Submitted by admin on Sat, 06/17/2017 - 16:57

Steve King, Global CEO, Publicis Media, on his very exciting journey over the last 18 months including the ‘big five’ consolidation, leveraging AI, and the importance of being a ‘connector’



Steve King, Global Chief Executive Officer of Publicis Media, has been a busy man for the last 18 months. King who has been with the network in various roles since 1988, led the formation of Publicis Media, which comprised five global Brands—Starcom, Zenith, Mediavest | Spark, Blue449, and Performics and donned his current role in January last year. He describes the last 18 months as exhausting, relentless, and very exciting.

“Our structure was too complicated; we have simplified our story and structure, and now moved to a single P&L structure where one works with a common goal. We created a new model; scaled up and leveraged our capabilities. The truth is, if our clients are being disrupted and we are to help them transform, we better transform ourselves first,” shares King.

Interestingly enough, he confesses to not have expected the success he has seen in this role when he took it on, and one of the factors was that he was being cautious and did want to over-claim or over-commit, what with him also having seen a lot of mergers that did not meet success.

“See, we were putting distinct cultures together and a larger number of mergers are usually failures. We had three distinctive good businesses, and we were going to create a single business in each market with a good leader, I thought maybe the cultures would overpower the simplicity of the business and come in the way of the changes we wanted to make, but I was wrong in terms of the business in media, there have been no issues. I have been surprised with this growth and it was embraced very positively,” he explains. Here are edited excerpts from a conversation with King:

Q] What are two lessons you can share of your experience over the last 18 months?

I really feel you must have a combination of IQ and EQ. Today the world is so complex and you may feel you need more IQ, but the truth is EQ today plays a far more important role in connecting with the management and various segments. You need to be a connector, and maybe I have a strength in that area, it is ultimately a people’s business.

Q] How much does India contribute to global revenues?

Publicis Media India is nearly $1 billion in billings and is ranked #2 in APAC, in the Publicis Media Network, according to RECMA

Q] What is the growth rate for Publicis Media in the last 18 months?

It is easily three or four times the market growth rate and we intend to continue on that momentum and the drivers for that have been our acquisitions that have done very well for us. We have invested in areas we feel are important and we had a good run with our events. We have been growing three times for the last three years but it is more credible now because when you grow at that rate then your base also grows, we have grown at 40 per cent, roughly.

Q] What are the growth and revenue targets for next year, in India?
We expect to grow at minimum double the market rate.

Q] How has this transformation of Publicis Media helped? What have been the tangible business advantages?

With our transformation, Publicis Media has established strong leadership, streamlined and scaled capabilities and redefined our brand proposition, which has led to a very successful first year. In terms of new business, we have $7+ billion billings of new businesses won, which includes P&G, Coty, Molson Coors, Fiat Chrysler, Mars, Visa, Bel and Merck.

Q] With the onset of the artificial intelligence revolution, what role do you think media agencies will play in the future marketing landscape?

With machine learning and automation coming to the forefront of our industry, it is imperative that media agencies make investment in AI so that we are not just serving a transactional service. AI is the most disruptive technology, accelerating from $589MM to $5+ billion in the last five years. In fact it has been the most disruptive in telecoms, airlines, consumer electronics, automotive and fast food categories, according to the Predictor Study. AI will automate processes driving more efficiencies and faster connectivity of marketing data with enterprise data, resulting in shifts in marketing department structures. A first, Zenith launched machine learning algorithms for our client, Aviva wherein we precisely attributed sales conversions to specific digital interactions and optimised external media activity. This resulted in brand benefit from 6% CPQ improvement on car searches and 10% improvement in CPQ on display advertising.

Q] What are your plans for the agency in India?

We look to further leverage our data, technology and performance marketing capabilities for clients in India. We have good foundation on which to build. For example, for India clients such as Airtel, IDFC and Lenovo, data is central to planning and delivery. To give you an example of this is our Maggi #WeMissYouToo campaign. After Maggi had to be taken off the shelves and advertising halted, Zenith partnered with Maggi to identify brand evangelist segments (43% of conversations were about how consumers were missing Maggi), we began segmenting loyalists—those who lived away from home and those interested in fast food, and launched targeted video campaign about missing Maggi, extended it to Twitter, YouTube. On Facebook, we were among first brands in India to target users, based on household composition. In this case, (we) created a cluster Housemate Households i.e. users living together with friends. We empathised with loyalists telling them we missed them too with the hashtag #WeMissYouToo, this resulted in positive sentiment increasing from 43% to 90%, and this campaign also won Festival of Media APAC Gold ‘17, Indian Marketing Awards ’16.

Today the world is so complex and you may feel you need more IQ, but the truth is EQ today plays a far more important role in connecting with the management and various segments.

