Will injection of new leadership take ZenithOptimedia to the national level?

ZenithOptimedia-careersAt the recent media pitch of a multinational brand, Publicis Groupe’s ZenithOptimedia (ZO) was in for a rude shock when it got ousted from the final rounds in spite of a presentation that was acknowledged to be good. The stumbling block was geography. Or more specifically, its restricted presence outside of Delhi.

This may well have been the proverbial last straw. The first move towards correcting the situation has been getting on board Anupriya Acharya, a media-veteran in the newly created role of the group chief executive, ZO. Her mandate includes all the network’s companies: ZenithOptimedia, Resultrix (performance marketing), Ninah (analytics), Newcast (branded content) and to oversee the integration of these services into a seamless offering.

ZENITHOPTIMEDIA PROVIDES RETURN ON INVESTMENT TO ALL ITS CLIENTS.  WE MAKE THE SAME PROMISE TO OUR PEOPLE: IN RETURN FOR THEIR UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION WE OFFER THEM THE TRAINING, SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT THEY NEED TO CREATE A CAREER PATH THAT INSPIRES THEM.

It is common knowledge that unlike in many other markets, Publicis Groupe’s media business with ZO and SMG (Starcom MediaVest Group) has been on a relatively weak wicket in India. The French group has been on an acquisition and expansion spree — even before the Publicis Omnicom Group deal was announced — in an attempt to play catch-up in a market dominated by WPP’s GroupM.

ZenithOptimediaGroupSignificantly Acharya’s previous experience was at GroupM as leader of Team Unilever South Asia with Mindshare. She has previously been CEO of Aegis Media, Singapore and prior to that, president, The Media Edge, India (also known as TME).

Just a couple of weeks into her new role, she admits the priorities are quite different from what they used to be: “It is to do with the diversity of clients as well as that of our offerings and products. Financial performance and raising the ZO group’s brand profile are the other key areas.”

To give credit where it is due, ZO which began in early 2000 on the back of a single client Hewlett Packard, is now a 300 plus people operation out of Gurgaon and Mumbai, with a roster that includes Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser and Micromax. To ramp up its digital offering, it acquired Resultrix in 2012.

One of the biggest challenges is to shake off the tag of being a Delhi-Gurgaon agency, even while it wears the badge of being the largest media shop in that market with pride. A rival agency head, on condition of anonymity says addressing this is likely to be Acharya’s trickiest challenge. And then, there’s the buzz about the agency having under-priced its services, especially to a well-known multinational FMCG.

However, Acharya enters ZO at a time for rejuvenation not just in India but across the region.

Gerry Boyle has been entrusted with the task as the chief executive for Asia Pacific operations of the agency. An old hand in the ZO system, he says, “It’s no great secret that we need to scale our business geographically which will require a combination of organic growth and acquisition.”

Specifically, the areas that ZO is focusing on are content marketing and modelling. The appetite for high quality content is huge and the mobile platform offers immense scale. Hopes are riding high for Ninah, so much so that as per Boyle, it could eventually become a regional and even global centre of excellence, based out of India.

According to Acharya, “40% of our group revenues come from digital and I can guarantee this mix is going to change pretty dramatically every year.” This confidence stems from the fast changing interplay between consumer and brand.

She says, “Clearly consumers have moved way ahead and marketers and advertisers are just playing catch-up. Leave alone communication plans; even the briefs do not look too different from five years back in quite a few cases.” And yet, new categories that have no un-learning to do, are finding successful ways of communicating with their consumers, with little or no traditional media, at least in the early parts of their growth story.

Ask about the POG group deal though, that is likely to leave both Publicis and Omnicom media companies operating under a GroupM like structure and you get a quick “No comment.”

In the meantime, the company is set to do whatever it takes — through acquisitions, talent, and expansions. By the next 18 months, we shall know how close we are to the goal post, is the parting shot from Boyle as he gets ready to fly to Gurgaon, the current stronghold of the agency in India.

For Acharya who counts trekking among her hobbies, this just may be the most uphill trudge she’s ever encountered. (Source:ET)

ZenithOptimedia (ZO) Careers