Publicis Groupe acquires Law & Kenneth

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 30, 2014

Much speculation later, French advertising company Publicis Groupe has acquired a 51 per cent stake in an independent Indian advertising and digital agency Law & Kenneth.

Last year Publicis had announced a plan to merge with US rival Omnicom in a $35-billion deal.

Though Publicis did not disclose the amount it paid for the Indian firm, it said it was part of a strategy to expand in emerging markets.

As Law & Kenneth Chairman and Managing Director Praveen Kenneth told Business Line, "The truth of the matter is size, which is of essence. Size means stability. With 12 years in the field, we bring size, strength and a roster of large brands to the table."

Speaking about the decision to sell a majority (51 per cent) stake, he countered: "The game has to change, we cannot continue where we stand today. There has to be the next orbit. We have mastered the game. Now, we have picked a larger playing field."

Stating that he was an entrepreneur and would always remain one, Kenneth said he had held onto the remaining 49 per cent "to keep my fire burning. My spirit is enterprise. Winning at Cannes or bagging a Lion (award) is not the aim in life. There is so much to do. My passion tilts more towards life."

In what is being termed a coup, the acquired entity would merge with the Indian unit of Saatchi & Saatchi, a Publicis Groupe agency, to form Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi. Both the agencies are to, however, retain their legal entities.

The agency has a presence in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. Law & Kenneth was founded in 2004 by Praveen Kenneth and Andy Law, along with investor and co-founder, Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, and has over 285 professionals.

It has since grown into a full-service agency specialising in traditional and digital advertising, branding and marketing. The agency boasts of a roster of clients including Renault, Dabur, Tata AIG Insurance, Godrej, ITC and Reliance, among others.

In recent years, Publicis has acquired assets in Brazil, Israel, South Africa and Romania, among other countries. Last year alone, the French major bought digital agency iStrat, brand consultancy MarketGate, and the full-service agency Beehive Communications in October 2013, as well as merged Neev into Razorfish, earlier in 2013.

While Praveen Kenneth would manage the new entity as Chairman, he would join the Saatchi & Saatchi Asia-Pacific board and would work directly with Chris Foster, Chairman and CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, Asia-Pacific. Praveen Kenneth was CEO of Publicis India from 1999-2003.

The Law & Kenneth management team would assume the management operations of Saatchi & Saatchi India and in essence L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, creating a strong value proposition combining the best of both agencies.

The senior management team of Law & Kenneth including Anil S. Nair, CEO and Managing Partner; Sandhya Srinivasan, Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Partner; and Anil K. Nair, CEO Digital and Managing Partner; would continue in their respective roles in the new entity.

In a statement, Maurice Levy, Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe noted, India is a growing and important market for Publicis Groupe as a whole, and the merger would provide a “heightened added value and a mutually beneficial relationship for both existing and future clients”.

The formation of L&K Saatchi & Saatchi is the next in a series of steps the network is undertaking to restructure its India operations and optimise the massive potential for growth present in the market. The Publicis Groupe accounts for 10 global networks in the Indian market — Publicis Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, BBH, Starcom Mediavest Group, ZenithOptimedia, DigitasLBi, VivaKi, Mslgroup and Phcg.

Published on January 30, 2014

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