Nick Emery, Global CEO, Mindshare talks of key leadership changes, the evolving client-agency relationship, digital transformation, the India market and more...
BY NAZIYA ALVI RAHMAN
(With inputs from Beryl Menezes)
Nick Emery, Global CEO of Mindshare, was in India recently as part of Mindshare’s APAC Huddle meet – an annual knowledge-sharing event which sees participation from across Mindshare’s global markets – and apart from overseeing some leadership changes across the agency, one of the observations he had to make is how he shares an ‘intuitive understanding’ with his India team.
The past year has indeed been a very rewarding one for Mindshare. From winning a plethora of awards across leading industry award platforms, and ranking third amongst the most awarded agencies, according to Gunn Media 100 Report 2018, to completing 20 successful years of operations in 2017, Mindshare has been on a roll. However, more than the awards and accolades, the media agency has been able to hold forth and stay relevant with increasing client wins thanks to its quick adaptation to client needs, especially on the Digital front, which is where Mindshare Fast, the data and analytics digital platform of the company, plays a major role. Last month, Mindshare also launched Mindshare 24, an ideation service which aims to turn around client briefs within 24 hours.
Mindshare’s India business - with five offices across the country in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata - is on an aggressive growth path, and according to Ashutosh Srivastava, Chairman & CEO, AMEA/Russia/Emerging Markets, Mindshare, India is one of the top three leading markets, which is growing at a faster pace than most other emerging markets. To strengthen its leadership, Mindshare recently elevated Amrita Randhawa as CEO, Mindshare, Asia Pacific and Prasanth Kumar as CEO, Mindshare, South Asia, Middle East and Africa.
Here, Nick Emery, Global CEO of Mindshare, talks about these and other key leadership changes, as well as what it means to be one of the oldest media agencies and yet stay on top of the game, the evolving clientagency relationship, the changing role of media agencies, digital transformation, his view of the India market and more...
Q] In November 2017, Mindshare completed 20 years. Two decades is quite a landmark, making you one of the oldest firms in the media agency business. What does it mean for you?
It’s just a number. It is important to remind the company who we are. We are a company which is a start-up launched in Asia, still run by the people who started it, and designed to service global clients. So all those things are still relevant but need to be adapted and enhanced. It’s good to remind people that startups can do things that other companies cannot. Companies that have a legacy of being in New York or London tend to be a little less creative in dynamics and lack ambition. So I’m proud that we’re an Asian company and also proud that we’re a start-up and don’t want to change the company. What we want to do is adapt. Not necessarily that 20 years is important. The excuse to celebrate - that is important.
Q] Sir Martin Sorrell has time and again said he is ‘bullish on India’. Where do you place India as a market in the global scheme of things for Mindshare? Also, how has Mindshare India done as compared to other markets globally?
The way we have structured our business, there are four top global markets and India is one of them. India is also a very creative market. When I talk to PK (Prasanth Kumar) and the team here, there’s always an intuitive understanding, and we’re always on the same wavelength in terms of how we are growing and developing business and strategies. It’s almost like we’re twins in terms of the same kind of group approaches and tools and systems. And I see a potential here in the digital market to grow. The way the digital market is growing, there is definitely potential in terms of digital penetration, infrastructure and also growth of digital spends.
Q] There have been some key appointments and change of roles at Mindshare India in the last few weeks. Anything in particular that has led to these changes? What are the outcomes that you are expecting now?
More of the same, because India is an incredibly successful market and you have to constantly adapt, change, promote and recognize people to keep that momentum. So that’s the reason behind the changes. Also, what I want is what India always does; which is to prove at a global level what the team here can achieve. Every couple of weeks, there is an allstaff email based on some celebration of some Indian award, new business win or structure or change or new campaign. But there is something that I want from all markets, which is great ideas that make a difference to our clients’ businesses.
Q] As Global CEO of a leading agency, what according to you are some of the biggest challenges towards fostering a healthy client-agency relationship in today’s times?
