Unlike previous years, 2016 didn’t see the rise of many independent creative agencies. Nonetheless, a few movements did shake the advertising industry as ‘Paa’ and Pops quit their respective positions. R Balki bid goodbye to his 30-year career in advertising and decided to concentrate on filmmaking, while KV Sridhar aka Pops was bitten by the entrepreneur bug as he quit SapientNitro to launch Hyper Collective. Malvika Mehra too launched an independent outfit, Tomorrow Creative Lab after quitting Grey India in 2015. Shiv Sethuraman, group president, Cheil South West Asia, put in his resignation before completing two years at the agency. Leo Burnett South Asia’s CEO Saurabh Varma was additionally appointed Publicis Communications’ India CEO.
Veterans like Raju Narisetti quit News Corp as SVP of strategy to join Univision Communications. Twitter India’s senior management moved out, including Parminder Singh, MD for Southeast Asia, MENA and India, and Rishi Jaitly, head of the India operations. While Singh’s next move isn’t known yet, Jaitly joined Times Global Partners as CEO. With Disney India discontinuing its Hindi film production business, Siddharth Roy-Kapur quit, replaced by Mahesh Samat who returned to the company.
Nitin Kukreja put in his papers as CEO, Star Sports while Nikhil Madhok moved on to join Discovery Networks as SVP, head of products. Hathway Cable & Datacom’s MD and CEO Jagdish Kumar moved on with Rajan Gupta becoming the new MD. Zee Media Corporation executive director and CEO RK Arora and ABP News Network CEO Ashok Venkatramani quit. Former CNBC Awaaz and CNBC Bajar editor, Sanjay Pugalia, joined The Quint and BloombergQuint as president and editorial director.
Arnab Goswami, who changed primetime for the news genre, quit Times Now after a decade to announce his entrepreneurial venture — Republic, as Rahul Shivshankar took charge at Times Now. With reports of the new channel going live before the Uttar Pradesh state elections in 2017, all eyes will be on Goswami.
The year 2016 appeared to be controversy’s favourite child. From brands like Tata and Samsung facing unprecedented crises; Facebook shutting down its Free Basics programme post the TRAI ruling against differential pricing of data; and the Centre putting NDTV India’s one-day ban on on hold after the latter went to the Supreme Court — one shocker after another came tumbling out of the closet.
On the celebrity endorsement front, the Khans — Aamir and Salman — faced a double whammy this year. Snapdeal decided to not renew Aamir Khan’s endorsement contract due to the social media uproar his comments on intolerance generated; even the Tourism Ministry dropped him as brand ambassador of the Incredible India! campaign. Salman Khan was dropped as brand ambassador for Thums Up in favour of Ranveer Singh.
But the one who really stood out was none other than former James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, whose endorsement for Pan Bahar defied all logic of celebrity endorsements, and with him claiming he was misled into endorsing the product, the plot kept thickening.
Speaking of controversial ads, Danish fashion brand Jack & Jones had put out a sexist hoarding featuring actor Ranveer Singh carrying a woman over his shoulder with the copy: ‘Don’t hold back, take your work home’ while Gap’s sexist ad depicted an image of a boy, labeled ‘The little scholar’, wearing a t-shirt with Albert Einstein’s face and next to him, an image of a girl’s t-shirt, captioned ‘The social butterfly’. The ads drew ire on social media and were withdrawn.
Controversy and Baba Ramdev aren’t unfamiliar with each other either. Patanjali Ayurved came under fire from ASCI for running misleading ads and unfairly denigrating products of its rivals. Its five production units were also fined R11 lakh by a local court in Haridwar for “misbranding and putting up misleading advertisements”.
In another highlight of 2016, the BCCI-Lodha panel controversy refuses to die down after the BCCI’s continued reluctance over implementing Lodha panel recommendations. The Apex Court’s order that bars BCCI and state units from utilising funds until they implement the Lodha recommendations has also not been accepted by the majority.
