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J Walter Thompson launches global digital network Mirum in India

Livemint:  November, 2015

New Delhi: Advertising agency J Walter Thompson has launched its global digital agency network Mirum in India. This is the 21st market where the network has been launched since its inception in January. For the India launch, J Walter Thompson’s social media firm Social Wavelength has been rebranded as Mirum, said Tarun Rai, chief executive of the agency which is part of the WPP group.

“Currently 35% of our revenues come from non-traditional media. With the launch of Mirum, this should go up to 50% very soon,” said Rai. “Mirum is a natural progression for us in being a digital-first agency,” he added. Social Wavelength, the agency which is becoming Mirum India, was acquired by J Walter Thompson in May 2014. Its founders Sanjay Mehta and Hareesh Tibrewala will continue to spearhead Mirum as joint CEOs. Social Wavelength was founded in 2009 and has clients such as Tata Housing Development Co. Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd, Tata DoCoMo Ltd and Franklin Templeton, among others.

The launch of Mirum was announced by J. Walter Thompson in New York in January 2015 as a global company uniting 11 digital agencies in 17 countries with 40 offices. Most of these digital companies were acquired by J Walter Thompson. Dan Kabhie, the former chief executive of digital firm Digitaria, was appointed the CEO of Mirum Global. With the addition of Mirum India in the global agency network, it boasts a staff strength of 2,400.

A full-service digital agency, Mirum will provide a range of new services that go beyond what Social Wavelength was offering as a social media specialist. According to Tibrewala, the new capabilities include strategy and consulting services, campaigns and content, experience and platforms, analytics and innovation and product development. “Mirum will increase our service offerings to clients in India. At Social Wavelength we were engaged with social listening, community management and content creation and also built skills in digital buying and selling. With Mirum we will offer tech solutions, application development, e- commerce solutions and micro site development to clients,” he said.

Internet is much more than just an information dissemination medium today. “It is an engagement medium. It is our belief that in a few years all businesses will need to find how to make money from that screen. That is the kind of expertise we will be able to build with Mirum,” Tibrewala added.

Mehta, the joint CEO at Mirum, said that the new agency will increase its digital breadth. “We will benefit from exposure to Mirum’s global work and clients,” he said. The digital agency’s global clients include Unilever, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Coca-Cola Co., Ford Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Walt Disney Co. and HSBC Holdings Plc., among others.

Mehta said that within digital, mobile will be a very important piece since 80-90% digital delivery happens through mobile devices. “Since the mobile is with the consumer 24 hours a day, it is the most precious real estate to get your message out on,” he added.

The company plans to expand and invest in a tech team for its new services to clients.

Although Rai does not share the revenue numbers for Social Wavelength, he claims the agency had sizeable operation and was growing at 30% year on year. He expects Mirum to grow at 40-45%.

J Walter Thompson’s focus on digital services is understandable. To be sure, a GroupM report released earlier this year said that digital media was seeing the fastest growth, albeit on a small base. In 2015, digital will account for 9.51% of all advertising expenditure, up from 7.8% in 2014, the report said. It forecast that print’s share will shrink from 37% to a little over 34% while television will remain the dominant medium with a 45.8% share, a slight increase over last year’s 44.5%.

The GroupM report titled ‘This Year, Next Year’, predicted the fastest growth for digital media at 37%. The segment has grown at an average of 35% over the past two years, it said adding that video, mobile and social will be the biggest growth drivers for this medium.