Alex Leikikh, Worldwide CEO of MullenLowe Group, on what makes MullenLowe merger strong and enduring, exporting ‘bundling’ to international markets and why MullenLowe Lintas India operations make him proud
BY PRIYANKA MEHRA
It was in May that the Interpublic Group announced that its creative agencies Mullen and Lowe & Partners would merge to form the MullenLowe Group, aiming to form a creatively-driven global agency network with a strong, shared entrepreneurial heritage and challenger mentality. Alex Leikikh, previously Mullen’s CEO, was named Worldwide CEO of the new MullenLowe Group.
On the heels of the merger, the agency’s India operation announced rebranding at the group level, to form the MullenLowe Lintas Group, with Lowe Lintas and the newly launched Mullen Lintas as its two brands in the advertising domain, besides its other operating divisions.
Talking of the merger, Leikikh says, “We had two key reasons; No. 1 is that we had a number of clients looking for representation overseas, where we didn’t have any offices. As we’ve added clients with global ambitions, we needed reach in international markets. No. 2, we’re only as good as people who work for us. It is a talent business at the heart of it and we are on a global hunt for talent constantly. Look at the talent in India, Spain, Columbia… it is really amazing. Lowe is a strong international company with no significant global presence; it was perhaps the only global network that didn’t have a strong US presence.” He has been spending time in various international markets and plans to visit India soon.
Leikikh talks in detail about the meticulous planning that went into the merger. “When Michael Wall, former CEO and I got together with Michael Roth at IPG, we spent a lot of time looking at aspects like – Do our values match? Are we entrepreneurial in nature? Are we creatively driven? We wanted to make sure we were aligned. And we concluded ‘Yes’, because the work coming out of the best markets in the world within Lowe is amazing. Take Spain, UK, Columbia, India and there are pockets in Southeast Asia as well, the guys in Indonesia… When you look at that and our work in the States, which is creatively strong, we thought our values are a perfect match.”
MERGER OF AN UNUSUAL KIND…
“This is an unusual merger because most mergers involve cost-cutting,” observes Leikikh. “This merger had nothing to do with cost-efficiency. This was about getting Lowe into the US and Mullen into international markets, and liquid talent across the network. Both the companies are doing fine financially and we are going to continue to pitch business together and add global revenues, but what we really want to do is to focus on adding another one or two multinational clients to the roster.”
AN APPETITE FOR ‘BUNDLING’…
Leikikh believes there are wonderful, talented, nice, normal people in the business: “I have found normal, nice, talented people in our network. I have found people who are really excited about the model we’ve built in the US,” he says. Leikikh would like to take that bundled idea and export it. He explains, “We have room in a lot of markets to bring our standalone internal media company… there’s an appetite for that brand to enter markets like India, Australia. There is a lot of appetite for the idea of creating a model global network around a bundled model.”
‘ALL IS WELL IN INDIA’
Leikikh is all praise for Lowe India. He remarks, “Joe (Joseph George) took me through the history of the agency and showed me the work. I viewed it like a customer. It was one of the most extensive presentations with 30 commercials. It’s a very diverse office working on hundreds of clients. Lot of agencies would have two or three massive clients and a bunch of little ones. India has got hundreds. It is hard to manage. But it is very well run. Joe is a strong executive. In some markets, you say I need to fix that and that too… we don’t have that problem in India. Strong leadership, strong creative, strong financial performance. It is not a problem I need to fix in any way. I am very happy with it.”
Meanwhile, he explains at length how joint participation will work during pitches post the merger. “First of all, when we do a global pitch, a big multinational one, we are going to tap the skills and resources of our offices around the world and certainly we will tap into the abilities of Joe and the creative guys in India to help us pitch globally. Not only to represent the market locally, but to develop our strategies and ideas on a global basis,” Leikikh says, adding that just because you are in an office in India, doesn’t mean that your ideas can’t go live on a global scale. “Secondly, we have already started doing this when we have brand opportunities and briefs in the US on either new or existing business.
We send those briefs out into the key markets. So the guys in India are going to have a shot at working on US brands. There is amazing brain-power beyond creative in India. Look at the volume of strategists and analysts the market produces, for example. There is an amazing opportunity to build a strategies and analytics practice in the market.”
POSSIBILITY OF ACQUISITIONS
On whether acquisitions are in the pipeline, Leikikh says the answer is yes. The prime short term identified need is to bring activation and sharper marketing practices of the UK, into the States, in a modern way. “That’s the obvious need because that’s what the market is telling us,” sums up Leikikh.
This article was first published on impactonnet.com