Another win-win digital equation

10 Aug,2012

 

By Johnson Napier and Robin Thomas

 

‘By 2015, we want to be the top 3 player in every single sphere we operate in’
 

What led you to shortlist Communicate2 as the partner of choice?

Communicate2 is one of the largest and oldest firms in the area of search & performance marketing in India. Vivek Bhargava, as you’d know, is considered to be the guru of search inIndia. He is also one of the guys to be Google-certified and has been in this business since 1997 – a time when the internet and search was in its absolute infancy. In our view, nobody else managed the quality and scale of the business that he has built up, and therefore he was a preferred partner of choice.

 

The other important reason for choosing Communicate2 was chemistry – Aegis Media has a certain vision and value outlook which is very close to our heart and Communicate2 seemed to have gelled very well with those attributes. There was a lot of comfort on both sides. So these were some of the key reasons for us to choose Communicate2.

 

Will you be laying enhanced emphasis on Search with the current acquisition…

The focus is on search because it is one of the fastest growing parts of our business. Clearly, Communiacte2 is the biggest player in the space and now with iProspect and Communicate2 together, we are straight away the number one player of search in India. So that’s how it is placed as of now.

 

How long has it been since you have been pursuing Communicate2? Did you scan the market for other potential candidates?

We were working with them about 4-5 years ago, but nothing more came out of that deal. This recent move has been in the works for a few months. Also, we did scan the market as anybody else would and we did have a few names that we shortlisted and we narrowed down to Communicate2.

 

The deal seems heavy on the investments front. Would you share with us the monetary plans you engaged in towards snapping the agency?

An agency that is the oldest and has a workforce of more than 130 people is not going to sell out cheap. I cannot disclose the amounts behind the deal, but I can say that it has been fairly priced.

 

The market has been abuzz with news of big communication houses buying out specialist digital agencies in the recent past. What would you infer of this trend that everybody is taking a liking to?

I cannot comment about others, but there is a clear strategy that Aegis Media believes in and that is by 2015, we want to be the top three player in every single sphere that we operate in – be it out-of-home, search or digital. As part of our strategy to be in the top 3, the best way of getting there was by partnering with Communicate2 because their expertise, their client base and their search professionals coupled with the iProspect tools and knowledge would be an unbeatable combination.

 

In an acquisition it is very important that you have to see how the acquisition fits with the plans of your company. So the task of integration becomes key, which is why the quality and type of people and the chemistry become important. So companies that are blindly going out and buying companies will fall flat on their face, but those who are able to acquire and integrate companies and have a great bond with the partners will be successful in the long run.

 

Globally, digital contributes more than 35 per cent for Aegis Media. What is it that you anticipate from the Indian market post the acquisition of Communicate2?

We are looking at being the clear No 1. Globally, iProspect is the world’s largest search network, and in India we now become No 1 with this venture. But we want to be No 1 by a long distance. We want to be double the size of the No 2 guy in a few years.

 

What are the immediate changes that will be seen on ground?

There is a new office that we are in the process of doing up in Mumbai; their staff will be moving into that new place soon. Likewise the Delhi team too would be amalgamated in our office. With this the entire Aegis Media clients will have benefits from Communicate2 and vice-versa.

 

As for people, Vivek will be the MD of the new venture. He already has a management team. Of course, as growth happens we will keep recruiting more people. All other aspects remain the same.

 

The announcement comes just weeks after Dentsu acquired a stake in Aegis Media. Has this deal been inspired from that takeover…

These things do not happen overnight; it has been ongoing much before that. The two are not related.

 

Future plans from Aegis Media…

As I said, we will be the top 3 player in every space that we operate in. In some instances we will do that organically, in others we will do that inorganically – provided we get a good partner. We are not on the lookout as of now but if any new opportunity does come up we will not be turning a blind eye to that.

No doubt people would talk about the number of medals won and the records that were broken in Olympics 2012; but what it will be most remembered for is the use of digital media, particularly social media. All of the Olympics events are being streamed live on YouTube for the first time; there has been an increase in the number of Facebook users and Twitter accounts and one can even get live news updates online. Even Google has been putting up doodles on its home page, giving users information and updates on the Olympic sport of the day. These are just few signs that digital has arrived.

 

The past few months have witnessed quite a few mergers and acquisitions in the digital space. Standalone digital agencies, particularly those with over four years of existence, are being acquired by larger advertising networks. Only recently Publicis Groupe has announced the acquisition of Resultrix, a digital marketing agency, with the aim of strengthening Publicis Groupe’s presence in India as well as its digital dominance. Prior to this, JWT, one of the leading advertising agency acquired a majority stake in Hungama Digital Services, the digital and promotions marketing division of Hungama Digital Media Entertainment. Also recently Gruner + Jahr, the publishing division of European media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG, acquired a majority stake in Network play,India’s digital ad network company.

 

On August 09, the media and digital communications group Aegis Group plc (“Aegis”) announced that it has acquired Communicate 2, a performance marketing and search agency in India.  With this acquisition, Aegis Media becomes one of the strongest agencies in the digital space in India. Communicate 2  will be merged into iProspect India’s existing operations; strengthening its network in key cities across India and providing additional service capabilities for its clients.