Q] How does Publicis Media approach the sensitive subject of brand safety for clients, a critical issue in today’s times?

Firstly, we have made trust central to building Publicis Media, alongside Talent and Transformation. It’s central to how we operate and our offering. We have established ourselves at forefront of rigorous brand safety, viewability and verification standards and protocols for working with media owners as the media and technology landscape continues to rapidly change. Some specific ways we ensure brand safety include:

i. Integrations with leading third party verification vendors for we are involved in the Facebook Measurement Council to achieve MRC (Media Council Rating) accreditation for their metrics and encourage their acceptance of advertisers’ selection of MRC accredited third party metrics

ii. Publicis Groupe Verified vetting

iii. Human CPM (hCPM)

Q] What are the game changing factors for the communications industry today? How is Publicis Media positioned to have an edge in this scenario?

Clients today are looking for simplicity. With Publicis Media’s new structure driven by five global brands and our global practices, we are able to deliver that for clients. We feel very passionately about removing silos. We believe in the Power of One – uniting creative, media, tech and healthcare around unique client needs. Our global practices help drive innovation and transformation for our brands around the world. Some of our practises include:

i. Business Transformation blends media sensibility, technical capability and marketing expertise to advise clients on how to apply imagination and innovation to the media strategy process.

ii. Content provides agile content solutions

iii. Performance drives performance capability throughout brands

iv. DTI serves up continued innovation through its engineering team and tech development

v. A&I –provides an analytics backbone to much of our work and proprietary tools

vi. Investment –powers our programmatic w/a centralised approach to investment


We are not looking to acquire just for scaling up: Anupriya Acharya 


Anupriya Acharya, CEO, Publicis Media India tells us why Zenith’s investment and over indexing on future capabilities comes in handy, in a disruptive market place today, insights behind changes made in the past one year and more… Here are edited excerpts from a conversation with Acharya:


Q] How much has the business grown over the past one year?  

Over the previous year, Publicis Media has won many businesses such as Parle products, Citibank, Mars, Fiat Chrysler, ZTE Mobile, Citrus Pay, Lazypay, Luminous, OnePlus, Singapore Tourism Board, Fox Networks, Mahindra Holidays and Bombay Dyeing, amongst others. By December last year, only in nine months, we had won more than Rs 1000 crore of new business. Since then, we have won many more.

Q] What are the acquisitions you are looking at in India?

We are looking at acquisitions, but only if there is a strategic fit. It should enhance our capabilities significantly and make a substantial difference to our current offering.  Just like the last two acquisitions – Resultrix and Convonix – gave us a tremendous head start in Performance Marketing. We are not looking to acquire just for scaling up. We are amongst top networks here with an adequate size and do not need acquisitions just for scaling up. We are interested in future-facing areas and in companies that are agile, inventive and innovative. We will explore acquisitions in areas such as digital, mobile, tech.

Q] What are the growth and revenue targets for next year?

The exact annual target setting for next year will happen next quarter. However, we are very ambitious – we expect to grow at minimum double the market rate.

Q] What are the changes you have made as the India CEO in the past one year?

I took on this role in April last year and with it came significantly higher scale and responsibility. We needed to re-engineer ourselves in line with our global vision of simplifying our organisation, invent more modern approaches to gain effectiveness and efficiencies, introduce structures for greater collaboration, and drive new levels of client value and delight.

We made appointments in key positions and almost all positions were filled from within the organisation. We moved into one P&L quite quickly and that has brought about extensive efficiencies. Consolidation on scale helped us with better conversations in shaping the media market and also brought in economies of investment to Data, Analytics and Research. We have been able to invest even more in the future facing capabilities like Business Transformation, Content, Personalisation at scale and the like.

These changes have been backed by a lot of training across levels on specialist roles, relevant skills as well as soft skills like collaboration, team building et al, all of which have helped people settle into new structures and roles.

These changes have been very well received in the market, both by clients and partners. The number of businesses that we have won in the last 12 months is testimony to it. On the back of these wins, we have been able to phenomenally expand across all our branches – Delhi was always big for us, now we are back to leadership position in Delhi. More importantly the wins have given us the opportunity to really bolster our Mumbai and Bangalore operations. We have brought on board some great talent across levels and significantly increased our bench strength on senior roles.

Q] Where do you see in the Publicis Media in India in a year’s time?

We will continue on this momentum, our strategic choices here are clear – focus on being a leader in future capabilities – whether it is through in-house expertise building or through strategic acquisitions. 

 As the disruption in the market increases, marketers need to sell to an even more digitally empowered consumer. It is here that our over investment and over indexing on future capabilities comes in handy. We are more successful than others in winning – not only new clients but also in expanding our relationships with our own clients.

Our Business Transformation practice is already seeing good traction in the market – with businesses getting disrupted across the board, the need of the hour is solving business challenges for clients.


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