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Dentsu Aegis says is 'tt's No 2 network. Industry criehis is not DAN!'

01 Mar 2017

Dentsu Aegis  Network’s claim of being the No 2 ad network in India stirs up quite a storm in  the ad industry

While countries across the planet were battling it out to be  second in the world after Donald Trump’s America, Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN)  went two steps ahead. Not only did the group stake its claim as the No.2  advertising network in India, it also released a campaign comprising a digital  film and outdoor hoardings to celebrate the achievement and created the hashtag  #2ndPlaceGreatPlace because the best is yet to come.

In 2015, chairman and CEO Ashish Bhasin had set the target  and in an interview with Brand Equity, he had said: “It’s not an ambition (to  be No 2); it’s going to happen! WPP is the largest at present, IPG (Interpublic  Group) is the second largest and No 3 could be us, Omnicom or Publicis. Two and  a half years from now we will be the distinct No 2. We are by far the fastest  growing agency group.” The company says it achieved its goal on the back of  “strategic acquisitions”, continued business buoyancy, and overall growth  propelled by the single P&L model, which provides clients with a more  integrated offering.

Among DAN’s most recent acquisitions is creative agency  Happy (now Happy Mcgarrybowen), the agency’s biggest claim to fame is  Flipkart’s early advertising featuring kids (No Kidding, No Worries), now  rehashed by IPG-owned Lowe. DAN’s staff has gone up from around 1,700 in 2015  to over 3,000 Including 1,000 digital specialists, which DAN claims is the  largest in India.

A couple of days after the announcement, the company won  Maruti’s business, which according to one insider was the “Rs1000 crore swing”  that its business needed to thrust the network up the ranks. Now, Bhasin tells  us, it’s a two horse race in the industry and “because we’ve hit our goal  early, I want to use the rest of 2017 to consolidate this position and, by end  of this year, be so far ahead that there is no dispute.”

The dispute Bhasin speaks of arises from the fact that  competition strongly contends DAN’s claims. Something Bhasin is accustomed to;  “Whenever I would say it (DAN will be No2) there would be controversy. Now,  it’s happened and it’s going to be difficult for some people to accept it.”

In an industry not short on subjects to quibble over Dentsu  Aegis’ #2ndPlaceGreatPlace got myriad reactions, naturally, from guffaws to  *pats back* (note: sarcasm) to ‘what rot’, we’re paraphrasing here.

  Not directly addressing DAN, Publicis Communications India’s  CEO, Saurabh Verma tells us, Publicis Groupe is the largest network in the  country “by far”. He says, “We employ more than 15,000 people in India. We know  that the second network is less than half our size.” Which throws wide open  another can of uncertainties over who is No1 then?

Former Dentsu hand and IPG-owned FCB’s current CEO, Rohit  Ohri says, “we (IPG) are unquestionably the second largest network by revenue  in the country.” As per Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India, “As far as  media billings go, third party reports clearly show DAN is not even No 3 leave  alone being No 2. This is just a claim without any validation.” Bhasin’s  response, “I never said we were the No 2 in media: we are the No 2 overall.”

Not any closer to a definitive answer, this ambiguity  prompts Bhasin to come up with a way to sort out the ranks. And he’s more than  willing to oblige anybody who challenges DAN’s claim.

He says, “Because these are privately held companies nobody  has access to numbers. But there’s core parameters on which you can judge any  agency group: 1) Number of people, because this is a people business, at the  end of the day 2) Billings 3) Revenues 4) Profits. I’m willing to be judged on  all parameters. I will bring my numbers, internally audited, certified by CFO,  and I trust my competition, whoever is opposing can bring their numbers. I’m  happy to sit in The Economic Times’ office and have that chat whenever you want  to have it as long somebody will be there with their (other holding groups)  figures. And it’s a lame excuse to say but ‘we are five different companies’.  Let them bring five different numbers. It takes five minutes to total up. I’ll  also bring the calculator.”