Trust... we have to be our client’s best business partner. You do that by making sure that you are constantly on their side, you’re fighting for them, looking for opportunities to grow their business. All of this stems from growth. Them approving what you do as a measure for return on investment. You share their pain and are constantly looking for new ways and interesting ways to go to market. That involves the right people. The people that challenge your questions with the right tools and equipment to do them.
Q] Sir Martin Sorrell termed Google and Facebook as frenemies. Have the frenemies become a larger threat in the last couple of years?
I don’t see them as a threat, but there is an analogy as to how business was 20 years ago. There were big TV barons which squeezed the life out of our clients’ budgets. And now we have big Internet giants, who are looking into not only controlling some of the advertising money but also sometimes at destroying their businesses. So as of now, we have both anarchy as well as opportunity. Thus, to conclude, I won’t say that they are a threat but an opportunity to reach out to people; as long as clients control their data, their ambition and know what they’re doing.
Q] How do you see the role of consultancies such as Accenture or McKenzie shape up in a market like India? Are they potential competition to your role as advisors and partners to clients in India too, as seen in other markets?
I think they’re potential competition to help clients who are struggling with digital marketing transformation, because they can market themselves that way. I think what is interesting is that because we live and breathe the media business, we can help them to implement things. We can help them to understand how the media market works. The media market is different and there is a certain limit to their understanding.
Q] Do you agree that the media agency business never truly evolved its business model and is still relying on scale and volume and offering better rates as strengths? If yes, why do you think this has not changed and will it in the future? If no, what are your reasons to disagree? Why are agencies of scale still considered among the strongest?
No, I don’t. The core of the business is still scale and it is still relevant especially in India, where we look at TV as 45% share and digital as 20% share. So it is still a core part of our business and the idea to take up a message and disseminate it to the right audience is absolutely important. Scale has a different role to play when it comes to the digital arena where it is much more about how you secure the best inventory and make sure that they have the best ability at the fore to represent to your clients. But if you look at the agency make-up now, pretty much half the revenue is coming from sources outside of the use of that scale. So if you’re looking at analytics, content-creation, insights, research, retail, e-commerce – in all these areas, it’s not just about scale. The make-up of Mindshare now is very different from what it was. When Mindshare started off, you had three jobs. You could be a planner, a buyer or a researcher. Now you can write codes, create programmes, do global content deals, work with shoppers and e-commerce. Furthermore, you can do IP, work with influencer marketers, and create your own blog/media. It is pretty limitless and is very different from how it used to be.
Q] There has been an ongoing debate on the role of agencies – creative or media – as to whether they are still seen as partners by marketers or as suppliers. In your experience, how has this equation evolved over the years?
What has strategically changed is content optimization. Twenty years ago, you might have been managing a 60-second spot across two months. Now you can manage 50,000 ads in the course of a week potentially. So that inevitably involves a different relationship and a change of that relationship. So it might be a closer union increasingly for clients.
Q] In its very first edition in India, Mindshare Huddle has come up with a theme around ‘disruption’. What do you think are three major disruptions that the media industry is grappling with?
I’ll bucket this into three areas. There’s brand and demand that have their expertise put together in the brand area and also they demand addressable outcome to the world. How they work globally and locally - that is a response to a world where we have giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google and all the rest. Also, how we work across those will be tailored by the clients. It’s about the usual things we hear about - big Internet/tech players. Amazon, especially from most clients is the big disruptor.
Q] There is a lot of discussion here around ‘asymmetry being a force for social change and need for asymmetrical leadership and workplace’. How much do you agree with these statements?
Asymmetry is being part of what media agencies do. But it is about negotiation. It’s about what is your competitive advantage when you are negotiating. It’s about what you know you ought to pay, versus what vendors sell for. It goes back in terms of the old tradition of media agencies in terms of TV trading. Now the exchange and asymmetry is different because it is a value exchange that we’re having. It is a different creation of what that is. How you create competitive advantage for your client is essential. So it is a route for our business. It is about how we understand what clients need and translate those into the best of marketing exposure.