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    Talent will be the singular underlying factor to drive success: John Sheehy, Starcom Mediavest


    Sheehy is credited with consolidating the entire Kellogg’s business in Leo Burnett, when the brand went in for a rejig of its portfolio in 2009 and is the global executive lead on the account.

    John Sheehy, president of global operations, Starcom Mediavest Group looks very unassuming for the responsibilities he shoulders. Since taking over the role in August last year, Sheehy is on his maiden visit to India to understand the market first hand. He leads SMG’s global operations, plays a vital role in growing its emerging markets and is also incharge of improving business in the agency’s core markets.

    Sheehy is credited with consolidating the entire Kellogg’s business in Leo Burnett, when the brand went in for a rejig of its portfolio in 2009 and is the global executive lead on the account. “We remain very humble while having big goals. It comes from confidence, having clear direction and from a team of motivated people. We focus on what we can control — our clients, thinking, talent and this belief come from winning.” Sheehy is extremely pleased with the Indian team’s wins last year — 18 new clients in all — and attributes it to the right strategy and structure both in terms of talent and partnerships that’s given the agency an edge.

    While beefing up capabilities in analytics, digital and content is one part of the future strategy for SMG, Sheehy strongly believes that talent will be the singular underlying factor that will drive success across all those verticals. “SMG globally is trying to do things in a consistent, collaborative and continuous manner.

    Our ability to grow 25% here reflects Srini’s (SMG India chairman, CVL Srinivas) ability to tap into resources beyond his own fence and that’s been part of our success,” explains Sheehy. Part of Sheehy’s itinerary in India therefore comprised meeting with teams, employees, client visits and key functionaries —
    basically connecting with all partners.

    While all the collaborations and partnerships continue in the background, client remains at the core, says Sheehy. “Every client we handle has his own pace of change. Our job is to make sure that we leverage conversations for clients and have the resources to bear that. We talk about this 70-20-10 formula to understand that pace of change.

    70% of the work we do for clients is about optimising and making choices that are efficient for the brand. 20% means the different contact points — areas we think that the client should be present in and help them to get there and 10% is to quickly experiment, test and make sure we learn things quickly because the world is changing rapidly.”

    SMG globally and in India is betting big on digital to bring in the next level of growth. The Group’s revenues last year from digital stood at 10% up from a near zero-base two years back and Sheehy says this dogged focus will continue. Sheehy says that SMG on a global front is the first among its peers to receive 100% certification from Google for all its employees engaged in digital work. Even in India the team that deals mainly in digital is 100% Google certified and 70% of the non-digital staff hold the certification as well. “This is an example of how we are looking ahead at growing our talent and creating new capabilities for our clients,” says Sheehy.

    The service provided on the digital platform comes at a fraction of a cost compared to a traditional medium like TV so is it right to place such a great emphasis on the medium to drive future growth? “It’s the brains behind the medium that will bring the revenues. The ability of SMG to marry technology and the planning function in a way that can deliver the best solution for the client is what will give us the incremental value,” he says.

    Data and analytics is another area of focus for SMG. The Indian team led by Srinivas is scouting the market place for a partner in the data & analytics area to setup a worldclass Centre in India that can provide SMG globally valuable insights in the area. “Data and analytics cover a broad scope of things — from how we plan, execute, KPIs for the brand, our way of operation, how ad operations setup campaigns, measure them, track them to advanced analytics. More and more CMOs are asking us this question. The way we are doing it is to learn from best practices,” says Sheehy.

    SMG India closed last year with its best performance in the last three years. With new business wins and specialized verticals added to its kitty, the growth story seems likely to continue, but Sheehy insist that they continue to “remain very humble.”
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