 

Speaking to MxMIndia about his views on the increasing trend of big communication houses buying standalone or specialist digital agencies, Mr Ashish Bhasin, Chairman India & CEO South East Asia, Aegis Media said: “I cannot comment about others, but there is a clear strategy that Aegis Media believes in and that is by 2015, we want to be the top three player in every single sphere that we operate in – be it out-of-home, search or digital. As part of our strategy to be in the top 3, the best way of getting there was by partnering with Communicate2 because their expertise, their client base and their search professionals coupled with the iProspect tools and knowledge would be an unbeatable combination.”

 

“In an acquisition it is very important that you have to see how the acquisition fits with the plans of your company. So the task of integration becomes key, which is why the quality and type of people and the chemistry become important. So companies that are blindly going out and buying companies will fall flat on their face, but those who are able to acquire and integrate companies and have a great bond with the partners will be successful in the long run,” he added.

 

Mr Vivek Bhargava, Managing Director, Communicate 2 was of the view that these are signs that digital media has arrived and that even brands have accepted this reality. “Digital marketing in India has now arrived. More promoters and senior management people now believe that digital is a very critical part of their marketing endeavour. So they are spending a lot of time around the medium. About 3-4 years ago we were talking about digital being the future and today digital is now considered as present. Earlier digital used to attract a small budget from marketers, but now they position it as their first priority and question whether they need conventional media or not.Mobilehas given digital three times the reach of television. So I believe digital is going to be the dominant medium in the future.”

 

MxMIndia also spoke to a few industry players to gauge their take on the recent mergers and acquisitions in the digital space, especially Aegis Media acquiring Communicate2′.

 

Anurag Gupta

According to Mr Anurag Gupta, MD, DGM India, it is a win-win situation for Aegis Media and Communicate 2: “Vivek Bhargava has done well for himself, he has created a fairly good outfit and the testimony for this is the fact that it has been acquired. This is a good sign. I believe that this trend will continue – most of the standalone digital agencies will get merged with larger offline agencies. Both search and performance advertising are growing robustly. In fact, a completely new category in digital has emerged in the past one and half years – e-commerce business. They are doing a lot of search and performance advertising, so there is lot of growth.”

 

Mr Amardeep Singh, Co-Founder and CEO, Interactive Avenues was also of the view that the Aegis acquiring Communicate2 is a win-win situation: “I believe it is a good move for both Aegis Media and Communicate2, as this kind of transaction will help Communicate2 to scale from where they are currently placed. It doesn’t matter whether an agency is part of, or not part of, a larger advertising networking, if it continues to operate as an independent agency despite being owned by a larger network then it retains its identity. Typically, a specialist agency is able to provide a holistic solution to the clients and everything happens in-house for them. What happens is that when an agency offers an offline as well as online service, the focus on digital is lost. A standalone digital agency is able to give its clients that much more focus than an agency which offers both offline and online services.”

 

So, while the Aegis Media acquiring Communicate 2 is seen as a win-win situation by industry players, it is also believed that this is just the beginning in the digital space.

 

‘It was a meeting of the best minds of the world’
 

The buzz was that you were being hounded by most big communication players in the market for a takeover and now you’ve finally given in to Aegis Media. How would you describe the takeover journey?

We had the opportunity to talk to every single large player and we found that the way the market is growing, there is going to be a lot of technology components required in it and iProspect globally has the best technology in the world. Also, we are a very dominant agency as far as search and performance marketing is concerned in India while iProspect was the world’s largest search company, so it was a meeting of the best minds of the world. The digital market in India has matured to the level where clients are looking for the best in the world and we felt that with the expertise that iProspect had to offer, it was a perfect solution to offer to our partners. And we endeavour to take decisions for our partners as much as it helps us.

 

What is your view on big communication players showing sudden interest in digital in India?

Digital marketing in India has now arrived. More promoters and senior management people now believe that digital is a very critical part of their marketing endeavour. So they are spending a lot of time around the medium. About 3-4 years ago we were talking about digital being the future and today digital is now considered as present. Earlier digital used to attract a small budget from marketers, but now they position it as their first priority and question whether they need conventional media or not.Mobilehas given digital three times the reach of television. So I believe digital is going to be the dominant medium in the future.

 

What is the value that you’d be leveraging from this partnership?

Globally if you see, there are clients like GM, Nokia, Philips and others who have operations in 60-70 countries and they are aligned with Aegis Media. I see tremendous opportunities there. As for us, we are a 140-people agency which makes us the largest digital agency in the country. So with the clients we have and with the kind of team we have in the enterprise sector, I see it as a perfect marriage of the two. I see tremendous value in the venture.

 

How have clients responded to this move of yours?

I had spoken to clients even before this venture and they seemed pretty positive about it. Also there is no change as such in the team and talent, so there was a comfort level there. Generally they are happy with the merger.

 

Do you see the gap between digital and advertising being bridged?

If you ask me the demarcation between digital and conventional media will probably go away. This is going to be an advertising agency and digital is going to be an integral part of the advertising medium, probably the largest. Demarcation is something that we have created for ourselves but it is about giving out advertising solutions.

 

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One response to “Another win-win digital equation”

  1. deepika rawat says:

    Thank you

    This blog is very knowledgeable Digital
    Marketing Agency

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