JWT acquires majority stake in Social Wavelength

28 Mar,2014


By A Correspondent


Leading marketing communications agency network JWT has agreed to acquire a majority stake in leading social media agency Social Wavelength.


Social Wavelength is a Mumbai-headquartered full-service social media agency specialising in social media offerings right from strategy to execution that includes social media marketing, online reputation management, social CRM and social media for HR.


“JWT’s acquisition of Social Wavelength is a logical confluence of social media and mainline expertise, coming together to create integrated communication for brands. The rich experience of five years that we have, in this young industry of social and digital media, will find the next leap of growth, through this partnership,” said Hareesh Tibrewala and Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEOs and promoters of Social Wavelength.


Established in 2009, the agency now has over 170 professionals servicing over 50 brands across their offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai.


“We want to be a critical resource partner across the many solutions we provide to our clients. As we continue to relentlessly transform our offerings, Social Wavelength adds a huge dimension to our existing clients and the brands we steward,” said Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT South Asia. This is JWT’s second digital agency acquisition in India, the first being Hungama in June 2012.


Acquisition part of JWT plan to be future-ready: Colvyn Harris 

A quick chat with Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT South Asia on the Social Wavelength acquisition and whether he is looking at any more buys in the future.


01. This is the second digital agency that JWT has acquired in India. Would you be looking at acquiring any more soon? Or is this it?

We are transforming the JWT group of companies to be future-ready. And digital is an important part of the mix. We have a definite roadmap on digital and while Hungama has been doing well, when it came to social media, we were looking at a good agency and Social Wavelength was the answer. So, in future, if something good comes along and if we find that we are unable to develop skills and build capabilities and if we think it’s better to acquire, we will do that.


02. Social Wavelength is known more for work on the implementation and execution than strategising for brands and corporates. Will it stay that way?

If you look at a specialised space like social media, the strategy that you develop is what you need to execute. Typically, the creative agency will look at the brand and its personality, while Social Wavelength will look at the social media implementation. Now that it is part of JWT, if we identify opportunities for our clients, Social Wavelength will definitely be able to deliver on that proposition. Also, they have their own clients for which they have been doing work and will continue to do so.


03. Would you see India becoming a hub for servicing digital deliveries for other JWT offices?

Across the globe, JWT has many digital offerings. In fact there’s a major global push that we have on digital. On being a hub, it all depends on what are the skills we can offer and if there is a requirement for then from within the JWT or WPP fold…


04. With digital in most agency set-ups being a full-service activity, we now have creative agencies doing media work and vice versa. As an advertising industry veteran, do you think we are headed in the direction where all agencies will turn full-service?

That may not happen. Media agencies have gone far ahead of the curve. Both media and digital agencies have developed and invested a fair deal expertise. But the client is central to our work so if it means working within the JWT or within the WPP fold, we work very seamlessly.


05. You acquired Mindset in Hyderabad two years back, Hungama after that and now Social Wavelength. Would JWT be looking at any other acquisition? Any other business – new or old – that you would like to be looking at growing inorganically?

In JWT, we believe in planning and we have considerable depth in that. Encompass is part of JWT which takes care of activation and big events. But yes, there are areas like mobile and analytics which are growing. We put the client’s business at the centre of what we do and where we identify a gap, we will definitely try and close that gap.


‘The JWT structure enables us to continue to be entrepreneurial and reasonably independent: Sanjay Mehta

Q&A with Sanjay Mehta, co-founder and Joint CEO, Social Wavelength


01. One more homegrown digital firm gets gobbled up. Wouldn’t it have been nicer for you to have stayed independent rather than become a part of a large global advertising network?

Well, that’s always a dilemma for any entrepreneur. We weighed the pros and cons of the two options, and found it more exciting to join hands with a global major and grow faster.


The WPP / JWT structure enables us to continue to be entrepreneurial and reasonably independent, and yet derive the benefits of a larger agency network. That looked like a good option for us.


02. Is this (getting acquired by an international biggie) the only way to go for digital independents?

Certainly not. One can remain independent and grow. Will there not be a Madison in the digital world? Why not? There would be one (or more) and it could be maturing even as I write this.


03. From when did you start looking towards getting acquired? And how did the entire process start and how much time did it take?

We were not consciously looking to get acquired. In the sense that we never mandated someone to find us an acquiring prospect, etc. We did have a few conversations which were all proactive and direct. We were prepared to look at opportunities that came our way, without being in any rush of any kind, as we were growing well, on our own steam. But we were open to strike a deal, if we found the proposal interesting. This one turned out to be that type.


As for the process, it has taken several months, and we believe it was worth the time. As any relationship involves the getting-to-know-each-other phase, and the time was well utilised for the same.


04. Is the choice of JWT a case of whoever gave the best price or is there also a fitment of cultures?

We were genuinely very happy with the chemistry we saw with the folks at JWT. And that was the driving force. There are many other factors, including what the association can create together, and how it can yield benefit to us, over time. And sure, there was a factor of the right price too.


05. What happens now with Social Wavelength being part of JWT?

First of all, Social Wavelength remains an independent unit and continues to run its business completely independently. Operationally, some processes of WPP / JWT do get into place, but for most parts, we run the business like we have been doing. Quite independently.


What we do get is the benefit of JWT’s local and global reach of clients, the best practices, the knowledge resources, etc. Which we reckon, will propel us to higher levels of growth, rapidly.


06. Will there be synergies with the Hungama part of the business?

Yes, there are plans to have a great working set up between JWT, Hungama and Social Wavelength. Details will be figured out as we run the course over the next few weeks.



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