines ensured clarity and alignment. Thirdly, balancing speed with thoroughness was critical. While it was imperative to execute swiftly in response to the rapidly evolving market, we also dedicated the necessary time to ensure a robust integration process. Lastly, maintaining unwavering focus amid the daily operational demands was crucial. We navigated the delicate balance of tending to existing clients while driving forward the creation of our new agency.

How has this played out from the Indian perspective, particularly in acquiring new business?

Navin Khemka: Prior to the merger, our track record in India showcased steady growth, adding between $80-100 million in new business annually. Despite this, we didn't rank among the top 10 agencies in the country. However, post-merger, we swiftly ascended to the top three. Overnight, the merger propelled our benchmark from $80-100 million to $120 million in the last year alone. This surge in capability translated into winning more business and marked one of our most successful years for new acquisitions. In the first quarter of the current year, we've already secured $35-40 million in new business.

Is this growth in new business coming at the expense of cannibalising GroupM clients?

Navin: Not at all. We maintain robust relationships with our sister agencies within GroupM, governed by a strict non-compete policy in the market. If EssenceMediacom pursues a client, others abstain from pitching for the same business. Incumbent agencies defend their existing clients in case of a pitch. With a client retention rate of 99% and a pitch conversion rate of 90%, our focus remains solely on winning pitches. We only pitch to win and believe that nobody is bothered if you come number two.

How did you navigate the merging of distinct thinking styles from the two agencies?

Rupert: The amalgamation of the two agencies provided a brilliant opportunity to harness genuinely complementary skills. Our vision for EssenceMediacom is aimed at providing clients with comprehensive guidance and activation across the entire spectrum of the consumer journey. Furthermore, our vision extends beyond current trends, anticipating future landscape changes such as the rise of e-commerce and evolving platform dynamics. This future-forward approach, coupled with our ability to cater to a diverse array of client needs, has been instrumental in our success.

Can you elaborate on specific strategies you implemented to adapt to this evolving media landscape?

Navin: Our business model has evolved significantly over the past five years. Whereas previously, we primarily offered basic media services, we now recognise the need to navigate a complex and fragmented media environment. Consequently, we've launched specialised practices tailored to meet evolving client demands, including commerce, performance, and creative futures. Our approach emphasises personalised solutions that account for the unique requirements of each client and category.

With the increasing emphasis on performance marketing, do you believe the role of the CMO is diminishing?

Rupert: The relevance of the CMO varies across sectors, with boardrooms increasingly demanding accountability for marketing investments and their impact on business outcomes. While some businesses prioritise lower-funnel performance marketing, others continue to focus on brand-building initiatives. The evolving role of the CMO extends beyond marketing execution to encompass strategic business contributions. As such, discussions with global clients increasingly revolve around solutions that span various marketing disciplines, underscoring the ongoing evolution of our industry and the imperative to demonstrate value.

Are clients in India receptive to this perspective?

Navin: While your observation holds true for a subset of clients, particularly startups and those embracing a digital-first approach, there's a broader realisation unfolding. Many are recognising that solely prioritizing lower-funnel metrics like conversion and performance yields initial spikes in sales, but often leads to stagnation thereafter. A point to consider is the significant presence of startups within the top 10 spenders in the country's advertising expenditure landscape. This begs the question: why invest such substantial sums if not to eventually cultivate a brand presence? While initial returns may be garnered through B2C or e-commerce platforms, the imperative of brand-building becomes undeniable in the long run. Neglecting this aspect risks relegating oneself to a niche market position—a scenario incongruent with the immense opportunities prevalent in India's dynamic market landscape. The aim, therefore, should not be to remain niche but to resonate as a brand accessible to the masses.

Where does India fit into EssenceMediacom’s overall business strategy?

Rupert: India stands as a shining beacon of excellence within our APAC operations, currently ranking third in scale after China and Australia. It's also our fastest-growing market. This growth trajectory reflects two key factors: the tremendous potential inherent in the Indian market and our business's exceptional performance within it. India's burgeoning GDP rates, coupled with robust advertising expenditure growth and the emergence of a thriving middle class predisposed to increased consumer spending, underscore its immense potential. Furthermore, our operations in India consistently outpace market growth, fuelling our confidence in the region's prospects. Globally, India holds the seventh position in our market hierarchy.

What is the vision for the next five years?

Navin: Our vision entails fortifying our business to withstand the imminent shifts in the Indian media landscape. India finds itself on the brink of significant change, and the ensuing transformation will be profound. Over the next two to five years, we anticipate a dramatic evolution in the shape of our business. While scaling remains a priority—aiming to ascend from our current position as the third-largest agency in the country to potentially leading the charts—we also recognise the imperative of diversification. It's not merely about expanding our media-centric endeavours; rather, it's about nurturing and scaling various facets of our business. This includes ventures centred around innovation, data, and commerce, among others. The emergence of these diverse streams presents potent opportunities, compelling every client to embrace this narrative. As an agency, we must be poised to cater to these evolving needs, ensuring our readiness to navigate the dynamic landscape ahead.

How are ROI, measurability, and related metrics evolving in your approach?

Rupert: We're dedicating significant resources to aligning with clients on new, more pertinent metrics. While we still utilise traditional measurement metrics primarily focused on media, there's a growing emphasis on outcomes directly impacting businesses. We're increasingly integrating metrics that reflect consumer attention, especially considering the diverse engagement patterns across platforms. Implementing various models to plan and measure attention is a key focus area for us. Furthermore, in pursuit of a comprehensive understanding spanning the entire consumer journey, including commerce, we're striving for enhanced visibility across the value chain. While some aspects, like attribution and last-click measurement, are more straightforward, achieving a truly end-to-end perspective necessitates sophisticated modelling. We've undertaken extensive efforts to advance in this domain, recognising the imperative of adapting to the evolving landscape.

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Published: 21 Apr 2024, 06:48 PM IST
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