While Omnicom Media Group continues growing as a challenger brand in the media agency space in India, its APAC CEO, Tony Harradine, has prioritised adding an FMCG player to its client roster.
In a conversation with Campaign India, about its Indian operations, Harradine claimed that the sheer spending volumes of FMCGs in India, make them desirable.
"The spending volumes that FMCGs contribute to the Indian marketplace are significant. So our desire for another major FMCG to bring into the portfolio remains a key part of our ambition. One of the big telcos would be a good target for us as well," he said.
Harradine also called for clients in India to look at value outside of television.
"One of the elements that we need to overcome in India, and as a challenger, it's on us to educate the market, that value is no longer merely derived from leveraging TV networks with big volume. Value has become more democratised," stated Harradine.
He further added that digitisation, technology, measurement and attribution have levelled the playing field, but OMG’s competitors in India, are still playing clients and stating that if they leave the ‘buying club as it is, they will lose clout’, which causes paranoia among them.
He explained, “That couldn't be further from the truth. We've got the proof points to show that we were very successful to maintain that sort of value, despite being smaller. A client-first approach that leverages smart and advanced capabilities will always deliver fair value in the client's favour.”
The challenger brand in India
Harradine was in Mumbai last month to meet with the leadership team, which has seen changes over the last three years.
After meeting with them and the rest of the team, Harradine is confident of the agency’s operations in the country.
"In terms of its value, India is huge. It is a critical part of our growth story. If you look at the market itself, the trajectories are solid. In terms of GDP, it is now the fifth largest in the world, having overtaken the UK. Consumer confidence looks reasonable. With its combination of high growth relative to other markets, as well as current and future scale, it does look relatively bullish for us," he said.
With this team in place, he believes that the group’s media operations can take the position of an ‘offensive challenger’.
He explained, “We do remain a challenger in India. We entered the media specialist business a little later than our competitors. This presents us with a strong opportunity to take an offensive challenger position. We're offering exciting opportunities to talent in the market and are offering high growth and a steep learning curve. I think it's an attractive proposition to be a global corporation with a high-growth mindset. From a size perspective, we do have the ambition to fulfil.”
To achieve this, the agency has bagged the mandates of Acko General Insurance, Phillips Domestic Appliance and Jaguar Land Rover India.
On the growth, Harradine stated, “In 2022 and the early parts of 2023, we have had a lot of wins not just in India, but also in the APAC region and globally. We want that to continue. Arguably, some of the wins globally may not have been as relevant for us in India as they are in other parts of Asia. For instance, we have done well in the luxury sector with Burberry and Chanel to name two. The auto market has been strong for us too, and that's very big for us in North Asia.”
Road map ahead
While Harradine did not completely rule out acquisitions, he stated that organic growth has been the preferred route for growth for India to date.
“Historically, Omnicom Media Group's approach in India has been more organic. That doesn't mean to say that we haven't looked. In my time, there have been several acquisitions that have been put forward and explored. We've made the call that the companies we've looked at probably weren't an ideal fit upon further due diligence,” he said.
On the acquisition topic, he added, “Other than the new and exciting clients and advanced capabilities that you're looking to bring in, you've also got to think about the cultural fit to know if it can be succinctly integrated. Here, I think some holding groups have done a better job than the others in this space.”
Global group CEO, John Wren has been bullish about AI and claimed that OMD is aiming to embrace it as quickly as possible.
Harradine added that while AI does provide clear opportunities, its capabilities need to be carefully reviewed.
“You need to carefully review AI before syncing it into your business to complement your workforce in the right way. Advanced AI needs to complement what you have with the ambition to exponentially improve the services that you provide your clients and to allow us as a business to exponentially grow it,” he said.
He added, “As capabilities evolve quickly, and they are evolving at a rate of knots, we're moving to empower our people with the tools and knowledge to help navigate the new landscape. We want to leverage these capabilities, both ethically and responsibly. So to make sense of these developments, and to ensure its application is used in the right way to maximise outputs for business growth and client business growth, we've set up an AI task force.”
OMG’s AI task force brings together talent from across the network to help articulate its strategy and design its roadmap for capabilities to transform the agency.
Data privacy, transparency and talent are the three biggest challenges in the space according to the APAC CEO.
"These things are not new but will continue to be a focus for the industry at large. The talent equation is always going to be key in our business. We are a people-based industry and that is our biggest and most valuable asset. How we can better improve our culture and environment, and improve work-life balance is an ongoing challenge too. Covid changed the game largely. With it came some more flexibility like remote working, but the separation between work and home life became very blurred," he said.
Talking about retaining talent, he added, "How we retain talent is another big area of concern. In India and across our markets in APAC, we have been swift to respond to these issues with numerous initiatives around training and personal development. Ultimately, one has to look at what motivates an individual to pick our business over others. You not only want to bring in the right people, but you also want to keep them. That's the name of the game."