Full-service model is the easiest to sell but the hardest to deliver – Vikas Mehta, CEO, PointNine Lintas Posted on


PointNine Lintas, the latest offering from the MullenLowe Lintas Group, completed three months of active functioning on November 1. The firm, which is the youngest full-service agency to join the stack of integrated marketing agencies, began with three main divisions – PR & reputation management, digital marketing & transformation, and activation & experiential marketing.

Three months in, PointNine Lintas is already working towards adding more competencies including a few crucial ones like media buying. The agency has a portfolio of over 50 brands already. Some of the brands working with the agency are – Castrol, GSK, GoDaddy, MagicBricks, L&T, Budweiser, India Gate, Marriot, and Sony Pictures Network.

exchangd4media caught up with CEO Vikas Mehta to get low-down on what it takes to build a full-service agency. Edited excerpts.

How have the stakeholders responded to the full-service model? 

So far, the response from the three groups of stakeholders who matter – talent, clients, and peers – has been quite encouraging. Talent has been a pleasant surprise because of the kind of industries we are seeing interest from. Of course the usual people from creative agencies, media agencies, but we are also seeing a lot of candidate interest from tech firms, consulting firms and media houses and publishers. I think this is a very good sign, we seem to be doing something interesting from their point of view.

Client support has been very good. We have been very selective about which of our clients we have a detailed discussion with on full-service and the chats we have had with them have been very encouraging. Clients are very keen to test this model out. I think that’s because it has the right amount of empathy, which every CMO is looking for. Brands have more agencies on board than ever before and yet the problem of marketing accountability sits squarely on their shoulders.

The reaction we have seen from industry peers within and outside the Lintas family has been resounding. It is too early to declare success, but I feel we are on to something with this model.

Are all of your clients adopting the full-service model?

Not at all, and we are not asking them to, either. If we did that, I would need 2,000 people to run this company. Full-service model is the easiest to sell but the hardest to deliver.

What do you mean by ‘hardest to deliver’?

If you look at any agency or holding company today, and not just today, for the last ten years; everybody has been offering their own version of full-service solutions. Some call it integrated, some call it 360, some call it ‘power of one’, horizontal, etc. There is hardly any significant player who is not offering full-service and there is hardly any significant client who is buying full-service. This means that while the model seems extremely promising on paper, its market adoption has been excruciatingly slow in progress. You can count on your fingertips the number of clients who have one agency doing all the marketing duties for them. It seems like a service that everyone is selling but no one is buying. The problem is that the promise of full-service is a complex and a difficult one to keep.

How is PointNine Lintas working to solve this problem?

What we are primarily trying to change with PointNine Lintas is how the agency is structured. Most agencies have multi-disciplinary capabilities but struggle to bring them together under one solution. Our model is essentially an attempt to solve that problem. Not only having the vertical expertise but the ability to make them perform seamlessly in-sync like a symphony is what we are looking at.

The number of capabilities you need on board to call yourself a robust full-service marketing solution today runs into 100s. What we are doing at PointNine Lintas is aggregating all of those capabilities, some of which happen to be parked in the three divisions that we started out with, and we are adding competencies as we speak. How we create the symphony is that as a company we are and will always be in the business of ideas. And people and competencies that are the source of those ideas which is the strategy function, as well as the creative function, is something that runs across disciplines at PointNine Lintas. So in a manner of speaking, our planner will end up being the symphony conductor while every domain expertise plays its own role.

How hard or easy has it been for you to find talent suited for the full-service model?

Talent is the hardest question for most industries today and we are no exception. In our business, we need to be very imaginative about the skill sets we need and where we go looking for them. The temptation as an agency is to get people from agencies only. If agencies are competing with a lot more than just agencies, then we need to have skill-sets which are a lot more than what agencies have. So we are looking for a lot of data analysts for our team, and the best place to look for them is the technology industry. Similarly, for insights and consumer behaviour, of course there is a pool of planners to tap into, but there is also a pool of sociologists, the academia, and the similar kind of talent repositories that we are actively looking into.