Ad agencies see a round of churn at the top

Last Updated: Thu, Oct 11, 2012 19:43 hrs

In a new round of churn in the Rs 30,000-crore advertising industry, top agency honchos seem to be swapping positions. For instance, Starcom Media Vest is looking to replace its India chairman, C V L Srinivas, who put in his papers recently to join GroupM as its South Asia CEO. Srinivas replaces Vikram Sakhuja, appointed the global CEO of Maxus, a GroupM agency, which will now be headquartered in India. Sakhuja, who will report directly to GroupM Global’s president, Dominic Proctor, will take up his new role later this year.

Srinivas, meanwhile, will take up his new assignment only next year. This will be Srinivas's second stint at GroupM. The last time he was with the agency was between 2003 and 2006 as MD India and APAC for Maxus. He says, "I look forward to taking up this role and going back to an organisation where I learnt the ropes. Mark (Patterson, APAC CEO GroupM) has outlined a vision for the business regionally and globally, which I look forward to participate."

Even as GroupM fills up its vacant positions, Cheil India, which handles a significant portion of Samsung's advertising business, is scouting for a new head. After a four-year stint with the agency, COO Alok Agarwal joined ZEE News recently as the channel’s new CEO following the exit of Barun Das, who was also with the broadcaster for four years.

In the interim, speculation is rife about the future course of action of Contract's chairman & chief creative officer, Ravi Deshpande, following the appointment of Colvyn Harris as JWT's CEO for South Asia, responsible for India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, as well as Contract, Hungama Digital Services, JWT Mindset and Encompass. Industry sources say Deshpande and Harris have never been at the best of terms and they have always politely moved on whenever faced with the prospect of having to work together.

Deshpande had moved out of Contract in 2000 during his first stint with the agency, which stretched for 13 years. This coincided with Harris’ entry into Contract as its president from JWT, Sri Lanka, where he was the managing director. When Harris moved out of Contract to take charge of JWT India as its CEO in 2004, Deshpande came back to the agency as chief creative officer. He was elevated to the post of Contract’s chairman in 2008.

Both Deshpande and Harris were not available for their comments. But most sector watchers are keeping their eyes and ears open for some action.

Another agency that most are watching closely these days is Aegis. This follows Japanese giant Dentsu's announcement in July that it was acquiring the UK-headquartered media group in a $5-billion deal.

The picture, however, remains unclear on how things will pan out in India. In a recent conversation with Business Standard, Rohit Ohri, executive chairman, Dentsu India Group, had said, "We are exploring the possibility of how Dentsu and Aegis can work together. The global acquisition will be completed by the end of this year. A clearer picture will emerge then.” Sources say the way forward will be clear soon, with the Dentsu and Aegis managements sitting in a series of meetings. The question also is about who will head the merged entity. Aegis in India is headed by media veteran Ashish Bhasin, designated its India chairman. He also has a regional responsibility as CEO of South East Asia for the Aegis Group.

On the other side, Divya Gupta, also a media veteran, is in charge of Dentsu Media as CEO.

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