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Global creative agencies rush to India

November 14, 2006 10:50 IST

Three top global creative agencies, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Wieden+Kennedy and Fallon Worldwide, are set to enter the Indian market.

While Bartle Bogle Hegarty is renowned for its work on brands like Unilever's Axe deodorants, Fallon is widely recognised as the agency behind Time magazine's red border campaign and Wieden+Kennedy is known for its contribution to sports brand Nike, among others.

"This is a good time to be in Indian advertising," said an executive from one of India's large advertising agencies.

The entry of these agencies is expected to have a huge impact on the Indian advertising business and will threaten the advertising accounts of large agencies.

As Bartle Bogle Hegarty handles the Axe deodorants and detergents business of Unilever globally, its entry will have a direct impact on Lowe Lintas. An association between the two agencies is ruled out because each has an allegiance to different networks.

While Lowe is part of the Interpublic group, the Publicis Groupe has a 49 per cent stake in Bartle Bogle Hegarty. The other Publicis network agency, Fallon, has worked with clients like Sony, Citigroup, Microsoft and Lee.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Fallon are also expected to provide a booster shot to advertising network Publicis Groupe's presence in the Indian market. The Indian advertising market is currently dominated by Martin Sorrel's WPP.

On the other hand, Wieden+Kennedy is an independent advertising agency that specialises in brand building and understanding cultural trends. It has clients like Nike, Procter & Gamble, Google and Miller Brewing company and has offices in Portland, New York, Amsterdam, London, Tokyo and Shanghai.

Speaking to Business Standard, Simon Sherwood, COO, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, confirmed that the Indian operations of the agency would be only its seventh operation in the world, keeping with the agency's philosophy of being present in the key decision-making markets and achieving maximum coverage with minimum physical presence.

The agency has identified Mumbai as the location for its India office and Sherwood said it was looking at beginning the Indian operations by the end of 2007. "You are what you start. To start it right is the best way forward, carefully and cautiously," he added.

He admitted that Bartle Bogle Hegarty had been approached by several Indian advertising agencies for an alliance. But it has an alliance only in one of its six offices.

"Now you know where our preference lies," he said. However, Bangalore-based advertising agency Orchard is currently doing some work for it in Singapore.

"India is certainly a place that is on the radar of Wieden+Kennedy," Joani Wardwell, global PR director, Wieden+Kennedy, told Business Standard. However she declined to get into specific details.

Fallon executives also mentioned they were looking at an India entry. Rosemary Abendroth, global communications director, Fallon, mentioned in an e-mail statement that "we are exploring the feasibility of entering India. It is indeed an exciting advertising market".

Premium plastic

Are high-end credit cards the new badge of honour for those who love to indulge and yet seek value in their spend?

Radhieka Pandeya in New Delhi

Relocating to another country? Flash your card to get a bank account pronto. Too caught up to practice philanthropy? Flash your card again. Itching for some golfing action? The card gets it for you this time too.

If this doesn't flood you with an adrenaline rush, your card could even get you a space-bound adventure. As gold gives way to platinum and platinum is superseded by black, premium credit cards have become the newest badges of honour, and mind you, access is by affluence only.

Early this year, Standard Chartered launched its platinum credit card in India. Not far behind, last week, American Express too launched its platinum club and credit card.

While a lifetime foundation fee of Rs 50,000 ensures membership to Amex's platinum club and subsequently ownership of its platinum card, Standard Chartered's platinum card comes at an annual payment of Rs 6,000.

Standing a step above the two is Ultima -- Citibank's super-premium credit card launched in 2004 -- pegged at an annual fee of Rs 50,000. HSBC's five-year-old premier credit card, though premium in status, has an annual fee that is waived in most cases, making it "practically free".

In times when every other Indian has a Merc in his garage, a Blueberry in his pocket and at least two gold credit cards in his wallet, affluence becomes a subjective term.

Which is why most banks carefully pick out the deserving elite, worthy of their premium card, and invite them to join the elite premium credit card holders' club.

R L Prasad, general manager (credit cards and personal loans), Standard Chartered Bank explains, "Our market research showed that the premium segment was indulging itself in a big way and at the same time seeking value in its spend. These consumers wanted everything from travel benefits to golfing access and we decided the only way to cater to this segment was through the platinum credit card."

The growth rate of cardholders has been encouraging. While HSBC reports an annual growth of almost 30 per cent, almost 4 per cent of Standard Chartered's portfolio comprises premium cardholders. AMEX, too, is banking on the estimated one million emerging affluent consumers in India to appreciate its latest platinum offering.

Rob Hennin, country manager for American Express in India offers, "The category of the emerging affluent consumers is growing at a strong rate of 30-45 per cent and will provide immense opportunities to companies such as ours in the near future."

The service and benefits are immense and alluring. Air accident insurance worth a crore (Rs billion), instant access to customer service anywhere in the world, a personal relationship officer and a financial advisor are given. The choices really become lucrative and competitive when it comes to benefits.

So, while Citibank's Ultima could have you visiting one of the top 10 luxury islands in the world or exploring the Titanic in a submarine, American Express' Platinum will ensure that if you spend Rs 3 lakh (Rs 300,000) on the card, you can redeem these points for a return flight from Delhi to Mumbai and a luxury holiday for two over a long weekend.

This, besides complimentary entry into golf clubs, wellness clubs, boutique restaurants and premium airport lounges. Adding a touch of sentiment to their platinum cards, Standard Chartered regularly hosts events like wine tasting for their platinum cardholders.

In fact, on Diwali this year, they even donated money to charitable organisations on behalf of their platinum customers -- a gesture that was well received and appreciated by many.

Yet, even with the returns, the high investment involved on every premium card cannot be ignored. So, are the creme de la crème prepared to lock their money into a piece of plastic when there are zilch investment choices in the market already? "No!" says Puneet Chaddha, head of HSBC cards, India.

"There are very few takers for cards at a fee, if at all. People don't want to pay through their nose when they have the option of getting the same benefits for free." Prasad, however, argues that premium cards today have become valued status symbols.

"The value of a premium credit card rests mainly on the way it is perceived by the bank and by the consumer. And someone who wants value and class will be ready to pay for it." True.

Rashmi Hemrajani & Prasad Sangameshwaran