India story takes a leap as Maxus sets up base here

Last Updated: Mon, Aug 20, 2012 19:22 hrs

GroupM’s decision to run the operations of its global media agency Maxus out of India is likely to trigger a similar reaction from rival networks.

The Martin Sorrell-controlled advertising and marketing services company has frequently taken the lead in reshaping the face of the industry, especially in the Asian region, where it has traditionally been ahead of the pack. Sorrell’s WPP was the first to consolidate its media operations under the GroupM umbrella in India, about a decade ago. Publicis and Omnicom followed suit. Now IPG, the fourth-largest advertising and marketing services company, has also consolidated its media operations under Mediabrands in the country.

At the Cannes advertising festival this year, Sorrell, group chief executive of WPP, minced no words when he said, “It would be arrogant for people in London or New York agencies to think they are at the centre of creativity. India and China rank up there with the best.”

Last week, Dominic Procter, who runs WPP’s media operations as president of GroupM Global, had appointed Vikram Sakhuja, GroupM’s South Asia chief executive officer (CEO) as Maxus global CEO. “There is no reason why agencies need to be run out of London or New York. The world is now a small town, and the fact that our management teams are spread around the globe is very fitting,” he was quoted as saying.

RECMA, which tracks media agency billings, named Maxus the fastest-growing media agency for three consecutive years. Maxus’ performance has been driven largely by the Asia-Pacific region, and agency insiders say this has now been recognised by GroupM’s global management.

Maxus’s clients in India include Vodafone, Nokia, Titan, L’Oreal and Google. The agency ranks third in terms of media agency billings in the country, after Mindshare and Madison Media,.

Industry executives say owing to abundant talent in the country and the growing importance of the region in the global scheme of things, international networks are beginning to look at the how best to leverage the Indian market.

“Today, most media agency honchos affiliated to international networks play a dual role,” says Ashish Bhasin, chairman (India) and CEO (Southeast Asia), Aegis Group. Bhasin has a regional, as well as an India-specific responsibility at Aegis, a leading media agency group headquartered in the UK. “With regional responsibilities, an executive’s management bandwidth increases significantly. This increases the possibility of him taking up a global position,” he says.

In June, former Mindshare chairman Ashutosh Srivastava was appointed chairman and CEO (global emerging markets) and global leader (products/services and talent development) at the agency. Former chief client officer R Gowthaman was appointed the agency’s CEO (South and Southeast Asia).

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