'We will get much more into entertainment and sports marketing'

Dominic Proctor, the man who launched MindShare Worldwide in September 1997, has seen the company grow to become the world’s largest media investment management company, with over 4000 employees in a network of 87 agencies. MindShare is a brand leader in a very competitive sector. It was recognised as “Global Agency of the Year” in both 2003 and 2004.

Proctor, who was in Mumbai last week as part of a mini-tour that would take him to the WPP analytics centre in Bangalore and New Delhi, took some time out for a chat with Indiantelevision.com about the state of the media business and MindShare's plans ahead.

And pretty ambitious plans they are, what with one-fourth of MindShare's revenues already coming in from Asia-Pacific, and expected to grow to "one-third in five years'' time, with China and India accounting for the bulk of it.


Ok, first off, what brings you to these parts?

India is a very big market for us. We have a number of agencies and around 400 people working here (out of 4,000 worldwide). We have had a change in the management (Ashutosh Srivastava taking over from Andre Nair). So I decided to spend a week in India. Bangalore, where we have a big local centre and Delhi are also on my itinerary.

The analytics centre in Bangalore will soon be the worldwide hub. It is a fantastic global resource. A lot of countries already use it. It is a very good quality of business.


MindShare, the result of the merging of Ogilvy & Mather's and J Walter Thompson's media specialists, became the world's largest media research, planning and buying company by end-2000. Where are you today in terms of global media market share and turnover?

The only real source for that kind of data is a French research company Recma. It measures the size of agencies. They say that we have $ 20 billion in billings. This makes us the number one agency in terms of volume.


Just how large is MindShare today and can it grow any further? Europe and US are saturated, so one would expect it is the Asia Pacific and South America where growth will come.

For Latin America we see huge growth in Mexico and Brazil. Not so much Argentina because of the economy. India, China, Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia are important areas of growth. Turkey might come after that. That is why we decided to put so much money into these markets. Of course in Asia, Indonesia and Taiwan are secondary to India and China.

Looked at from an advertising & media perspective, would you agree that India, in a sense is as sophisticated as the West in the way the business is managed.

I am not sure that India is mature in an economical and financial sense. It is mature in the processes and analytics senses as well as relative intelligence and business sophistication. It is a growing market but behaving like a grown up.

How does India stack up when compared to China?

China would be 50 per cent bigger than India in terms of volume.


What do you see as the key growth areas in India?

We want to increase our market share. We want to win big businesses. Our growth will come from diversifying our product.

We will definitely broaden the services of the Bangalore centre. We will increase our general research businesses like consumer research. We will get much more into sports marketing and entertainment. Sports marketing is limited in India due to the dominance of cricket in India. Linking our clients with film, studio and television is an area that has enormous potential.

These tie-ups for the future are not just about product placement or sponsorship. Our aim is to invest in films whether it is a pure financial play or as a barter agreement for international distribution for skewing content towards brand structure.


Outside cricket which is cluttered is there scope for sports marketing?

We have to find new ways to use cricket. Then you have upcoming tennis and racing players. The base of sports could broaden. However cricket could dominate forever. If (Sania) Mirza and (Narain) Karthikeyan can carry the flag they will be rich people.

"MindShare's growth has been organic and not through acquisitions"

There are some common threads or obsessions if one may call them that that run through all WPP companies: growth through launching of new business units and acquiring of companies. This in turn would help grow new business by pulling in the best talent. Is that the core philosophy?

WPP is a group of individual operating companies. MindShare's growth has been organic and not through acquisitions. The WPP's strategy is that each company should run autonomously. WPP has no intention of being an ad agency itself. It is a parent company with lots of children. They play together and fight together. Sometimes if there is a pitch like HSBC the companies come together for that pitch. However that is not a strategy that dominates our businesses.

WPP companies pride themselves on being channel agnostic. You have operating systems that look at different parameters --- who are the consumers, what are their brand needs, core values, core messages and a whole host of other elements to throw up solutions. All fine, but how useful are such tools in China for instance where for one brand you would need 100 different media plans for 100 different cities?

Systems in those markets are only a guiding light. Media is still governed, I would hope, intuitively. However systems can back up common sense judgment. A system can help make the call between two competing opportunities. Essentially our clients are not paying to scientifically lead them down a path. It is a combination of art and science, intuition and systems. The balance between the two depends on the client and the market. That is not to say that we should not continue to develop systems so that we can make better judgments in a fragmented market like China.

What drives our planners has got much more to do with insight rather than systems. The insight is very often born out of research and data. Sometimes it is born through observation. We spend a lot of money on proprietary research that brings insights into our clients brands and how brand consumers use the media.


Do you have any specific examples on how a local sensitivity can design or impact on a global pitch, brand?

The way the global strategy was executed locally for Dove is an example. Local activation must be absolutely appropriate to that market. Strategy may be global but activation is and has to be local.


Make different media act together. That has been the major focus for MindShare. There is an issue I have though. And that is the threat of sameness creeping in. The one size fits pretty much all line of action. What this often leads to is lack of differentiation. And as you yourself have put it at one time - "a gap of distinction".

It is the responsibility for creative agencies to differentiate the brand. However it is media as well. There are different applications for mass products for using mass media like television. That is different from news companies like yours that can target accurately and can send me specific information on sports teams I follow or stocks that I am interested in. It depends on the product or brand territory you are in. It is just as important for the media to be distinctive and not just the brand messages they carry. In India you have 200 television channels. How many of them are distinctive from the other? Is it a morass of similar channels carrying similar programmes?

"The trouble is that the media is so gossipy that it forgets that it is there to serve the consumers"

The consolidation for the media business worldwide has gone hand in hand with consolidation of the media ownership side all over the world. But whereas in many countries there is a social and political resistance to all this cultural homogenization, aren't the same fears equally relevant in the case of advertising media?

I would say that there is differentiation. Fox News has become a different proposition from the other networks like CNN. Therefore it is the most successful as they have taken a point of distinction. You might not like it as it is oppressive but they have capitalised on their distinctiveness.


Take another instance. In radio, which is such a local friendly medium, you have media behemoths standardising their product offerings.

Radio is a consumer market. They will develop to suit the needs of the consumer. The media sometimes is so introspective that it spends too much time looking at itself most of the time. Market forces will tell you that the media will programme their content to the consumer. The trouble is that the media is so gossipy that it forgets that it is there to serve the consumers.

Which brings me to a related question. What are the challenges facing the international media agencies?

The challenge is to continue the trends of getting higher up the marketing hierarchy. Media agencies started in low positions. In the last five years because they have invested in research into clients brands they are much further up the hierarchy. Our ambition is to be lead marketing partners for our clients. We are on our way to achieving a higher status. We are trying to make our businesses more strategically relevant. Our next aim is to broaden what we do. It is about getting into data management in Bangalore or getting into sports marketing. Looking at non conventional areas and getting beyond the traditional usage of media is a priority.

How is MindShare distinctive?

It is difficult to achieve this in a service company. It comes in a hard form in terms of products or in a soft form in terms of our culture. Our distinctive is in the form of a global network. We are one office in 100 locations. Our business base is global or international clients. I think that we will be more distinctive in terms of the breadth of services. On the softer side it is a cultural thing. I think that MindShare is an international glocal network in the way it operates.

That drives a certain cultural difference too. Our people in China and India feel that they are part of a global family. The execution of business is done locally. We have become the airline industry's favourite customer. We do so many conferences. We move people from country to country. We interact with each other daily. This the best way to have a uniform progressive culture. You cannot achieve a global culture by just sending PowerPoint presentations from one end to the other.

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