BBDO’s Chris Thomas targets India with Proximity launch

The last decade has seen global agencies of all shapes and sizes falling over themselves to expand in China and the wider Far East region via Singapore.

Now India is the focus of attention and Omnicom’s BBDO network is making a concerted bid to be the number one interloper in the Indian market.

BBDO has recently launched its integrated agency Proximity in India, luring back new business wizard Ranjeev Vij from Iris, to spearhead its efforts under CEO Ajai Jhala. It is also planning to launch its proprietary Digital Lab Initiative in India later this year.

Despite its massive population and rapid economic growth India has been slower to take off than China, partly because doing business there for foreign companies is thought to be more bureaucratic than in one-party China.

But where the big global multinationals go their agencies follow and BBDO Asia chairman and CEO Chris Thomas, formerly head of Proximity, is clearly keen to make his and the company’s mark.

Prior to joining Proximity in London Thomas was CEO of Interpublic’s Lowe London but, despite his popularity, was bounced out in 2003 after the agency lost Burger King, Orange and part of the General Motors Vauxhall account, one of the agency’s foundation clients when it was set up in the 1980s by Frank Lowe and Geoff Howard-Spink.

Moving to the newer and far less fashionable integrated agency Proximity seemed a big step down in the world. But the then AMV BBDO boss Michael Baulk has described Thomas as his ‘best signing’ and his career has soared, in stark contrast to the fortunes of Lowe London which has seen many more leaders come and go and billings decline sharply.

A good result in India may well see Thomas following in the footsteps of another Brit Andrew Robertson, global head of BBDO.

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