Ending the year on an unforgettable note are two big controversies of global proportions — the Samsung Note 7 recall and the Ratan Tata-Cyrus Mistry public spat. Apart from Note 7, it turned out that some of Samsung’s washing machines were also facing issues and 34 models of its top-loading washers were recalled. In the case of Tata Sons, while the dust raised by Mistry’s exit is unlikely to settle down soon, the controversy has marred the halo of invincibility around the 148-year-old Tata Group.
A conducive year for the industry, 2016 witnessed a spate of mergers and acquisitions. The first major consolidation story of the year was Quikr acquiring real-estate portal CommonFloor in January, in a $200-million (approx R1,300 crore) all-stock deal. Future Group made its first acquisition in online retail with Fabfurnish in April.
In the film exhibition sector, PVR managed to strike a deal with DLF’s DT Cinemas in a run to acquire its 32 screens for R433 crore. Since the terms of deal were revised after the Competition Commission of India had cited PVR’s monopoly in certain areas in the northern region, the remaining seven screens of DT were picked up by Cinépolis for around R63 crore.
In July, Flipkart-owned Myntra acquired rival Jabong in a $70 million (approx R470 crore) all-cash deal. Makemytrip acquired Ibibo through a stock transaction in October. M&E was not far behind, led by Subhash Chandra’s Zee Group which, in September, sold Ten Sports to Sony Pictures Networks in an all-cash deal worth $385 million (approx R2,600 crore). It then acquired UAE’s FM radio station — Hum FM and also picked up Reliance Group’s TV and radio business valued at around R1,900 crore.
Part of Chandra’s Essel Group, the DTH operator Dish TV merged with Videocon d2h. Dentsu Aegis Network led the spate of mergers in the media agency space by acquiring PR firm Perfect Relations Group, experiential design studio Fractal and creative marketing agency Happy Creative Services which joined the global mcgarrybowen network of agencies and was rebranded as Happy mcgarrybowen. This marks the first mcgarrybowen agency in India as it expands its footprint in Asia.
The M&A activity continued with Microsoft Corp closing a deal to buy professional networking site LinkedIn. The deal, estimated at $26 billion, will open new horizons for both players as they look to regain market share.
2016 overall may have gathered a bad rep for itself but some brands felt it was the right year to go for a refresh.
Network18 Group renamed IBN7 as News18 India and CNN-IBN changed to CNN News18. Uber went in for a new look and feel. Tata Motors dropped Zica and renamed its car Tata Tiago as the original name was a homonym of the Zika virus.
On the e-commerce front, Snapdeal gave itself a new look and positioning, having spent R200 crore for its Unbox Zindagi campaign created by McCann Erickson. Urban Ladder went in for a new look earlier this year to correspond to its aim of going national.
Multi Screen Media (MSM) rebranded to Sony Pictures Networks (SPN), flaunting a new logo.
SPN’s AXN rebranded early in the year sporting a new look, tagline and positioning — AXN, LIVE R.E.D. (Reality, Entertainment, Drama). Sony LIV adopted a new logo and positioning, We LIV to Entertain. Sony Entertainment Television marked its 21st anniversary by rebranding with a new logo and positioning. The change was announced on The Kapil Sharma Show that the channel acquired early this year.
Post the OMD-DDB Mudra Group deal, the new entity was named OMD MudraMax (now the media business cluster of DDB). Ten Sports Network rebranded its channel bouquet. The network looked at it as a ‘contemporary and energised approach’ to its sports coverage.
Chinese conglomerate LeTV refreshed to LeEco (Le Ecosystem). Micromax Informatics, eyeing the global market pie, went from being Nothing like Anything to Nuts.Guts.Glory. Dubbed ‘Micromax 3.0’, the refreshed form was conceived by Creativeland Asia.
Vh1 announced a makeover, while Channel V went back to its music focus from the GEC format it adopted in 2012. National Geographic Channel underwent a global rebrand to National Geographic.