Publicis Groupe and WPP step up India battle

The Brits and the French spent much of the 18th century vying for control of India (the Brits won, of course) and the two old adversaries seem to be busily engaged in another contest to the death on the sub-continent, this time in all things digital with respective national marcoms flagships WPP and Publicis Groupe going head to head.

PG has just snapped up leading Indian digital marketing and web company Indigo consulting whose clients include AIG, HSBC, Thomas Cook and home-grown Tata. Indigo was founded by entrepreneur Vikas Tandon (pictured) who is staying on as managing director. Indigo will come under the Leo Burnett umbrella although PG says it has plans to expand the Indigo brand outside India.

Meanwhile WPP has teamed with India’s second-largest IT firm Infosys (the biggest is Tata Consultancy Services) to launch a new ‘platform’ or service called BrandEdge.

BrandEdge is a ‘cloud’ based service that aims to help clients track marketing information on websites include social media mavens Facebook and Twitter. Unusually (for an agency group anyway) it is funded by subscriptions and pay-per-use rather than fees based on media expenditure.

In other words, anyone can use it as long as they pay up. Which is an interesting departure from WPP’s current mostly client-based business model. BrandEdge is believed to have signed three clients already, one being GlaxoSmithKline.

WPP, which reports its first quarter numbers on Friday, is busily expanding its considerable footprint in all sorts of areas. Last week it announced a $7m investment in Dolphin Software, which owns the price comparison website mySupermarket.

WPP’s investment in BrandEdge looks like more than just an initiative in India. Bangalore-based Infosys is a global business. WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell is clearly trying to leverage his big investment in research (WPP’s Kantar is the second-biggest research outfit worldwide after Nielsen) by launching a number of ‘converging’ products, where WPP’s data resources give it an edge in things like media planning and buying.

Publicis Groupe would say it has all this stuff anyway with Digitas, Razorfish and Rosetta Marketing Group, which operate mostly, but not exclusively, within PG’s giant VivaKi media unit.

So the fight between the two isn’t just about who’s top dog in India (at the moment WPP is much the bigger). Just like the 18th century in fact (Canada, Egypt and the rest of the Mediterranean also came into the equation).

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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